4 Changes Affecting Product Managers


4 changes affecting pms_4

Today, Product Managers are managing more than products.  Product Managers are responsible for listening to their customers, paying attending to trends and developing products to meet their target audience’s evolving needs.  With the introduction of new management tools and methods, Product Managers are challenged to prioritize and balance their time appropriately.

Increased Social Presence
With continued importance around digital branding, Product Managers reap the benefits of representing and promoting their product in a positive light online.  They are responding to product issues and questions and sharing relevant content about their company and product on social networks. 

Technologists who rock @intuit

A social media presence is mutually beneficial; Product Managers can more deeply understand the end user’s needs, while customers can openly express their product questions and concerns, thus increasing product loyalty and awareness among end-users.  An open and engaging presence is a win-win for everyone.

Increased User Education and Engagement Demands
Gone are the days of simple customer support.  With constant (almost bi-weekly) changes to software, companies are partnering with popular third-party apps Intercom, Pendo and Inline Manual to achieve product and company relevant goals (e.g. increase product engagement or increase client retention, post onboarding). 

“Intercom allows us to ‘scale authenticity’ and foster a passionate community of users.  By A/B testing message format and content, we see open rates above 75% for all of our onboarding emails,” Ben Jordan, VP of Customer Experience, Invision.

Of course, with this demand comes the question of resource management and how to properly balance product and business goals.

New Internal Communication and Management Tools
Real-time responsiveness is key, and with new tools such as AHA! and Slack, Product Managers can quickly and easily communicate with their stakeholders. 

While Jira used to act as the primary platform for adding, editing and prioritizing new features and bugs, the introduction of AHA! provides separate management and communication methods specific to a subset of end-users.

AHA! is great for requirements gathering, prioritizing and roadmap planning, approval and sharing.   The visual heavy aspects are immensely helpful for teams that may not connect with the PM org on a daily basis, such as the sales, marketing, and account management teams; instead of constantly answering one-off questions around what’s on the roadmap and when will it be released, Product Manager’s can easily share a link to the most updated roadmap. 

While the combination of AHA! and Jira are useful for roadmap communication, Slack combines the most necessary daily communication functionalities into one platform.  Product Managers can create project or team based Channels specific to whom they wish to communicate with (e.g. Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Scrum Team, etc.).   Slack’s integration with Jira is especially beneficial; PM’s can receive ticket updates from Jira simultaneously in a Slack Channel.

Whether it’s through Jira, AHA! or Slack, Product Managers are expected to readily answer product related questions at the drop of a hat.  Dependent on the end-users and the size of the company, multiple communication and management platforms may be the best way to answer those questions in a scalable manner.

Product Managers are specializing in multi-disciplinary educations (e.g. technical PM or design-savvy PM) to align with new HR requirements.  This was pulled from a recent Google Product Management job description,

“Minimum Qualifications: BA/BS in Computer Science or related technical field… Preferred Qualifications: Product management or design experience with a focus on software products and technologies.”

Since Product Managers work with the design and engineering teams on a daily basis, it’s helpful to understand how each team functions.  From a startup perspective, Product Managers can more easily market themselves as a technical or design focused Product Manager — the knowledge they have can eliminate previously required resources. 

At the end of the day, Product Manager’s roles, much like products, are constantly changing.  With continued learning and application of design, engineering and communication trends, Product Managers can get ahead of the game and set themselves, their business and their product apart from the crowd.  The question remains that remains is how to properly balance time executing tasks versus learning new management tools and methods. 

5 Ways to Become a More Technically Proficient Product Manager

Get Technical Skills

In a former post, I addressed 7 Skills More Important Than a Technical Degree, and promised to address the skills necessary  to gain a more technical Product Management role.

I too have applied to more Senior Product Management roles only to hear that I lacked  “technical experience.”  When I received this response, I felt frustrated; I’ve already been a successful Product Manager for multiple technical products…

“What do you mean that I don’t have enough ‘technical experience?'”

On a quest to better understand the skills and experience required to manage a more technical product, I found that the experience referred to wasn’t always years of experience, but rather knowledge around more technical subjects (e.g. how to use an API), of which I didn’t have expertise in from my former roles or educational background.

That said, there are five ways a non-technical Product Manager can become more technically proficient, of which include:

1. Ask Your Current Team Questions
If you’re already a Product Manager in a non-technical role, you are surrounded by people working in different technical capacities.  Use them as an educational resource!  Ask questions about the things you don’t quite understand — request that they draw pictures around how things work and don’t be afraid to ask why.  Most people are more than happy to teach their peers, especially if it’s around a topic they enjoy.

