Author Archives: syewell

Book Review: Getting Things Done


Title: Getting Things Done
Author: David Allen
Topics: Time Management
You should read if: you have too much to do and feel like you are losing track of important tasks.
Description: I first heard about David Allen from an engineer I worked with who started carrying around a short stack of index cards in a home made duct tape wallet. When I asked him what it was and he explained that it’s his analog PDA, and referred me to this book. In the book, Mr. Allen lays out a framework for managing a hectic life, and freeing your mind from task management to allow your creativity to help solve problems. By capturing tasks on paper and getting them our of your head, processing them into projects, and knowing what the next step required to advance in each project, a practitioner of Mr. Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD, framework can be more more effective, and much less stressed. His two following books Making It All Work and Ready for Anything are great follow ups once you get the basic framework down, which took me about a year… This book is a must read for product managers.

Book Review: Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Title: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Author: Peter F. Drucker
Topics: Innovation, Ideation
You should read if: you want a systematic approach to developing new product and service concepts.
Description: Maybe it was the context of my life at the time, but when I read this book, I was blown away, I felt like I’d found a gold mine. When I was reading this book I was working in a product planning role in an established, medium sized company and struggling to find appropriate new product concepts for the division. My group was attempting to create a systematic ideation process to incorporate into the division’s best practices. It was a struggle! When we mapped out the origination of our best ideas, they seemed to come from random sources. When we analyzed why concepts we expected to be great failed, we did not come to an actionable conclusions on how to better evaluate concepts. Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides excellent insight into both of these issues. In this book, Mr. Drucker identifies and describes the seven most likely sources of new concepts, and ranks them in their likelihood of succeeding. He supports this by explaining how established companies struggle with new concepts because of their mature and often inflexible practices, and also presents some ideas on how to structure a new concepts group within an established company to allow exciting new concepts to flourish. The book is well written, an easy read, and provides real and rational guidance on identifying and developing new concepts.

Book Review: Inside the Tornado


Title: Inside the Tornado
Author: Geoffrey A. Moore
Topics: Strategy, Customer segmentation, Rapid-cycle learning
You should read if: you are planning to, or are in the process of, launching a new to the market product.
Description: In this follow on to the excellent book Crossing the Chasm, Mr. Moore provides an excellent description of the changing dynamics of a venture as it crosses the chasm between early adopter and the early majority. He begins with a recap of the topics in Crossing the Chasm, explaining the trust dynamics between the segments that cause the chasm, and providing tools to help bridge this gap. He then contrasts the business focus of product variation and rapid cycle learning of the pre-chasm business with the operational focus of the post-chasm business, where the focus is on “shipping it”. Overall this book holds a lot of ideas and frameworks that can help a new venture succeed in gaining early adopters, crossing into the early majority, and surviving and driving the torrid demand that a successful venture will encounter.

Consumer Research: There’s two kinds…

Consumer research is an important part of product line planning. Knowing what your target customer wants, and often more importantly, what they “need”, provides a robust framework for defining a product or service value proposition. Consumer research is not only valuable in product planning, and can help enhance attributes of your current products by better understanding who your customer is, and fine tuning the product positioning and placement.

There are generally two categories of consumer research: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research usually involves in depth conversations with a small number of people, maybe 10 or 20. Quantitative research usually employs a research tool like a questionnaire or survey to get a statistically relevant read of a sample population, often more than 100 people and sometimes as high as 2000.

Qual vs. Quant
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From Research to Lifecycle Management

In general, it seems that most of the products and services I’ve worked on followed this model

Product Concept Lifecycle

Each of these steps is important, though none of them are sufficient unto themselves to guarantee a successful product. Great research is useless unless it can be applied. Excellent development doesn’t matter if the team is working on the wrong product. A great definition does not guarantee a good product launch.To me, good product management is the coordination and integration of these blocks. Continue reading