Recently I attended a Product Management session put on by the UC Berkeley Center for Executive Education in Santa Clara, California.
In this post I am not going to catalogue all that was talked about or even cover the bullet points of each day. In this post I am going to give an overview of my personal takeaways and what I want to apply to my career and team. In other words, if you were hoping that by reading this post you could skip attending the session yourself, you will most likely be disappointed.
Takeaway #1 : Analyze and Adapt
This takeaway is really an approach that permeates the entire philosophy taught during the week.
The very first day they start off with an outdated PowerPoint SmartArt chart with the three layers titled: Sensing, Seizing, Transforming. This three pillar approach covers all steps of analyzing your current business (product, market, consumer, …) and/or the business you hope to enter and then helps you adapt your business in order to capitalize on new opportunities, and finally to set up your business to be able to sustain the new business.
The primary tool they provide to Analyze and Adapt is the Business Model Canvas. This canvas, available at businessmodelgeneration.com, is a pre-structured visual tool for defining and exploring your business model. There is also a fancy book, perhaps too fancy for its own good, which will explain the Business Model Canvas (BMC) in tremendous detail.
The Good of the Business Model Canvas:
The BMC provides a means to pretty easily talk about your business both to yourself and others. When done with colors you can quickly see where segments should be treated as one or are under-served. You could even go into exacting detail on each of the ‘post-its’ to attempt to calculate the effect of each item on your business. I found that the BMC helped my realize key partners that I wasn’t necessarily treating like key partners.
The Bad of the Business Model Canvas:
Mostly the bad revolves around frequency of use. They suggest keeping a copy of your business model canvas on a wall all the time (which I have done) in order to reference and play around with it. In reality though, how often are you going to change your business model? Once or twice a year seems pretty aggressive to me. With that frequency of use in mind, the stickiness of such tools like the BMC are dramatically reduced.
Like any formulaic approach to tackling all of the world’s problems there are exceptions and grey areas. The BMC has these. It took me a while to accept that I could alter the structure of the canvas, but you can. You can combine “Customer Relationships” and “Channels” for example if that seems to fit your business better.
Outside of the Business Model Canvas other topics were covered which fall under the Analyze and Adapt category. One of such topics was a company’s Core Values. In order for a company to sustain innovation and profitability a company must possess the following Core Values of Corporate Innovation:
- Questioning is consistently encouraged
- Risk Taking is in the DNA
- Openness is rewarded
- Patience is practiced, by all
- Trust is demonstrated throughout
- “Trust is built when something of value is put at risk”
Takeaway #2 : Communication is Key
Communication cannot be underestimated as the primary skill of any Product Manager. Problem solving, innovation, project management, and other skills can be delegated or off-loaded if needed, but communication is what enables a Product Manager to coordinate releases, facilitate meetings, inform stakeholders, persuade leadership, and define features.
Internally, there are many ways to communicate but the best way to communicate with your user is to get out of the office. Which brings us to Takeaway #3.
Takeaway #3 : Get Out of the Office
The best way to get into the Heads, Hearts, and Hands of your current and prospective consumers is to get out of the office and meet them. Talk with them, observe their behaviors, dig deep into their motives.
There are three Levels of understanding the customer – Use, Usability, and Meaning.
- Use can be describes as the basic functionality of a product.
- Usability represents aspects of a product that give the user access to the use.
- Meaning is comprised of the user’s ultimate needs and motives as well as the perceived value, usually non-monetary, of a product.
Innovating on meaning can have the biggest impact.
Those are my three main takeaways from the UC Berkeley Product Management sessions.
Below are the topics that receive Honorable mention:
- “Capture Value” that is Created and Delivered by the rest of the Business Model
- “Innovate for Growth, Price for Profitability”
- A person outside your company with whom you meet once a month to talk about business problems faced by each. Talk for one hour about one person’s issues and then talk for an hour about the other’s.