Category Archives: Resources

Moving to a new location

This blog is not defunct, new blog posts will be posted to another destination. The pending tasks for migration require some hours of effort that I cannot spare at this time.

Hopefully, after Diwali, readers will be able to read about product management in India on the new website.

Hat tip to Cranky Product Manager, I will continue posting new items under my own name, on the new site.

Advertisements

Share Your Story

If you have interviewed for, or worked as a product manager in the technology industry in India, and would like to use this blog to share your stories or experiences, drop me a mail. I will be happy to include guest posts on this blog, if these posts are related to recruitment/interviews/compensation, workplace stories or challenges faced or another relevant topic.

You can also follow me on twitter @desiprodmgr and tweet your interest in guest posts there.

Book Review – Stealing the Corner Office

Had been busy for a while, but have managed to read a book in the downtime. The book is titled “Stealing the Corner Office“. I have posted a brief review in the resources section. It’s a little expensive to buy in India, but the lessons it imparts about the workplace are invaluable. In case you are a corporate citizen with access to an online library, do read this book. If you are building your own collection of useful books, then you must buy this one.

Kaggle for Analytics Competitions – Feedback?

Kaggle is a platform for data prediction competitions. As per their wikipedia entry “This crowdsourcing approach relies on the fact that there are countless strategies that can be applied to any predictive modelling task and it is impossible to know at the outset which technique or analyst will be most effective.”

I reviewed a few competitions on Kaggle, and they seem fairly complex and perhaps a good fit for advanced statisticians or data modelers. However, Kaggle is fairly popular and gets a decent amount of traffic for niche site.

  1. Does anyone have feedback on their personal experiences using Kaggle?
  2. Have you ever recruited or solicited candidates from Kaggle, for analytics roles in offshore development centers or for offshore analytics practices of IT/Analytics firms?
  3. Have you ever used it for networking?

Drop a comment on this post if you have tried any of the three.

The “One-Pager”

I first heard about this in a Microsoft team (I was working elsewhere in enterprise software at that time). The one pager was supposed to be the answer to every product teams’ planning initiative, and the composition of the one pager was given top priority by senior management as well as the product management team.

Well, when the one-pager finally arrived, it was a big letdown. It was not of one page, was really vague, and was closer to a mangled mission statement (follower’s of Dilbert will know this) than any product vision.

So what goes into a good One Pager?

A good one pager, in my opinion, should have the following 5 sections:

The Market Description

This section should give insights into the following:

  • What is the market like in terms of geography, verticals etc.?
  • What are the current solutions in the marketplace
  • Where is it heading, or what are the observed trends?

Do not spend too much time or more than a few sentences on this, as this is a very high level description of the market.

The Problem Statement

What is the exact customer problem? For online clients, it could be something like too much data, or stagnant e-commerce revenues. For enterprise customers, it could be a customer needing a “simple” and easy to use product for his IT Service Desk Management needs across all geographies.

If you know that this is common knowledge within your firm, then you can even get by with a single line problem statement, with subordinate clauses.

The Proposed Solution

This is the section that is of major interest to engineering teams and other internal stakeholders. First, clearly describe what the solution is, in a single sentence. Then use a few words to describe the different components of the solution and the benefits of each component. Finally, describe ONE usage scenario where the solution will solve the customer problem described above.

If you like, you can even fill in a few engineering details, such as the need for Open Source Web Servers, API requirements and so on. A block diagram will probably take too much space without adding value.

You can leave the remainder of the use cases to be filled out during PRD generation.

The Financial Benefit

This part causes the most heartburn in product managers who rise up from engineering ranks. They have been used to precision and results, and building financial models to predict the range of revenues and profit margins of this product over 3-5 years based on multiple assumptions can be a big challenge. My personal belief is that this stems from a lack of confidence, which can be overcome simply by practising this repeatedly.

Do not skimp on this section, and try to put as much detail around pricing, growth in customer base and quarterly revenues as possible. The lack of details around financial benefits can easily kill your vision as it moves upwards through corporate hierarchy.

The Challenges

This is an easy one. If you have an idea of the market and the customer problem then you can describe the external challenges around achieving revenue goals. And if you know how engineering will build your solution, then you can describe the internal risks.

If you have a good sense of what the competition is doing, you can write a line about it here. Although this is not recommended by most experts.

So what do you finally deliver in 5 sections, 1 page and 400-500 words?

Ideally, you deliver a “One-Pager” that is a summary of the goals of a product team, for building a new product or designing a product release. If you can actually deliver this, it will go a long way towards building confidence all around, in your capabilities as a product manager.

