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Posts Tagged ‘Product Development’

Launching with ‘good enough’ productization

Last week’s blog series ‘art of productization’ continues with more insights from Kati Riikonen, our guest writer in this week’s blog.

Yes, it’s true, ’good enough’ is not measured in the amount of features or the length of specification.  For productization, the key customer promise is a top priority it seldom requires all possible features to be showcased.

Often there is no need, nor it’s feasible, to do full productization journey before going out to market making mode.

The level of necessary productization is depending on many variables. Most importantly one should crystallize concrete goals for the post-launch actions. There are also big differences on targeted audience is B2B, B2C or C2C. In reality, the limiting factors for productization often tend to be time and money.

The following provides examples of productization check points for various types of launches.

Idea launch

  • Examples of next steps: Generate public discussion, idea exchange, testing the idea, scouting potential partners, gathering insights
  • Productization check list: None. Just go out and talk the way you do – all entrepreneurs should do idea launches every day!

Concept launch

  • Examples of next steps: Seeking for finance, crowd-sourcing for development or more insight, thought leadership, publicity, scouting for ecosystem partners
  • Productization check list: Initial customer promise, name and descriptor, differentiators, user experience and marketing assets.

Tip on naming: In B2C or C2C concept launch a legally protected name in early phase is a real asset. In B2B concept launch, it is more natural and often enough just to differentiate with customer promise and descriptors, rather than spend limited resources on the naming convention.

Tip on prioritization: In case of very limited resources, focus on the concept’s customer promise and end-user experience as top priorities regardless if it is B2B, B2C or C2C.

Commercial launch

  • Examples of next steps: Market and sell! Business development, marketing, scout, sign and train distribution channels, agents, personnel.
  • Productization check list: In case of B2C or C2C launch, the further the productization check list is completed, the more likely are scalable sales and operations to accelerate. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the fact is that agents and sales pros tend to sell what gives them the fastest and reasonable payback. Having all the productization assets at immediate disposal gives the team a head start.

Reminder: Productization process does not mean that it’s done in vacuum before going out to public. Direct end-user insight, dialogue and co-creation can – and often should – be part of the successful productization.

Feel free to post your comments & example cases!


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Check list for software and digital service productization

Recently I had an inspiring discussion with Kati Riikonen, a doer, who has been working with several companies from mobility, web and software development domains. We were exploring the needs, pros and cons of the productization of software and digital services. With Kati’s permission, I am sharing some experiences on the topic.

Fully productized service should roughly cover the following:

Pitch check list

  • Clearly differentiate from companies and competitor’s other existing services
  • Name with trademarks and legal protection
  • Short and clear customer promise
  • The elevator speech, a short and crisp 1-2 sentences description of the product or services

User experience check list

  • User experience design drivers and design blueprint
  • Product definition: detailed description of the functionality. This element can be a demo, specification, description or any other format

Assets check list

  • Marketing assets that can be distributed physically or digitally
  • Detailed sales guide, that can be distributed physically or digitally
  • Organized documentation of the service and its operations

Sell check list

  • Price, which can be told immediately and clearly
  • Distribution channel and sales people need to be able to sell the product within feasible investment of time & effort
  • Company’s own personnel and agents need to be able to tell with is being sold with few sentences
  • A client, who is about to buy the service or product, needs to be able to tell with few sentence what he/she is about to buy

Naturally one does not need to take the steps in the right order – we entrepreneurs seldom do! The above should be treated more as a reference.

Shortcuts work very well – often for a period of time. However, significant shortcuts can cause unnecessary resource needs later on. Here is an example:

The project had user experience elements well designed, but did shortcuts in most of the other areas.  User experience assets showcased the concept so well that the company was able to start sales mode immediately. It did not matter that the service did not even have a name – and it still does not have legally protected name.  It might sound an easy way to reduce the pain of productization, but now the company is facing an increasing amount of challenges with press and industry discussion. They are now spending a lot of effort and ‘air time’ to correct the misleading names and messages instead of focusing on their own pitch.

The next question is what level of productization is ‘good enough’ for public launches?

While waiting for the Part 2, post your experiences, questions & comments – thanks!

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Three days to go. As the year is about to end, it’s time to look back and learn from this year.

Jobita – Market Place for Jobs

Year 2009 was the launch year of Jobita, formerly known as Tikitagi. Late March we launched the prototype of the service. Jobita is an Internet tool for local service professionals (and those who want to become those) as well any individual to market their skills and manage the assignments. For consumers Jobita is the easiest way to find qualified doer for any task at hand, either at home, at the office or for example on the boat.

It was a great learning experience, later also leading to concept called “gasellizer” – more efficient way of producing software with outsourced resources.

Already in January I wrote about using True Identity instead of pseudonyms. We are proud to announce that Jobita.fi is the first of its kind to truly support True Identities. Jobita is working together with NorthId on this. It’s called “Nettihenkkarit” in Finnish, loosely translated as “Online Identity Card”.

