Archive for the ‘Lean Startup’ Category
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
In the last couple of months, I’ve got several requests from top-notch product companies in India, asking me to facilitate a hands-on workshop on decision making using Lean-Startup’s hypothesis validation techniques for their Executive and Senior Management. I’m thrilled to know that companies are seriously exploring these options.
Following is a 1-Day workshop which I’ve successfully ran a few times:
Experimentation Driven Decision Making Workshop
Large number of products/services fail today, not because they cannot be built and delivered, but because the entrepreneurs building those products/services are disconnected from the people consuming them. This disconnect, leads to early assumptions about consumer’s behavior and motivations. To one’s surprise, these decisions can turn out to be based on stupid (read as: deadly and risky) assumptions.
Traditionally, entrepreneurs believed that the only way to test their product/service hypothesis was to build the best product/service in that category, launch it, and then observe user behavior. And of course the big bucks spent on marketing campaigns. Surprise! Surprise! This can be a very time consuming & expensive process; not to mention the huge opportunity cost.
(src: Kent Beck)
Luckily today, we know that many entrepreneurs are using Lean-Startup methodology’s Customer Development practices to help them make important product/service decisions (cheaply) based on Validated Learning.
This workshop will give you a hands-on experience to formulate and quickly test out your value and growth hypothesis.
This is a group activity and the participants have to work in small groups.
In the first one hour of the workshop, each group has to come up a product/service idea, which they believe will really succeed. Then they craft out the elevator pitch about the product/service and put together a basic business model. Post that, the group has to clearly highlight what are their value and growth hypothesis.
The rest of the workshop is dedicated to the participants trying to validate their hypothesis. They can use phone and/or Internet to do their research and validation. The best results, of course, are got when the participants meet real people face-to-face to validate your hypothesis. I’ve seen participants wait outside restaurants, cafes, health-clubs, malls, etc. to run their tests. Some participants also get really creative and build some paper prototypes or fake products to validate their hypothesis. Using a fake credit card swiping machine to see if people will really pay is one of my favorite validation techniques so far.
It always amazes me how creative people can get during this process. Also it’s very fulfilling to see the “Aha moment” on the participant’s face. I can’t describe in words, the shocked look on their faces, when they spend the day validating their hypothesis and discover various hidden assumptions about their target user’s behavior.
- Learn how to decide which assumptions you MUST absolutely test.
- Understand why just marketing metrics won’t help you make a better product/service.
- Master the art of leveraging the Minimum Viable Product to create maximum validated learning for minimum cost.
- Learn how to systematically decide when to Pivot to a new strategy.
Interactive dialogues, case studies, hands-on group activities, and on-field exercise.
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
For a minute, if we replace the word startup with business (early-stage-business, if you insist.) What have we lost? Does the word startup really bring anything extra to the table?
If we look at Eric Ries’ definition:
A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.
I would say every business has uncertainty. Extreme or not is a matter of perspective & approach.
I remember reading a while ago about Start a Business, not a Startup on 37 Signals‘ blog Signal vs. Noise. Now I understand what they really meant.
I’m planning to pretty much do away with the word startup and instead just call it business.
This will really help me focus on the hard-core business aspect of my products and services instead of hiding behind the feel-good-factor of “startup.”
Friday, June 15th, 2012
How has Agile evolved over the last 12 years?
Friday, June 15th, 2012
This is an introductory presentation on the essence of Being Agile vs. Following Agile. And why being Agile is important? I’ve also tried to show an evolution of Agile methods over the last 11 years and the future of Agile. Also take a sneak preview into what challenges an organizations may face when trying to be agile?
Saturday, May 26th, 2012
Good Product Owners are:
- Can come up with a product vision which motivates, inspires and drives the team
- Aligns the product vision with company’s vision or mission
- Passionate Problem Solver
- Should have a knack of identifying real problems and ability to visualize a simple solution to those problems.
