Importance of “Why” for a Product Manager?

The more I work as a product manager, the more and more appreciation I have for the “why?” question.

Having been in the shoes of the engineer, the primary focus was on “what and how” instead of “why”. As an engineer, I was often asking the following questions to my lead or to my manager or to myself

What should I work on?

What do you want the behavior of this button to be?

How should I build it?

But in the product manager role, more than “what” and “how”, I find “why” to be the most useful.

Why should we build this feature?

Why now?

Why this approach?

Why this solution over the other?

Why this vendor over the other?

Why do this promotion?

Sometimes it is assumed that something we are doing is important either because it was asked by someone very important in the company or from some very important customer. The focus immediately shift towards “How”. Only after going through the efforts of actually building something, going live with it would you realize that there was no real need for this solution or this opportunity was not big enough for us dedicate so many resources on this task. Yet, I have myself fallen into this trap couple of times. I have felt the “why” part to be very obvious sometimes, but asking the “why” question over and over again could reveal something different and change your perspective.

Asking the why question, provides us with the justification, which I think is a mix of facts(data) + intuition(assumptions).

Facts (data) speak for themselves. If someone tells me homepage of the website loads in 10mins, then that is a clear data element for me that answers why I need to focus on homepage performance improvement feature. When we have strong data backing something, then it becomes a no-brainer.

Intuition or gut feeling are our opinions. Most innovative products are the ones which are built with more intuition then based on facts. Intuition for a product manager comes from understanding of who the end customers are, what their real problems are and how they might accept the product.

Some of the great product managers I have come across have been the ones who are focused on these aspects when making any decisions. Asking the “why” question again and again, being data driven and great intuition.

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Where is Google Maps App for IOS?

As you all know with IOS 6, apple has switched from Google Maps to its own Maps application. So there is no Google Maps app for IOS6 as of now ( There is an unofficial way to have access to Google Maps, but there is no official app). Google is building its app for IOS now and is expected to release in 4 to 5 months from now. Meanwhile IOS users would start using the Apple’s Map app and may be some of the customers would like it and may not be inclined to switch back to Google Maps.

So what is the strategy from Google, why has it not built the App by now and have it ready. Let’s see the strategy from Apple and Google

1. Apple

Apple has certainly released a app which is far low in quality compared to the Google maps. Quality of the app was so bad that CEO of apple had to publicly apologize. But the decision to release its own app, is a great strategic move by Apple. Many or all most all of the apps or services in smart phone depend on location. Hence its a strategic move to have its own app instead of depending on Google.

2. Google

Was this a surprise to google that Apple is going to release its own Maps app with IOS 6. I am sure google was aware of this move, these companies have so much public attention that even common man can find out whats happening at these companies. If Google would have started developing its IOS maps app and if it released it just in a week after the IOS 6 was released then it would have been a good strategic move by Google. If Google would have done that, all these people who are hating the maps app from Apple would have switched to Google. But now people are stuck with Apple’s app and hence as people start using it, Apple would get an opportunity to improve the app.

So when Google came to know that Apple is building its own app, did Google just give up and was not interested in building its own app for IOS. Looking at the way things are going on, it certainly looks like Google was too slow in building the app. Google’s Maps app in Android is far superior to the one that shipped with IOS 5 or before. By not shipping the app for IOS, may be Google wanted to create a product differentiation between Android and IOS.

But as a good product manager, the strategy from a company like Google should be to be proactive rather than reactive. It should have had the app ready for IOS 6 and should have been in a position to release the app if required.

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Coursera vs College degree

I am paying large amount of money to get my MBA degree. I have quit my job and I am studying full time, as a result I don’t have regular income nor the regular career progression I would have had, had I continued in my job. After I am done with my MBA, I am not sure if the job market would be good for me to land in a good job.

These were the thoughts that went through my mind, as I was doing a course on Coursera. The courses being offered on Coursera are world class, they are from some of the top universities. With such good courses available online why should anyone spend so much on higher education taking so many risks. Lets look at the advantages and disadvantages, I hope to be unbiased

Some aspects where a college degree and coursera degree defers

1. Structured education

Enrolling in a college degree, you will be put through many courses completing which you will get a complete understanding of the area/ specialization. For example in my MBA, we get to learn about Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Economics, Strategy, Organizational Culture and many more. So anybody who has completed an MBA degree is expected to have studied all the above subjects and is expected to have a basic understanding of them.

Right now Coursera is still young and only offers a small subset of courses which would be required to complete higher education. If Coursera does offer all the courses, then it still needs to address the issue of certifying the students with a degree. Coursera is more structured towards individual courses but not a degree. So going ahead, when it offers more courses it has to create a virtual degree to certify students. But then there would be a issue of credibility of the certificate.

2. Credibility

There is a difference between getting a degree from Harvard and getting a degree from some relatively new or unknown college. The issue of credibility. Any day a degree from Harvard is rated much higher and has more credibility.

