Category Archives: Resources

Book Review: High-Tech High-Touch Customer Service

Hightech HightouchHigh-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service is a book by Micah Solomon, a writer and business strategist. He is well-known in the field of customer service, particularly on B2C customer service. However, the book is about customer service in general and is of some relevance to people in the B2B world too. If you are the product manager of a consumer facing product, or are looking to understand how customer service impacts your product sales, its lifecycle or its quality, you should read this book. Additionally, you could also recommend your HR team to buy this book for the customer service team in your organization.

About the Book

The book is divided into 3 parts, part 1 covers Timeliness and Timelessness in customer service, with several examples. Part 2 is called High-Tech, High-Touch Anticipatory Customer Service and it talks about your company culture, its customer service, the importance of autonomy in the service team and the ability to anticipate customer needs and it has several examples on these themes. Part 3 talks about customer self-service, social media and the principles to assimilate with these new paradigms.

There are 13 chapters in the book, and you can read through it in a couple of days, or browse through it a few chapters at a time. It also has examples of customer service within many organizations, such as Zappos, SouthWest Airlines and Apple.

For Product Managers

Fundamentally, there is no ground breaking insight in the book, but there are a lot of common sense principles discussed here, which we occasionally lose sight of, in the rush to design the product and get it out of the door. Today, a significant part of enterprise product management activities is about defining incremental releases and tracking the existing deployments and the client satisfaction with the product. This is actually as important as defining features and benefits for the new release, to sell to new clients and accounts.

Additionally, in the B2B world, a very important metric for retaining and growing accounts is CSAT or Customer Satisfaction. This is usually a numeric value, which determines the success of failure of your product in a vertical, geography or customer segment. To ensure customer satisfaction purely from brilliant features of a product is a really tough ask, and so customer support also has a very important role to play in improving and maintaining CSAT.

Of course, as a consumer market product manager, you must remain on top of all customer issues surfacing after the product release. And CSAT is also measured reliably if you are closely tracking the social media outlets.

This book gives several ideas for bringing together the strategy to retain existing users and gain more users. It would be a great exercise for any product manager to identify how they can integrate these ideas into product features and follow through with customer support trainings for the same.

Note: In case you manage a high technology product, I strongly recommend that you spend time with your customer service team. Understanding the product deployments and troubleshooting problem scenarios is a great exercise to gain insights into product usage.

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The “Big 5” of Offshore R&D Centers in India

Based on some basic internet searches, it seems that India has over 1000 offshore R&D centers of various MNCs. And while these are not restricted only to IT, it is the IT R&D centers that of interest to us. So which offshore R&D centers have the most Product Managers in India and which ones offer the highest compensation? Well, these are not easy questions to answer, mainly due to the wide variety of work done by these centers. And very few of them are offering product management in India. But here are my indicative lists.

Top 5 R&D Centers by compensation offered to PMs

Top 5 R&D Centers by Product/Program Manager headcount

Top 5 Enterprise Software R&D Centers

Now the fine print:

  1. The list is completely subjective and based on personal research. I make no guarantees about its accuracy.
  2. These lists cover all product management roles ranging from P&L owners with experience of 10-15 years to business analysts fresh out of engineering/business schools.
  3. Most of these are Bangalore based with a few based out of Pune/Hyderabad/Chennai/NCR
  4. A few organizations have some product management functions in India, focused on the Indian market. I have not included them here.
  5. Microsoft has program managers in India, who do similar work as inbound product managers.
  6. Quite a few IT services firms have product management roles, however, they offer less compensation and are not included here.

Will update this post, based on the feedback I receive

Twitter handle – @DesiProdMgr

I tweet under the handle @desiprodmgr. These tweets are mainly about interesting products, product decisions, product management hiring and other related stuff. If you are interested in product management, and are based in India, you should follow me and the people I follow on Twitter.

If you do not have a twitter account, you must get one.

E-Book Review: Strategic Role of Product Management

Book SRPM

What is it About?
This is a short e-book by Pragmatic Marketing about the strategic value of a good product management team to any technology organization.

Who should read it?
It is a good read for PMs who are not sure of the tasks they handle in their company. It offers compelling arguments for the strategic nature of product management activities. It also clearly distinguishes the roles of sales, marketing, finance and product management in the technology organization. It should be circulated among the senior management staff in offshore R&D centers to make them comfortable with the role of product managers.

Key Takeaways

  • Product Managers understand and try to fulfill market needs, not customer, engineering, finance or sales needs
  • The Product Management team has a variety of tasks, and product marketing, product line managers and technical product managers can co-exist within the same team, working on different aspects of the product portfolio
  • Product Management is a strategic role, and PMs should not report to engineering or other functions, but directly to the CEO

What is Missing?
The e-book does not discuss the software engineering process, and the role of product owners. Agile is relegated to the task list of the technical product manager. It offers little insights into how an offshore product management role could be structured or how someone should work in that role. Finally, there is little information on how to train product managers on the flawless execution of their various tasks.

Relevance for Indian Product Managers
This is an excellent e-book to share with the organization, if you are new to the function, or if the role of product managers was introduced recently. It also evangelizes the value of product management, so getting stakeholder buy-in should be easier once they read it. Finally, if you are in offshore product management (enterprise or consumer) you can expect only the role of technical product manager to be relevant to your work.

