Monthly Archives: December 2013
I committed this year to write 52 blogs and I did it! There are 16 on my previous employers website and 36 on www.runyanconsulting.com. As I look back and review and reflect on the posts, here are my favorites.
Product Management Blogs
I am very passionate about Product Management and I think it is sometimes an undervalued skill set. Where I have a chance, I always try to share the strategic and practical benefits that come from having great product management resources. This year, I wrote a five part series about how to Launch a Product and recently completed a 3 part series on how to sunset or decommission a product.
I am equally passionate about Agile because I have seen how it can improve people’s job satisfaction and raise the level of productivity and effectiveness for the whole organization. This category was harder to choose my favorites, so I came up with four. First, there was a series on creating an Agile Culture and what it really means for management. This series generated some controversy, which I love because it means we are talking about important things. Next, I am surprised that many organizations are not familiar with Fist of Five. We use the Agile technique all the time and it is a difference maker in driving productive conversations. Many organizations also struggle with how to incorporate Agile into the day-to-day business, so I offered three options for incorporating bugs and maintenance into your Agile teams. Finally, I am a big believer in the sacredness of the Sprint and I believe that organizations that are disciplined enough to honor a sprint commitment will typically be more successful than those who are loosey-goosey with the guidelines.
Finally, I care deeply about leadership and family so some of my blogs were dedicated to those topics. One that has been particularly fun is documenting our evolution to an Agile Family. We have learned (and laughed) a lot together. Also, I spent some time really thinking about Innovation and what drives an innovative spirit in some people but not others. This particular blog might be my favorite of the year.
I hope you have enjoyed some of these blogs and maybe learned something new. I know that I have learned with each post and I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue growing and exploring new ideas. What is in store for 2014? Who knows for sure, but it is going to be a great year!
We became an “Agile Family” in 2013 and I first blogged about it in August. Since then, we have had a number of family meetings and we have learned some very interesting things along the way. Here is a recap of our findings.
1. Face-to-face collaboration matters.
Those of you who are familiar with Agile and its principles know that face-to-face communication and frequent opportunities to collaborate are essential to Agile. Turns out, the same is true with the family. When we asked the retrospective-type question “What do you want to do more of?” our tween daughters (ages 11 and 12) said more family activities. What?!? Our kids are at the age of boyfriends and texting and thinking parents are uncool and yet — they want to spend more time with us. And when we inquired about the types of activities, it wasn’t watching TV or playing video games. It was electronics-free hiking and bowling and ice skating. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that, but since then, we have become closer as a family – as a team.
There are times when we all feel a bit beat down by life or circumstances, so this is a blog to explain five reasons why you are lucky – or blessed. I know what you might be thinking – this blogger doesn’t even know me. How can she presume that I am lucky? Let’s examine five reasons.
1. You are smart.
We can discern this fact – and yes, it is a fact – because you can read. Only literate people read blogs AND you are smart enough to navigate the internet to find this blog AND you are smart enough to have access to a computer. So if you are doubting yourself or your worth, know that you ARE smart.
2. You live in a country that has freedom.
The fact that you are able to access this blog means that you live in a country that allows its citizens to share controversial ideas and to learn and grow from different opinions. That is a beautiful thing that is worthy of celebration. You are lucky to be afforded such freedom.
3. You are interested in learning.
The act of wanting to expand your horizons, to learn new things and to explore differing points of view is a gift. You are engaged in life and that is a great thing. There are people who have given up, who are jaded or uninterested and feel like their best days are behind them. You are not that person. By virtue of the fact that you are interested in internet musings means that you are an active participant in this life and good for you. That zeal makes you a lucky person.
It may sound odd that you need to consider pricing when sunsetting a product or platform but you do – at least in some form. This is the final installment in a series on decommissioning or sunsetting a product. First you must get data to know exactly what the situation is; second, you must craft your communication plan, and finally, you need to consider the financial implications.
If you are truly turning a service off, or ‘going dark’, you may have to consider whether refunds will be required for your existing customers. If your business model is one of pre-payment, then you need to look into contractual obligations, notice periods and financial true-ups. The potential impact of refunds may even dictate your sunsetting strategy, so you can minimize pay outs.
Let’s consider an example. The company charges annually for the following year. For example, on November 1st, you are charged for November 1st to October 31st of the following year. The company will need to research the month with the highest number of renewals and you might base your decommissioning date based on that information to minimize the refunds. If sunsetting this product is a large and complex effort, you might consider a rolling project where customers are moved off of the product or platform as their services expire contractually. This approach can take up to a year to complete, but that might be ideal in certain circumstances.
If you are considering sunsetting a product or platform, you need to proceed with caution, as all good Product Managers will do. Our previous blog addressed the data that you need to make an informed decision. Once you have that in hand, you need to think about a well-organized and well-executed communication plan.
Create a communication plan
If you are going to alter the customer’s experience, you need to think through how that will be communicated and you will likely need to over-communicate to make sure the message is received and no customer is surprised. There are a number of factors that will influence your communication plan. How many customers are impacted? Do they have active account managers involved (more on this below)? How do the customer receive information today? Through Bill Inserts? From the Website? E-mail alerts? Make sure that you know all communication vehicles so you carefully consider how to handle each one. The messaging is also critical and must be very action oriented and clear. This is not a marketing campaign or a sales slick. The verbiage needs to be simple to understand and clearly articulate the steps that need to be taken. You also need to consider the repetition. Sunsetting a product is a big event and you will need to tell customers over and over again to ensure that the message is received and digested. The easiest way to create a plan is to grab a calendar, pinpoint the desired date of the decommissioning and work backwards. For example, if you are relying on bill inserts as your primary mode of communication, then you will need to factor the billing cycle into the calendar. You will also need to ensure that your systems have the ability to differentiate the customers with the product targeted for sunsetting. Otherwise, you may have to inform the entire customer base and that may have larger implications.
As a Product Manager, one of the efforts that we are often asked to consider is the decommissioning or sunsetting of a product or platform. It is not always a fun task, but it is very important to the business. This blog series is dedicated to the steps that a strong Product Manager needs to consider when researching this kind of issue. The first and most important thing to do is to get data.
If ever there was a project that should NOT be executed based on gut feel, this is it. You need data to make sure you make the most prudent decision possible. There is no way to sunset a product without upsetting some aspects of your business, so this is not something that should be taken lightly. What kind of data do you need?
You need solid data from the financial and CRM systems of the company to answer the following questions:
- How many customers are impacted?
- How important are those customers?
- What other services have they purchased?
- What prices are they paying?
- What is their lifetime value?