My author page is live on Amazon!
I have currently one book listed, and I am halfway through two other books. The next two books to be released is a self help/how to book, and the other is a compilation of of thriller short stories. I hope to have the thriller book up by mid September, and the other up by the first of September.
The first Inquisitive Product Manager book will be coming by the end of the year.
Long term I have another poetry book in the works, this one themed around seasons, two more self help/how to books, and finally my first sci-fi/fantasy novel.
Sorry for delays in posting new content, I have been finishing up some school work and traveling for interviews. I will be updating soon!
As product managers, it falls to us many times for various research projects. One such project is called a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weakness, Threats, and Opportunities. This type of analysis can also be thought of as an internal/external analysis, and the main purpose is to identify areas of performance, needed improvement, potential revenue, and possible roadblocks. Below you will find information that is relevant to you as you perform these tasks.
First, I will look at Strengths. This is an internal facing analysis, as you try to determine your team, and your company’s strong points. Some key questions to ask are:
1. Are there any specialized skills?
2. Is there anything you do better than your competitors?
3. How staffed and experienced is the team?
4. Do you have proper procedures everybody understands?
5. Do you have well defined short and long-term goals?
Have a brainstorming meeting with your team to gather additional perspectives. Also, try and verify strengths with details. Instead of putting down “we have a roadmap”, put “We have a 1, 5 and 10-year plan to capture market share via 3 new product launches, reduced pricing on existing products, and attending 10 additional trade shows.” Remember, any data shown must be verified, not guessed at.
Weakness is the second part of a SWOT. This aspect is one that is hard to do, as nobody like to admit they have a weakness, and when presenting it, people may get offended. To avoid this, use more generalities. Don’t say “design engineering takes forever”, instead insert a graphic on timelines showing target dates and completion dates and indicate that overall, we run 25% late based on estimated delivery dates. This alerts management there is a problem, and assigns responsibility to team managers to evaluate their process.
Some key questions to ask to discover weakness are:
1. Where are sticking points in our process?
2. What does the competitor do better than us? (their strength is your weakness)
3. How is our product received?
4. How efficient are we?
5. How timely are we?
6. What failures do we consistently have?
7. How many support calls do we get?
8. How is our quality control process?
As before, try to find correlations, and also find facts. A good SWOT is based off findings and research. Opinions should be kept to a minimum. Also, a SWOT is no place to try to assign blame. You want to always be a professional and avoid mudslinging. Of all the SWOT parts, this one has the potential to be harmful to the team, as blame begins to get assigned.
The next two parts are more external facing. Opportunities are typically outside facing, although you can apply it internally. It can go hand and hand with a weakness. If you see a process that is lacking, it can be listed under weakness, but you can then add the solution during opportunities.
What you are trying to discover is new markets, new ideas, new process, and new revenue means. This is the moving forward part. Some key questions could be:
1. What is missing from your product line?
2. What does the market need?
3. Where is the market going?
4. Is there a company with a technology you can purchase or partner with?
5. What need is not being addressed?
6. What new techniques are being used?
Opportunities is wide open and a chance to brainstorm.
Finally, I want to talk about threats. Threats exist in many forms, and can be found in the most unexpected places. This is what may hold back progress, change direction, or address upcoming changes.
1. Are there potential new competitors?
2. Are there market trends negatively affecting our niche?
3. Are there changes in policies or standards that favor our competitors?
4. Does our competitor have something unexpected coming?
Threats can be eye opening and need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Being left behind due to unexpected market changes can be damaging both short and long-term to not only your product line, but your company as well.
Product managers are usually the ones who perform SWOT analysis, although other divisions may do so as well. While they are typically performed on your company or division, nothing is stopping you from creating a portfolio where you do so on your competitors as well. At the very least maintain information on their Strengths and Weakness. The above questions are not meant to be all inclusive, but a good starting point for your company.
Next week I will go over something a little different, and examine Augmented and Virtual Reality, and their potential impact on product managers. Be sure to like, share and subscribe, check out my videos and other post.
New Weekly Wednesday tip is up! I show the 3-D rendering software Blender.
As product managers, we do a substantial amount of research. Depending on your background, research will either be easy, or it will be hard. I will go over three key questions you need to answer as a product manager, before beginning research.
Research is using tools and techniques to discover answers to questions, theories, or hypothesis. Research can be an immense undertaking, requiring time and organization to effectively perform. Before beginning, you should know how, why, and what. How am I going to perform the research? Why am I doing the research? What am I going to do with the data once I am done?
Research will be based on business goals and requirements typically. Some forms of research you may do are market research, competitive analysis, and new product development. These will be done to strengthen your product line, and to stay aware of the markets trends and developments.
The first question, why you are doing your research, needs to be clearly defined before you begin. Is this for competitive analysis? Are you looking for new product ideas? Are you polling customers for feedback? Try to clearly identify your reason, plus the end goal. A few good examples are:
1. Keeping abreast of your competitor’s social media campaigns.
2. Understanding new technology in your target industry.
3. Polling customers for pain point.
4. Communicating with customers to find feature or product request.
5. Comprehensive market review and analysis.
6. New parts available.
Once you have clearly identified why you are preparing your research, you are then ready to begin.
How you are going to perform your research will vary from topic to topic. Try to start your research with good organization. I will create a folder on my computer, and name it based on the research. If I am doing a competitive analysis, I will call the folder “TheirName_Research_2017”. This folder will then go into my “Research_2017” folder. I keep my research together, clearly named and defined for ease of retrieval.
Once I have my structure in place I will create a couple of subfolders such as graphics and downloads. I will also create a Word or Excel file, sometimes both, which is where I will keep notes, prices, information, and an outline of my search goals and objectives. Next, I try and gather as much data as I can to support my goals and objectives.
In performing your research, you may find yourself browsing social media, business articles, internal databases, or random websites. You may be calling or emailing existing and potential customers. You may set up internal meetings with co-workers to pick their brains. Try to always think of all possible sources of data.
Finally, the big question, what do I do with the data? What you do with the data is defined by why you are doing the research. Is it to update the sales and marketing team about competitor’s strategy? Is it to create a new business case? Do you need this data to guide long term or short-term business goals?
Sticking with the earlier example of competitor analysis, your end goal may be a quick presentation concerning what the competitor is doing. Are they putting up content on a regular basis when once they weren’t? Have customers called and let you know there is a new product coming? Are they attending a show they previously didn’t attend?
When presenting the data, be sure and have references and facts ready to back up assumptions and conclusions, try to leave personal opinions out of it. If you have no concrete evidence, it is okay to add a note about your suspicions or opinion on direction, but ensure it is clearly marked as opinion, not fact.
Once you begin to understand a process that works for you, and you get a grasp of the three questions, you have a good starting point for your research. Try to evolve and fine tune your process over time. As with all things related to business, being flexible is necessary.
I hope you enjoyed this post, be sure to like, subscribe and share. Thursdays post will follow along with the research theme by going over SWOT analysis.
In the second episode of the Inquisitive Product Manager, I discuss what being the voice of the customer means, and how you can be a more effective manager. Click the title above to see the embedded video!