Category Archives: Being a Product Manager

Ideas for a trip/vacation planner app – Part II

In the last 2 posts, I detailed the market needs, and the itinerary planner user story. Continuing with more features around maintaining content, creating a transactional marketplace for revenue generation, and finally some integration ideas to piggy-back on the success of others.

Content

  • Search public itineraries based on destination
  • System should suggest ‘hot’ holiday options – not in a salesy way – but genuine, recent itineraries that are verified for feasibility, cost estimate, etc.
  • Suggestions/searches should be based searches based on demographic information: age, gender, marital status, profession, origin city
  • Rate, review itineraries
  • Maintain places with linked information: map, entrance fees, best-time-of-day, visit duration
  • Maintain cities, categories, modes of transport, currencies, exchange rates
  • When creating my itinerary, similar itineraries from other users should be suggested – verified, promoted, voted itineraries on top

Marketplace

  • Directly contact agents on public itineraries
  • Agents can view & receive alerts for shared itineraries in their service area
  • Agents can submit bids that be reviewed compared side-by-side with included places/meals & merge itineraries or individual items [versioning]
  • Collaborate/negotiate with agents on a bid, and finally award
  • Allow agents to attach confirmations, visas, etc. – that remain private even when the itinerary is shared

Integration

  • Accommodation: get best prices from top 3 websites for the selected date location
  • Transport: get best prices to the destination, with “flexible dates” option, and suggest best transits worth a stop-over
  • Rentals: for road journeys, suggest available rental options
  • Traffic: use traffic information to estimate journey times between places
  • Fares: get entrance fees and estimated taxi fares
  • City cards: analyze entrance fees and suggest savings from city cards (e.g. iVenture card)

Strengths:

  • Solves a real problem for backpackers
  • Integration & market-place: lot of stickiness for a content + transaction website

Challenges:

  • It might be a while before there is enough content – itineraries
  • Ensuring simple design to handle required interactivity on all browser

Ideas for a trip/vacation planner app

Being a product manager is about not being content with what is around. I looked all around the place for a complete vacation planner app and finally created a wish list of what such an app would constitute. Continuing from the previous post on the topic, here is a high-level user story for each of my needs:

Itinerary Planner

  • Start with a destination of my choice and add places to it [content]
  • Each place can be placed on an interactive itinerary map
  • Add category, description, images, comments, expenses (entrance fees, meals), attachments (bookings, etc.), hyperlinks, mark them as optional
  • View ratings [integration]
  • Auto-insert the place on the interactive calendar based on best-time-of-day information [content] and allow me to adjust
  • Plan the journey between places by specifying mode of transport, journey time & estimate cost [content, integration]
  • Add meals to places & journey with preferred joint & cost estimate
  • Validate if too much is planned for a day based on visit duration [content] and highlight optional places from the ‘Going to’ bucket that can be moved to a ‘May be’ bucket
  • When moving places around, system should remind to update the journey between places
  • Total itinerary cost should be constantly updated and displayed in local currency so I can budget; highlight places & journeys without estimates
  • Filter places on the by category, expense
  • Share my itinerary with others on the website; email the web link
  • Collaborate with co-travellers on the itinerary [roadmap]

Travel

  • Print/Email the itinerary with selected elements
  • Allow including embassy information, emergency numbers, weather, etc.
  • Mobile site to rate places, enter actual cost & time, add public & private notes
  • Update current location, upload photos & add notes that loved ones can view on a shared link
  • Mobile app [roadmap], share location on social media [integration]

In Part 2 of this post, we talk about more features ideas and concept’s strengths and challenges.

 

5 more attributes of a product manager

It feels good to see an active product management community on LinkedIn. I was going through this post by fellow product manager Mohamed Anees Jamaludeen about key attributes of a product manager. He mentioned market knowledge, communication & product knowledge. I felt that I could add a few more traits that would be appreciated of a product manager.

