Emotional Intelligence – An example

Justin Bariso writing for Inc. on explaining emotional intelligence when reporters asked Tom Brady if he was going to retire after the Bucs lost to Rams last weekend:

Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.

Nice, short and simple read, but does extremely well to explain how not to be emotional when making decisions.

As product managers we tend to get attached to the products we build and work on day in and day out but it is very important to keep our emotions aside while making decisions.

Scaling with Process vs. People

Marty Cagan writing for SVPG on scaling your product with people instead of processes:

I loved reading this article particularly because he simply uses quotes from former CEO’s who have focused on people rather than processes to scale new heights for their product.

My favorite quote here is from Reid Hastings talking about Netflix:

“[The reason Netflix has been so successful is because it has] a culture that values people over process, emphasizes innovation over efficiency, and has very few controls. Our culture, which focuses on achieving top performance with talent density and leading employees with context not control, has allowed us to continually grow and change as the world, and our members’ needs, have likewise morphed around us.”

You need people to continue scaling your product which simply means creation of new software, hardware, service, etc

Killing a feature is also important

When it comes to adding a feature to your product, there are countless ways of doing this – and we still mess it up. However, when it comes to killing a feature there isn’t much out there.

As product managers we get excited to take the product to the next level with new features. But deep inside we know there are some features in your product that simply don’t work anymore. You are tracking your product with countless KPIs and metrics to see the health of your product, and its right on the dashboard when a feature isn’t getting clicks or for that matter appreciation (feedback). We either ignore them or simply stop tracking them.

Features that don’t work cost money to support. Worst, just by being present in the product they complicate workflows and risk distracting your users from their core tasks.


You may have heard your customers complain at times: “Your product is to complicated or bulky”. There is a high likely hood that there are features sitting in your product that isn’t being used that’s adding to this bulk and complexity.


Removing a feature isn’t simple. You can’t simply release a new version without a feature. You have to treat removing a feature the same way as adding a new feature to the product:

  • does the existing feature align with your overall product vision & strategy.
  • deprecating a feature needs user search, interviews and analysis.
  • deprecating a feature needs planning, included in the roadmap, and communicate with your users.

To decide if a feature needs to be deprecated:

  • check with your users what are they using to solve their problems instead of your feature.
  • did the feature miss the market?
  • the feature may solve a user problem but its unsustainable for you.
  • the feature solves a problem for a very small set of users, but its not a problem worth solving for you.

When deprecating a feature, communication and transparency is key. Ensure you have two set paths, i.e. End of Life (EoL) and End of Support (EoS) and there is sufficient time for the users (if any) to move to other options if they are using this feature.

To ensure a successful EoL and EoS,

  • remove the feature so that new users do not have access to this
  • de-emphasize the feature in the UI – out of sight out of mind.
  • suggest alternatives and help your users migrate

Lastly, make sure this is part of your continuous onboarding strategy, where you are communicating this to your users and helping them migrate through the EoL and EoS timeframe.

Things to read for Week 44

Github gets a new CEO

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman is stepping down from his role on November 15 to become the Chairman Emeritus of the Microsoft-owned service. Thomas Dohmke, who only recently became GitHub’s chief product officer, will step into the CEO role.

Great to see a product person stepping into the shoes of a CEO.


Tesla is letting non-Tesla EVs use its Supercharger network for the first time

Tesla’s Supercharger network is often held up as the best possible example of an EV charging network: fast, reliable, and plentiful. But Tesla’s network is also exclusive to Tesla owners, meaning someone driving a Volkswagen or Ford EV wouldn’t be able to use it. But that’s now starting to change.

So how long until we start hearing about standardized car chargers?


How to design a good API and why it matters:

If you find yourself in charge of building an API for your application and need a good reference, this is a great start.


Toxiproxy

Toxiproxy is a framework for simulating network conditions. It’s made specifically to work in testing, CI and development environments, supporting deterministic tampering with connections, but with support for randomized chaos and customization.

This is a good library to have in your arsenal whether you are an Engineer, PM or QA. Testing on different network conditions is important.


Why you should develop a UX roadmap:

Thinking ahead to next quarter, consider collaborating with your fellow designers, researchers, and content strategists to develop a UX roadmap. This will prompt you to review potential work against user and business goals and prioritize the most important items. From there, you can share your draft with key stakeholders and see if they agree. Developing and refining this roadmap will help you become more strategic and focused, while helping you develop your collective perspective and voice.

Its not easy to change the culture of how things are built. It’s hard but its important to start doing this.


6 things a Product Manager is not:

4. A product manager isn’t an agile fascist

Agile and lean are all-the-rage and de rigueur in modern software development. The next statement will probably be an unfashionable one but agile isn’t the only way to build web products and waterfall isn’t evil. Product managers shouldn’t be wedded to cult agile.

This made me chuckle. Good read.


First companies and now cities battling for top talent. Good times.


Prioritize health over work. It’s important.

Product vs Feature teams

Marty Cagan writing about Product vs Feature teams:

In an empowered product team, the product manager is explicitly responsible for ensuring value and viability; the designer is responsible for ensuring usability; and the tech lead is responsible for ensuring feasibility. The team does this by truly collaborating in an intense, give and take, in order to discover a solution that work for all of us.

