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Archive for February, 2013


Product Management Roadmaps, Example and Discussion

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Plan Cannot Fail

When I google “Examples of Product Management Roadmaps”, the answers are all nonsense. This blog post is expected to serve as a better #1 result.

My most popular blog posts are the long-form posts where I explain to people how they should do things. In that vein, I am desiring to start a new series of posts on Product Management. My first post is intended to answer the following question: As a product manager, when someone asks me for a product roadmap, what should I give them?

First, as with virtually all of my blog posts, I have some caveats:

  • All of the businesses I like to join are growing at more than 30% YoY. That means that multi-year time horizons are ridiculous. 6 months is the firm plan, 1 year is the strategic plan, 2 years is the vision. Many people think a roadmap is 3-5 years. I am unsure what industry I will be working in 5 years from now. So I don’t do that.
  • Different people mean different things when they say roadmap. Sometimes they are asking you to lay out a market driven vision for the company. To me, that means something else – it is usually more closely related to the fund-raising deck. In this discussion, the best situational case is that a customer (internal or external) wants to “know where the product is going”. Telling them about market demand or customer research is only tangentially important – they want to know what you are doing for them and when, not so much why, except in-so-far as it justifies or de-justifies projects related to them.
  • Of course, it is all software, generally enterprise. With consumers or non-software, your mileage may vary. Although it seems on-face relevant.

This is not a caveat in the same sense, but it is an important point: Product Roadmap decks for external customers are different than roadmaps for internal customers. Typically, I will lag product commitments externally by one quarter (The only things they are getting this quarter are things that are already code complete/in-testing/being rolled out). Also, you probably want to filter out roadmap activities that are not contextually appropriate for the client or are confidential.

Finally, the document I am sharing is based heavily (100%, basically) on Ian McAllister’s concept for Product Roadmaps on Quora. Frankly, my contribution is producing an actual reference deck.

So I have attached an example (fictional!) product roadmap for Cogmap to give you a sense of how I organize it.

Download an example product roadmap now!

This deck has both examples and comments in red. Plain red comments are straight commentary from Ian’s Quora post. Bold red comments are my additional opinions.

Powerpoint is the best format, of course, because it may need to be injected into other content.

This deck is also designed to be easy for me to refresh. This usually gets refreshed quarterly.

This is not the end-all, be-all of product roadmaps, but I want to improve the discourse in this area, so this is my contribution.

Is this blog an inefficient use of scarce resources?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I think it is a fair question to ask my readers: Would you prefer tweets to blog posts? Is the long form format consuming too much of your attention without delivering value? It certainly takes me a lot longer, even though I try to be a good writer (“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time!”)

As I have been working on some particularly lengthy blog posts, I wondered: Maybe I should be posting this slide show to slideshare and tweeting a link and be done with it?

Please take a moment and let me know how you would like to consume my content.

Ad Network studies continually represent network as modeling the space!

Monday, February 18th, 2013

The Onion recently released an article entitled “Cogmap, dismayed over poor data quality of other vendors, releases one man’s opinion in data sampling errors”. Link below!

Flurry recently released a delightful set of Mobile 2013 data, but they did not caveat it enough for my taste. (I will soon be guilty of doing the same thing, FWIW.)

So I thought I would complain because, in short, when I see an ad network release data my perspective on every single slide is “How is this skewed by network composition”. And usually the answer is: “I bet it is skewed a lot.”

A couple of examples:

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.35.28 AM


This is kind of set-up as “the growth of mobile”, but really it is the growth of Flurry. What we need to add to this is a retail storefront data point: How much of this is “same store sales” versus “new sales”? I will say, Flurry is big. This data is probably pretty good, but it is probably not unfair to say that many of their biggest customers are probably tracking a lot more data than they were. This could cause in-application events to skyrocket even as application usage remained static. Those big jumps could be a change to the way Angry Birds tracks apps, or it could be the installation of a new app, or it could be some broad market growth descriptor. It would be nice to know which.

Much later, we saw this slide which has similar issues:


Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.36.48 AM


They disclose that this data comes from Flurry. So this is really more about their network composition. This means that one of two facts is true: They either have Facebook or they don’t. If they have Facebook, then their data sample over-indexes the Social Networking (i.e. they capture most of the Social Networking activity happening in phones, but they don’t capture all of the other activity.) If they do not have Facebook (as seems likely from this graph), they are missing most of the social networking activity people perform on their phones. Instagram? If they disclosed the sites they track, we could better understand the relevance of this data.

Last slide:

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.36.08 AM

There is a more interesting problem here: They are comparing apples to oranges. They pull the television time from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, then they pull the web browsing time from comScore and Alexa, and then they pull the Mobile App numbers from their own data. I assume that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does a good job controlling for people that don’t consume any TV – and I assume that pulls the average down substantially. I assume comScore does an OK job controlling for this – once again, pulling the average down substantially. I assume Flurry does a terrible job controlling for this – they are not really that kind of company, why would they? So I suspect that this data is quite wrong.

I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I just can’t help it. If you are still looking for the Onion article about me, go buy a book from the Onion using my affiliate link. You owe me a nickel for falling for that.



Your First Day

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

walrusNot enough companies work hard to make an employee’s first day at work special. Frankly, I include myself in that category. But I am a big believer in first days. The old saying is true: “You never get another chance to make a first impression.”

An employee’s first day is that chance to make an impression. A chance to establish tone and culture. For the employee, it would be nice if it was a mix of unboxing an apple product and a trip to Disneyland – a thoughtful experience that shows that you are thinking about them, that they are going to have a great, great time, and that they will never be happier.

I am a big believer in getting people right to work. On the first day, an employee will never think more highly of a new organization, be more eager to make a great first impression, and more excited to show the kinds of contributions that they are capable of. Don’t waste a new employees excitement with filling out HR forms – help them show you what they are eager to demonstrate: how incredibly productive and useful they can be as a member of your team.

Most companies screw this up because it is hard. Usually it takes time to figure out how to get someone productive in your work environment. Hey, if great on-boarding was easy, everyone would do it.

What is the next big trend in mobile advertising?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Go read my answer to this question (and vote it up!) on Quora: