Category Archives: Product

I learned Ideo’s secret to innovate & design for human emotions đź”®

Part of the reason I love being in product is how success is directly tied to identifying and solving the right problems. Of course this requires sifting through data, but numbers are useless if you can’t contextualize them. And that requires empathy — for customers, for people that work with you, and our eco-system. My colleague John is great at this, and my first port of call to confirm if this course was a meaningful investment to get better at my craft. Thanks for your nod, John.

The Insights for Innovation course from Ideo is spaced over 5 weeks. Primarily online learning, it has continuous collaboration with other learners, and weekly mentor calls. Don’t expect tons of theory as its designed to be application-first. Isn’t learning by doing is the best? Here’s what I learned:

#1 Don’t let your design marginalise minorities.

An idealistic statement that’s weightier now then ever. As builders, we fail to realise that equity can be built into good design. If we did, it wouldn’t take a revolution for product packaging to drop racial references. Pause for a bit and imagine thinking about eating habits when designing a product for a healthy lifestyle. Who did you think of?

Did you those consider humans that work in hazardous work environments like mining, or those that don’t have enough access to daily nutrition? To contextualise the latter, the addressable market for that problem is close to a billion people.

#2 Study extremes even if you only build for core users.

PMs shouldn’t come across like this when advocating for their extremes users.

Customer advocacy is expected of product people. But too often personas limit our thinking with an averaged description of our majority users. Extremes are humans whose needs and environment varies drastically from the typical user or use case. Addressing edge case scenarios expands the range of your solution – not the job to be done. Extremes amplify every other user’s needs, stretching our thinking to come up with breakthrough ideas that expand the range your product serves.

In hindsight, this is how we innovated procure-to-pay at Zycus in 2010. We bet that insights from early (SMB) adopters would help us build for the majority and cross the chasm where most products fall through. PS: If you haven’t read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, please do. One exercise in the course prompted thinking about extreme experiences one could have in a vehicle. What comes to mind? Some extreme ideas at the end ⬇️.

Continue reading I learned Ideo’s secret to innovate & design for human emotions đź”®

Will your career growth survive COVID-19? 5 prompts to set personal goals today!

I hope you are safe and doing well through the ongoing health and humanitarian crises. The Coronavirus pandemic caught us by surprise, and has left us between repealed norms and an uncertain future. The end isn’t imminent but we’re optimistic.

If you work on the front lines or in an essential category serving this pandemic, my sincere appreciation. Thanks & God bless you. 🙏🏻

If not, you probably have a story for your career-from-home in 2020. And that’s going to be my favorite conversation starter for learning, coaching, networking, interviewing and small-talk in 2021. How did you prevent your personal development from stalling? If you don’t an answer ready, this post might give you some ideas.

In May, Janus offered me to host a session at his Product Management peer group. I took the opportunity to dive into this question with fellow Product leaders and get inspired by their stories from these troubled times. I want to share the leading questions I used (#5 added later) to help frame that story.

Prompts to set personal development goals 🤔

  1. What is the 1 thing you had/knew pre-COVID, but didn’t use it much, and are now using/applying it more than before.
  2. What Skill(s) or Technique(s) you learned pre-COVID are you applying right now?
  3. What book kept you inspired during COVID?
  4. What’s a Skill or Technique you want to sharpen in 2020?
  5. How did you give back to the community during these times?
Continue reading Will your career growth survive COVID-19? 5 prompts to set personal goals today!

Our Android app for LandmarkShops India

I’m so excited to talk about the brand new native experience we delivered to our LandmarkShops customers in India. And even so because it sports Google’s latest visual language — Material Design!  Read on at our official Medium blog.

LAUNCH: Our latest Android app for LandmarkShops India – Web Team @ Landmark Group

We’re thrilled to tell you that we’ve just launched a shiny new app for LandmarkShops India, using Google’s latest visual language - Material Design and I’d love to tell you more about it! Game of phones Earlier this month, IDC confirmed that Android’s dominance of the global smartphone market is expected to grow further, from 81% to 84% in 2016.

