Who cares if it doesn’t work?

There is often a huge gulf between the way in which a product was intended to be used and the way it actually is. Product designers need to experience first-hand how their creations work in the real world if they are to improve future designs.

If a consumer product doesn’t work well, it is likely to become the subject of online reviews, and any feedback will eventually find its way back to the designers one way or another. At the very least, the consumer experience is likely to (negatively) affect the prospects of repurchase. But for products or experiences which are not so obviously linked to consumer purchase, there are likely to be fewer repercussions. Who really cares if it doesn’t work?

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If they’re selling an experience, why are they treating me like that?

There are times when it’s difficult to separate a product from its surrounding experience. When that happens, it’s critical that both the product and the experience are good enough to lure the customer back for more. A failure in either element can adversely affect the ultimate success of the business.

Whilst products can be designed and supplied to a fixed specification with defined limits, experiences can be more difficult to reproduce. There is a danger that overly-prescribed experiences can leave the customer feeling “processed” rather than being treated as an individual. Front-line staff need to understand the effect they can have on the customer experience. And Head Office staff need to give them the freedom to deliver that individual experience, rather than insisting on following an efficient process.
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“Just” is a four-letter word

When we, as Product Managers, use the word “just” to describe a feature we want, we’re subtly (or not so subtly) telling the implementers how we judge its size and/ or complexity.

  • Can’t it just sort the results and display them with the most relevant first?
  • Can’t you just make it slimmer and lighter so it’s easier to hold?
  • Can’t you just move Phase 2 earlier so it’s almost like a Phase 1b?

By using the J-word, we lose credibility.

  • We demonstrate that we’re not familiar with the problem.
  • We show that we don’t trust the implementers to give us the right answer or to do the right thing.

And the one thing we don’t want to lose is our credibility because it stops those around us from believing in us, believing in what they’re doing, and going the extra mile to deliver for us.

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We’re all experts now

How often have you seen product or portfolio decisions taken without the support of robust insights?

In the absence of existing insights, gathering meaningful data can be time-consuming and expensive. And with constant downward pressure on both time and cost, the temptation to cut corners is always there and guesswork creeps in. After all, how difficult can it be to guess, particularly considering the amount of information which is already available?

  • The web provides ready access to a vast amount of market data.
  • Discussion forums dedicated to the particular product or topic almost certainly exist, irrespective of how niche it is.
  • Online customer reviews are ubiquitous, instantly available and free.
  • … and since we’re all consumers anyway, we have our own experience to fall back on.

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“The End”. It never is though…

Working towards a deadline can become an obsession. It can seem to draw you in with the pull of a black-hole to such an extent that everything else becomes irrelevant, invisible, meaningless. This can be a positive experience, putting ever-greater focus on the event itself and exhorting significant extra commitment from you. But it can also have the negative effect of blinding you, changing your frame of reference and altering your sense of perspective. It can lead you to incorrectly conclude that there is nothing beyond the deadline and leave you exposed, and under-prepared.

As is so often the case, it requires a delicate balancing act to wring the maximum from the positives, whilst simultaneously avoiding any potential damage from the negative effects. Those who manage this well will be best-prepared for what follows immediately after the deadline. With major product launches and public announcements of new releases, Product Managers need to be aware of the pitfalls of becoming overly obsessed with a date – the date.

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[Photo courtesy of International Business Times]

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