Ability to sneak into the customer’s shoes

Know what if feels like
Know what if feels like

This is not the same as getting poached by a customer. A step beyond market knowledge, customer empathy is the attribute that helps a product manager  sense the pain of the customer (end-user or business). Without this, he/she will never be able to come up with a solution that matches market expectations. It also lets you co-create with customers and effectively latches them to your product. After all retention is key in this world of infinite attrition, isn’t it? And empathy leads us to a focus on customer satisfaction, and a passion to deliver great user experience. A product manager should take great interest in delivering a usable product – the one that users love to use and helps retain them!

Ability to answer What, When, Why

Knowing all the answers
Knowing all the answers

Product managers should be able to answer who, why, what for and also know where, when and how to sell their products. The ‘what’ can be communicated to stakeholders via MRDs/PRDs/User Stories and prototypes. The prioritized feature backlog conveys the ‘when’, while ‘why’ can be answered on-demand to those  (usually one of management, marketing & engineering) questioning the feature or its priority.  Processing answers to these questions  with some integrative thinking Continue reading 5 more attributes of a product manager

5 qualities of a useful geek, or some unsound advice from a product manager

I am a geek, may be a nerd, may be both. And may be this is the justification of never having had the opportunity to work on a killer project that was exemplar of cutting-edge technology. I never wanted to. But I’ve made most out of unmatched opportunities, to deliver business critical software that has done its job. I’m not a master of any technology/language, but a jack of many: whether for work or leisure, I’ve touched upon most known technologies. But all that diversification makes me confident of being able to solve a problem, and not necessarily using a certain technology. I am now a product manager, far from coding. So you are about to take some unsound advice. Please continue reading at your own risk. These tips are not for software engineers who are experts in a particular technology. These are for pure computer geeks – people who love writing code.

1. Focus on concepts & constructs, not syntax

People often ask: I want to do a computer course, what language do I learn? And I ask them to clarify: Do you want to learn, earn or both+fun? My answers for each (in order) are: C, Java and PHP. But at the end, it boils down to concepts. Knowing what a loop requires to run, the power of references, how strings are managed in the heap (& why they are immutable), etc. This learning is divine. So, don’t start learning syntax, focus on concepts.

2. Be single – always – and free to mingle

Don’t marry a technology or you will look at every problem from the same lens. There are things that PHP can’t do, and places where Excel Macros won’t scale – but not everything requires Java with Spring, Hibernate & MQ. May be Javascript can solve the problem. Focus on the problem, and be willing to use any technology that works best, even if it means adopting something new. Like they say about soul mates, there is some God-(or man?) gifted technology out there which is waiting for you to grab it.

3. Be Lazy, very lazy

This is the first real piece of advice that I got as a developer (back then, I was writing hex frames to speak to cars). And I couldn’t neglect it, because Continue reading 5 qualities of a useful geek, or some unsound advice from a product manager

A responsible species called product manager

Is that an amusing title? If yes, then product management (PM) has retained its title of being one of the most esoteric functions in IT. And this has reasons: compared to the epic number of service organizations, there exist only a few product companies, implying a fewer number of product managers – a breed that can’t be found in herds. Despite of a severe need for PMs within  the chamber, the absolute demand compared to other profiles is minuscule, causing the profile to remain unexplored even by recruiters. Whether or not that makes PM a big deal, the ones that have tasted it will agree that it demands a unique mix of aptitude, attitude & innovation – that can’t be taught in class. And above everything else, it demands hell-a-lot of responsibility.

Most people destroy the niche status of product management (PM) by confusing it with project management. I would say, planning, execution & reporting is only a minuscule part of the PM profile. PM is everything about the product from vision to release which is not a simple 1-step transition. At least, it involves:

  • Envisioning a product that solves a problem or improves some productivity parameter
  • Understanding the market for the product & preparing a market requirement document (MRD)
  • Creating a concept to get management buy-in; At senior levels with P&L responsibility, it may accompany projecting numbers
  • Detailing the product functionality & behavior through prototypes & product requirement document (PRD)
  • Maintaining a prioritized feature roadmap Continue reading A responsible species called product manager