Final Thoughts
Read the e-book, share it with everyone whom you are trying to influence, and learn from the examples given in it. Attend the training that they organize, if it happens in India.

Are you Accurate or Precise?

Nate Silver’s very good book, The Signal and the Noise, talks about the difference between Accuracy and Prediction. Here’s the Webster’s.com definition:

1 : freedom from mistake or error : correctness
2 a: conformity to truth or to a standard or model : exactness
b: degree of conformity of a measure to a standard or a true value — compare precision 2a

1 : the quality or state of being precise : exactness
2 a : the degree of refinement with which an operation is performed or a measurement stated — compare accuracy 2b

So why are they important for product managers?

If you are accurate without being precise, there is a good chance that your work output is of adequate quality. However, it may contain unpredictable variance. In target practice, this is similar to hitting the outer circle consistently while never hitting the bull’s eye. Which means, that while 100% of the product use cases are okay, none of them are capturing the exact user requirements. This can be a distraction to the engineering team and increases the risk of faulty product development.

On the other hand, if you are precise without being accurate, you can have 100% of use cases correctly defined and excellent in describing the user needs. However, you can be very wrong about the intended user. (It is like shooting at the wrong target.) This will guarantee that the software release bombs or does not meet the target parameters.

Accuracy with Precision
A good product manager is both accurate and precise. The accuracy comes from knowledge of customer and market needs and the precision comes from the skills learnt either in the classroom or on the job. Only when you have both can you create awesome requirements, which are translated into wonderful products.

5 Social Networking Recommendations for PMs in India

network cablesOne of the vital dimensions of Product Management is the skill of networking and the ability to connect with different people. This includes people outside your department and company. A strong network of contacts can often help in getting the next job, increase your visibility in the industry or give a boost when you are among the dozens of candidates vying for the coveted Google or Amazon product manager role. And no, the network cables shown here are not going to help you in that effort.
So how do you expand your network of online contacts? Well, there are three sites where you must have a well-developed profile:

1. LinkedIn
This is your most important professional network and you must have a complete profile here. Start inviting everyone in your firm who you interact with to connect on LinkedIn. As a rule of thumb, after every month on the job, you should have at least 5 new contacts here. Additionally, if you meet other product managers, or interact with them on social media, they should be invited too. However, a premium account is not necessary.
2. Facebook
This is the place where you invite people whom you meet socially and regularly in the workplace. They need not be peers or bosses, but perhaps someone you share a lunch with. As always, don’t post anything you would not want your parents to read.
3. Twitter
Start following people who have similar professional interests such as product management, product design, UX and top people from the industry. If required, keep 2 twitter accounts, one for professional reasons and the other for personal interests. However, it is not recommended to link Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Additionally, you should:

4. Express online opinions
If you have opinions on product management or about your industry, you must share it with bloggers. For example, someone actively in promoting social media for PMs must be aware that the Desi PM is writing about it, and should post a comment here.

It is strongly recommended that you post it in your own name, unless it is controversial and you would rather do it under an alias. In any case, you must track these forums and share your opinions.

5. Join internal networks within the firm
If you work for a large firm, there will be tools such as IM, SalesForce Chatter, Jive and others in use. You must create a strong presence there. However, the downside is that their usage is totally predicated on the presence of senior management, and the culture of the firm.

Today, almost every recruiter does a Google search or views LinkedIn on potential candidates before processing a résumé. So you can actually consider your online presence and your networks as extending your résumé, irrespective of whether you are searching for a job or not.

In the resources section, I am adding links to real world events such as Unpluggd, IPMA meetings and TIE meetings that can be good source of contacts too.

E-Book Review: Product Management Expertise

Ebook

Steve Johnson, formerly of  Pragmatic Marketing and currently consulting at Under10 Templates has written a nice and succinct e-book titled Product Management Expertise, which can be read in under 30 minutes. I would recommend it for everyone working as a product manager in India.

The central idea of the e-book is that Product Management has 4 key dimensions, and your firm should invest in hiring people for all four, and not make one person responsible for all of this.

So what are the 4 dimensions? Briefly:

  1. Domain Knowledge (What he has learnt on the job)
  2. Business Knowledge (mostly about the benefit of MBA)
  3. Technology Knowledge (preferably with an engineering background)
  4. Markets Knowledge (Has done non-engineering work before)

This is similar to the idea of multi-dimensional product management that I emphasize, but what Steve points out is that it is very difficult to find a single person, who is an expert in all these. And hence a firm should hire multiple people. This brings up a strong challenge of organizational design, which is successfully handled only by very large firms, and is extremely unlikely to happen in India.

[If you know of some firm that actually has all these roles in the same team here, send me a mail]

One other thing, domain and technology knowledge is all that is tested in interviews for offshore product management roles, whether in consumer (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc) or enterprise (IBM, Oracle etc) PM roles. So it is obvious how a prospective PM candidate for these MNCs in India should promote himself.

Previously, Steve has authored another well received e-book called “The Strategic Role of Product Management“, which is also a quick read, and worth a look.