Digital transformation squared or even cubed

Source: bcg.com

Glad to see that the so-called “Digital Transformation” is becoming something like mainstream. More and more companies realize that they urgently need to adapt to the new reality. It also shows that they start to understand how crucial true customer centricity has become.

So far, so good. Here comes the problem: While many companies are busy with their transformations the world has changed again. It is time to move to “Digital Transformation squared” or even to “Digital Transformation cubed.”

In all of my previous companies we were discussing things like the following:

  • We need to scale agile
  • Our platform is a monolith
  • The dependencies kill us
  • We need to create BI insights closer to the customers/business
  • We need seamless end-to-end customer experience
  • What is the role of Marketing if everything becomes “digital”?
  • Etc. Etc.

While those are busy with catching up with basics, there might be a missed opportunity to leapfrog the competition by addressing the “digital squared” possibilities. I am not saying this is easy. But this is the moment where you need to consider anticipating as much as you can even though you are busy with the current challenges. This is the starting point for serious discussions around

(Product) strategy – (Agile) ways of working – Product delivery

Don’t fool yourself and beware of the race between the hare and the tortoise to succeed…

Starting 2018 as self-employed

On Monday a new year will start. After having learned a lot of things during the last years and being more than ever convinced that customer & business focused product management are vital to the long-term success of technology-driven companies, I am offering my passion and skills to interested companies.

I am open to having this journey end with a long-term exciting position in a company that values this approach and creates the right environment to succeed.

I am looking forward to sharing my insights and experiences here on my blog. And am also looking forward to some energizing & inspiring discussions.

May the journey begin…

 

Importance of innovative technology for your business – really?

Found on LinkedIn

 

 

 

Yesterday I have read this post on LinkedIn talking about the current key technologies. It made me think about the role of “innovation” and Boards asking for the “next big thing”, the “pink rocket capable of flying us to the moon”.

Innovation happens when “invention” comes together with “value creation for customers & business”. This includes product delivery obviously. If any of those two ingredients is missing, innovation becomes meaningless.

If we are talking about key technologies, we tend to neglect that they are pure enablers. To put it more bluntly they are simple toys. From a commercial perspective, the thinking must start from a customer problem. In the majority of cases, there are existing technical solutions to a given customer problem that don’t require “key technology”.

What if some companies just cleaned up their registration flow instead of thinking about virtual reality? What if some CEOs tried to impress their Boards with improved conversion rate numbers instead of showing fancy “pink rockets”?

In most cases what you need to do is much more basic than you expect it to be. And please don’t start with technology, but with a customer problem and your existing product…

 

Consumers aren’t happy with the status quo in Gaming

Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog post on EGR. More specifically please read this:

The core gambling products are relatively unchanged from those offered a century ago so it’s easy to understand why operators are usually resistant to change. But this year we’ve seen rising evidence that consumers are hungry for new products, and that the current way of doing things may not be the best approach.

From a new generation of online casino firms changing what an online casino experience needs to be to Sky Bet changing the very nature of the consumer sports betting offering to PokerStars attempting to reinvent online poker this year has seen no shortage of indicators of what comes next. Sky Bet’s sports betting offering is now led by the RequestABet product it helped bring to market, with more traditional betting markets often side-lined and placed below the scroll.

Mobile is, of course, a major part of this change and products designed not just for the smaller screen and touch navigation but for the new consumer mindset that comes with it will continue to provide growth opportunities for the bold. While the old way of doing things will continue to dominate, and continue to be profitable in the short-term, there is a sense that even more radical approaches may prove a breakthrough in the coming 2-3 years.

It is amazing to what extent the Gaming industry has been able to maintain the status quo. Now the big question is: Who is going to drive the next wave of change? What will build the competitive advantage over others? And this will most likely not be adding more marketing bucks and throwing more bonus money at players.

Someone I spoke to during the last days said it is all about the “people platform” and much less about the technical platform. The ability to tap into customer insight systematically and build relevant products & services fastest will make a difference. And this will need the right people platform. The good thing about this is that it is sustainable. If your organization has learned and keeps learning, the probability that you are going to belong to the winners is increasing massively.

Is your organization up to it?

 

Beyond Design Thinking

Today on Twitter, I stumbled upon the following article: “Beyond Design Thinking” by @kevinmccull.

Interesting to read that the concept of “Design Thinking” might be starting to become out of date. But then I realized that it is increasingly being absorbed within a much more strategic approach “for designers”.

Main learning: don´t believe in buzz words, but find your own way to use frameworks.

My motto is: “Digital Strategy Implementation & Design Thinking”. How about yours?