End of October we launched the totally rewritten version of Jobita, initially only in Finnish language. During the first two months of existence, the number of members and posts increased rapidly.

Creating Software as it always Should Have Been Done

Software Industry is relatively new as industry. Therefore it is no surprise that it is still facing many fundamental challenges, such as understanding the customer problem and turning that into a successful business. Together with few other people from the industry we worked on a concept called “Gasellizer”. One of the observations was that managing the specification process is still a major headache for most of the developers, and no, Agile methodology as such is not an answer for this. It’s more question of “User Defined Features” or uDef’s as we call them. Simply put, there is a need for recording, and managing as the needs evolve throughout the process, the users’ need with their own words.

One way of approaching the problem is learning from the movie industry’s way of operation.

And it is always great to learn from those who have already done it in real life (lessons learned from Mårten Mickos, ex-CEO of MySQL).

Entrepreneur is the Most Critical Resource

This discussion is going on all the time: “there is not enough money for the start-ups”. That is absolutely true. In order learn a bit more about the actual problem, I tweeted and blogged about a simple question “Which one of the following is the most critical and the least supplied resource: ideas, entrepreneurs or money?”.

As was to be expected, there was a lot of support for the answer of “money is the missing link”. However, the poll made revealed that the majority of the people thought actually that we do not have (good/experience/etc) entrepreneurs to implement those ideas. Nobody claimed that we would not have enough ideas. I am 100% of the same opinion, we don’t have enough entrepreneurs. As many of the supporting organizations and tools fail to understand this most fundamental question, also many of the solutions (no matter how well-meaning) do not touch and help the actual problem.

Simply put: as long as we do not have enough those entrepreneurs who will use the money available to build succesful and brave enough success stories, we will not have successful software companies. Period.

Crowdfunding is the Modern Way of Raising Funding

Okay, in the previous chapter I claimed that the most critical missing resource is the “entrepreneur”. It does not mean that getting funding would be easy, not at all.

Raising money for an idea or early stage start-up never has been, nor will be, very easy.

There is, however, always the possibility of looking for new solutions for the problem. One of the hottest ideas right now is “crowdfunding“. I wrote a small article about that in August. According to the polls made, this kind of funding is well received by both entrepreneurs and investors.

There is a new exciting company working on the concept of crowdfunding, GrowthOS. If you are member of LinkedIn, you can apply for GrowthOS group. Check out also an interesting opportunity to get a really high quality video pitches for your company.

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Build Your Own Dream Team

Build Your Own Dream Team

Last week I blogged about comparing the movie industry and the software industry. The feedback given in the comments and in real world quite rightly focused on the two actual problems (and areas to learn from): defining what the “production” should be and how to get a team to implement it.

The question last week was “So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry?”

First of all, it’s not that easy (of course not!). But as we have to start somewhere, let’s shoot this out.

  1. Lesson Number One is to implement processes and methods to ensure that the customer need is understood. Communication is the key, especially as it might be (as it is) that the customer does not know what she wants in the first place. And that changes anyway. The concept of “shared unified understanding” is quite important, as well as how to achieve and maintain it.
  2. Lesson Number Two is that each project (“production”) may be different. So you may need different skills each time. No company can successfully employ all the possible skills on payroll and function effectively. The Dream Team is different each time. Would like to watch a war movie, a love movie and a documentary done with the same actors, same person acting as a war hero and the most lovable lady? Most likely not.
  3. Lesson Number Three is the Crew Commitment. Even if you have the best possible definition of the project, and the best doers available, you can fail if the team does not commit themselves to this production. You need all the help from each team member in order to find and manage all the issues that there will be. It is impossible to micro manage all this (even though it may have been possible in the factories last century). To a certain extent being afraid of failure would help to get better results. Social (group) pressure to get things done properly in order to avoid consequence (whatever they are) could help here?

So what can we (as software industry) learn from the movie industry…?

Beside the above mentioned issues, re-engineer your thinking. The future is not in the big software companies, it’s in the networked ecosystem of best doers of each field. There is certainly work to be done in the way we make sure “what you get is what you wanted” but also on the field of setting up the dream team for each production. And managing network of experts (maybe globally) calls for different kind of managing talents than the traditional models. You need to get the Crew Commitment in place. It’s just the question of time when this will be done by somebody!

But what about marketing? Is it any importance in the software industry (like it is in the movie industry)? Of course. It’s easy if you’ve got a customer who came to you and buys a custom project from you (even in that case it’s the question how they found you). But if you are a startup, what can you learn from movie marketing in this field. Comments, knowledge and best practices are welcome – we’ll discuss this next.

