April 2015 Event

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | Comments Off on April 2015 Event

“Innovate or Die – Technology, Innovation, and Product Management: A Discussion and Case Study” with Nivedita Ojha, Sr. Director Product Management at Citrix

By Dan Galatin

Nivedita Ojha, Senior Director of Product Management at Citrix, presented at the April 1st meeting of the SVPMA.  Nivedita discussed the whys and hows of innovation both inside and outside the technology industry, both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Nivedita acknowledged that simply getting a product to market, especially at a large company like BT, is a significant success.  Innovation is sometimes stuck in a silo, such as a separate lab, but it’s the job of product managers to examine the roadmap and determine whether to build, buy or partner.

Innovation starts with understanding the customer’s needs, and you always need to consider the return on investment in innovation.  There is a distinction between “innovation thinking” and “business thinking.”  Innovators like Google, Facebook and WhatsApp are focused on changing the way business is done.  Less innovative businesses, by contrast, are focused on meeting the numbers.  Product managers who wish to innovate need a champion such as a CEO or CTO, but PMs are a “key spoke” in the innovation process.

A lot of innovation is happening in the rest of the world, not just in Silicon Valley.  Nivedita described how Starbucks innovated starting in 2008, during the economic downturn.  They noticed that their same store revenues were declining at the same time that their typical customers were younger and more technology-savvy than before.  Customers wanted to become more engaged, and so Starbucks started developing apps that transformed customer experiences, as well as bringing WiFi service into stores and partnering with Square for mobile payments.  By 2013, Starbucks was perceived as a leader in adopting new technology and making full use of their real estate.  These efforts caused their net income to increase by $100 million per quarter.

At the end of the day, the object of implementing innovation is to improve customer satisfaction and to increase profits.  Innovation continues in a number of sectors, including near-field communications, biometrics, wearable computing, and mobile loyalty programs.  The rollout of high-speed mobile networks has enabled innovations from different regions of the world.  Nivedita cited major new innovations at Citrix in the field of virtualization that are being developed in Hyderabad, India.

It is also instructive to compare the U.S mobile market to the mobile market worldwide.  There are still hundreds of millions of users on feature phones, and innovation continues on services for those devices.  Although the majority of mobile users in the U.S. are on contracts, most users worldwide are on pre-paid plans.  Everything is moving from desktop to mobile, and that has changed where companies are innovating.  Nivedita contended that there is still room for Windows Phone to have a significant impact, especially in the enterprise.  Google is rolling out a new platform for less expensive smartphones for developing markets.  Nivedita described how she was able to conduct a focus group study for a new gaming service in Taiwan more cheaply than in the U.S., since consumers in Taiwan were similar to target users in the U.S. and Japan.  This is yet another example of how innovation can be accomplished worldwide.

It is also important to understand the relative popularity of social platforms in different markets, in order to successfully launch products.  For example, QQ and Tencent are helpful for promoting products in China.  WhatsApp is popular in India.  Likewise, different ecommerce retailers are popular in different regions. 

Nivedita concluded by urging the audience to remember that innovation is not only about building products yourself.  Partnerships can help bring innovative products to the market.  To quote Heraclitus, the best think about innovation is that “the only thing contant is change.”

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Co-Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at dgalatin@yahoo.com.