Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Win - Win model

Day to day, we encounter many models in technology and business(both digital and physical). Some of them captures our attention because of their uniqueness and novelty. Below models fascinates me, it solves a problem both in producer and consumer side. For now, I just name this as a Win -Win Model.

Recaptcha: Recaptcha creates a model, mutually beneficial for google to translate books, improve their OCR(Optical Character Recognition) and  for site owners it helps to avoid spam and bots. 

For further read - 

Stanford Online AI Class: Another similar model we see from the Stanford Online AI Class. Artificial Intelligence classes are automated. Ranking questions, assigning homework and grading are done via AI systems. For a student it is useful to learn great concepts from the veterans of the field and in-turn they help the AI system to measure its teaching and continuously improve.
(Now, new classes moved to Udacity - )

Reference -

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Startup's are like Movie Making

I believe movie making is like a start-up, building a company from scratch. It goes through all the phases of a startup life-cycle. I have put the similarities here..

Research and story: A start-up is to fulfill a story and  research should be put into it. Visualizing as a story and dig into features  is the best way to approach the product development. In movie making, story is the crucial element and basic research should be done around it for authenticity.

Start Fresh: A start-up is full of energy and fresh mind with no hangover whatsoever. Approach to a movie should be like this even for an experienced film maker

Creativity: Creativity is the core aspect in movie making and you cannot proceed anything further without it.
Being creative is essential quality to run  a start up in implementing new business models, creating a better customer experience, forming a culture inside the company, working on process improvement, product development, customer support

Detailing: Detailing is an essential and handy skill to have and very critical in building a product. In movies, detailing every aspects from characterization, screenplay and choosing best out of it is important.

Observation and Log: To succeed in film making,  you need to observe the outside world and follow the daily affairs. Even you can get new characters, ideas for your movies from people you meet and news you read. When running a company, we need to observe different business models, emerging technologies, practices. Maintaining a log of all the observations is handy

Coordination: In a start-up,  we need to co-ordinate with various resources from marketing, development, finance, legal, admin..etc.. We need to utilize the services of external vendors who are best in it and get the things done. Care should be taken on contracts and negotiations. Its all the orchestration of these things make the product successful. Same applies to movie making.

Copied vs Inspired: There is a thin line between copied and inspired. You can inspire from anything from successful business models to great customer experience. Use of best practices always do goodies for the business. Similarly, in movie making you can inspire from screenplay,camera angles,background , characterization.etc from other movies.

Small Things Matter: Small things matters and  add value to overall objective and goal. For instance, even changing the size, color of an action button in a website or changing the tone of  FAQ section may plays an role in overall conversion. In a movie, even a small eye reaction, a minor object in the background plays a role in catching the attention of audience and makes a scene likeable (knowingly or unknowingly).

On Track: Product should be on track with the vision(Project Requirements). We have to clearly identify what level we need to do a particular feature at that point of time and plan our time, effort and resource accordingly. Finding which is important at that point of time is the crucial aspect in running a company.
A movie should be in line with story and screen play and not to carried away with non important things.

Scope of Improvement: A product can be iteratively improved and even rework can be done. Similarly a scene can be re-shoot latter, patched up and even can be improved during editing. One difference - In-case of a movie, nothing can be done after launch.

On Budget: We may need to do some adjustments here and there to manage within the budget. Similar case applies to a start-up.

Cognitive Psychology: If we know what people perceive,think and react to a scenario, we can try to capitalize through product features and services. Same applies to a movie. We have to think in the audience shoes and predict how would they be reacting to a scene.

On Time: Meticulous planning helps to complete a movie within a schedule and launching at the right time.
A proper product road map and planning helps to complete and launch the product on time.

Scope of Marketing: Finished product can be marketed in all unique and novel ways depending on the context of the product. Same applies to a movie. Apart from posters and ads, I believe lot of potential is there in marketing movies in all  novel ways. For instance,  for a children movie we can uniquely target children of particular age groups with campaigns and competitions. Leveraging social media and engaging the audience is also important.

Launch and Post Launch: Product Launch is  important to create a hype around the product. Same applies to a movie. Press release, music release, still release, trailer release, road shows  plays a crucial role in creating a hype around movie.

Doing in a phased manner with the audience feedback is very important. Doing by this way(phased manner) also helps in building up the necessary hype.After the launch, engaging the audience and make them talk about your product gives tremendous result.

Customer / Audience  - The Ultimate Decider: Finally, the customer/audience decides the success independent of hype and who creates it..

Monday, July 23, 2012

Starting Point for Business Research

We need to do research in our line of business to know the current trends, best approaches and industry insights. Below techniques can be the starting path for the research. It can be used by the business of any form(Online, Brick and Mortar) . 

