Sneak preview for P-Camp Austin 2010

I'm still finishing up the actual presentations that I've proposed for the Product Camp in Austin this Saturday. You can go to the official site for more details about the presentations, but in the meantime, here's a sneak preview of all three. Topics include:

  • From Product Management To Social Product Management. Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love social media as a way to make smarter product decisions.
  • The Strategic Role of PM. Yes, really, PMs are increasingly playing a strategic role in tech companies. Why is this change happening, and what does it mean for you?
  • The Old Launch Codes Won't Work. A tell-all expose about why tech companies are generally unsatisfied with the results of launches, and how some major trends in the industry are providing ways to fix that problem. 

Since this is your conference, if you like these topics, please vote for them.

Please yell at me for doing my job badly

Last Saturday, at the Silicon Valley Product Camp, I was part of a panel on PM metrics. Any topic that's at the same time important and unsettled keeps you thinking long after the panel, so not surprisingly, almost a week later, I'm still chewing on it. Here's an observation I'll make today, after further pondering:

You know when you're doing well as a PM when someone yells at you for getting a persona, user story, use case, or task analysis wrong.

Understanding the world from the standpoint of the individual buyer or user is one of the primary responsibility of PM. According to some schools of thought, it's the core responsibility, especially since no one else in a technology company is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and distributing these deep customer insights. (There are other core responsibilities, too, related to the company's business and the technology itself.)

That information may look academic, but it should be immediately pertinent in very important ways. Understanding the way in which people in a variety of roles assess, purchase, and adopt technology is critical for making smart decisions about everything from product design to the product roadmap, from crafting messaging to choosing marketing channels. Unless you live in a Soviet-style command economy, in which manufacturing 3,000 left shoes is a problem for the consumer, not the producer, customer insights need to inform both strategic and tactical decisions.

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Don't outsmart yourself

In product marketing, you always want to sound like the smartest person in the room. However, you shouldn't prove it with marketing messages that only you fully understand.

At last, someone who can understand my brilliance
Colleague Mary Gerush and I are working on a market segmentation for requirements tools. It's a great excuse to get into a lot of very interesting conversations about some very deep topics. The requirements market is in transition, from an era of heavy-weight tools designed to address information management challenges, to something very different. (You'll have to stay tuned to find out what the new market looks like.) We're starting from scratch, with no particular attachment to the traditional terms and concepts for describing what these tools are supposed to do.

That's the entree into the very interesting conversations. Vendors in this space, whatever it is, are very smart people who think about the shape of the requirements market all day long. Not surprisingly, their opinions about the market, which are reflected in their marketing messages, are very smart, too. In fact, in a couple of occasions, I wonder if they were being a little too smart.

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If you don't go to P-Camp Silicon Valley 2010, slap yourself

Rich Mironov, organizer for the Silicon Valley Product Camp 2010, says that the pre-registration is closed at 960 people. Zounds!

The event is still open for any and all product managers and product marketers to attend. In fact, because 960 people have already registered, you definitely should attend. Last year's P-Camp was jam-packed with useful information, and it provided an unparalleled opportunity for PMs to compare notes. Attendance last year was a fraction of this year's pre-registration number, and the value of the P-Camp only increases with numbers.

Look forward to seeing you there. (And you'll have my gratitude if you vote for my afternoon presentation on the strategic role of PM.)

How demographics matter in B2B tech adoption

In case you wanted to attend tonight's open house on the demographics of B2B technology adoption, here's a pertinent diagram from a recent publication on the subject. As you can see, when they look for information, two people in the same department—an application developer and an enterprise architect—go to very different sources.

  • Conclusion 1: Demographics matter. A lot.
  • Conclusion 2: If you say that your target customer is developers, you need to take a big product marketing time-out. Not all development professionals are the same. Now march up to your room and think about that.

As important as conclusion 1 may be, it's not exactly profound. Sure, we all know that people are different, but what are the significant differences? And how should these variations affect the way we market our technology to rank-and-file developers versus the fancy-pants enterprise architects?

Many efforts at persona development break down at the very beginning, with the question, How many different personas do I need? There's no obviously correct answer to that question, especially when you haven't seen the data that indicates which demographic differences are significant, and which aren't. (Leaving aside the practical question of how many personas you can actually produce.)

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Forrester open house for PMs

Late last year, we kicked off a series of open house discussions at the Forrester office in Foster City, CA. We're ready to resume that series, so here's the schedule of topics for the next few months:

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