The need for start-ups to be agile

header-agile-business-guy-jumpingAsk anyone who has ever been involved in a start-up, there is no such thing as titles, roles, or departments. There is work to be done and everyone on the team gets that work done. It does not matter what your business card says you do, it matters what needs to be done to get that product to market.

This has been my story for the last four and a half years. Continue reading

Is it more important how you make the burger, or what you make it with?

Burger Me BurgersI have recently been thinking about the importance of having a high quality product. I understand that different products have different target markets. I also understand that in some instances, the market sector you are targeting dictates the price point. This in turn influences the quality of the product.  As a product manager I would rather sell a high priced (i.e. high quality) product than the opposite, but I’ll go ahead and save that topic for another blog.
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Standardization & the impact it can have on products

bp'sIn the last post we talked about some of the positive and negative impacts that variation can have on your products. In this article we will be looking at the opposite of variation, which is uniformity. Some of the ways product managers can create uniformity is by standardizing on systems, product features, and pricing schemes. There are people who dedicate their lives to mastering the subject of standardization (think six sigma and lean manufacturing). What I hope to express is that just like variation, standardization can be a double edge sword. Continue reading

Variation & the impact it can have on products

I work for a manufacturing company. In my organization we talk a lot about how to create products that are the same each time we make them. Variation is often seen as the enemy in manufacturing. If one worker performs a task in a different way than another worker, the quality of the product can sometimes suffer.

Sunbather_Smurf_Color_VariationsDoes this mean that variation is always a bad thing? No, I don’t believe it is. In my department, variation is often something that helps us sell more of our products. We divide our product into two primary categories. Standard products and custom products. We think about these categories in terms of the 80/20 rule. 80% of what we make are standard products, and the remaining 20% are custom orders. Continue reading

Creating Training Programs to Scale Up Your Operations

One of the most challenging time periods of new product development is when things start taking off. Customers like the product and the demand begins to sky rocket. Product champions must figure out how to quickly scale up their operations and subsequently their staff. In an ideal world, Human Resources would spear head the hiring and training initiatives and feed the development team product ninjas on a weekly basis. If that is not the world you live in (like me), then you need to be able to develop a training program and deploy it quickly with little or no budget. No problem!

Where to start?

Marketing MaterialMy guess is that if you are finding yourself in this position you have already done a good job marketing and selling your product. The material generated for those efforts can be repurposed to serve as the foundation for your new training program. If the purpose of technical marketing material is to educate potential customers on a product, then that material can serve equally well to educate new team members. Continue reading

Mapping Work Flows – The Foundation of Continuous Process Improvement

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Example 1

Mapping your operational processes can be one of the most painful and difficult things to do. It is also one of the most essential and beneficial tasks a product manager can work on. You can’t really set a strategy or create effective systems without having a comprehensive understanding of the way your team gets things done. Continue reading

The Systems Development Cycle

As an engineer, I really enjoy this part of my job. Creating and implementing systems is at its core an engineering function. You have to understand the tools and materials available to you and design a machine that does its job both efficiently and effectively. The simpler the system, the easier it is to understand and maintain.

Systems Development Cycle

Systems Development Cycle

When you are taking a new product from research and development to market you will experience the full systems development cycle. I have broken this cycle into what I believe are six steps. Many product managers are tempted to stall out on step four, while many others will likely never make it past step two. Continue reading