Book Review: The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing

Strategy and Tactics of PricingThe Strategy and Tactics of Pricing is actually a management textbook, typically prescribed as a required reading or a reference text in a course on pricing for undergraduates or MBA students. However, the book is very well written and is a must read for all product managers. The book has also received glowing reviews on Amazon.com.

If you wish to understand how pricing is done, or take part in pricing discussions with senior leadership, or price a new product or service, read this book.

About the Book

The book talks about the 3 core principles of strategic pricing, that strategic pricing should be value-based, proactive (where you anticipate large deals, competition response and develop models to account for those) and profit driven (focus on your targeted profit). It then shows the limitations of cost-plus pricing, customer driven pricing and pricing for market share. A Wikipedia article has a detailed description of the different pricing strategies.

The other chapters in the book cover

  • value creation and what it means to the firm and its customers
  • pricing structures
  • pricing communication with stakeholders
  • pricing policy and pricing levels
  • pricing over the product life-cycle
  • driving implementation of the pricing strategy
  • understanding costs and basic financial analysis
  • competition and pricing sensitivity analysis
  • Following the ethics and laws on pricing

Overall, a complete reading of this book 2 or 3 times should make one confident to take up a pricing task and drive a pricing strategy. This information is of great value to a product manager in any role (on-site or offshore) for all types of product sales models (subscription, licensing, freemium, cost+maintenance and others). The challenge will be to keep these learnings since pricing decisions come around very rarely, and are normally taken up by the Director/VP of product management.

For Product Managers

Product pricing is a very important dimension of product management. And it is a sensitive and critical issue in most organizations. In many cases, pricing approval is actually done by the CEO or Executive Management. In the pricing exercise, there are multiple stakeholders and everyone wants the “best price”. However, the definition of best price is different for all. Sales wants the upfront price lower than competitors, finance wants to look at the cost/price variance and the best ROI possible and marketing wants to dictate the price. So it is the product manager’s role to build a valid structure for pricing the product/service or the deal and then come up with a logical product price (which could actually be higher than the competition’s price) for different situations.

This book explains pricing very well, and you should definitely keep a copy on your desk as a reference. It is as useful for pricing SAAS products as it is for pricing consumer or enterprise packaged products.

Note: In case you have a traditional software engineering->product management career path, you may want to pick up a few courses on corporate finance and management accounting. They will help you a lot if you are ever involved in pricing decisions. A part time MBA could also be useful.

A Word on Salary and CTC in India

I have seen many people having doubts on whether they are adequately paid for their role and work experience. They are often confused about comparable offers, and how their CTC (compensation on Cost-To-Company basis) compares with the CTC in another firm.

Well, there are ample resources on the web for research on current salaries, salaries for similar roles in comparable firms and salaries in product management roles within the corporate hierarchy. Some of the more useful ones for product managers include:

You should thoroughly investigate these to find out where you stand (in case you are interested in such data).

Additionally, you should also be aware of the different components of the compensation offered. For offshore R&D centers in India, the total compensation could include base salary, variable pay, performance bonus, RSU/Stock/ESOP, joining bonus, relocation allowance, retiral benefits and other smaller components. If you are joining a local market Indian firm, you can potentially expect even more components in your appointment letter to pad up your offered compensation on a CTC (Cost to company) basis.

More points to ponder

  • Some firms add non-cash component to CTC, which could include education/training reimbursement, payment for industry certifications etc. Exclude them when comparing CTC from different jobs.
  • Some firms include retirals (PF and gratuity) within their CTC, while others exclude it.
  • Some firms will consider the performance bonus mentioned in the offer letter as the upper limit. So you can only receive up to 100% of the bonus. Others use the mentioned bonus as a median, and you can receive more than that under favorable circumstances.
  • Product management roles should not have variable pay, I have written about it here. You can still see as a part of total compensation in some firms.
  • RSU/Stock Grant/ESOPS etc are usually offered only if negotiated for during the hiring process (to sweeten the deal), or at the annual performance appraisal. They are normally excluded from CTC calculations for a variety of reasons.
  • Signing bonus and relocation amount (if offered) are part of a standard deal in most firms. There is little room to negotiate on this.
  • Many firms are open to increasing their offer by up to 10% for the right candidate. But this only happens if there is a perfect fit between candidate, position and hiring manager.
  • Startups can offer stock or stock options or future stock options. In most cases, these are worthless, as there have been very few IPOs (a rare exception is Makemytrip.com) and this is likely to continue. So consider only the cash component when evaluating the CTC at startups.