As part of the Landmark Group’s Web Team and my Product Management portfolio includes leading digital engagement channels for Shukran – web, mobile, in-store engagement – and mobile apps for LandmarkShops in UAE & India. More on LinkedIn

The award-winning Shukran Virtual Card is here!

Its hard to live in the Middle East and not know about Shukran. After all, its the largest retail loyalty program in the Middle East & North Africa, and I’m proud to lead the program’s digital initiatives.

With 15 million members across 10 countries, thinking about scale has become a habit. And here’s how we solved the problem our members forgetting to carry their Shukran card or discount coupons. Read more about the launch at the Web Team’s Official Blog.

[Update 24-Jun-2016] The Shukran app’s very first time at The Loyalty Magazine Awards won us runner-up position in 2 categories:  Best User Experience and Best Coupons Programme. Couldn’t be happier!

LAUNCH: The digital version of your Shukran card & coupons! – Web Team @ Landmark Group

As a Web Team, we strive to deliver an awesome shopping experience for our customers and the last thing we want is for our members to miss out on a discount, or not be able to spend Shukrans when they’re not carrying their Shukran card.

Best User Experience mention
Best User Experience mention

Continue reading The award-winning Shukran Virtual Card is here!

LandmarkShops now has an iPhone app!

Earlier this year, I became part of the Landmark Group’s Web Team, based out of Dubai. The team that started off being the digital custodian for group companies, is now leading the eCommerce and Omni-channel initiatives for the largest retail group in the region.

We’ve had our Android & iPad apps for a while now and for the last few months, we’ve been working on a brand new design that we’re rolling out through a brand new app for the iPhone. I had the opportunity to directly work with Savitar, our Business Head and Creative Director. With him involved, there was a ton to learn right from user experience to writing this blog post. Read more at the Web Team’s Official Blog.

LAUNCH: The official LandmarkShops iPhone app! – Web Team @ Landmark Group

It’s been an exciting time here at LandmarkShops. Over the course of the last year, we’ve worked hard to deliver a true Omni-Channel experience to our customers. We know how much our users love to shop on their mobile devices with our iPad and Android apps.

This week, I’ve had major releases for all products in my portfolio: the LandmarkShops iPhone app, a CMS-powered  LandmarkRewards.in for our 7 million strong loyalty program in India, and an update to the Shukran Android & iOS apps. That’s a lot of action in just 6 months since I joined. I’m relieved and off to a  vacation!

I am part of the Landmark Group’s Web Team and my Product Management portfolio includes leading mobile apps for LandmarkShops in UAE & India, and all digital engagement channels for Shukran – web, mobile, in-store engagement. More on LinkedIn

#RELOOKUP – Rationalizing Housing’s emotional appeal

Ever since I’ve had a wifemy only one – from the advertising arena, I’ve developed a keen eye for commercials & hoardings. If you’ve been in Mumbai in the last month or so, there is no way you have missed the myriad of Housing.com banners extending for miles. Touching emotions is the magic bullet to successful campaigns in the Indian market. Housing did just that, and I feel it succeeded. But when I visited the portal, I felt it lacked the means to realize the dreams the hoardings had shown me, albeit a slick user interface.

Here is what I thought would’ve helped kick-start the #LOOKUP journey and rationalize the emotional appeal.

See nothing? View the presentation on SlideShare
Header image: Sharad Madiman / Gaurav Prakash

 

3 reasons for e-commerce to go mobile-only

A couple of weeks back, Myntra announced it was closing its web-shop to focus on a mobile-only strategy. With Myntra’s app-based sales already at 60%, it is now aiming at 90%. Soon after, its parent and India’s largest e-commerce site, Flipkart, confirmed similar plans for the next year. Why are  eCommerce giants moving from a mobile-first to mobile-only strategy? Here are the top reasons for having users on the mobile platform – all of which directly impact the bottom line.

