Book Review: Product Management, The Ikea Way

When it comes to home improvement, I'm barely competent. My biggest hurdle is ignorance: when I was growing up, no one in our family was a do-it-yourselfer. Unless I had the opportunity to watch the handyman, electrician, or plumber fixing a problem, and that person was patient enough to let me observe, I had zero experience with these tasks.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I signed up for installing hardwood floors in our home. Friends had said that it wasn't as hard as it looked, and the staggering quotes from contractors provided the incentive for forging ahead, despite my ignorance.

After buying the tools and digesting the instructions, I started on the first room. My first attempt was a hilarious escapade, which resembled a horizontal variant of Jenga more than anything that you could describe as "home improvement." After taking a break for a few days, I figured out where the project had gone wrong, made adjustments, and finished the room.

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Open House On Thought Leadership Is Tonight In Foster City

Just a quick reminder, our open house on thought leadership in the technology industry is tonight (Thursday) at 5 PM in the Foster City, CA office. Recommended for any product marketer or product manager who's interested in this topic.

We'll mingle, then get down to business. You can find more details here.

A Switch And A Miss

You might be surprised to find out how worked up I can get about an issue like switching costs (a.k.a. lock-in). It's a question worthy of at least a little emotion, since it affects the fortunes of technology companies: Under what conditions would a customer switch to a different vendor for the same product or service?

The question has returned with a vengeance with the increased adoption of SaaS and PaaS technologies. Tech vendors are happy to use the cloud as an easy way to attract customers, as long as it doesn't turn into an equally easy way to lose customers. 

What gets my dander up is the simplistic, puerile way in which people sometimes discuss this issue, particularly in regard to SaaS implementations. Here are a couple of examples.

Cost Of Switching
How do the switching costs of an on-demand solution compare to an on-premise alternative? Clearly, the cost of switching from an on-demand solution is not zero, and yet you still find in some discussions of SaaS the assumption that customers will leave willy-nilly. Nor is the cost of switching the same as an on-premise solution, but you'll find people speaking about the two as if they presented the same migration and implementation challenges.

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More About Intel-McAfee

Questions keep pouring in about this deal, so I'll attempt to answer the most common ones here. Practically every analysis I've seen calls this a "head-scratcher", and so they slam the deal simply because they don't understand it.

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Sprint Stakes A Claim In The 4G Wireless Network Market Using WiMax

During the past few months, telecom service providers including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have highlighted their roadmaps and deployment plans for 4G network technologies. These 4G technologies include Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax networks. Enterprises in North America and Europe are in the early stages of 4G network adoption based on results from Forrester’s SMB and Enterprise Networks and Telecommunication survey. Approximately 4% of surveyed enterprises currently implement or are expanding their implementation of fixed or mobile WiMax networks, and 3% of firms are implementing or expanding their implementation of LTE networks. These implementation percentages are expected to increase as the service providers pursue their 4G deployment initiatives.  

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Cisco: Wall-To-Wall Video

When Cisco first announced its intent to acquire TANDBERG in October of last year, I talked about how that acquisition was about much more than just video. I still believe that this single event represents the beginning of the converged (audio, video, and Web) conferencing era; but the combined company has indeed been on a streak of video activities. In 2010, Cisco has made more than a dozen video-related announcements about new products and capabilities, including TelePresence Exchange hosting by partners, the Cius HD video-capable collaboration device, new interoperability capabilities delivered via its proposed Telepresence Interoperability Protocol and Intercompany Media Engine, new home DVR capabilities delivered by Cox using Cisco set-top boxes , the Flip SlideHD video camera, video networking for NBC at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, as well as the use of telepresence by ESPN at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

 On top of all this video activity, I was recently briefed by Cisco about its new business solution for video (Cisco Prosumer Video) based on the Cisco Flip MinoPRO video camera, and I was struck by two things

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Thought Leadership Open House: You're Invited!

As I said in my last blog post, we're looking for feedback on the questions we're asking about thought leadership in the technology industry. At the same time, we realized that it has been a while since we held an open house in Forrester's Foster City office. (If you're not aware, we did a few informal sessions for product managers and product marketers, to give people in that role an opportunity to talk amongst themselves about topics of interest, sprinkled with whatever useful information an analyst like myself can provide.) Suddenly, a spark leaped across the two neurons carrying these separate ideas.

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Don't Underestimate Intel And McAfee

Intel and McAfee, the odd couple of technology? At first blush, Intel is not a "best fit" acquirer like HP or IBM which have major software businesses, existing security solutions, and related capabilities such as systems management. And, Intel is not a services company either. So it's straightforward to spot the potential problems that need to be addressed.

But a longer-term perspective indicates that these two companies are on to something fundamental and could create a force to be reckoned with within the tech industry. We believe embedded, or integrated, security is the future. The acquisition is ahead of the market and will thus accelerate this evolution. Standalone security products, and the companies that create them, are on borrowed time. We will see security embedded into hardware, in mobile devices, M2M devices, smart computing devices (e.g., smart grid meters), laptops, and just about everything else. Embedding security at the chip level is not a new concept either. Companies like Renesas and ARM already do this. Cisco has also been embedding security into the network, while Microsoft has embedded it into the platform. In systems, we see embedded security in Internet service provider (ISP) devices most prevalently today.

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Thought Leadership: Welcome To Phase II Of Our Research

We're now in Phase II of our first venture into Agile Research Development, an investigation of thought leadership in the technology industry. Phase II is when we start the actual primary research, and again, we're looking to the community for their help and guidance. The story so far:

  • Published the development document, which explains how we'll proceed. Supporting documents, such as this overview of Agile Research Development, are also part of the project dossier.
  • Incorporated feedback from the community into the development document. Many thanks to everyone who provided suggestions and criticisms of the original research plan, as described in the development document. In fact, if you haven't read the comments on the development document, I strongly recommend that you do. There are some real nuggets in there about a thought leadership, a topic of vital importance to tech vendors, their partners, and their customers.
  • Drafted the interview guide. We now have a list of questions that we'll ask the interviewees, including both vendors and customers.

How You Can Help
First, we need another round of review. This time, we're looking for your feedback on the interview guide. Are these the questions you want answered? Have we missed anything? I've annotated the interview guide to explain some of the reasoning behind the current draft, which is my way of getting the discussion going.

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Why Innovation Depends On Creative Approaches

Two recent articles from The New York Times illustrate why, for innovation to work, you need to keep updating your playbook.

Serious Games And Biochemical Research
When a team of researchers at the University of Washington wanted to unlock the puzzle of protein folding – a complex process that moves faster than we can observe – they decided to crowdsource the investigation. The team posed the question as a serious game, a medium that sometimes produces better answers than what people normally envision as the process of crowdsourcing. 

Instead of just throwing out the question (How do our bodies build these proteins?) to an anonymous audience that may or may not have been motivated to answer it, the researchers built a game, Foldit, that simulated the protein-building process. The motivations were no different than any game: the satisfaction of beating the game at some level; the score that both rewards you for your current level of accomplishment and dares you to do better; the public standings that inject another level of competition beyond beating your last score. Humans can be very competitive creatures, even when the only rewards are intangible, which is why certain types of serious games often stimulate more participation than other approaches to a problem. (Check out the book Drive by Daniel Pink for one explanation of this behavior.)

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