- Has good analytical & problem solving skills
- Subject Matter Expert
- Understands the domain well enough to envision a product to solve crux of the problem
- Able to answer questions regarding the domain for those creating the product
- End User Advocate
- Empathetic to end-users problems and needs
- Able to describe the product from an end-user’s perspective. Requires a deep understanding of users and use
- Is passionate about great user experience
- Customer Advocate
- Understands the needs of the business buying the product
- Ability to select a mix of features valuable to various different customers
- Business Advocate
- Can identify the business value and synthesize the business strategy as measurable product goals
- Has a good grasp of various business/revenue models and pricing strategies
- Capable of segmenting the market, sizing it and positioning a product (articulate the Unique Selling Proposition)
- Is good at competitive analysis and competitor profiling
- Able to create a product launch strategy
- Capable of communicating vision and intent – deferring detailed feature and design decisions to be made just in time
- Decision Maker
- Given a variety of conflicting goals and opinions, be the final decision maker for hard product decisions
- Possess a deep understanding of (product) design thinking
- Able to work effectively with an evolving product design
- Given the vision, should be able to work with the team to break it down into an iterative and incremental product plan
- Capable of creating a release roadmap with meaningful release goals
- Is feedback driven .i.e. very keen to inspect and adapt based on feedback
- Able to work collaboratively with different roles to fulfill the product vision. Be inclusive and empathetic to the difficulties faced by the members of the cross-functional team
- Given all the different stakeholders should be able to balance their needs and priorities
- Empowers the team and encourages everyone to try new ideas and innovate
Disclaimer: This list is based on my personal experience but originally inspired by discussions with Jeff Patton.
In my experience its hard (not impossible) to find someone who possess all these skills. It requires years of hands-on experience.
Some companies form a Product Ownership team, comprising of different people, who can collectively bring these skills to the table. Personally I prefer supporting one person to gradually build these skills.
I amazed how easily companies get convinced that they can send their employees to a 2-day class on Product Ownership and acquire all these skills to be a certified Product Owner.
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
You are a startup and you’re building a product. It all sounds exciting until you sit down to decide the product name. Coming up with a public name for your product is one of the early decisions you’ll need to make.
What criteria do you use for naming your product?
I’ve used the following:
1. AdWords: When people want to find something similar, what keywords are they searching for? I would use Google AdWords to find keywords/phrases that people are already searching for. Look for related searches.
2. Competitors: If there are similar products in the market, what have they named their product and what keywords are they focusing on?
3. Unique Name: Based on keywords from the first 2 steps and your own preference, pick a few unique name that communicates the outcome achieved by using your product.
For ex: if I was building a product which helps me search and find my files, I would call the product Found instead of File-Searcher or something else.
Sometimes, you might need to search for synonyms or replace certain characters in your name to make it distinctly unique.
Choose an appealing name. Something that appeals not only to you but also to your target audience. Choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories so customers respond on an emotional level. Usually long or confusing names are not favourable.
Also try to avoid names that are spelled differently than they sound.
4. Domain Name: Is a .com domain available for this name? Also what about other popolar TLDs? Personally I prefer getting a .com, unless your product naturally blends with some other TLD. Like talk.to You want to make sure your domain name is different enough from your competitors’ domain name.
People generally make mistakes while typing URLs, you need to make sure there are no stupid websites with small variations of you domain name.
5. Trademark: Might be worth checking if your product name is already a registered trademark owned by someone else in the same business domain. Esp. in the country where you plan to sell your product. In the US you can search trademarks on USPTO’s website.
6. Test your name: Its generally a good idea to present your shortlisted names to a few people and see their reaction.
7. App Stores: Even though all popular App Stores allow duplicate app names, it might be worth checking if other apps use the same name. .i.e. if you plan to build an app as part of your product.
Wikipedia has an excellent article on this topic called: Product Naming
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
Many product companies struggle with a big challenge: how to identify a Minimal Viable Product that will let them quickly validate their product hypothesis?
Teams that share the product vision and agree on priorities for features are able to move faster and more effectively.
During this workshop, we’ll take a hypothetical product and coach you on how to effectively come up with an evolutionary roadmap for your product.
This day long workshop teaches you how to collaborate on the vision of the product and create a Product Backlog, a User Story map and a pragmatic Release Plan.
