Tag Archives: web product manager

Book Review: Rocket Surgery Made Easy

Book: Rocket Surgery Made EasyUsability studies are very important for consumer facing websites, as they directly impact the funnel metrics (downloads/visits, engagements, conversions and journey abandonment). If you are a product manager for a web-based application or website looking to increase incoming traffic, then you should definitely learn about usability design and testing.

Steve Krug’s first book called “Don’t Make Me Think” was about online usability and was a big hit among web designers and consumer web enthusiasts. It answered the question “why is usability important”, and provided specific recommendations for website design in the following 3 parts:

1. Guiding Principles
2. Things You Need To Get Right
3. Larger Concerns And Outside Influences

Subsequently, he has written a follow-up book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” which emphasises how product managers and UX designers should conduct usability tests for their website. [Actually the  principles given in the book can also be applied for any mobile app testing]

This book is a good guide to usability testing, filled with examples and has many suggestions for running test studies. It’s fairly short, and can be read in a couple of hours, or skimmed through in about 30 minutes.

The book is divided into 3 parts:

  • Finding Usability Problems: This section talks about the common usability issues and how to prepare for testing them
  • Fixing Usability Problems: This section talks about the ways to identify usability issues and potential fixes after diagnosis
  • The Road Ahead (This talks about remote testing, and lists additional reading material)

You should keep this book as a reference, as it introduces usability testing formally, increases your knowledge about UX and clears most misconceptions about the product-feature usage. It also has a sample test script and consent form, that gives an idea of how to sign-up beta testers.

If you are a junior product manager and can drive usability testing for your website section, or for a particular feature set, or the entire site, then you will have a significant advantage over your peer PMs.

I strongly believe that product managers must continuously learn new skills and UX design and testing is has become a must-have skill today. Formal knowledge of usability testing will definitely help in your career growth as a product manager.

Advertisements

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 4

There is a job ad in the US for a Product Manager – Mobile Advertising. Similar to that, there is another job ad on Linkedin for a Senior Product Manager/Director in India. Here are some points to consider about both ads.

  • Both ask for prior relevant experience. The US ad mentions Mobile Ad Network and Data Analytics specifically, the Indian ad mentions nothing specific which makes it harder to understand the role.
  • The US ad talks mainly about functional capabilities. The Indian ad specifically mentions Interpersonal, Leadership, Core Product Management and Technical skills, which indicates that they are looking for a fairly senior person.
  • The US ad does not mention the advertiser, but says that the compensation will be based on experience. The Indian ad is for Pubmatic, a firm started in 2006.
  • Neither ad mentions team size. The US position is for Boston, MA and the Indian position is for Pune.
  • Pubmatic is open to hiring either Senior Product Manager or Director, however, the former role has no direct reportees. The US firm is only looking for individual contributors.

The ad for the US based opportunity is fairly specific about the requirements. So it will collect fewer responses, but the ones they get will be pertinent. Since the ad is about a very specific role in the ad industry, career growth will occur if the person becomes highly skilled at his job and gains more domain expertise.

Pubmatic has actually provided a good and detailed job ad. However, it lists a lot of traits and qualifications, so they will have a lot of irrelevant resumes. Hence the chances of getting shortlisted in India even with relevant experience are correspondingly lower. And it is extremely unlikely that you will be interviewed unless you are known to senior people within the firm or have strong brands in your resume (IIT, Stanford, Google, Yahoo! etc). Additionally, perception management will be very important in this role for career growth. To apply for a role in India, I would definitely search on Linkedin to identify how many PMs Pubmatic has hired and released in the past few years.

My 5 New Year Resolutions on Product Management

1. Work more closely with large accounts

Sitting in India and working with overseas clients, there are a lot of buffers such as service delivery, account management, sales leadership and program management that are involved in day-to-day client engagement. This makes it difficult for an offshore enterprise product manager to get on an exclusive call with the client, and almost impossible to get face time with the client. The way out is to create more surveys, feedback forms, presentations and reports to engage the client while other teams also sit in on the call.

