Tag Archive: project management


It a tough question, right? Many companies implement one or the other, but few implement a true hybrid approach. The decision on what to follow depends on many factors, not the least of which is corporate culture and cost of change. Additionally, one of the chief concerns is often the type of products being developed and programs implemented. First let me quickly define what traditional and iterative development are (well in my mind at least).

Traditional, or waterfall software development is probably more familiar to most. The basic belief is that complex software systems can be built in asequential, phase-wise manner where all of the requirements are gathered at the beginning, all of the design is completed next, and finally the master design is implemented into production quality software. Of course all of the UAT and customer experience testing is integrated as well. This approach is more akin to a production line where RGSs (Requirement Gathering Sessions) are held and system specifications are compiled. Then finished requirements specification document are turned over to “software designers” who plan the software system and specify the code, create wireframes etc. The design diagrams are then passed to the “developers” who implement the code from the design. Program managers build PERTs and GANTTs plus mitigation plans, to attempt to account for all of the roles, stakeholders, resources etc.

Iterative development is part of the “new school of development”. Most people know it by Agile or Lightweight Agile. The funny thing is, at its core it is really a return to the old days of software development. Agile methods call for software design to be both iterative and incremental. The IID process allows for continuous revisiting of requirements and change is not as impactful or costly as it is in Waterfall. The Agile Manifesto set the ground rules are follows:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more”.

So which is better? If you have followed some of my previous posts, you know that I have worked on a broad platform of product/services and offers. I have brought new products to market, launched existing products into new service areas and managed multiple product enhancements. There has been one truism in all of this: change. It’s inevitable. Whether the market conditions change, or the segmentation analysis, the requirements, the budget etc. change will happen. How a company manages change is a big driver for speed to market and success.

In my opinion, Agile provides more flexibility in addressing change and managing shifting priorities. By being able to review code with business owners and bashing it against requirements after a sprint, change is usually smaller and easier to swallow. Plus it’s cheaper in many ways. If using waterfall methods, you usually need to wait until UAT or another code delivery point to review prototypes with business owners then implement change. At that point all of the requirements may have changed and the product is not what was intended. You have now dumped money into “throw away” code or have created more work.

I think you can also take the best of both and implement some combination of traditional software development process and project management techniques and combine them with iterative phased development. This is not a true development hybrid, but a management hybrid. You can use Agile methods to feed a master plan or use even use your burndown chart milestones to represent project milestones. No matter which one you favor, your decision on implementation must focus on controlling the big 4 (cost, schedule, scope & quality). Not an easy task, but that’s what makes it fun.

Why should I care about UX as a Marketer?

I wanted to share a few thoughts on UX and marketing since some of my recent work has focused on that.

Since my last post, I have been focusing heavily on projects that require a new tight UI and UX design. For those that need a refresher, check out this link for a detailed breakdown of the differences between UI and UX. http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2012/06/ui-vs-ux-whats-the-difference/. Essentially, UX design deals with the overall experience associated with the use of a product or service, while UI design deals with the specific user interface(s) of a product or service. Effective UI must include UX design elements. I am going to answer the question today of why you should care about UX as a marketer, because you should!

There are a ton of different resources that give opinions on the principles of UX. Here are my simple 3 “big rules”:

1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes                                                                                                                                                    You should always be thinking as a customer to contextualize their experiences with you.  Think of the journey from the customer’s perspective.  Customer mapping at different points depicts the journey over time and channels, and shows what the customer is thinking, doing and feeling throughout the whole experience.

2. Clearly define the Rules of Engagement
Engagement Principles are guidelines for the interaction of the service.  These need to be defined up front before development begins. Much of a UI deals with how the service looks and feels and the voice/tone, but where many products are lacking is in customer experience. Think of the process flow. Your brand is on top as the centerpiece. All branches, PDM cycles etc., must support brand tenets. The Brand feeds a style guide, which defines how a product looks and feels. It also feeds a product’s voice and tone  and experience principles or how you interact with the product.

3. Measured Delivery
Figure out how to ship products to customers correctly the first time.  Don’t release a poorly executed product no matter how great the planning and roadmap says it is. Adaptive Path’s CEO Brandon Schauer has a great analogy using cake as a product. Don’t ship the bare cake as v1 and then the filling as v2 and then the icing as v3. Customers don’t think like that. Ship a product that has a little cake, a little filling and a little icing and then your next release can be a larger cake. And of course we need to be concerned with the experience of the first run, since that is the first impression a user has with our product.

I’ve talked about the VOC (voice of the customer) in previous posts as a necessity in the product development process. It is just as important for marketers. If you ask any User Experience Professional what the principles of their profession are, one of the first principles you’ll hear is “Know Your Users”. Makes sense, right?

 If you want to create great experiences for users then you must know something about them.  Plus if you don’t know the customers, how do you know what they want? Figuring out what they want and targeting the offer to that is the special sauce.  The marketing industry existed long before UX came along, and good marketers are as focused on their users as any UX professional is. Wikipedia defines marketing as: “Marketing is used to identify the customer, to keep the customer and to satisfy the customer.

Too often marketers focus on macro demos (age, gender, income marital status, other metadata) to determine users and target offers. I’ve even espoused this as a pillar of good marketing tactics. However, these factors only provide the most basic insight into the life of a user. It does not tell the whole story.