When I talk and write about how tough it is to be a true product manager of an empowered product team, it’s precisely because it is so hard to ensure value and viability. If you think it’s easy to do this, please read this.

The lack of giving up control and delegating to your product team is probably the biggest reason I see very few product empowered teams.

Feature teams are set up similarly, but with a stark difference:

However, in a feature team, you still (hopefully) have a designer to ensure usability, and you have engineers to ensure feasibility, but, and this is critical to understand: the value and business viability are the responsibility of the stakeholder or executive that requested the feature on the roadmap.

If they say they need you to build feature x, then they believe feature x will deliver some amount of value, and they believe that feature x is something that is viable for the business.

Whichever way you see it; they both are squads but the differences run deep, but I’ll leave you with that I think is the most important

Let’s start with the role of the product manager. In an empowered product team, where the product manager needs to ensure value and viability, deep knowledge of the customer, the data, the industry and especially your business (sales, marketing, finance, support, legal, etc.) is absolutely non-negotiable and essential.

Yet in a feature team, that knowledge is (at best) dispersed among the stakeholders.

Controversial topic but an essential read.

Applying a ‘Time-To-Market’ KPI in product

Gabriel Dan on Mind the Product:

It’s a KPI—used mostly by the business—to measure the time required to move a product or service from conception to market (until it is available to be purchased). The process is the combined efforts of all stakeholders, product management, marketing, and so on. It includes workflow steps and strategies involved throughout the process. It’s usually calculated in days/weeks/months/years but it can be met in other forms too depending on how the different organizations will want to implement this.

This is simply amazing and important especially when you are constantly trying to beat your competition to get out in the market to capture your audience.

The shorter the time to market is, the quicker the return on investment (ROI) can be realized, therefore you can imagine why it’s important for businesses.

The quicker the product gets on the market, the bigger market share the company will get especially in an unaddressed segment facing less competition and thus enjoys better profit margins. Getting fresh and relevant products to market quickly attracts customers.

Exactly. It is very common to get into the phase of doing more before releasing to the market. The TTM metric forces you to be frugal about your MVP.

Gabriel Dan does a great job setting the premise and goes on the explain how the TTM should be calculated. Highly recommended.

Avoid feature bloat and deliver your product strategy

Even the best products including your favorite product (can) suffer form feature bloat. In my last article Measuring Feature Adoption – I talked about measuring feature adoption. Tracking feature adoptions will help you avoid feature bloat.

A product filled with non-performing features causes

1. accumulation of technical debt,
2. increased maintenance costs,

leading to a lower customer satisfaction (NPS score) and a lack of market differentiation.

Features too have an iceberg problem. They may seem to be small features but turn out to have huge costs. This can happen when you decide to ship a feature for a specific customer or a use case instead of shipping new products.

Avoiding feature bloat

One way to avoid feature bloat is to have a strategic approach on the bigger picture. Focus on outcomes instead of output.

Avoid focusing on shipping features. Product teams should focus on the number of problems solved and the positive impact on their customers – this directly results in a better NPS score.

When you focus on the outcomes, it allows you to gather feedback from customers, talk to them more often to test your hypothesis for a new feature. Tracking your feature allows you to decide if you should either iterate or pull out this feature.

Finally, doing a feature audit will also help understand how features are being used. Looking at your feature adoption and usage metrics will allow you to decide to to kill an underperforming feature or work on increasing adoption.

Delivering a Product Strategy

As your product evolves and becomes mature, typically in the growth phase – you attempt to serve everyone. In this phase, products can be disrupted by the one big customer’s specific needs or by smaller niche markets.

Segmenting your product based on customer needs, jobs and personas will allow you to bundle your product to different tiers at different pricing options and avoid feature bloat.

Measuring Feature Adoption

When it comes to SaaS Products, product managers typically have product adoption as one of their top KPIs to track; especially when launching a new product. The logic is pretty simple, improving product adoption means higher retention, lower churn and move revenue.

However, once a product is launched we continue to release new features to keep that product adoption going, but we fail to realize that we also need to track feature adoption.

Both these key metrics indicate how well your product is received by your customers. The product adoption metric tells you the percentage of active users, while the feature adoption metric tells you the reason why people continue to engage with your product.

So when you launch a new feature, looking at this individual metric will tell you if the its driving your overall product adoption to go up or not.

Feature adoption is measured in percentage (%) as:
(# of users of a feature / total # of active users) x 100 = feature adoption %

Getting insight into what features users find the most valuable will also inform your team o how to position your product as well as help you with any product decisions you make.

New User Onboarding & Time to Value

Customers (or users) generally hire a software or a service to solve a problem. This results in immediate gratification (or value).

When customers first sign up for your product, they will either get what they are looking for; or they won’t…

In case of SaaS application, they are a bit like IKEA furniture. Unless you assemble the pieces together, you wont experience value. SaaS customers must wait to experience the value of the product. It’s this delay that makes churn a common theme among SaaS products.