Google Alerts: "Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms" - Google.

Set up extensive google alerts related to your line of business.  For instance, someone who runs (or) planning to start  an online gadget store in Brazil can set-up alerts like below:

  1) "Brazil Ecommerce"
  2) "Brazil Gadget Store"
  3) "Online Gadget Store"
  3) "Brazil online buying behavior"
  4) "Online buying behavior"
  4) "Gadget store"
  5) "Ecommerce"
  6) "Brazil Ecommerce Trends"
  7) "Online customer acquisition"

Glancing through the alert emails, you can consume the informative articles and insights which you many not come across using search or other means.

Be a user of your competitor : Find out your competitor (or) someone who do similar type of business.  Register with their service/product and use it.  In case of offline business, you can go and visit the actual physical store. 

Things you can do, 
  • Understand their business models and analyze it.  
  • Use their forums,blogs and analyze the user's problems and feedback. You can address that as a feature in your business
  • If you find any best practices, you can check how you can implement in your business. 
  • If you find any flaw in their model,  you can address that in your business.

Google Reader: Subscribe to quality journals and blogs using google reader (or) any other feed reader of your choice. One way to find the quality sites/blogs is - when you subscribe to alerts,  you get to know many informative blogs and web sites. You can go and subscribe to their feeds.

Google Insights: "Google Insights for Search is a service by google similar to Google Trends[1], providing insights into the search terms people have been entering into the Google search engine"  - Wikipedia

I'll explain this with an example,
In India gold market is huge. I just put "Gold" in insights with region as "Tamil Nadu" and duration as 1year.
You can see from the result, towns like Erode,Vellore,Sivakasi are on the top of the list and are ahead from some of the prominent cities. This data may be usefull for a jeweller who want to expand his business or to run a targeted campaign. To know more on how to leverage Google Insights, you can check this post - . You can also check Google Trends.

Research Log: Maintain a research log with references, url and important points. You may come up with various situation in your business where this log is very handy and referring to them can guide you to take better decisions. Also by this way, duplication of the research effort can be avoided.

Business research is not limited to product managers. Anyone who is interested and involved in the business can do it and you can share your valuable insights to the stakeholders. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Conversion Rate - The Ultimate Goal

Everything we do to develop and run a successful web/mobile app is to achieve this single goal.

                      "Better Conversion Rate"

We can measure the conversion rate only after launching the product. So, most of us bring this after product development and more into marketing activities. Objective of this post is to share the approach we can take to bring conversion rate in the ideation, design and development phases of the project.

Desired actions performed by the user which helps to achieve product owner's business goal = Better Conversion Rate. 

So, achieving better Conversion Rate should drive the functional specification, technological choice, usability, product development, performance improvement, marketing, customer support and everything.

What we can do?

Bring in Project Decisions

In all project decisions (technical, design, functional and operational), bring the focus on achieving better conversion rate. Approach the decision making process as below,

"I will get better conversion if user queries are handled  and  pro-actively supported, so I'm going to build a customer support team"

"I will get better conversion if the core workflow's are more usable, so I''ll work with the usability experts and come up with a better design.."

"I will get better conversion if there is a recommendation based upon user's buying behaviour, so I'm going to develop a recommendation engines using libraries like mahout.."

"I will get better conversion if an active community is present for the product, so I’ll go for experts who can tell the digital stories and help to form a community"
"I will get better conversion if a page loads fast, so I'm going to investigate and do necessary things to resolve" 

"I will get better conversion if user discover the products easily,  so I'm going to develop a search functionality using  SOLR(or any other library)."

Now, it looks like reverse may also work.

For example,
I’m going to build the best search engine to aid the conversion

But the flaw on this approach is that best search engine may not required by the product at that point of time. A basic search may do the purpose, which can be expanded later and iteratively improved. So in a way, it encourages iterative development.

Time is crucial; Churn out important things which can aid the conversion rate.

Instill a Culture

We need to instill a culture in the team whereby everyone talks about the conversion rate .For instance, take a team where each developer do different screens/modules/workflow. Let them discuss how best possible way things can coordinate between their modules to achieve a  conversion goal

Introduce Analytics

Introduce Google analytics or any other analytics engine from the beginning of the project.  Let people understand the goals and conversion funnels from the start. We can mock-up goals similar to Google Analytics and have it as a reference for the team. Let the developer, usability expert and marketing people work keeping these goals in mind. Analysis and correct metrics is the key to improve conversion rate. Good thing is conversion rate can be improved iteratively.

It’s all the approach we take make the product successful.