2. Read. Read. Read.
I realize this isn’t news to you, but social networks like Twitter, Reddit and Hacker News are great resources for learning about trends in the design and product space.  You’ll tend to see things first show up on Reddit and Twitter then later news outlets.  Get ahead of the curve by reading what (and where) your audience reads.

For learning more tangible skills, read O’Reilly books; there is a large collection of teach yourself books (e.g. learning PHP, HTML, Node, APIs).   

PS: Beyond learning only about the technical aspects of Product Management, read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup — these are two well known and respected authors and books in the product development space.  Their books educate you around ways to implement innovative product management thinking.

3. Blog About Technical Products, Topics or Trends
The best way to learn is through application, so write about what you want to know!

As a blogger, you’ll naturally perform market and customer research.  Quickly, you’ll get a sense for the general public’s perspective and find other people whom you can gain other perspectives from (e.g. other writers).  The product’s marketing copy and customer perceptions will provide insights around how a product works and why people find it valuable.  

Appear knowledgeable and on-point by using statistical data and related quotes from industry leaders in your writing.  Consist blogging and sharing of relevant content around a product or topic will soon define you as an authority figure. 

4. Network with People in a Technical Role
Connect with people in a more technical Product Management role during an event or through LinkedIn.  Ask to buy them coffee and pick their brain around what they do and how they got there.  You’ll quickly find that people are more than willing to help you — expect great advice and additional introductions.  And yes, this is all accomplished through the tiny price tag of coffee!

5. Take Credible Online Courses
Enroll in free online courses with an option to gain a certificate or degree.  Some of the top-tier colleges like Stanford, MIT and Harvard even offer free courses.  For programming classes, take classes through Codeacademy or Khan Academy.

Remember that you’re aiming to move into another role, so whether it’s within or external to your current company, you want to projects or courses to your resume and portfolio showcasing that you’re working toward gaining the skills you lack.  

A. Get an Agile Certificate
Since the majority of software companies use Agile methodologies, you’ll better understand the software development and resource management process through practicing Agile and obtaining an Agile Certificate.  Additionally, you’ll better foresee and manage potential risks, interact with stakeholders, resolve problems and improve people, processes and the product.

B. Get a Google Analytics Certificate
Analytics succumb all aspects of a business –from the sales and marketing side to the product and design side (percent change in revenue YoY, customer engagement with a new feature, bounce rate,  mobile use percentages, etc.) — and with continued importance on real-time decision making based on data, Product Managers need to understand what the data means and what decisions to make based on that data.

By enrolling in a Google Analytics course(s), you’ll learn how to track data (e.g. marketing campaigns) and evaluate data through in-depth analysis.  With this knowledge, you can successfully provide advice and reasoning around product related decisions.  As we know, storytelling through data is the most persuasive narrative.

Product Management is hard work, and moving into another role — vertical or horizontal — is an exciting challenge.  If you can show progress toward learning a skill in an area you’re interested in, your passion and determination will shine through.  Stay positive if you hear you need to work on a few technical skills.  As John C. Maxwell once said, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” so stay positive, work hard and you’ll get to where you want to go! 

Related article from 
Loudprogrammer.net: Which Programming Language Should I Learn First

Hooked Model: Getting Others Hooked on Your Product

Last summer, I meet and worked with Nir Eyal. Eyal is a Stanford professor and graduate, owner and content creator of Nirandfar.com, and the author of Hooked.

For those not familiar with lean strategy, the Hooked Model fits with it hand and glove. Both methods help narrow down many ideas to one. This drives more effective iteractions on a product or solution, therefore resulting in a more effective product.

The Hooked Model focuses on the idea of Habit Formation and Testing, which clarifies three things:
1) who your devotees are,
2) what part of your product is habit forming, if any, and
3) why those aspects of your product are habit forming.

The chart below should help you to better understand the Habit Testing process.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 8.08.49 PM

Unlike lean strategy, the Hooked Model ensures habits are reinforced as the product developes.  Eyal uses the an analogy between Vitamins and Painkillers to illustrate this idea in his YouTube video, Hooked: The Psychology of How Products Engage Us“W product becomes so important that it becomes a habit,” says Eyal; there is a need created. This need isn’t necessarily a physical need or survival need, but more of an itch the consumer wants to scratch. 

Let’s say you’re waiting to hear about a job while sitting in a class. All of a sudden you see a notification that you have a new e-mail, but you can’t read it. That’s the itch: you want to check the e-mail, but you can’t.

A habit is when not doing something causes you pain. That’s when you know you’re hooked!

Eyal continues to explain that there are good habits, like showering and brushing your teeth. However, the significance of the Hooked Model is to leverage the customer behavior and pain they feel if they do not use your product.

