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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.


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.


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.

( 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 :(.

Netflix cloud strategy

MBA is full of case analysis and here I come across a case on Netflix’s cloud strategy. Why did Netflix make such a big decision to move to Cloud completely  and that to choose Amazon. Is Netflix not confident on its own business, is it scared of investing in infrastructure with the fear of it being a dead investment. Netflix is moving most of its online business to cloud infrastructure with only corporate IT being operated from its own data center. Given the exponential growth the company is witnessing in streaming business, it makes a good business sense to adopt cloud but what is scaring is the 100% adoption of cloud and completely moving away from its own datacenter. Is company saving money or risking itself.

Cloud adoption saves a company in terms of infrastructure setup, IT staff and maintenance but will put it at a risk of many factors which are beyond the control of the company. Once the company’s data is in cloud, it poses higher risk interms of data security and also higher dependence on the cloud vendor to provide a uninterrupted service. In future Amazon may increase the prices of its cloud offerings or there might a hacking community backlash against amazon web services taking the whole amazon data centers down. How is Netflix positioned to handle this. Given the existing situation where Netflix has completely  migrated to cloud based infrastructure, in a extreme scenario if Netflix had to provide a similar level of service from its own datacenter then it would take Netflix a minimum of 3 to 4 months. Is Netflix prepared for this, well Amazon, Hulu and other players will grab the market and Netflix would be out its business for sure. According to Netflix, infrastructure is only a small component of its business and hence is not heavily focused on setting up the datacenters on its own, but I believe that Netflix should rethink about infrastructure. Even though bigger challenges for Netflix are the content and agreements. At the end of the day, consumer consumes the product through streaming service and if there is any interruption to that, it would not be accepted well.

Netflix believes that by spreading the content across all of the Amazon datacenters, it is protecting itself against any adversities. But in my view to protect itself from all the adversities, I believe that Netflix should have atleast one data center of its own, which would be similar to the multiple Amazon datacenters which Netflix uses. This way, Netflix would not be 100% dependent on a cloud vendor, this would also help Netflix develop its technology in a manner where it is not tightly coupled with Amazon web services. In future, when demand is predictable then Netflix can scale up its own datacenter and migrate from Amazon cloud.

May not be a big issue, but it also needs to be considered that Amazon Prime video is a competitor to Netflix’s streaming business. Fair and ethical play can be expected  from Amazon, considering that Netflix is a major consumer of Amazon web services hence success of Netflix’s cloud adoption is crucial for the success of both the companies. But again 100% dependency on a cloud vendor is not acceptable.

Done with gmat test, scored 700

I am done with gmat yesterday, scored 700 ( q50 , v34) .I know that it is not a great score but I am happy with the score , considering the roller coaster ride I had during preparation.When I started the preparation my scores were around 660 , after some serious preparation scores came down to 620s and finally by the exam time scores were around 700. I learnt a lot during this preparation and let me share my experience ,hoping that it will be useful to atleast some of you.

I started my preparation in December 2009. Covered SC,CR and RC from Manhattan and OG.I did this very slowly taking around 2 and half months.I booked my date in April and it was on June23rd.

This is when I really started preparing and I also realized that all the study I did from December to April was just waste of time( 4 months ) .During which I had  neither done any serious study nor utilized my time for other activities. So the First advise I would like to share is , don’t prepare without any clear plan of when you are going to write the test. Do not wait for your preparation to be done to book your GMAT date,which according to me may never happen.

I did one more round of SC,CR and RC from Manhattan and OG and then started writing the tests every week.

Manhattan 1 — 650 ( q46 , v34 )  , GMAT Prep 1 — 660 , MGMAT 2 — 620 ( q47 , v29 ) , MGMAT 3 — 610 ( q47 , v 28 ) , MGMAT 4 — 600 ( q43 , v31 ) , GMAT prep2 — 680 ( q50 , v31) , MGMAT 5 — 690 ( q48 , v36 ) , Kaplan 1 — 680 ( q52 , v28 ) , Kaplan 2 — 670 ( q51 , v26 ) , GMAT Prep 1 — 720 ( q50 , v38 )

I was very disappointed after my MGMAT score of 600 .Even though I was studying hard , my scores were badly going down. I took a 1 week break from study, I realized that I was concentrating too much on verbal and ignored the quant which was my best area. I realized that if I can manage with mid 30’s in my verbal and score 50 in quant , then I can end up with a good score. That was my strategy going forward. And it was evident in the tests after that where my scores were around 680.

Coming to individual areas , I would say Manhattan SC is awesome. Just go through it and then do the OG SC ( I did this 4 times ).Make a not of your mistakes and go over them multiple times.After this , I would say just go over the mistakes you are making in the practice tests.

For CR , I went over the Manhattan and then did the OG couple of times.What I realized in CR that I was mostly making mistakes only in couple of types of questions like weakening the conclusion and analyzing the structure. So the tip I can offer is , find out if you are repeating the mistakes in any particular question type.

RC was tough for me.I did the RC from Manhattan and OG. But to be frank the Manhattan methodology is tough to follow in exam conditions with time ticking away. I did some research online and read lots of articles showcasing different strategies like the skimming or taking notes. After some couple of tests , I figured out that none of those strategies work for me. In my opinion it is always important to understand the passage,without that it would be impossible to answer the questions correctly.So my aim was to understand the passage irrespective of how tough it is and the strategy I used was

Easy RC  — don’t take notes  , just go over it , but understand the flow and main point of the RC .

Tough RC — To stay focused and to understand the passage well I used to take notes  and crack some jokes on the RC while reading it .

Test Day

I went half n hour earlier to the test center , tried to be very calm. Utilized the two 8 min breaks fully,had some biscuits and chocolates.During the test , I kept saying myself that I should not think of the whole test and what the score might be.But instead should tackle each question as it comes ,irrespective of whether its a tough or easy question.

I think that hard work is not the real key to getting a great score .But instead you need to be smart in analyzing your performance and need to concentrate in right areas.