Why understanding the needs of your users cannot be outsourced

In this week´s session about Information Systems and outsourcing @HEC we have discussed what to think about when considering outsourcing. One quote was “don´t outsource the problem, but outsource the solution”. This is interesting from a Product Manager´s point of view.

One thing I keep talking about, is that one should refrain from jumping to solutions too quickly. Before that step, a Product Manager needs to understand the problem to be solved for the users. And this requires going deep on the needs of users and thinking about their mental model. So, if you are thinking all day long about potential solutions you might start on the wrong foot. Actually, you might even consider not to outsource your product development at all nor to trust your own product development teams to come up with the right solutions.

I am sure that some readers of this post will even doubt the necessity to understand the needs of the users. This is a core competence and not peripheral. Outsourcing the solution is legitimate, but outsourcing your problem (aka understanding the needs of your users) is not an option.

If you see your own product development team as a vendor, what are you doing to direct them? What is the “contract” between you and them? Do they know enough about the problem to be solved so that they can operate on their own? Considering your own product development teams as “external vendors” might help you refrain from micro managing the solutions they come up with. You need to focus on your core competency: understanding the “problem space”.

 

 

What do product management and soccer have in common?

Have you ever observed a bunch of fans watch a soccer match in a pub? They all seem to know best what strategy to follow, what to do next etc. Now go into a product related meeting with managers at a company and look what is going on there. Listen to the comments people are making, the thoughts they are having and to what extend they are listening to the experts in the room.

I often do experience this. Product management is a little bit like marketing creatives: everyone has an opinion. Even the consumer out there has an opinion. Actually, some executives suggest to run product management by surveys. The majority of asked users decide about the next feature. The rest is project management only. It is as easy as that.soccerproduct Is it as easy as that? For sure not. I do see at least three dimensions where this thinking is falling short:

  1. Users don´t know what might be the best solution for what they need (you know the story about the faster horses, do you?)
  2. Listening to users today only partly gives the needed answers for tomorrow´s products. (There is anticipation of technology developments needed. Think of the tablet phenomenon or the touch screen.)
  3. Users only see their part of the delivery system (aka the user interface). Actually they don´t have to understand the complexity of delivering the service to them. And they shouldn´t. But this doesn´t prevent us from having to go beyond the obvious.Think of a service like a flight. It is much more than the airplane and the stewardess serving us. There is a whole machinery behind delivering the service to customers. (“Nonstop you” is a nice Lufthansa slogan that describes this pretty well.)

So, Product Managers need to make their points in discussions. Going beyond the obvious means elevating the discussions to a different level. Refuse to discuss only visuals for example. A couple of times I experienced situations where people didn´t listen to the results of my qualitative user interviews. They didn´t want to know about the personas created. The mental model was too abstract for them, etc. They only woke up when I started sharing screens. Then suddenly everybody had something to contribute. But they were not able to reference their input back to the framework introduced before. So it became generic without adding any value.

Soccer coaches are typically hired for at least an entire season. And I am sure they don´t always listen to the fans. What counts is coaching a winning team. Let your Product Managers build winning products. Input welcome, but decisions stay with your product coaches.

Five good reasons for enabling Product Managers on strategic level

During the last couple of months and countless inspiring talks with very diverse people, it is becoming more and more obvious that there a many great opportunities for your company. And some of those are around product management and its function in the corporate world. Let´s call out the most important ones:

ceousersproduct

  1. Good product management is the answer to your strategic challenge. If you get it right, you will manage your company in a way that it produces the right products. And if you produce the right products, then there is a much higher likelihood of success. Don´t get lost in all those IT and business discussions. Be consequent!
  2. Don´t make the mistake to believe all product managers are more or less the same. There are huge differences. I think I should write a separate blog post on how to assess the quality of product managers.
  3. Product Managers listen to customers. And executives should listen to (good) product managers. Why am I writing this? Well, because in most cases there is at least one executive who says: “believe me, I am more senior than you. And I know what needs to be done.” If this person is good at product management (aka listening to customers), then it is ok. If not, your company will get into trouble – sooner or later.
  4. Product management is the leading function. Why? Because it ensures that your company is building products “customers love” – enabled by IT and by business. It is the function that helps to pave the way into uncertainty and how to deal with it.
  5. Don´t believe product management is mere tactics. If you do it right then it becomes very strategic. Let me give you an example: changing from a static website to a data driven app (which is increasingly the case) requires not only investments in IT, but also a fundamental rethinking of business modeling. You need to anticipate future user behavior and align your company deliverables to leap frog your competition. This doesn´t happen over night and requires focus of the entire company.

So, when are you prepared to really focus on the needs of your customers? Good Product Managers can help you with that. But you have to give them the empowerment they need. And bet on the right candidates 😉

By Jörg Malang