December 2014 Event

Posted on | December 15, 2014 | Comments Off on December 2014 Event

“Shifting to an Experimental Mindset: The Dos and Don’ts of Hypothesis Testing” with Teresa Torres, Product Consultant & Coach, former CEO

By Lisa Rathjens

“Wisdom is the balance between knowledge and doubt.” It’s not often that product managers are encouraged to actively question their confidence in their own product ideas. But doubt is exactly what product managers need more of, according to Teresa Torres.

Teresa is a product coach who helps teams adopt user-centered, hypothesis-driven product development practices. On Wednesday, Dec 3rd, she challenged a packed room at the Oshman Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, CA, to make doubt the center of their product management practice. Reminding the audience that pure confidence in a idea does not make it a successful one, she encouraged everyone to get uncomfortable, to step out of their “coherent stories”, and to challenge core assumptions.

Torres believes hypothesis testing is critical to the success of any product. As product managers, we need to keep the following truths at the center of our decision-making as we experiment to test and validate assumptions:

  • We cannot predict the future.
  • We will be wrong.
  • We do not know what to build next.
  • We do not know when we can deliver it.

Once you’ve acknowledged these truths, it follows that you’ll need to change your methods to be able to deliver great products. Instead of writing ~50-page PRDs, shift to building products iteratively (agile helps here). This allows you to learn and adjust, based on customer feedback and hypothesis testing. For instance, instead of building 10 features only to discover in the end that just 3 work, it’s better to run 10 experiments and then only build the 3 that work. This saves time, resources, and money. So, you see that it’s necessary to experiment at the feature level as well as the value-proposition level.

But how do you effectively test a product idea? According to Teresa, there are five components to a good hypothesis. In order to support (or refute) your idea by experimentation, your hypothesis must contain these attributes:

  1. What is the change that you are testing? Be very specific about what your expectations are and what you want to learn from the change.
  2. What impact do you expect the change to have? The expected impact should clearly define what you expect to see as a result of making the change. Be clear ahead of time with what measures you will use to gauge success.
  3. On whom do you expect it to have the most impact?  Only test your hypothesis on those that you want and expect to impact.
  4. How much of an impact is needed to be successful? For instance, if you need a 25% conversion rate and your tests show you’ll only reach 19% conversion, then you cannot claim success.
  5. How long is the testing window? Your testing window cannot be arbitrary, or you might be fooled by false positives. Specify your test duration before you begin your testing and stick to it.

 Then, when you set up your tests, be sure you can answer these questions:

  • Is your expected impact specific and measurable?
  • Can you clearly explain why the change will drive the expected impact?
  • Are you testing with the right population?
  • Did you estimate your targets based on something specific?
  • Did you use a duration calculator?

These are the first steps toward successful hypothesis experiments, and ultimately toward more successful products.

Lisa Rathjens focuses on designing and building products and services that encourage and enable developers to build experiences that people love to use. She can be reached at and

Featured Article

Posted on | December 10, 2013 | Comments Off on Featured Article

Where should Product Management report in the organization?

By Kishore Elimineti

Product Managers collaborate and work with Engineering, Sales, Marketing and Support teams. They drive strategy and bring products to market.

Product managers report into different departments, often depending on the size, focus and culture of the organization. It is very difficult to say a specific department is the right home for Product Managers in an Organization.  Product relevancy (to the core business) and cash flow Read more

Featured Article

Posted on | December 3, 2013 | Comments Off on Featured Article

Why “Solutions Approach” Wins as most effective for Product Development and Product Management? Part 3: While growing (crossing the Chasm) and continuing to be the market leader

By Anna Pasupathy

You have won the first customer now. Your approach to the second set of customers is also a solution approach, and not a product approach. The customer buys your product for the value it delivers – be it enabling a new activity, ease of use in an existing complex environment, improving their capacity, reducing their cost or helping them bridge Read more

November 2013 Event

Posted on | November 19, 2013 | Comments Off on November 2013 Event

Building Great Products the Lean Startup Way with Dan Olsen, Interim VP Product Management, Product Management Consultant, Olsen Solutions

by Tejaswini Ravindra

Dan Olsen did a very informative presentation on how to apply Lean Startup principles and cover best practices in understanding customer needs, prioritization, UX design, user testing, and analytics that can be used to optimize your product.

