Spinning Plates…

A Product Manager’s job is a complex one. Too many parallel initiatives to juggle, too many deadlines to meet, and too many stakeholders to manage. Feels like you can never do any real deep work. It’s not just PMs, startup founders and managers at a medium to a large company also find themselves in this spot.

Where Does the Day Go?

At any given time, PMs are often working on several initiatives in multiple stages of the product lifecycle. As illustrated in the chart below a typical day goes by dealing with stand-ups, monitoring metrics, roadmaps, processing customer feedback, etc.

Additionally, PMs work with multiple stakeholders in the company. From Engineering, Design, to Sales and Marketing. Every function has a dependency on a PM’s deliverables.

Product Management Product Strategy

Outside In vs. Inside Out

We all have been there. You have a great idea to build the next best product. Say to find the best restaurants in the neighborhood or help users find the best deals. You go out and build the cool new product. Only to realize that the user response to it is “Meh…”. You thought it would solve their core problems in their daily lives but the reality is that you couldn’t get them back in the app even for the second time.


In most businesses, this looks something like “Check out what this cool technology built by someone in Eng. Let’s make this a product/feature“. Or here is another version: “We already have technology X, why don’t we build product Y and create a new revenue stream“. Several months are spent building the next best thing only to meet with a tepid response from the market. Even if the business is able to sell it to a customer, retaining them is next to impossible.

It’s like the illustration below where the organizational journey is left to right:

Inside Out model for Product Strategy by Abhishek Tiwari

Yes, these are all first-hand examples I have faced in my career and often made these mistakes myself. This approach leads so much wasted software and resources. This is also the starting point of “Build it and they will come” thinking. That topic requires another post by itself.

Product Management

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Woke up this morning to the following on Twitter.

Obviously there are a lot of great answers to this question. However, this got me thinking about the question itself. The question is not about what a PM delivers or works on. It is about what they “do”? In other words, the question is from the perspective of an outsider or a stakeholder in an organization.

So I wanted to focus on the impact of a good PM can have in the organization as a way to answer this question. Hence, I am purposely not discussing product discovery, roadmaps, stories, etc. This is something I discuss with my team frequently. I like having these in the back of their mind whenever taking any action or decision. I break these down into five parts.

Mobile Technology

Is Bigger Really Better?

For years I have been openly bashing the notion of phablets. I find it crazy that anyone could hold that big a device up to their ears and have a conversation. It’s like people are buying phones like they buy TVs…

After lot of conversations and heated debates with friends on social media, I decided to delve in and try it for myself. I needed the insider view on the subject.

So finally bought the iPhone 6S Plus late last year. I did that via the new Apple iPhone upgrade program. That way I could switch within a year if I wanted. Frankly, this is an experiment with this form factor and the rest of the post is about my assessment so far after approximately 4 months of use.

Mobile Technology

It’s not the Specs…

We live in the Post PC world. Don’t believe me? Next time you are on a flight, just walk to the restroom and see how many people are on their laptops versus tablets or smartphones.

In this Post PC world, we act and think differently. PCs and Laptops were primarily purchased for work (or gaming). The decision to purchase a computer was always based on how powerful and effective it was to support your work/gaming needs.

IPTV Media 2.0

Discontinuing the Cable TV Service

How many times you have turned on the TV, only to find that there is nothing good on it. Unless you are watching during primetime, there is nothing worth spending your valuable time. Invariably you keep flipping channels and end up settling for something half decent. The problem is that, networks have shows on a pre-defined schedule, which works for them. However, it doesn’t always work for the individual who has to schedule his/her life around it. From top of my head here are some issues with the Cable/Satellite broadcast TV model.

Social Networks Web 2.0 Web Services

Thoughts for Opening and Sharing the Distributed Graph

As you know from few posts on this blog, I am a huge supporter of user’s owning their social graphs. Over multiple posts, I have been laying out the need for a consolidated service, which hosts the graph (along with identity) for a user.

Last week this discussion caught some steam with some great posts by Tim Berners-Lee and Dave Winer. Dave’s post made me think that the data ownership problem is bigger than just the graph. Theoretically a user owns all the content they generate on any of these services. You know, things like Amazon ratings, YouTube videos, etc. While I don’t see anyone having the need for getting an XML file with this content for personal use. I do see them wanting to use this data on other services. For example (from Dave’s post) one can use their movie ratings at NetFlix and use it with Vudu or share it with their friends on Facebook.

This thought process clearly reflects that there are many graphs (social or otherwise) within many dimensions of services on the web. Every new service with any user generated content is creating a new graph. I talked about the need for consolidating the access to this graph in my last post. Given the dispersed nature of the graphs it will be pretty unrealistic for any web service to physically do that. Hence in this post I am recommending a slightly different mechanism whereby we can enable an ecosystem on the web and achieve the same results. So here it goes:

Social Networks Web 2.0 Web Services

Free the Social Graph

Few days back I talked about the OpenSocial initiative and how I believe that it can help making the online Social experience much better by enabling interoperability. Before that I have also talked about consolidation of online social experience. My theme continues to remain the same. How do we fix “Social Network Overload”? So in this post I am going deeper to the basics of the problem.

What is a Social Graph?

The term popularized by Mr. Zuckerberg (CEO Facebook) is a better name for your Social Network. Social Graph represents your network of acquaintances. It is a graph of your contacts (friends, family, coworkers etc). Services build upon the social graph and offer applications, which let you interact with your friends and acquaintances. Check out the Wikipedia page for in-depth details.

Where does it exist?

For a typical user, the social graph is broken and distributed among various services and applications. For example my graph exists across:

  • Social networks I belong to, such as Facebook, Orkut, MySpace etc
  • Business networks I belong to, such as LinkedIn, Plaxo etc
  • My Email contacts, which exist on GMail, Outlook etc
  • My IM buddy list
  • My phonebook on my mobile handset
  • Finally my blog visitors and Twitter followers

For some of you this list will probably be longer. Now these services and people I interact with represent my social realm of influence. So as you can see my overall graph is spread all over the place, over various services. I am sure most users are this way.

Google Social Networks

OpenSocial Should Enable Social Network Interoperability

According to OpenSocial, Social Networks and other similar services can play hosts and implement to the standard Google API’s. Developers can write applications to these API’s and are automatically enabled to deploy them on any one of these hosts. This introduces the “Write Once, Run Anywhere” paradigm in the ecosystem. You can read more on their official website.

I am sure most of you know about Google’s latest initiative called OpenSocial. Google launched this effort to simplify and consolidate the ecosystem for application developers and Social Networks.

According to Google’s Vic Gundotra, this is valuable for both developers and host networks. With respect to Users, he mentions that they will receive “more, more and more”. More Applications, More Choices across More Websites.

Frankly, I disagree with Vic there. “More” is not always good. I will even go to the extent of saying that the idea of “More” is the single biggest problem with the social networking experience today. I have written about Social Network overload several times before.

Google Mobile

Android: Early Analysis

As expected, on Monday (Nov 5th) Google announced their open mobile OS to the world, along with a very powerful new alliance with over 30 companies in the mobile space. Along with the announcement on their blog, they also organized a conference call where they brought industry leaders representing the strong alliance.

Over the past couple days I have been browsing and digesting the various aspects of this announcements and reactions from the blogosphere. This post is an attempt to distill down the details and offer my analysis of the situation.

Please bear in mind that this is only an early analysis. Once Android releases their SDK on Nov 12th, more details shall be available. I break this analysis into four simple categories, Salient items, impacts, issues and desires.