Going Independent — Again

After a challenging but rewarding three year stint in product management at Dialogic, I am now independent again early in 2018. Four years back, I ran my consulting business for a year and gained some additional training before re-joining Dialogic. In this post, I’ll talk about some new and different approaches I took in my role with the company during the past three years that produced positive results.

  1. Using Agile to Manage and Change Priorities – In 2014, I took a course in SCRUM at Quality and Productivity Solutions and got certified by SCRUMStudy as a SCRUM Product Owner.  At Dialogic, I wore many hats and had frequent changes in priorities. By creating SCRUM Epics and Stories, I updated my priorities weekly and was able to make fast changes when needed in reaction to market changes, new projects or other internal factors.
  2. Building and Managing Teams – In earlier Product Management roles, I mostly focused on the product in areas such as managing the roadmap, setting pricing and training Sales. During the past three years, I reached out to the other departments and convened cross functional meetings about once every two weeks. In other words, I managed the products as programs.  This way, our departments worked together to drive success for our products and the results were very positive for both startup products and more mature product lines. For example, we identified customer pain points and then the team created solutions to deal with them.
  3. Going Virtual – My products varied over the three years, but included a mix of hardware and software, or were purely software.  A trend which cut across several of the product lines was the need to run the software on Virtual Machines, notably in the VMware and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) environments. For example, by running in a virtual environment, customers got to use their own choice of servers for routine management tasks. For our virtual load balancer product, Dialogic® Powerville™ LB, we took it a step further and could run all of the software on VMware or other virtual environments and included sophisticated features such as built-in redundancy.
  4. Marketing via Effective Content Management – In the past year, I worked with the Dialogic marketing team to devise a marketing plan for the Dialogic IMG 2020 Integrated Media Gateway and revise our content management to help drive more leads.  We wrote several new white papers on important use cases such as SIP Trunking, Transcoding and SS7 to SIP interworking.  We also promoted recent design wins and market leadership via press releases and conducted webinars which tied into all of these marketing themes. The net result was to bring more attention to these products, improve our SEO rankings for related product searches and reinforce our position as a market leader in the low density trunking media gateway market.

These four approaches are examples of ways we were able to innovate.  They enabled me to both be a product-focused individual contributor and lead broader team efforts that produced lasting results. If you’ve had similar needs or experiences, I’d love to hear your feedback.

I’ll write more about my recent experiences in Product Management, Marketing and Communications Technology, plus thoughts on the year ahead within upcoming posts.

 

 

 

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Going Lean

In January, I was fortunate enough to attend two events which both focused on the concept of product / market fit.  Marc Andreessen, of NetScape fame and now a venture capitalist, coined the term.  But the story doesn’t really begin there.  There is a movement known as “Lean Startup,” whose chief advocate is an entrepreneur and consultant named Eric Ries.  My introduction to Ries was at the two events I mentioned.  At TIE Boston, a group which helps entrepreneurs and startups, venture capitalist Tom Huntington spoke eloquently on product / market fit based on his own startup experiences.  His key point was that companies should not scale up in their use of resources until they have found the right fit between the product and the market it is directed to.  He used several examples where companies had functional products, but didn’t have the right market fit, so growth wasn’t happening.  

The next week, I attended the keynote at the Boston Product Management Association (BPMA) on “The Magic Fit”, delivered by Jeff Bussgang of Harvard and Flybridge Ventures.  Bussgang’s presentation built nicely upon the messages I’d heard the week before, but he dug a bit deeper.  He touted Lean principles as an ongoing revolution for Product Management and strongly encouraged all of us to get on board.  LIke Tom Huntington, he emphasized the value of placing the MVP (Minimum Viable Prototype) in the hands of customers and then learning as quickly as possible from these customer experiences.   Bussgang was generous in his use of references and made it clear that author Eric Ries was a key inspiration for many of these Lean Startup concepts.   

A few weeks ago, I borrowed Ries’s book The Lean Startup, from our library and I just finished reading it.  Ries does a nice job of explaining the series of startup experiences which caused him to develop the “Lean Startup” methodology and then he explains the methodology in detail.  As alluded to by the two speakers I’d heard in January, a key concept is setting up an approach that allows startups to get their prototypes (MVPs) out to customers and conduct detailed experiments to see which product or business model approaches are most valuable to customers.  Like many contemporary management theorists, Ries is a strong advocate of creating effective metrics and then conducting measurements, but he also emphasizes the need to talk with customers to understand the meaning behind the statistics.  In the latter approaches, he draws directly from the experiences of companies like Toyota who have been innovators in the lean manufacturing space.  

Ries has written an excellent book which holds lessons both for startups and bigger companies that want to move faster in a turbulent marketplace.   My thanks to Jeff Bussgang for recommending the book.  I ran my own company for 7 years in the Nineties, so the concepts of creating new product ideas and then testing them with customers are familiar to me.  But Eric Ries has put his lessons learned into playbook form and I anticipate these concepts will be valuable in my future business roles.