2. More interactions with sales teams

Same challenge goes in the efforts to find the pain points of the sales teams, the way they approach the client and the quality of interaction that occurs between them. It is an offshore PM’s responsibility to connect with the sales and technical sales teams every month and make sure that they are up to speed about the product and the roadmap. Even in an Indian market PM role, it is easy to get caught up in product design and development and forget about the post-release sales efforts.

3. Work in an Indian market product management role

Based on conversations with peers, and tracking general hiring trends, I have a strong feeling that the PM roles in R&D centers in India are stagnating or declining in value to the US organization. Consequently, the quality of work on offer, and the type of people they hire will be one-dimensional. One of my personal resolutions is to find the rare software firm focused on the Indian market and support its product management initiatives. With the rise of SAAS, these firms should have an interesting journey.

4. Read more books, research

Software engineering and creating and managing technology products are very innovative areas and there is constant research going on around the world on these topics. I plan to read many more books, periodicals and research publications on these to keep abreast of the latest trends in my profession. One book that I intend to read and review soon is Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. It is a nice book that talks about strategy in successful firms.

5. Blog more

I started this blog in Dec 2012, after a lot of procrastination. This year I plan to blog on PM trainings, reviews and other observations several times a week.

Happy New Year to All!

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 3

Myntra.com is hiring 2 senior product managers. One role is called “Senior Product Manager, Back End/ERP” and the other is called “Senior Product Manager, BI/Analytics“.

The complete JD is available from their website, and these are the 2 main roles in product management advertised. Myntra.com is one of India’s largest e-commerce websites and their offices are located in HSR Layout, Bangalore.

Location: Bangalore
Desired Qualification:Engineering degree from a good college; Having an MBA is a plus
Desired experience: 810 years

Here are some points to consider regarding the role and the firm:

  • This ad has been on their website for about 6 months now.
  • The years of experience desired, and qualifications such as engineering from a good college mean that this will be a relatively high paying job, but that will depend on the interview, experience and other factors. You can probably expect compensation between 8-15 lpa.
  • A person with “deep knowledge of ERP” is usually a specialist in that role. Such a person is extremely unlikely to have strong Usability and UI design knowledge. Neither will he have full product management experience.
  • They are looking for people who have undergone multiple releases as product managers in 3-4 years. It is very rare in India, especially given the slowdown that occurred after 2008. Offshore enterprise product managers will probably not fit in this, even though they are the most likely candidates with relevant experience.
  • Someone who has worked for several years in software development, and has implementation or design exposure to ERP packages in an engineering role will be a good fit.
  • The designation says “Senior Product Manager” however, normally it is the work of a “senior business analyst” to design, customize and deploy an ERP package. This designation is normal, as candidates are more attracted to the “product manager” designation.
  • They are not specifically looking for candidates from other e-commerce firms.
  • Operations and Finance will be the key stakeholders, along with engineering and senior management.
  • The marketing team interaction mentioned is unlikely to occur, given this is a product for interal users.
  • An MBA from a top college is unlikey to add value in the role, it may increase the salary offered. Total compensation is unlikely to be more than 15-16 lakhs per annum. Most e-commerce companies in India are struggling for growth & profitability and profit margins dictate employee salaries and perks.
  • Growth after this role will probably be to a larger organization in the e-commerce space or an IT consultancy firm working in the e-commerce vertical. PMs working on UX and front end will have a greater opportunity to work on new initiatives.
  • I have not discussed the BI/Analytics role, as normally it is about obtaining and processing data for creating reports, dashboards and presentations on usage trends and customer insights.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for myntra.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to help them to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 2

Times of India has the requirement of a product manager. However, the hiring firm is actually called Times Internet Limited.

