Author Archives: dmerritts

July 23rd, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Top 5 Product Management Mistakes

Product managers (PM) are stuck in the middle of a lot of activities. This makes PMs prone to making mistakes because ensuring priorities are always maintained is challenging. Great PMs are focused context switchers with strong system awareness (i.e., able to see the whole picture, even when deep in one task). There is a constant pull on time and it’s easy to get caught up in one task and ignore others. In my opinion, the top 5 mistakes most PMs (myself included occasionally) make are failing to do the following: 360ยบ Communication :: PMs must act as the communication hub …

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June 23rd, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Useful Personal Productivity Sites

There are a ton of personal productivity sites out there these days. Many aren’t useful as they don’t seamless integrate into my daily workflow. That is, the additional cost (additive + adjustment time) of using it is too high. I like productivity tools that fit easily into my life without minimal switching costs. Here are the latest sites that I’ve currently integrated: Mint – Fantastic site that acts as simple financial glue. It allows you to create a single dashboard for all of your bank, savings, credit card and investment (private beta) accounts. The visualization is awesome; the UI is …

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June 19th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Add at least one sexy feature per release

Great product managers have very high expectations. We’re always dreaming about how cool or sexy we can make our product. This is often firmly grounded in awesome photoshop mock-ups and well-written requirements. Enter reality. Engineering looks at your proposal and says: ‘we can’t build that.’ Then, the great PM pushes past the knee-jerk into what is really meant. I mean: it’s software after all, why can’t you do this sexy feature – have you seen some of the video games lately? Well, the engineer manager then returns with the “we can do this, but…”. Typically, the cost of building it …

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June 9th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Sales Teams in Enterprise Start-ups

Good salespeople can make your life great, bad salespeople make your life miserable. Hiring salespeople in a start-up is key to making your life as a product manager easier. Make sure you (product manager) get a chance to interview them on the way in. You must find salespeople who are scrappy, hungry and, of course, happy-losers (HBR). Zhivago makes some very good points on selling in a start-up in this post: All of these are things that CEOs think, but Salespeople don’t do: The salesperson I’ve hired will sell the way I sell. [ Yeah right, sales training is rarely …

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June 9th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Louder isn’t Effective

Seth Godin’s post on Double, Double reminded me of a common practice of people I’ve observed – mainly ignorant americans – traveling in a foreign country: Sometimes, we get hung up on catch phrases and jargon that work great when everyone understands what we mean, but fail to bring understanding to outsiders. Yelling louder isn’t always the answer. Changing your words might work better. Some think that speaking louder will make someone who doesn’t speak your language somehow understand. It’s rarely that someone can’t hear you. It’s usually because he or she can’t understand you. Whether you’re in Canada buying …

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May 29th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Everything Goes to the Customer

Everything created by marketing for “internal use” will get to the customer or potential customer. Expect it. Write it with that knowledge. Don’t write down secrets and give it to sales. Control the information flow. And, certainly don’t make it look good (a common problem I have). Sales and Support people are well intentioned. But, they are not good at keeping secrets. They’re good at sharing the right information to win the sale. That’s why they’re there after all. And, without sales to fuel the company we all get to find another place to work. So, with this in mind, …

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May 29th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Different is Always Better

Don’t build a product or service that is better, build one that is different. Creating a better mouse-trap won’t attract more mice. Create a different mouse-trap that solves the problem differently. Even if your product is better, talk about how it’s different. Explain the advantages of how your product solves the problem differently and why that is good for your customer. No, Not Better, Different :: Many marketing and sales people seem to focus on why their product is better. This puts the buyer into an immediate mindset of comparison. The buyer will now need to identify and evaluate each …

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May 25th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Small % of a Big Pie

First time founders seem to be obsessed with the percent of the company they own. All want to maintain a large percentage. Because founders think that a large percent is required for control. After all, it’s her baby and she wants be a good over-bearing parent. Unfortunately, building and growing a company requires a team of people and capital resources. Early-on the company only has equity — preferred or common — to give in return for capable people and capital resources. Raising capital requires that some portion of the company be sold. Hiring employees also requires some pool of equity …

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May 25th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Building Competitive Moats in China

Building competitive moats or walled garden around companies in countries without effective intellectual property rights (IPR) is difficult. This is especially true when the business deals with physical goods or services. China has an accurate reputation of being fairly IPR free. Chinese quickly copy anything successful without repercussion. The first question of any new business entering China is: How are you going to overcome copy-cats? Building brand and exclusivity is not just enough. Quick growth and share capture is important. Otherwise, you’ve lost your much of your potential. But, it requires an extra level of thinking (and expense) to really …

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May 23rd, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Password Reset Workflow

Resetting a password on the internet varies greatly. I hate most of the methods. And, many leave a lot of security holes (e.g., plain text emails). There should be more work to standardize this process and perhaps OAuth or OpenID people will make this happen. Until then, we’ll have to deal with many bad workflows with a few good ones. By the way, I think eBay’s password or username reset process is probably the most annoying on the web and as a result I don’t use eBay. Maybe if I used eBay more, I wouldn’t have to reset my password …

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