A good product manager’s approach should equate to a product ninja Read more

Featured Article

Posted on | November 11, 2013 | Comments Off on Featured Article

Why “Solutions Approach” Wins as most effective for Product Development and Product Management? Part 2: During Product Creation

By Anna Pasupathy

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right placeWith razor-sharp focus on core product value and ample infrastructure built around it to win the customer’s heart, Voila! The expert team has constructed a skeletal product. Staging the product at this time requires utmost care since missing any major element poses a risk to the product’s survival. Do not set the stage if the product is not ready.

The conceived product idea previously validated is now demonstrated to show its usefulness to the customer. Identify and engage the customer that is interested and can greatly benefit from your product. Doing this with more than one customer enhances your survival rate (it may also dilute or strengthen your customer attention). Reveal your product to gauge their response. Does it excite them, do they see the potential value in your product, did you deliver on what you told them?

Photo 2 Oct Article 2The product demo must be given by a technical person who is involved in the product team, and thoroughly knows the product value and its history. He or she must have built a relationship, and have credibility with the customer. The ‘Product Manager’ or a ‘Solutions Engineer’ who knows the customer environment, the problem that it solves for them, the technology and the price point is the best fit.

With challenges deploying the product in customer environment (which is normally outside your general access), prior experience and exposure to a variety of products is beneficial. Both technical and problem solving skills enhance powerful solution. Entertain, solicit and consider all positive and negative ideas and feedback from the customer. Educate the customer if needed. This sets the stage for delivering the core value of your product, and eases the next decision point in engaging this customer.

Photo 3 Oct Article 2Next step is applying your product in the customer’s environment through field trials and beta testing. Using this experience is an effective way to refine and clarify product features in your road map. A cohesive team with good chemistry is critical to capture the beta trial inputs and deliver the required product. Once the customer is won over by the product effectiveness, it’s time to start working on a business agreement.

Now that the first customer has confirmed product viability, the product is introduced to a broader customer base. Despite the focus required in the initial stage, you always build a longer road map with a bigger list of potential customers identified during market analysis. The company has to strategically harvest this next set of customers to learn their environments and needs at the technical level to make its product useful to them at the right price point. All this has to be done in parallel while engaging the first customer. 

The product that was developed with a keen focus in a limited area, now has to be applied to a variety of environments. In general, the amount of variations needed in the product will be small if this second set of customers is in the same domain or vertical. With the strategy and road map for the second set of customers in place, use the first customer as the reference to build confidence with your second set. Constantly monitor this customer list, and uniquely identify the right moment to approach them  with an appealing solution ahead of your competition.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Stage your product with a punch that wins over your customer
  2. Effective communication between the customer and product team is critical during product trial
  3. Expand in the same domain to gain market leadership.

Stay tuned for more on Growing your product’s market in Part 3…

Anna Pasupathy is an engineer in Software and Communication industry, and has worked for start-ups and big companies. She can be reached at


October 2013 Mini-Session

Posted on | October 24, 2013 | Comments Off on October 2013 Mini-Session

“The Factors That Make Product Teams Successful” with Ron Lichty, Software Engineering Manager and Product Development Consultant

by Dan Galatin

Ron Lichty, a consultant and expert on managing software development teams, presented a special breakout session at the October 2nd meeting of the SVPMA. Mr. Lichty is a coauthor, along with Greg Geracie, of a recent study on high-performance product development teams. The study found that there are five best practices that correlate to a 67% chance of having a high-performing team. By contrast, there is only a Read more

Featured Article

Posted on | October 21, 2013 | Comments Off on Featured Article

Why “Solutions Approach” Wins as most effective for Product Development and Product Management!

 By Anna Pasupathy

Over the next 2 Months we’ll be rolling-out a three part article series on Why and How Solutions Approach helps create and manage effective products that win market acceptance.

Part – 1:  During Product Conception

Companies set out to develop a product that serves a critical need. This is how a product creates value for its customer and it all begins with a ‘solutions approach’ – one that attends to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of customer needs. Here we will discuss this solution approach in three parts as we journey through the product development life cycle. Part-1: ‘During product conception’, followed by Part-2: ‘During product creation’, and finally Part-3: ‘While growing (crossing the chasm) and continuing to be the market leader’.

The word ‘solution’ (noun) means ‘a method of solving a problem’ or simply put, ‘an answer’ to a question.  This answer could be a fresh innovative idea or Read more