Hopefully this model will prove helpful as you brainstorm and create your next product. Keep in mind that while you want to gain customers immediately to raise awareness and demand about your product, it’s also important to keep in mind how you plan to retain those customers long-term – good luck!

Stay On Google’s Nice List

In a world where Google seems to be the ruler, the trending question is, 
“How do I rank higher in Google’s World?” 

With the increasing emphasis of an online presence, the deep web has become a challenge for organic rankings on search engines, as it is, “the part of the World Wide Web not accessible through conventional search engines.” The deep web is a place where all things become an unorganized mixture of excessive information and sources, where people and businesses want to be discovered. 

The issue that businesses are currently facing is the need to conduct activities that will aid them with their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that they can be easily found online.

Unfortunately, this is a slightly daunting task; in every marketplace there is competition. In such saturated markets, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), including paid advertising, is essential to drive traffic to a businesses website. Of course, not every business or organization can afford paid advertising, and are unaware of how to increase their organic listing, therefore they try to sneak their way to the top, thus landing themselves on “Google’s Naughty List.”

Some believed that they found ways to get around Google’s ranking algorithms by adding specific code into their website, or by creating false links to help it rank higher.

Let me tell you, Google is not stupid.
The last thing you want is to want to end up on their Naughty List.

It is fairly easy to find out if a website is hosting false links, or if information has been modified to “unethically” rank it higher in search engines. Therefore, I would highly recommend following the 10 Tips and Tricks to Avoid Google’s Shitlist, including, “DKI, Arrow Trick, Ad Formatting, Quality Score, Impressions, Black Hat vs. White Hat, Redirects, Meta Optimization, Link Juice, and Canonical and No-Follow Links,” (Castillo, Salton, Killmeier, Strawther & Nakhla, 2012).

These basic tips and tricks are easy to follow, and will aid you in your quest to rank higher in the world of Google, while staying on their Nice List.

Castillo, K., Salton, J., Killmeier, B., Strawther, K., & Nakhla, J. (2012, November 02). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://s226869948.onlinehome.us/sema/index.php/ten-tips-and-tricks-to-avoid-googles-shtlist/


The Future of Digital Marketing

The marketing world is based on building and enhancing relationships through communication to generate and maintain sales. However, every business, including marketing agencies, must adapt to societal changes to sustain and achieve each quarters goals and objectives by successfully using various communication techniques. It is a marketer’s newest side-job to stay up-to-date with communicative methods and learn how to use, and properly implement, them, as well as foresee and prevent potential problems that may occur using these new communicative efforts.

As human interaction is becoming highly virtual, “transcending space and time,” marketers must consider their current methods of communication and learn to adapt to societal changes as they attempt to communicate to their target audiences (Flew, 2008). With the decline in face-to-face communication among businesses, communication with target audiences are conducted through alternative tactics. In the fast paced working environment, it is often found that businesses rely on convenient methods of communication, which is generally non-direct communication. As a marketer, it is crucial to get across messages in a timely, and effective manner, thus it’s essential for businesses to learn how to use cutting-edge methods of communication adopted by the mass public and use these tools in their efforts of proper and effective communication. In global businesses, meetings and focus groups with current and potential consumers are now implemented using online platforms. For example, Youtube has a video on How to Use Skype for Business: Video Tutorial, which explains the ease and benefits of using Skype to ensure communication between businesses and consumers (Skypemaster123, 2008).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zjEsSw3Bno&w=560&h=315]

Skype and Apple’s FaceTime, are among two of the new communication devices that eliminates the idea that people have to be in the same space at the same time to communicate. Mashable’s inforgraphic, as seen below, regarding Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing, emphasizes that as “content is shared and spread through [various] networks… the reach of the content can grow virally,” (Durell, 2011).

These communication devices allows for marketers to stay in contact with clients, and consumers, thus increasing their level of reach and impact, causing for an increase in brand awareness, brand loyalty and an increase in sales.

However,as the number of devices and platforms increase in communication methods, it’s imperative to research ways of how to properly communicate, and prevent potential problems that may occur using these advanced methods. Using numerous forms of communication, including social media websites, can be confusing to new users, thus potentially generating confusion among the public about a business and its brand. For example, an American Red Cross employee attempted to use Hootsuite, a social media platform where people can share information on multiple sites at the same time, and accidently tweeted about drinking on the company’s personal account rather than her own (Segall, 2011).

This story is a great illustration of potential problems that could occur using new devices to communicate to target audiences, without the proper knowledge of how to use the device. According to Fox’s infographic, seen below, businesses should use “reputation- monitoring software to keep a close eye on how [employees] represent [a businesses] brand,” (Fox, 2012).

