Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grey-Haired Product Management

Or more correctly: Product Management for Grey-Haired Users

I've twice recently been reminded how precious the gift of sight is.  Thanks to laser spot welding I can still see but it is now more challenging spending long periods in front of a computer. <gory details over a beer if you like>

My desk at work has a nifty 22 inch flat monitor for when my laptop is docked.  Even though this monitor is big, I have lowered the resolution a notch to make everything larger, despite the reading correction I have in my glasses. <insert joke about old guys here, if you dare> 

The laptop has a 13 inch screen.  I set the resolution to a larger display when I am undocked but it apparently doesn't believe I really mean it.  Every time I open the lid to start using it, up pops a little reminder telling me that the resolution I have chosen is not optimal.  I don't care about optimal for IT, I care about optimal for ME.  Every once in a while it takes matters into its own hands and changes it to what it (or some young whippersnapper PM) thinks it should be, despite my protestations.

A User-based Product Management View

This is not going to be another rant about Microsoft or Lenovo, however.  Instead, let's look at this from the user persona standpoint to see how the user experience (UX) might be different and differentiated.

In its current iteration, the UX is unpleasant and a nuisance, especially after it changes the settings I want.  The settings were created with the display in mind, not the user.  Who doesn't want the highest resolution, sharpest detail, etc.?  Well, me and anyone else with glasses and a reading correction who does not want tension headaches from squinting all day long, that's who.

My reading correction is +1.75. My wife's is +2.25.  I know other people whose corrections range from +1.00 to +3.00.  All the screen resolution settings are based on pixel count.  As a result, us non-prefectly-sighted folks have to use trial and error guessing which resolution will be the easiest to read.  And we have to remember what it was when the computer overrides the choice and sets it back to "optimal."

The recommended distance from the monitor or laptop screen is a fairly constant 3 feet (1 metre).  Wouldn't it make more sense to have the screen resolution setting recommendations "optimized" for whatever correction the user may have?

Sample set up process:
  1. Do you wear glasses?
  2. If yes, do you have a reading correction?
  3. If yes, what is it? (present a slider with different corrections)
  4. Click Okay
The UX takes into account a large and growing user base and presents the solution on their terms and in their language.  A laptop vendor who did it this way would have a nice differentiator and a supportable reason to claim they understand their customers.

What other marketing and positioning opportunities are you missing because you are thinking of the hardware and not the users?

Key Take-Aways:
  • If you allow 'customization' to your products, at least have the courtesy of allowing your users to mean it.  Don't override those settings even if they aren't optimal to you.
  • Have you considered ALL the use cases and ALL the users in your product design?  Who are you missing?
  • Old folks will happily give their money to a vendor who treats them with respect.
Up Next: Crossing the Departmental Chasm: Thinking it Through

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Value of Knowing Who Cares: A Quick Case Study

Hello again!  It's been a while since I last posted <insert litany of lame excuses/valid reasons here> but I'm back.  For now.  Really.

"If you don't know where you're going, you will wind up someplace else."

My friend Larry McKeogh wrote a blog in response to my August 25 Product Management Talk on eliminating MABUSHI from your marketing. Larry's point is that knowing who the most important customer is and what is driving them goes beyond the product launch phase.  He's right.  In fact, knowing who cares and why that's important to them is the core premise of your product feature set, your messaging, your go to market, your collateral strategy, etc.  That information should live with all stakeholders for the entire product lifecycle so that anybody can use it when they need it.  If you don't have it, then someone may have to resort to MABUSHI to make a dealine.

A Short Case Study

I had started a new position at a company that had seen a lot of changes just before I joined.  A new ancillary product was launching within a week and I was asked to put together a datasheet for it.  I asked Product Management for insight and background and got the use cases right away.  They were easy enough to understand but I wanted to know the business drivers for the customers.  That's when I discovered that previous PMs either didn't document that information or never gathered it in the first place.  Like I said, there had been a lot of changes.  It was shipping that Friday so there was no time to talk to customers to develop persona information.  The field and our customers needed something quickly.  This was the first time I had to write something about a product I didn't know and before I had a chance to talk to any customers or prospects.

Rather than write up some cool-sounding gobbledygook that no one would read or understand I pidgeonholed the interim PM for an hour.  He finally decided on five points that "resonated with customers" when he spoke to them about it.  At least there was SOME market validation in what he said.  The datasheet went out on time but I did go back and update it later - after I had validated it with real customers. 

Key Take-Aways:
  • If everyone knows Why We Are Doing This and For Whom, then anybody can easily step in and create something relevant.
  • Write it down and keep it where everyone can find it.
Next Up: Grey-Haired Product Management