Detailed Activity Breakup
- PART 1: UNDERSTAND PRODUCT CONTEXT
- Define Product Vision
- Identify Users That Matter
- Create User Personas
- Define User Goals
- A Day-In-Life Of Each Persona
- PART 2: BUILD INITIAL STORY MAP FROM ACTIVITY MODEL
- Prioritize Personas
- Break Down Activities And Tasks From User Goals
- Lay Out Goals Activities And Tasks
- Walk Through And Refine Activity Model
- PART 3: CREATE FIRST-CUT PRODUCT ROAD MAP
- Prioritize High Level Tasks
- Define Themes
- Refine Tasks
- Define Minimum Viable Product
- Identify Internal And External Release Milestones
- PART 4: WRITE USER STORIES FOR THE FIRST RELEASE
- Define User Task Level Acceptance Criteria
- Break Down User Tasks To User Stories Based On Acceptance Criteria
- Refine Acceptance Criteria For Each Story
- Find Ways To Further Thin-Slice User Stories
- Capture Assumptions And Non-Functional Requirements
- PART 5: REFINE FIRST INTERNAL RELEASE BASED ON ESTIMATES
- Define Relative Size Of User Stories
- Refine Internal Release Milestones For First-Release Based On Estimates
- Define Goals For Each Release
- Refine Product And Project Risks
- Present And Commit To The Plan
- PART 6: RETROSPECTIVE
- Each part will take roughly 30 mins.
I’ve facilitated this workshop for many organizations (small-startups to large enterprises.)
More details: Product Discovery Workshop from Industrial Logic
Focused Break-Out Sessions, Group Activities, Interactive Dialogues, Presentations, Heated Debates/Discussions and Some Fun Games
- Product Owner
- Release/Project Manager
- Subject Matter Expert, Domain Expert, or Business Analyst
- User Experience team
- Architect/Tech Lead
- Core Development Team (including developers, testers, DBAs, etc.)
This tutorial can take max 30 people. (3 teams of 10 people each.)
Required: working knowledge of Agile (iterative and incremental software delivery models) Required: working knowledge of personas, users stories, backlogs, acceptance criteria, etc.
“I come away from this workshop having learned a great deal about the process and equally about many strategies and nuances of facilitating it. Invaluable!
Naresh Jain clearly has extensive experience with the Product Discovery Workshop. He conveyed the principles and practices underlying the process very well, with examples from past experience and application to the actual project addressed in the workshop. His ability to quickly relate to the project and team members, and to focus on the specific details for the decomposition of this project at the various levels (goals/roles, activities, tasks), is remarkable and a good example for those learning to facilitate the workshop.
Key take-aways for me include the technique of acceptance criteria driven decomposition, and the point that it is useful to map existing software to provide a baseline framework for future additions.”
Doug Brophy, Agile Expert, GE Energy
- Understand the thought process and steps involved during a typical product discovery and release planning session
- Using various User-Centered Design techniques, learn how to create a User Story Map to help you visualize your product
- Understand various prioritization techniques that work at the Business-Goal and User-Persona Level
- Learn how to decompose User Activities into User Tasks and then into User Stories
- Apply an Acceptance Criteria-Driven Discovery approach to flush out thin slices of functionality that cut across the system
- Identify various techniques to narrow the scope of your releases, without reducing the value delivered to the users
- Improve confidence and collaboration between the business and engineering teams
- Practice key techniques to work in short cycles to get rapid feedback and reduce risk
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
“Release Early, Release Often” is a proven mantra, but what happens when you push this practice to it’s limits? .i.e. deploying latest code changes to the production servers every time a developer checks-in code?
At Industrial Logic, developers are deploying code dozens of times a day, rapidly responding to their customers and reducing their “code inventory”.
This talk will demonstrate our approach, deployment architecture, tools and culture needed for CD and how at Industrial Logic, we gradually got there.
This will be a 60 mins interactive talk with a demo. Also has a small group activity as an icebreaker.
Key takeaway: When we started about 2 years ago, it felt like it was a huge step to achieve CD. Almost a all or nothing. Over the next 6 months we were able to break down the problem and achieve CD in baby steps. I think that approach we took to CD is a key take away from this session.