Like the Twitter case, it’s important for businesses to know how to communicate and prevent from any mishaps that may occur, to protect their brand image at all times. With the rise in social media as a communicative device, it is highly suggested that marketers and businesses create a crisis plan in case of circumstances, like a mis- tweet. As marketers use social media, and other methods, to communicate with their target audiences, they must become experts in managing and properly using these devices to their advantage, not to their demise. Thus,it is vital for businesses to remain on top of trending communication methods to ensure that a company remains on the minds of their target audiences at all times.

However, there are still many questions to be asked, including, “Will face-to-face interaction become obsolete in the marketing world? Will more people be e-mailing reports and conducting research from home? Should companies draw a line where the amount of virtual contact cannot be exceeded?” And finally, “Should companies create terms of use and rules to be followed during working hours regarding the internet, or social media usage, to prevent from privacy issues and branding misrepresentations?”


Durell, L. (2011, October 30). Mashable.com. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/10/30/inbound-outbound-marketing/

Flew, Terry. (2008). New media: An introduction. (3 ed., pp. 207-210). Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Fox, Z. (2012, March 11). Mashable.com. Retrieved from Everything Your Employees Need to Know About Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

Segall, L. (2011, February 17). Cnn money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/17/smallbusiness/dogfish_redcross/index.htm section=money_smbusiness&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed: rss/magazines_fsb (FSB Magazine)&utm_content=Google Reader

Skypemaster123. (2008, November 12). Youtube.com. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zjEsSw3Bno

Cyber Law: Coming Your Way?

As the internet evolves, so do the challenges encountered in the marketing field. Looking back, Web 1.0 was a place where people read HTML, but Web 2.0 has evolved into a place for writing and sharing content. It is a place of converging ideas, thoughts, cultures, languages and ultimately, information. With the rise of user generated content being shared, there is a direct correlation to news topics and stories regarding its regulation in the cyber world. The “legal implications of the Internet’s rapid development are rendered even more complex by the specific features of its relationship to existing laws, regulatory frameworks, and the ideas that underpin them,” (Flew, 2008). Issues that have been brought into mainstream conversation lately regard legalities and legal ramifications of the cyber world. Marketers must be aware of cyberspace laws as they are becoming issued, especially laws regarding their extent to free speech and their use of intellectual property.

Increasing knowledge and content from citizen marketers has recently brought about the topic of free speech online. As citizen marketers criticize companies and generate and publish their content for the world to access, they are facing issues regarding the extent their information is deemed okay under free speech laws, and where it isn’t. For example, in response to BP’s oil spill in the Golf of Mexico in 2010, citizen marketers created an account on Twitter called #BP Public Relations, (“Twitter,” 2012). The cite has numerous contributors, and over 157,000 followers who continue to add content and remark about BP’s oil spill and the after effects and response, as seen in the screenshot below, (“Twitter,” 2012).


Unfortunately, the invisible lines that currently run the cyber world explaining what the extremes of free speech are not completely defined the same across platforms, thus there the confusion of where the lines are and where lines should be drawn. The question I pose is, if no one is in control or regulating content, will there soon be laws dictating the extent of a person’s free speech online that must be adhered to?

Similar to the confusion of one’s free speech online, citizen marketers and journalists are also facing copyright issues pertaining to the use of intellectual property. In many popular websites and social media sites under their privacy and conditions section, there is information about how the content published on the site can be used. Since many people do not bother to read through this information, they do not realize what they are signing away by agreeing to the terms and conditions.

  Wait… I am agreeing to what?

This case study that has recently been in the news is the new internet phenomenon, Pinterest. An article was released explaining that a lawyer interested in photography looked into the Pinterest’s copyright laws and found that under their terms and conditions that,“YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU,” (Shontell, 2012). Thus meaning that each pin that is uploaded must be original or give credit to whom it originated from. The story goes on to say that she closed her Pinterest account in fear. After the article was released, Pinterest co-founder, Ben Silbermann admitted that “there are issues with Pinterest and the fear of claims of copyright infringement,”(Shontell, 2012). On Youtube’s video, Pinterest and your rights- Tech Tonic, they bring up the idea that the “traditional copyright model is dead,” (ReutersTV , 2012).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWMRbgrINe0&w=560&h=315]

ReutersTV (2012, February 27). Youtube.com. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch v=PWMRbgrINe0

If traditional copyright is dead, what will be the newly adapted copyright laws?
With the evolving use and dependency on the internet for information, the problems marketers face are legal. What was once known as free speech is slowly becoming limited speech. Those among the marketing industry have to be careful of what they say and how they communicate online. Unfortunately, since the internet is a public domain there are little laws and enforcements as of today being done regarding these issues.As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and as we can see now, this is being applied to the cyber world; there is no such thing as free speech or free content.


