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Ben Foster
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Ashley, thanks for reading and for your question. I would love to be able to point you to the study. Unfortunately, the Myers-Briggs analysis of eBay's Product Management team was conducted internally by the team itself, and to my knowledge it was never published outside the company. I only know about it because I was one of those product managers being "studied".
Over the years, I've seen A/B testing used a multitude of ways, sometimes well but more often inappropriately. Here are some examples of how A/B testing should not be used and why: Using A/B testing as a substitute for innovation or design. A/B testing won't produce an iPhone! All A/B testing can do is optimize around a local maximum. Trying to find a subtle difference with a sample size that's too small. You need some level of statistical significance, and the smaller the difference in performance, the more users you'll need in your study to find it. Continuing to test... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2012 at PM Rant
For me, it has to be "The Institutional Yes", which is an interview with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, published by the Harvard Business Review in October 2007. I admit that much of my own thoughts on product strategy were formed by reading this interview. It covers a lot of things, but a few in particular: Bezos encouraged his executives to develop a long-term strategy that was based on whatwouldn't change in the future. Almost everyone gets this wrong. Consider for yourself, what it is about your customers' needs that you can count on being the same year after year?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2012 at PM Rant
This is a true disaster. There are so many things wrong, I don't even know where to start. Perhaps I should tell the story of my first attempt to use it. I grabbed a can of soup from the pantry, dumped it in a bowl, threw the bowl in the microwave, and... and... uh. Hold on. Hm. The can said heat between 2:30 and 3:00, so I was thinking 2:40. Well, there were no numbers. I guessed the bigger button was a knob, despite having no markings. So, I tried turning it clockwise to add time. No dice. Nothing happened.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2012 at PM Rant
If you give a plant water, sunlight, and nutrients, it will grow fruit. And, if you mix sugar, flour, and butter and then add heat, you get cookies. So, what's the recipe for a team of technologists to continuously develop new product ideas? First of all, thanks to the commenters for their interesting points of view. I particularly liked "challenging the status quo" and striving for "clarity on constraints and goals". Here's my formula for driving invention in a tech company. 1. Know your full range of capabilities. It's great to know the constraints to a problem, and constraints create... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2012 at PM Rant
Yes. Now, most companies separate the KPIs between the two teams. They are right that Product and Engineering are fundamentally different roles, but those companies are wrong to measure their respective performance independently. When operating properly, Product Management and Engineering are two halves of a whole: Product Development. And they should be measured as such. Here's what you gain by using a common set of KPIs: Complete alignment between the two groups Engineering caring about what they're building as much as they care about how it's built (value focus instead of technology focus) Product Management orientation around real delivery vs.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2011 at PM Rant
At first, I thought this question was lame. Why not just ask them what they want and then build that? One of my earlier blog posts was entitled Stop Listening to Your Customers. The point was not that you should ignore your customers, but that simply asking them what you shoudl build in the next version of the product is counter-productive. Customers suck at telling you product requirements: they quickly get confused between the problem space and the solution space, and ideas for how their needs can be met without considering the 10 new problems they create along the way.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2011 at PM Rant
These days, everyone is talking about the new technology "platform" they're creating. At least half of these are not actual platforms. It's beginning to piss me off. It's not that hard, is it? an application is an application, and a platform is something that applications can be built on or run on. Uh oh, I just defined "application" using the word "application". Maybe this isn't as easy as I thought. How about this? A platform serves no direct purpose to end users itself. It does provide infrastructure for one or more applications (which do serve a direct purpose to end... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2011 at PM Rant
The scariest thing that can happen is to find yourself dead in the water - unable to innovate or unable to develop your product. That means you've already achieved whatever upward potential you had and there's no direction to go but down. No matter what other issue you may face, it's possible to dig yourself out of it with smart product development. Don't have data? Go acquire it. Have a bug? Go fix it. Missing network effects? Go social. But an inability to develop means you're managing a "dead product walking". It's just a matter of time before you lose.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2011 at PM Rant
I would love to gripe about most social apps sucking, but the truth is they don't. Why is it that there are so many crappy apps out there in general, but most well-known social apps are actually pretty good? Because social apps are a product of natural selection. They have to be good to survive. There are two success measures of social apps: Growth. Social apps need to grow organically. The critical success metric: organic growth rate. How many friends will a new registrant encourage to sign up, as well? If one person signing up is worth another 1+ additional... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2011 at PM Rant