- Context Setting: Need for Continuous Integration (3 mins)
- Next steps to CI (2 mins)
- Intro to Continuous Deployment (5 mins)
- Demo of CD at Freeset (for Content Delivery on Web) (10 mins) – a quick, live walk thru of how the deployment and servers are set up
- Benefits of CD (5 mins)
- Demo of CD for Industrial Logic’s eLearning (15 mins) – a detailed walk thru of our evolution and live demo of the steps that take place during our CD process
- Zero Downtime deployment (10 mins)
- CD’s Impact on Team Culture (5 mins)
- Q&A (5 mins)
- Tech Lead
Industrial Logic’s eLearning context? number of changes, developers, customers , etc…?
Industrial Logic’s eLearning has rich multi-media interactive content delivered over the web. Our eLearning modules (called Albums) has pictures & text, videos, quizes, programming exercises (labs) in 5 different programming languages, packing system to validate & produce the labs, plugins for different IDEs on different platforms to record programming sessions, analysis engine to score student’s lab work in different languages, commenting system, reporting system to generate different kind of student reports, etc.
We have 2 kinds of changes, eLearning platform changes (requires updating code or configuration) or content changes (either code or any other multi-media changes.) This is managed by 5 distributed contributors.
On an average we’ve seen about 12 check-ins per day.
Our customers are developers, managers and L&D teams from companies like Google, GE Energy, HP, EMC, Philips, and many other fortune 100 companies. Our customers have very high expectations from our side. We have to demonstrate what we preach.
- General Architectural considerations for CD
- Tools and Cultural change required to embrace CD
- How to achieve Zero-downtime deploys (including databases)
- How to slice work (stories) such that something is deployable and usable very early on
- How to build different visibility levels such that new/experimental features are only visible to subset of users
- What Delivery tests do
- You should walk away with some good ideas of how your company can practice CD
Slides from Previous Talks
Monday, August 8th, 2011
Update: Stage Proposals are closed.
Sessions proposals are open now; visit: http://submit2012india.agilealliance.org/proposals
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Risk and Reward goes hand-in-hand: Overall Services business pays fairly well and its relatively less risky. Product companies have to face all kinds of risk. Starting with what to build, how to market it, how it price it, how to sustain it and so on. But if you can figure out answers to these questions, then Products do pay off really well.
Business Model: Services has a straight forward model. Increase per head revenue and increase head-count. It also has a fairly predictable cash flow. You bill for the time your spent. Product companies have complicated business models. There is very little co-relationship between time spent and revenue. Figuring out the right business model for your product is in fact one of the biggest challenge.
Lifestyle: Services can be extremely stressful or extremely easy going. Depending on the nature of the service, you could have very unpredictable work flow. Causing work to come in unsustainable batches. Usually services involves quite a bit of travel. Generally not good for family life and health. On the other hand, Product developer is usually stressful, but predictable. Lot better on family life and health.
Growth: Services provides you a linear growth path. It depends on the number of customers, number of employees and number of locations you operate in. Product companies usually follow a non-linear growth path. Growth really depends on the value created by your product for the consumer. There is no direct relationship between growth and number of employees or locations you operate in.
Valuation: In services companies, its employees and customer-base are its real assets. If employees are gone, the value of the company is almost zero. For product companies, the product itself is an asset. Good customer-base certainly increases the valuation of the product.
Customer-base: Usually services (at least consulting and training) companies have to deal with dysfunctional organizations (mismanaged expectations and huge communication problems). Working with dysfunctional companies is very depressing and there is not much to learn. And hence not very motivating. Building our own products at least shields us from some of that.
Freedom of choice: In services, you need to work inside the constraints of the client. There isn’t much freedom in-terms of tools, domain, technology, etc. Product companies usually offers a much broader choice. Which usually leads to more experimentation and more accidental innovations.
Bootstrapping: Good skills and reputation is enough to get started in services. It can be gradually scaled out. You can be cash-flow positive from day 1. However for product companies, getting to positive cash-flow takes time and effort. Finding paying customers quickly is hard. In general bootstrapping a product company is a lot harder.
Innovation: Both services and product companies thrive on innovation, but they are different kinds of innovation. Services is driven by innovation in implementation and service quality. While in product companies lot more innovation is required in ideation and in scaling.
Employee’s Attitude: In Product Company you generally Live to Work, whereas in Services Company you could Work to Live. At a Product company you feel your Product is like your own baby, in Services Company you are just Baby Sitting.