With Coursera degree being open to all and for free, there can be many people with the degree and it would be hard to differentiate between them.

3. Individual Courses and Flexibility

With college degree, you are bound to the courses which are being offered in the college. There would be times when you would like to expand your knowledge but might be limited. Also, courses offered in college lag behind by couple of years to the developments in the industry. If those courses are not offered in your college but are being offered elsewhere, there is no way you can switch a college for a course. There is also a issue of Flexibility, if you are having a free time due to holiday season or less work, then you cannot take the course because you have to wait till the course is offered in the college again.

With Coursera, you can expand your knowledge on any subject at any time from any available offering. I feel this is the space, where Coursera has advantage over the traditional college degree.

 

4.Beyond classroom

Beyond the subject knowledge a student gets from a college, there is a lot a student learns from being enrolled in a college. Bigger part of learning process is learning from your classmates, learning from their experiences, perspectives, interactions and many more. There is also the aspect of building social skills. Which cannot be taught by just a lecture.

Again, Coursera completely fails in this aspect as there is no interaction with other students or industries. But in the long run Coursera can improve in this is aspect, if students can form study groups based on the common location they are from and are diligent in giving importance to the social aspect of learning. But I feel this is not possible and would always be a negative zone for Coursera.

Conclusion:

In the long run, Coursera would establish itself as a goto place. Where anybody who is interested in expanding their knowledge in a specific area would turn to Coursera for expert material which would be available for free at any time.

Somethings which is puzzling me is, why are these top colleges offerring the courses for free. What is the incentive for them?

Weekend in Chicago

I have visited Chicago for a weekend in Summer. Before reaching there, I did some research by browsing about all the places there and figuring out a plan to make the best out of my trip. But after reaching there I learnt that my research was not all that useful. I thought I will not go for a pass, as I may not have time to cover all places and I might end up overpaying for the pass. For a weekend trip to Chicago, getting a go-Chicago card is awesome way to cover the whole city. Individual attractions are very costly with each one costing around $20. Go Chicago card at $71 per day or $104 per days is a very good value. It provides access to 26 attractions, out of which if you visit even 5 of them, you will get your money back. Also, all of the major attractions in Chicago are covered with that card. Buying the card, you will also get access to local guided bus service which will take you from one attraction to other. Following are some tips to plan the trip.

1. Get the go-Chicago card by 9am.  ( pleaseeeeee, start early )

2. Start your trip at Hancock tower. ( 1 hr, $27 normal admission, $35 express admission, go chicago card covers express admission )

3. Next go to Willi or Sears tower ( 1 hr , $17.5 normal admission )

4. Next go to the Chicago Art museum ( 1 hr, $28 normal admission )

5. Go to Planetarium, ( 1 hr, $28 normal admission, watch 3D movie ) , after planetarium get the awesome view of Chicago sky line and river.

6. Go to Acquarium ( 1 n half hr, ~$30 normal admission, go chicago card offers express check-in here )

7. Go to filed museum ( I missed it, I could not cover , not enough time 😦 )

8. Go to Navy Pier ( Be there before 5.30 pm, get the ticket to Architectural tour, 1 hr ).

That should be your day 1. Next day you can take a walk on the Magnificent Mile, a place for shoppers, have ice cream at the Girardeli, deep dish pizza at Giordanos.

If you have 2 day pass, then you can go to the zoo or any other attractions you might be interested in which are covered in the pass.

There is a grey line bus which runs continuously between the attractions I mentioned above. So need to visit all the above attractions in the order I have listed, to save a lot time.

Link to Go-Chicago card.

http://www.smartdestinations.com/chicago-attractions-and-tours/_d_Chi-p1.html?pass=Chi_prod_go

( I am not selling this card, I found it be useful on my trip. I started my trip in the afternoon at 12.30pm, hence I could not cover all the attractions, so this is my small advice to make the most out of your time and money)

Chrome’s multiple user accounts

Just explored the Chrome’s multiple user accounts feature, isn’t it awesome. I have two google accounts, my original google account and my college’s google app account. I need to be logged into both the accounts. I used to open one account in Chrome and other in Firefox. Now with this feature, my dependency on Firefox is over(which once used to be my default browser). Chrome is now intelligent enough to manage two different profiles. These profiles don’t share anything like bookmarks, sessions, saved forms.

If you want to manage users then just follow the below steps

1. Enter this “chrome://settings/personal” in url field.

2. In the right pane, second section should be “Users”. Here you can add, delete and edit the users.

What Next?

I believe this feature might be more intended for two different users like family members. But I am using it to manage my two different google accounts and I am sure there are many who might be having more than one google account, like having one for personal use and other is a google apps account for professional use. In which case it is such a big problem to manage different services of google such as Youtube, docs, calendar and so on. For example, my Youtube playlists are separate between the two accounts, same with docs and calendar. Synching is such a big issue. Now with Google plus, things are more complicated, making it more confusing regarding which account I should be logged in. How is google going to address this. I hope it does :(.