featured, General, Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: A Product Manager’s Dream and Nightmare

10 Jan , 2009  

If you create products (or run a business that does), it’s your professional and personal goal to create something everyone wants so badly that products fly off the shelves like Nintendo Wii’s at Christmas (and most of the year, actually). 

There are countless examples of this kind of demand, including the Wii, XBox’s, iPhone, Tickle Me Elmo, and Cabbage Patch Kids to name just a few. Now we’re seeing the online equivalent of customers banging down the virtual doors of our servers and networks to get at products. Rockies world series tickets and Apple’s MobileMe service are examples where servers cratered over the demand by users within a very short time window.

A very recent example is the public-beta of Windows 7, the successor to the much maligned Windows Vista. Microsoft had to shut down their download servers and regroup on Friday as too many requests were coming over the gun walls, causing a bad experience for everyone trying to get new bits.

As a product creator I haven’t (yet) been fortunate to have that kind of success for a product. (But you gotta believe you’ve got that in ya 🙂 ). 

Limited Supply Can Be A Good Thing

In the recent Blackberry Storm SmartPhone product launch, much was made about the Storm being the device to knock the iPhone off the top of the leader board. While the Storm certainly didn’t do that, it was a very successful product launch. It’s no doubt by anyone there would be high demand for the Storm, but Verizon stores had limited supplies of them on hand the day of the product launch. The store I visited at 6am on a Friday morning only had an allotment of 30 Blackberry Storms. All stores only had a limited few phones, and before I left with mine in hand, other Verizon stores were calling the into the store I was in looking for more phones. The warehouse was out by days end.

Certainly Verizon and Blackberry anticipated high demand upon launch of the Storm. But did they purposefully limit the number of units available on day one to help keep demand for the Storm high and in the buying market’s mind? Or were they just being prudent and protecting themselves on the backside from an over supply if the product’s acceptance didn’t live up to the pre-launch hype. The only recent product I’m pretty certain has been purposefully kept in short supply is the Wii. There’s been a shortage of Wii’s (at least a perceived shortage) virtually since the gaming console came out.

It’s A Manufacturing Problem

Then there’s the “RAM factory burned down in Japan” or “manufacturing can’t keep up” situation. Now that’s something no product manager wants to have happen. The customers are there but the product can’t get to the customer due to manufacturing.

There’s a flip side to this dilemma too. At a training course (I think it was a Florida Power and Light Quality course, but I’m not sure) we played something called the “beer game”. No, it wasn’t a drinking game like you’re thinking. It was to show how decisions in the supply chain can run afoul. You come out with the hottest new beer on college campus’ but no one anticipated that outrageous demand you’re seeing. Beer isn’t like CDs, you can’t just stamp out more… it takes time to cook. Long story short, folks in the supply chain start over ordering attempting to raise their position in the queue, and fill demand for beer money that’s been left on the table, and then… demand suddenly drops off, that beer’s not in vogue anymore. Suddenly everyone’s cancelling orders and sitting on more product than they know what to do with. It was a very enlightening scenario, which emphasized the need for systemic thinking.

Note: I always tell clients and friends I coach about blogging and social media to keep it short, three paragraphs or so. With that in mind, I’ll break this up in to more than one post.

To be continued…

Blog, featured, Podcasts, Security

Blog shout out: www.Paths2Trust.com

31 Dec , 2008  

We have another network security blog in the house. Not too far on the heals of Secure64 CEO, Steve Goodbarn, two of his technical guys have decided to join the ranks of the network security bloggers. The blog, www.Paths2Trust.com, is co-authored by Joe Gersch and Bill Worley. Joe, the head of development for Secure64, has taken the lead and started putting up some blog posts while Bill’s been heads-down cranking out DNSSEC product code.

The primary topic of their blog is DNSSEC. Both are active in secure DNS product development and I expect they’all also share some of their experiences with the standards bodies, DNSSEC adoption, and implementing DNSSEC. Both Joe and Bill have the career chops to talk tech and I’m sure we’ll enjoy hearing what they have to say not only about DNSSEC but also their past experiences in networking, RISC computing platforms (in which Bill is an industry pioneer) and other topics of interest.