This delay also referred as Time to Value (TtV) i.e. the amount of time it takes a NEW user to realize the products value.

User Onboarding is important as you want these users to realize that the product they hired is solving their problems. Product Managers should focus on reducing TtV and drive new users to being active users.

The longer your time to value, the higher customer churn. Users have very little patience. The key is to focus on optimizing your new user onboarding experience. Focus on the key actions that correlate to activation – typically an action that provides value.

It is important to have a continuous user onboarding for existing users as you introduce new features and products. TtV can also help move your already active users to engaged users where the cadence of a valuable task performed is higher. This will help drive adoption of your SaaS product.

User Experience (UX) Metrics for Product Managers

As Product Managers we are obsessed with what we build. Well, we all want to build the best darn product ever. We immerse ourselves in understanding

  1. how our users are finding the product or if the campaigns are working (Reach, Activation),
  2. How many users and if they are engaging well with the product (Active Users, Engagement), and
  3. Last but not least, if your users come back (Retention).
    The priority of these metrics changes depending on the nature of your app.

Give your product managers complete autonomy / authority to drive campaigns, onboard users. They are the best and most aware of the product they are building.

Automation is on the rise. With CI/CD and other similar processes; we are able to ship code at a faster rate then ever before. Delivering value to customers at this rate is great; but, it is important you focus on quality over quantity.

When we talk about quality, Performance is right up top. It is a common practice to check for performance before your application goes live. Most organizations do this.
Google’s Lighthouse is widely used for this purpose for web based consumer application. Google’s Lighthouse-CI is integrates with your CI/CD tool which passes or fails a builds based on performance rules.

Note: You can ignore the SEO numbers/suggestions for your SaaS application.

These tools ensure quality. This helps with SEO, accessibility and best practices and measures performance metrics. Performance metrics are important to understand how your page loads as this impacts user experience.

Important Metrics to track User Experience

Start Render or First Paint & Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The reason I have suggested an option to choose from 2 metrics is because one of them is easier to capture then the other. You can be the best judge when it comes to accuracy of the metric and if this is something that will work for you.

Start Render is measured by capturing a video of the page load and looking at each frame for the first time the browser displays something other than a blank page. This is typically measured in lab or using a synthetic monitoring tool like Catchpoint and is the most accurate measurement for it.

First Paint (FP) is a measurement reported by the browser itself; that is, when it thinks it painted the first content. It is fairly accurate but sometimes it reports the time when the browser painted nothing but a blank screen.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is yet another metric by Google as they continue to foray into web performance metrics and is part of their Web Vitals offering.

FP should typically happen under 2 seconds. Imagine the application you are trying to use sows up a blank screen for a few seconds before it starts rendering the content. This is NOT a good user experience. Show a blank screen for more than 2 seconds after entering the URL can cause page abandonment. You want to tell the user as soon as possible that some activity is happening. This could be as simple as chaining the background color which alerts the user that the application is loading.

According to LCP‘s definition; it is the time it takes for the largest above the fold content to load. For example, breaking story on a news website. This is an important metric, because users typically expect to see something relevant quickly.

Together with FP (or start render) and LCP measures the Loading Experience for a user.

Time To Interactive (TTI)

According to web.vitals:

TTI metric measures the time from when the page starts loading to when its main sub-resources have loaded and it is capable of reliably responding to user input quickly.

TTI follows FP. Having a big gap between these two would mean your users are waiting until the entire page completes rendering. This means if you have an extremely fast loading web application but a horrible TTI; the performance is worst compared to a slower application.

We tend to build muscle memory often for things that we use constantly. This is true for SaaS applications. Most of the tools that I use at work; I have built in muscle memory, which makes me position my mouse on the browser at a location the link/button will render and the moment it does; I tend to click it.

Speed Index

Speed Index is one of the metrics that is tracked by Google’s Lighthouse (or Web.Vitals) as part of performance report:

Speed Index measures how quickly content is visually displayed during page load. Lighthouse first captures a video of the page loading in the browser and computes the visual progression between frames. Lighthouse then uses the Speedline Node.js module to generate the Speed Index score.

In simple words, Speed Index metric tells you at what rate does the visible content (above the page fold) is loading. The lower the score, the better is the user experience.

Typically all of these metrics should be tracked by your engineering or performance teams; however, it is good practice to keep an eye on these as they would be benchmarked based on historical data or competitive data. Breaching the benchmark or any changes in these benchmark can have a direct impact on the user experience of your application.

If you are curing to now more, here is a great article on Understanding Speed Index | Performance Metrics.


How to track metrics?

You can use a Synthetic Monitoring tool like Catchpoint. If you are the adventurous kind you can use Google Puppeteer to run a lighthouse test to capture the above metrics and Grafana to show a historical time series of these performance metrics.

As a product manger I track a lot more metrics and have built my entire dashboard on Grafana (more on this in a later post). I have a set up using Google Puppeteer and Lighthouse libraries that I use to push these metrics and other performance metrics provided by Google Lighthouse in my Dashboard every 24 hours. This allows me to see my performance numbers along with other KPI’s.