Online Product Manager
Location: Delhi
Desired Qualification: Graduate/ B.E./ B.Tech
Desired experience: 2 – 5 years

The full details of the advertisement are given here.
So what should a prospective candidate analyze from this information? Here a peek:

  • It’s about the subscription pay wall design and how it is implemented around the world, so it’s a very specific role
  • Competitive research is very important, the depth of research will depend on the type of report generated and the audience
  • Website launch is another key requirement, so this role will probably be less important after 6-9 months

Here are some insights on the role based on the advertisement:

  • Its more about business analysis and launch and not product design. MBA from any good college will be useful
  • A very junior level role, compensation will probably be between 4-8 lpa
  • It is possible to grow from this role in to more customer facing roles, such as business development or partner management
  • The role requires little to no technical knowledge, basic smartness and research skills are important
  • The role does not report into engineering leadership, so a software engineer may not fit this role
  • You can expect good opportunities in the job market after this, in online advertising and media
  • Monetization and content management will be other product management roles that are part of the same team
  • Times of India is a great brand in any résumé, and will be a strong plus for career growth
  • Marketing skills are important, but cross functional co-ordination or project management is not.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Times Internet and their website, timesofindia.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to show how to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

The Product Manager and Analytics

AnalyticsWith analytics seen as the game changer both within the firm operations and support support functions as well as for sales and marketing, it is important that the PM get a good grasp of analytics as a subject and the associated tools. The Wikipedia entry for Analytics calls it “the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” Additionally, wikipedia entry for Google Analytics calls it “a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visits to a website.”

It should be clear now that analytics comprises of statistics, reports and patterns in data generated from different sources. Additionally, in the software world, analytics is also used to identify features of interest, and in some cases, especially for web products and apps, analytics actually becomes an important module (to track feature and product usage) to be developed in the product.

So what does a product manager need to know about analytics? Well, first of all he should understand the type of analysis that is useful to clients, senior management and engineering teams (web analytics, customer segmentation, product performance reports, product usage reports or something else). So here’s a glimpse of the analysis that is useful:

  • Product performance/usage reports (how many people use the product, what segmentation is possible etc)
  • Product sales reports (customer profiles, segmentation, geographies etc)
  • Website usage reports (if its e-commerce, then products looked at, purchased etc, for other sites the browsing patterns, exit pages etc)
  • Website experiments (A/B tests, multivariate testing and so on)
  • Customer surveys and forum post analysis (to identify features of interest, trouble areas etc

Something that is clear here is that all this analysis must be performed periodically, at least once a quarter and must be an important input in future product planning. And this also means that product managers must a) gain expertise in statistical analysis and b) build a good rapport with the analysts or analytics team.

So how does one learn about these different analytics domains?

Here’s one suggested route.

  1. Start with a book or online tutorial on statistics and learn the fundamentals from that
  2. Download some free statistical software such as pspp (or use MS Excel) and go through the some hands on exercises available on the net there
  3. Add Google Analytics tracking code to your personal website or blog and start viewing the reports available. Then read the entire GA help documentation.
  4. Read some good books on website design to increase your knowledge of experiments on website usage
  5. Learn SQL, a vital tool for querying databases and getting aggregate results
  6. Finally, read articles, books and tutorials on Business Intelligence and Dashboards

The “resources” section of the blog has links to various useful software, tutorials and books. You can use them as a reference.

If you spend “An Hour A Day” on these every weekday, it will take you a good 3-4 months to get to the final part. After completing these, you should be in a position to talk meaningfully to the analytics teams, create useful performance reports from raw data, and support your feature specifications using live data.

All this will definitely turn you into a Data Driven Product Manager, which is an immensely vital skill for product management today.

Note: There is a strong relation between Big Data and Analytics, however, for most part it is not relevant unless you are either designing the big data infrastructure or you already have user access to the infrastructure.

In a future post, I will summarize the connection between product managers and analytics, given the 4 types of product managers in India.