Flew, Terry. (2008). New media: An introduction. (3 ed., pp. 207-210). Victoria,
   Australia: Oxford University Press.
Freepress. (2012, February 23). Retrieved from    
ReutersTV (2012, February 27). Youtube.com. Retrieved from
Shontell, A. (2012, February 28). Business insider. Retrieved from

Twitter. (2012). Retrieved from https://twitter.com/#!/BPGlobalPR

Diffusing Innovation And Marketing

The concept of innovation has been on the forefront of business’s minds with every minor advancement in technology that hits the marketplace. Since businesses aim to remain at the top of their market sector, they are continually facing the dilemma of diffusion of innovations, which is the rate of adoption [and] spread of innovation in the social system through communication via particular channels-influential individuals, related businesses social networks (Flew, 2008). The obstacle marketing agencies and employees have to overcome relating to the diffusion of innovations is being able to properly predict which technologies will be the most beneficial in effective communication and profitability, as well as adopting these new and advancing technologies as rapidly as their customer’s demand them.

Before marketing professionals and companies adopt new channels to market, they have to extensively research and consider the advantages, and potential challenges, to each new marketing opportunity. As seen in many circumstances, becoming the first to adopt a new piece of technology, can dictate the success, or failure, of a company down the road. The problem however is, that marketers have to know what pieces of technology, for example, social media websites, consumers use and somehow convert that knowledge into marketing strategy to either increase sales, maintain their current customers, gain new customers or explain a new way to use their product or service. Unfortunately marketers face another dilemma trying to predict what will be the new innovative ways they can communicate messages with society. David Norman discovered and labeled what is known as the technology S-curve, which can relate to the diffusion of innovations. Adoption of new methods in the beginning, related to social media marketing in this scenario, is typically slow, because marketers can not predict the future and know that one social media platform will be used more, or will be more effective, than another. This only adds to the challenges that marketers incur; they want to be ahead of the game, but it is challenging to know what new forms of communication will be adopted by consumers and other marketing professionals. Since profitability is key, a marketer does not want to waste time using a new method of communication, when it may not be the most effective form. As seen in the chart below (“Wikipedia.com,” 2009), the majority, about 64 percent, are the mainstream and late adopters, who lie in the middle (Flew, 2008).


This provides statistical evidence for the dilemma faced by marketers; if they use a new form of communication, they may not know if the communication will be effective or not until they have already invested a significant amount of time and funds into it, since others may not adopt new methods as rapidly as they are.

Once marketers have decided their new strategies they wish to adopt, they have to then use such methods quickly and appropriately to satisfy consumer demands. According to Moore’s Law, [the diffusion of innovations] does not actually define the rate … but rather how fast [something is] demanded.” (Malone,  2011). Businesses, like marketers, have to be able to listen to what their consumers are demanding and act accordingly. For example, many industry professionals are now “tweeting,” on Twitter and publishing blogs about the most recent industry news. It has been said that social media platforms are, “the marketing of the future,” (Engle, 2009). With this key insight, businesses have been responding to the demand for a larger presence on social media webpages and have become users of Twitter, Facebook and blogging websites to stay connected to their consumers. Businesses are working with their strengths and listening to their customers, overcoming what is known as the innovators dilemma (Flew, 2008). Companies have numerous new social media marketing channels to choose from, but the key is to choose which will be the most effective to communicate with their desired target market and target audience. By keeping up with what consumers are demanding via internet marketing channels, they can show their customers that they are at the top of their industry.

No matter the industry, a company must evolve and quickly adapt to consumer needs and demands. Businesses, such as marketing agencies, have to listen and observe the way in which the marketplace is shifting and adjust their business plans to fit these changes demanded by consumers. For now, marketers may feel comfortable using social media platforms to communicate messages, but the question others, among myself now ponder is, what will be next? 


Engle, Erika. (2009, August 23). Twitter is business and marketing tool for realtor. . Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bond.edu.au/pqdlink?vinst=PROD&fmt=3&startpage=-1&vname=PQD&did=1842032231&scaling=FULL&vtype=PQD&rqt=309&TS=1327920052&clientId=21143

Flew, Terry. (2008). New media: An introduction. (3 ed., pp. 207-210). Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Malone, Michael S. (2011, May 08). Moore’s law lives: the future is still alive [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/bloggers/2717143/posts

Wikipedia.com. (2009, December 10). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Diffusionofideas.PNG