I enjoy working with all of these guys as part of my Converging Network LLC business. It’s a real pleasure to see them joining the security blogging community. Take a moment to welcome them by checking out both www.paths2trust.com and www.stevegoodbarn.com. You can also check out Steve on his recent SSAATY podcast appearance.

featured, General

Journey To The Last Lecture

18 Dec , 2008  

I’d heard through many different paths about Prof. Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture given at Carnegie Mellon, but like so many things I want to do, I just hadn’t gotten around to checking it out. I remember hearing about his lecture on TV, seeing the book The Last Lecture when it came out, hearing others talk about it… even a good friend gave me the book to read but I hadn’t read it.

Tonight, I saw an email sitting in my junk mail folder, which I check every once in a while, and saw an email from Carol Ross’s blog. It was an email saying “Your turn” to share about something you’re grateful for. That’s an easy and a hard question for me because there’s tons of things I’m grateful for, and there are 10x more things I should be grateful for but probably go on blindly not recognizing them.

Anyway, I popped over to Carol’s blog, made a comment on a post and took a quick scan to see what she’d been writing about. For whatever reason, I saw a link referring to a project Carol worked on for a friend who’d passed away a while back. She’d told me about it, so I decided to pop over there and check it out.

At the bottom of the site is a small YouTube video (246×140) and for whatever reason I had a feeling it was Randy Pausch’s talk. It was 1 hour and 16 minutes long, it’s late, and I’m behind on the project I wanted to get done tonight. All good reasons, again, not to watch this video… just like I hadn’t read the book. Not sure what possessed me to take a different path, but I decided to watch a little bit of it. It’s on YouTube, I figured, so I can always go finish watching it if the video’s that good.

Well. I just finished the video 10 minutes ago and it has to have been one of the best talks I’ve ever seen. What caught my attention first is that Randy was a leader in the virtual reality field, something that speaks to that geek and video gamer in me. But more importantly, he was born in 1960, the same year I was born. He went through some of the same childhood experiences I had, like being fascinated watching men walk on the moon on TV in real time as it happened, and experiencing a family “driving” vacation out to Disneyland, something my family did too when I was nine or so. Hearing about his gaming the system to get to ride on the “vomit comet” in order to experience weightlessness set the hook so I had to watch the rest of the lecture.

Today, I had lunch with two friends who I’ve partnered in business with, worked with, worked for and visa versa. During our lunch, one friend, Donald, kept referring to and quoting things he said he’d learned from me over the years. I guess if I squint real hard I can kinda-sorta remember telling him those things, but not really. I told him he was giving me too much credit. I just didn’t remember saying any of that to him, but I did agree with the things he was espousing. Maybe those are things that just came across in observation, I don’t know. Donald’s very observant that way. If I did really help him in the things he said he learned from me, well… then I’m flattered and honored he’d consider them important enough to pick up and use again. What he doesn’t realize is I know I’ve learned 10x from him compared to anything he learned from me. At least that honestly is how it feels to me.

So, in the spirit of sharing what we’re grateful for (back to Carol’s email), I’m grateful for friends and colleagues who I’ve worked with and grown from in the process. I’m grateful for the long but completed path to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture video and I’m grateful for what he shared with me in that lecture.

If you haven’t watched it, here’s my opportunity to pay it forward and share Randy’s talk with you.

featured, General

Recession YTD, Brain Damage Already Done

1 Dec , 2008  

It’s official. We’ve been in a recession since December… of last year. 12 months already. CNN reports that most US recessions last 8-10 months, and global recessions average 16-18 months. Obviously we’re in a global recession, which means somewhere around another 8-12 months, if history is any indication. The tangible impact of a recession are clear; layoffs, unemployment rises, downturn in spending, failed businesses, etc.

Now I’m no economic expert, don’t play one on TV and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I have to ask, what additional deep damage has our federal government done by heralding the coming catastrophic financial, banking and credit crisis. By getting on TV and announcing we’re facing a dire financial situation, Henry Paulson and George Bush perform the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowed theater while not owning a shred of fire fighting equipment.

Just as tangible as the impact of job losses are, economies are just as much about how we perceive them – we often describe this as “confidence in the market”. If we believe the markets are going to be in the tank, they will be. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy. The reverse is true when we’re bullish about the economy – somehow we make our predictions come true. I believe Bush and Paulson have done us all a huge, huge disservice, making things even worse by all their aimless handwaving of warnings and non-specific dark cloud predictions.

The best things Bush and Paulson can do for the economy is to:

  • stop talking
  • stop appearing on TV
  • focus on transitioning to the Obama administration