I'm taking vacation the next couple weeks and will start posting again on 10/17. When I come back, I'll change the format of the blog to be "question and answer", or rather... "controversial topic and rant". Please provide your own unapologetically irreverent comments to help make it more interactive. Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2011 at PM Rant
People often wonder what the difference is between Product Management and Product Marketing, or even question whether there is a difference. While there is some overlap, there are also significant differences between the disciplines and they should generally be broken into different roles. Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2011 at PM Rant
Multi-channel solutions are for wusses. Cross-channel solution are the new (and future) black. Make sure your consumer communication strategy is based on an ongoing conversation spanning across a variety of channels, rather than treating each individual channel in a siloed manner. Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2011 at PM Rant
Extensibility is one of the most important attributes of a well-designed software product. Everyone wants their product to be extensible, but getting there is hard to do and hard to measure. It's possible through a simple exercise which yields a number of other positive outcomes, as well. Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2011 at PM Rant
Customers suffer when bugs don't get fixed. But they also suffer when something they want to see fixed doesn't get fixed. Don't ignore this second category of issues - they are sometimes much more severe than the first. Bugs are traditionally defined as defects. But defects according to what? People look to some sort of specification provided by the Product Manager. And as tradition has it, if the software works according to spec, no bug and no urgency. And if it doesn't work according to spec then it's a bug and someone in development and QA needs to have their... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2011 at PM Rant
When teams make the transition from Waterfall to Agile, they usually realize after a while that not everything is peachy. Avoid "throwing the baby out with the waterfall" by considering lightweight versions of valuable documentation and processes that shouldn't get lost as you embrace your new development methodology. Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2011 at PM Rant
Just because you found your perfect candidate doesn't mean you're going to get him or her to join. Now you need to sell the candidate on the job. It takes a good hiring practice, smart salesmanship, honesty, patience, tenacity. Here's how to sell a top Product Management candidate on the position. Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2011 at PM Rant
Making the final hiring decision is tough. Learn how to ask the right questions of the interview team, references, and even the candidates themselves to get the full picture. Then apply some difficult criteria to ensure your judgment is sound. Now you can pull the trigger. Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2011 at PM Rant
Behavioral interviewers are crap. Make people win the job by showing first-hand that they can actually do the job - at an accelerated pace. Give them a real assignment, work on it together. Use it as the common thread for the entire interview process and the key to your go/no-go decision. Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2011 at PM Rant
Don't wait for an open req to start finding talented people. Sourcing is a long term problem that requires a long term solution. Use your network directly and indirectly, spend the time to develop real relationships, and be willing to create new PMs from adjacent roles to fill your PM hiring needs. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2011 at PM Rant
Before sifting through resumes and conducting interviews, identify what you're looking for in who you hire. Identify the key qualities you need someone to demonstrate so you will be able to trust them to do their job if hired. This will guide all other steps in the interview process, all the way through closing. Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2011 at PM Rant
Hiring strong Product Managers is damned hard, and most people do it wrong. I propose a 5-step process for hiring with a number of specific recommendations to weed out weak performers and identify the top (sometimes undiscovered) talent. This is a summary of more detailed blog posts about each individual step, which will follow in the coming weeks. Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2011 at PM Rant
Google Maps created a series of bells and whistles which independently would go unnoticed by users but that collectively make a much better product. Subtle changes shouldn't automatically be lower priority. It's worth building the "extras" that will make your good product great. Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2011 at PM Rant
Product Managers often make the mistake of making their products simple for engineers, rather than end users. To the user, "simple" means intuitive, and what's intuitive is often illogical. Design for intuitive use: simplicity may require complexity. Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2011 at PM Rant
Be your own toughest critic. Ask yourself the tough questions that others won't (or that they might) and validate that your decisions are sound. If you're answering with spin, then you haven't thought the ramifications through. If your answers are strong, then so is your decision. Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2011 at PM Rant