Category Archives: Product Management

Top 5 Priorities for New HR Managers

Congratulations! You have just been offered the post of an HR manager! Sure, the next couple of days will be celebration, moving, boxing and unboxing. If you have a tiny bit of gap, you may even be able to squeeze in a vacation (do try the Strawberry rhubarb mojito if you get a chance!). And then, you are there at your new place, ready to roll up your mangas and get working. Now, what is that you really need to do? Chances are that the new place is (or at least will appear to be) very chaotic. That is just the nature of HR. Things are constantly moving and that is what makes the job so fulfilling! Here then, is the list of top 5 things – very simple things really, but things that you really need to do in your first week in order to start off well and be a huge success at your new job.

Continue reading the rest of the article at LinkedIn.

5 Awesome alternatives to SalesForce is a leading CRM solution and has been quite successful in maintaining its position since 1999. Salesforce is a good solution for many big and established companies but due to its cost and complexity, it is not the right solution for everyone. People like choices, and there are choices available in the market that offer excellent features and strengths to empower the organizations with successful sales planning and management. Depending upon the needs and the vision of the organization, one of the many alternatives for sales management can be selected and used.  We list the top 5 alternatives, but needless to say, there are many others as well.

Sugar CRM
Sugar CRM is a leading open source CRM system – Sugar Community Edition can be downloaded for free and is intended for developers to learn more about Sugar CRM. You can host SugarCRM on premises as well as on cloud.

In SugarCRM, each user is allowed to have their own database and they can add applications that they already use and need.  The hosting flexibility gives your organization more choice and capability to extract data as is required.

BizMerlin CRM

BizMerlin is a proven cloud based sales force automation planning and management tool.  Your sales team can manage contacts, opportunities and accounts from web as well as mobile application.  If your sales team makes calls from their mobile phones, they can also “sweep” all those calls directly into the CRM using the mobile app.  This minimizes the data entry and allows you to leverage all the data for win-loss analysis.

BizMerlin has a compelling Android app.  Using this app, you can track your mobile workforce in real-time. Sales teams especially in the field operations can have better routes – both planned and executed; and more efficiency in terms of response time. BizMerlin can also track the location automatically and you can easily visualize the salesperson’s route and the meeting logs. This enables you to keep track of your sales teams’ efforts and productivity.

A cool feature that makes BizMerlin stand apart from the rest is the Opportunity interaction graph. With this graph you can see all the interactions that have taken place between your sales team and clients related to a particular opportunity. This is a very unique and useful feature to understand how long the sales cycle is and to analyze each opportunity.


Streak CRM

[Streak is currently free while in Beta and we expect paid premium offers in near future.]

Streak CRM is an extension to share your email and track deals through your GMail inbox.  It groups emails of same type or from same clients together. This uses GMail’s built in label system where you label your emails. The app comes preloaded with 8 default business processes, called “pipelines,” and you can also create your own customary pipeline.

Streak is a blessing if you handle most of your sales processes via email and you have to switch again and again from your inbox to other systems.

BPM Online

In addition to CRM, BPM Online offers business process management system that intelligently guides employee’s actions and recommends next steps as defined by customer profile and your business goals. You can also synchronize your CRM with your Google calendar and MS Outlook.

Options for start-ups start from  $78/month with capacity of up to 1000 contacts and storage capacity of 3GB to complete business management system that costs  $595/month with 3 users included with capability to store up to 5000 contacts and storage capacity of up to 100 GB.

So, BPM Online is a good solution to those who need a BPM solution alone or in addition to CRM solution.

Work etc

Work etc offers almost all the features that are offered by SalesForce, and their small business software contains sales tracking as well as project management.  With Gmail and Outlook plugins, Work etc provides many features, although its price tag may be unattractive to some.

For back end accounting, Work etc provides QuickBooks Online and Xero integrations and these are some neat features of Work etc.

In Summary..

There are numerous choices available to SalesForce.   Many of these choices are simpler than SalesForce to use, and many of them contain other offerings which may be of interest to your small business.  Having an integrated platform may be a significant value for your business.

Product Portfolio Management, vs. Product Management

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to hire a product portfolio manager.