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I don’t actually know a lot about about the Hollywood movie business. Well, I’ve seen quite many, I’ve been to Hollywood, I know few people in the business and I’ve read about creating movies. Still I thought I’ve learned few things that keep me wondering the possible similarities between two things: 1) Creating and publishing a successful movie (“a hit”) and 2) Creating and publishing a successful web site (“a hit”).

Here’s what I had in mind. Both need a script how it should go, both need a good team to get it implemented and both need somebody to pay the cost initially and success of both is measured by usage volume.

The terms we use are of course different. In software business we have a “business plan”, that’s our script. We have our team, preferably a dream team which are known as actors in the movie business. I think both get money from something we call “investors”. Measuring the success, however, is not a matter of the few first days only in software business, right? The first impression does matter, however.

Both businesses are “hit driven”. Most cases fail, and investors make money with the ones that succeed. And most importantly those who write good script become famous and/or rich not to mention the best actors who are well known and wanted to the next potential big hits.

So why don’t we do the following in order to create successful net stories:

  1. Create an environment or ecosystem where entrepreneurs can create those stories such a way that potential investors can be convinced to fund it even before you have the dream team in place. One question is that does the script writer also need to be the director (ie. business plan writer/concept owner need to be the CEO)?
  2. Include in the above mentioned ecosystem a mechanism to build your own dream team (with the money from the investors) to implement this project (which has a deadline, release date and so on). The best people should get their compensation which should be high enough to let them focus on several interesting projects without being stuck to a single project for 10 years.
  3. Run the implementation such a way that it is controlled, you have a flexible way of changing the “actors” if they do not deliver and the good ones get the credit.
  4. Release the mov.. service and switch to maintenance mode (or to development of Episode #2).

I think I could make my my living pretty good by writing those scripts and publishing those within a working ecosystem like this. At least dreaming about that kind of possibility keeps me awake.

So what would be the top ten reasons why it would not work and what do we need to do in order to fix those?

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I don’t actually know a lot about about the Hollywood movie business. Well, I’ve seen quite many, I’ve been to Hollywood, I know few people in the business and I’ve read about creating movies. Still I thought I’ve learned few things that keep me wondering the possible similarities between two things: 1) Creating and publishing a successful movie (“a hit”) and 2) Creating and publishing a successful web site (“a hit”).

Here’s what I had in mind. Both need a script how it should go, both need a good team to get it implemented and both need somebody to pay the cost initially and success of both is measured by usage volume.

The terms we use are of course different. In software business we have a “business plan”, that’s our script. We have our team, preferably a dream team which are known as actors in the movie business. I think both get money from something we call “investors”. Measuring the success, however, is not a matter of the few first days only in software business, right? The first impression does matter, however.

Both businesses are “hit driven”. Most cases fail, and investors make money with the ones that succeed. And most importantly those who write good script become famous and/or rich not to mention the best actors who are well known and wanted to the next potential big hits.

So why don’t we do the following in order to create successful net stories:

  1. Create an environment or ecosystem where entrepreneurs can create those stories such a way that potential investors can be convinced to fund it even before you have the dream team in place. One question is that does the script writer also need to be the director (ie. business plan writer/concept owner need to be the CEO)?
  2. Include in the above mentioned ecosystem a mechanism to build your own dream team (with the money from the investors) to implement this project (which has a deadline, release date and so on). The best people should get their compensation which should be high enough to let them focus on several interesting projects without being stuck to a single project for 10 years.
  3. Run the implementation such a way that it is controlled, you have a flexible way of changing the “actors” if they do not deliver and the good ones get the credit.
  4. Release the mov.. service and switch to maintenance mode (or to development of Episode #2).

I think I could make my my living pretty good by writing those scripts and publishing those within a working ecosystem like this. At least dreaming about that kind of possibility keeps me awake.

So what would be the top ten reasons why it would not work and what do we need to do in order to fix those?

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There are signs that the way how the successful start-ups may be built in the future is changing.

First, the supply of venture capital is decreasing. And there are few issues related with this, but that has always been the case. Just see techcrunch.com and thefunded.com and you can make your own conclusions.

Second, bootstrapping a company is in many ways easier than ever. And even if you are not a Ruby on Rails expert yourself, you may nowadays find an implementation partner for your idea with the sweat equity model.

There are, of course, at least two different kinds of “sweat equity” variations. One model is that where consultants take a stake in your company, you sweat and do the work and the equity is split when the exit becomes feasible. This is not the one I mean, but the “hands-on” sweat equity. It again can be done in many different ways, for example so that your partners take care of the development cost or otherwise do concrete, actual and useful work for the company. 

This is not to say venture capital would be disappearing. As some of the investors told us in the Le Web event it may just be changing. As more and more services do get the first version out without venture capital, the investors can actually use the service before investing in the company. And as they said “don’t call us, we’ll call you” it might mean that IS the way how to get them interested. So it could also be these two things are not alternatives to each other but complementary to each other.

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