1. Customer acquisition & retention

With penetration in India expected to reach 45% by 2020, mobile-only is a flawless strategy to tap into the next generation of eShoppers. A single page m-site is enough to redirect (or force) users to move the existing user base to an app. Comparing products across individual apps is painful. Unless someone comes up with a comparison app, that can launch individual apps for detail, users are likely to stick to a single app. Achieving such a mindshare and stickiness is much harder to do on the web.

2. Insight for direct marketing

Once an app is installed, keeping track of consumer behaviour – usage, shopping times, interests, conversion, etc – is very easy. With registered users, additional demographic information is available which together with predictive analysis can be used to generate personalized suggestions. Push notifications allow strong, direct interaction with the user. In addition to suggestions, it can be used to communicate offers and remind inactive users of abandoned carts, without the fear of getting stuck in spam folders. With direct access to the user, spend on ads & affiliate marketing can be reduced, which otherwise shrinks margins by 8-20%.

3. Cost savings & increased sales

Once developed, apps are cheaper to maintain and can scale faster than the web front and avoid  scaling issues like with the Big Flipkart sale. It also helps deliver better user experiences, optimized to generate sales. With users connected 24×7 via mobile, apps allow users to shop on-the-go. It also makes bundling, up-selling, cross-selling, and generating repeat business much easier. Direct access to users saves 8-20% of margins otherwise lost on ads & affiliate marketing, driving the customer retention cost to a minimum.

What does my LinkedIn cover image convey?

I am not a huge fan of LinkedIn’s cover image. Its an odd-sized banner that gets overridden by ads and the profile header itself. The flip-side of not having one is that it makes your profile look very lame. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

A couple of iterations later, I put up a metaphor of my professional side as the cover image. What do you make out of it? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

My LinkedIn Cover Image (Mar 2015) - Click to enlarge
My LinkedIn Cover Image (Mar 2015) – Click to enlarge

Technical Debt Assessment framework for Product Managers

a.k.a. Why & How Product Managers must assess, account & groom technical debt

Context

Technical Debt explained (c) galorath.com
Technical Debt explained (c) galorath.com

When I started conceptualizing a new product 5 years back, the concept of technical debt only existed in theory. Over a period, the pressure of time & customers, drove features cuts, compromises, and unfortunately, some quick-and-dirty solutions. Post the short-term wins, its not too long before technical debt surfaces and forces a resolution.

Triggers

Technical debt is taken up for short-term advantages such as shorter time-to-market, and preserving capital. But in the long run, it reduces productivity, time available for new feature development and, God forbid, might keep you from crossing the chasm.

While Product Managers balance out the short and long term benefits/impact of every product decision, it is important that they keep track of the debt that is being baked in with every story. At the same time, having some framework to preempt the debt that is inadvertently introduced and proactively manage it as a roadmap item.

The Debt Assessment Framework

Fowler categorizes debt as Reckless v/s Prudent, or Deliberate v/s Inadvertent. While this classification answers the ‘how’, it doesn’t provide visibility into ‘what’ and ‘where’ of debt is added. Without further classification, accounting debt is like having a balance sheet with just one account for liabilities. I would like to further categorize all the debt that is deliberately added and assess its risk upfront. Here’s how:

Risk assessment for (deliberate) technical debt
Type Potentially lacks.. User Visible Sales Risk Ops Risk
Business value Comprehensiveness in all business scenarios, Browser/Language support, Super admin rights, etc. Y Y N
User Experience Simple task flows, help cues, consistent design, mobility, Usability or A/B testing Y Y N
Performance Quick response, High availability, Clustering, CDN, Load/Stress test suite Y Y Y
Maintainability Data redundancy, Recovery, Migration, Configuration management, Sizing estimates, Documentation N N Y
Design/Architectural Portability, Modularity, Coding standards, & styles, Web services, Latest component versions; Has glue or duplicate code N Y Y
Test Automation Comprehensive coverage of functional/unit tests, either brittle or missing N N Y

If you’re wondering why (missing) features and defects don’t show in the list, that’s because they are the fundamental work units for development and not actually debt.

Practical use

Using the above framework as checklist for all new feature development, even non-technical Product managers can easily assess Continue reading Technical Debt Assessment framework for Product Managers