I have found that most of the candidates only have product management background, which is fine. The problem however has been that they also don’t seem to understand that the position that they are interviewing for is different from the product they think they are interviewing for! It took me a fair bit of repeat explanation and I think a quick blog post clarifying these two terms is in order.

Product Management Product Portfolio Management
Actor Product Manager, sometimes also known as Product Owner Product Portfolio Manager, aka Product Line Owner or Group Product Manager
Definition The process of defining and managing a product, including its features, release schedule, target market, marketing strategy and sales strategy The process of managing a collection (portfolio) of products, including their inter-relationships, gaps, overlaps and synergies for target markets.
Example Managing Microsoft Word – the features, release schedule, etc. Managing how Microsoft Office products solve different problems for a related audience.
Gap Focus What are other features that be added to this product to address the needs of this audience. What other products can be added to address the needs of this audience.
Synergy Focus How can different modules of this product use common underlying components to minimize costs. How can different products of this line use common underlying components to minimize costs, and how can one product lead to the sale of another.

3 Components of a Successful Business

Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the owner of a fabulous restaurant chain in Europe. He had built the first restaurant which had had a total of 17 visitors in the first 3 months of existence. (That translates to less than one a day, but did not include the owner himself, who cooked at least two great meals and ate in the restaurant twice a day.) Being rich and debt-free has it’s virtues I guess.

Then, one day, a food critic happened to pass by, happened to come in, and the rest as they say is history. Mr. X, the owner, is a semi-public figure now, and the restaurant is a known name. Mr. X prides himself on his single minded focus on quality and how he was sure that if he put all his effort on making the best meal possible, eventually the crowds will come in.

And yes indeed, that is the way it turned out to be.

My question is – If that food critic hadn’t happened to pass by, would the crowds still have come in? However, Mr. X says we can’t answer that question, because that didn’t happen in this universe, and that is all we have.

The decision that you as a business owner have is, to be like Mr. X and build the single greatest product ever, or also market and advertise your product heavily? Once you do get someone’s attention and that person is on your website or reading your brochure, do you also make it look very attractive? Do you do these two things in addition to building the greatest product that you can actually make?

The 3 components of success are:

  • Marketing and Advertising: Bring the crowds in – by aligning their need with an attractive price ($6.95 for all you can eat Sushi Buffet!)
  • Presentation/User Experience – Make it look good (*This* is what Sushi should look like)
  • Quality/Maturity – Make sure that it is very good in all aspects (Good Sushi doesn’t make you throw up later)

Happy Producing!

[Photo courtesy: DarkMeadow@Flickr]

What is the difference between customization and configuration?

This is a commonly asked question, and a brief comparison of these terms is in order:

  Customization Configuration:
Definition: Change of the code/logic of the product “Tweaking” of product parameters to achieve desired functionality
Who does it: Developers, architects, and other technical team members Business users, with some training or manuals
Timeframe: Weeks, months or years Generally an order of magnitude less than corresponding customization timeframe
Transparency: Requires access (white box) to the product code Does not require access to the product code

Would you rather have a product that is customizable, or would have a product that is configurable? Product managers eat questions like this for lunch. Any day, a more configurable product is what the product managers aspire to have. “Customizing” products is almost an oxymoron – it means that we are going to be writing custom logic to do what the product was not able to do. For large enterprise products, customization may be necessary, and while customization may yield some services revenue, the prospect of requiring customization may actually cause an impediment in the sales process itself. If the product is configurable, it is more appetizing to the customers, and they can quickly fine tune the software to their needs.

Related term: Implementation

ImplementationCustomizationConfigurationThe related term “Implementation” means the actual work done (configuration, customization or the combination thereof) to satisfy an actual set of business needs. Implementation is a more encompassing term, that can include deployment, configuration and customization to meet the customer’s requirements. For example, when a client buys NetSuite ERP or BizMerlin, they can deploy the software, configure all the aspects of the software, and then possibly write custom code to enhance the functionality even further.

Related term: Extension

Many software packages have extension capabilities that allow you to customize their behavior by writing custom code within the framework. Custom code can be written in the environment provided by the package, and is usually one of interpreted languages, such as Drools, etc. Having the foresight to allow extensions is a sign of maturity of software and allows the original software provider to allow other developers to write “custom apps” or “plugins” within the software’s ecosystem. Read more about how providing an ecosystem helped a new entrant beat out the established market leader here.