Additionally, good marketing often goes unnoticed. When a marketer does their job and presents a timely and valuable product or service we don’t even notice we are being sold. Similarly, a good UX pro can go unnoticed: great design is invisible to users because they’re too busy enjoying the product or service to even think about it. However, when a marketer focuses on the wrong product attributes or misses the market need, it distracts us and we  notice it.  

As job responsibilities often dictate, UX professionals are more focused on design than marketers are. Usually, people start considering UX as part of the product design or development process that ignored or assumed too much about its users. UX Pros try to right this wrong: they have seen how hurtful a poor understanding of users really is. That’s why the phrase “Know Your Users” is so central to UX. UX pros push to have all of this considered during the ideation phase of the PDM cycle.

In essence, UX is really just good marketing. It’s all about knowing who your market is, knowing what is important to them (walking in their shoes), knowing why it is important to them, designing accordingly (rules of engagement) and measuring the delivery. Once released it’s the job of PLM folks to consistently listen and adjust to the marketplace; improving the experience of those in your market.  If you think about it, good marketers actually do a lot of UX work,  and vice-versa. The next time you are ready to start the PDM process, consider UX and marketing as legs to the product stool. They are inexorably connected. 

In the past I have spoken mostly about getting your product to market, making sure you have good marketing programs to support your brand and building an ongoing relationship with customers.  Now, I want to touch on how you can offer support for your product and the role of customer self-assistance.

Just a few years ago when you needed help for a product you bought, you would call the company you bought it from and talk to someone. Companies often staffed call centers to handle billing and tech support. Soon after companies began outsourcing all or parts of call centers to offset direct labor costs. We are at a crossroads in the customer support business. Some companies offer staffed call centers, while others have begun migrating to a more 2.0 expereince moving primary support online. Much of this depends on the product/service being offered and the target customer base. If you are re-selling Retail Electric service for example, you are probably still very heavily supporting your customers through traditional call center tactics. If your model includes SaaS apps or other web-based distributions, you have probably added more self-help options. Truthfully, we most commonly see a hybrid approach of traditional support options and next-gen apps. Companies need to understand how “their” customers will seek support.

There are endless options you can choose from when offering self assistance. From self diagnostic tests to chat and e-mail, the choices are endless. Not every option is right from your product or customer base. Choose from some of the options I outline in the two major categories below and apply them consistently to your product/service, offer, marketing, brand and customers.

  1. Social Media – The social web spurs conversations that can help or harm a brand. Customer complaints can reach thousands of people within minutes. Consumers expect an immediate response. Monitor conversations on Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds, your Facebook fan page, and other industry specific social channels,  and forums. This helps you respond quickly and appropriately to global or groups of issues. All of these social channels allow you to engage your customers in authentic conversations to assist them, and support brand loyalty. Offer peer-to-peer support forums. By allowing them to ask questions and find answers in an online community, users talk to each other, build relationships and solve issues without adding a single call or email to your contact center’s workload. Monitor the forum content and gain reusable content for your knowledge base.
  2. Web Services – According to Forrester Research, 72 percent of online consumers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email. You need to provide this growing base of customers with options. You will free up agents to handle Tier II and III issues, drive down costs and do more with less.  Build and maintain a knowledge base of product information, and FAQs. Continuously add to it through social media tools, dynamic adds and search etc. Offer pop-up guides within the base to lead the conversations, or even link out to chat/e-mail services. A staple in the web services category is Chat. It can bridge the gap between your website knowledge base and phone-based interactions. It provides a way to engage a customer or prospect before they abandon a purchase or when they have problems solving their own customer service issue. Consumers like the immediacy of chatting with agents on an organization’s website. Chat can provide more timely and personal resolution, especially when leveraged as a complementary point of contact to the traditional call center support channel. For more complex issues, offer e-mail support with defined turn around times. Finally, push it to the cloud and make all of this available anywhere, anytime and any place. Mobile support with native app building is here and beginning to move all of this information past just PC accessibility. Take advantage.

The key in all of this is to provide your customers with interaction options across many channels and use your common knowledge foundation to provide consistency and efficiency. Empower your customers to self-serve at their convenience, through their communication channel of choice. Please listen to your customers and learn what they are thinking and act on it. Who cares if you think it’s a great service plan if they don’t? Keep your most loyal, knowledgeable customers—the ones with strong opinions and great product ideas close. Make them part of the ideation and innovation processes, so they can help you identify new business opportunities, guide your product roadmap, prioritize and refine ideas, and develop your next breakthrough product. Lastly, evaluate, baseline, identify and adapt to your customers.

You may have the best GTM strategy, an excellent project manager, built and brought your product to market with the customer in focus, but if your offer is not surrounded with marketing programs that match your brand, you are sure to miss your mark. The continuum of the GTM cycle must include marketing programs as part of the LEARN Phase of LBGUPS that add to your company or product line brand.

Let’s assume we are starting our brand, launching a new product line or transforming our offer plan for a product line. We need to ask a few key questions:

  1. Is our brand and marketing programs conveying consistent messaging, and building on our established brand?
  2. Have we done research and segmented our customer base to target our offers?
  3. Do our offers leverage each other?

Tamsen McMahon adds another apropos question to the list from a recent post on her blog shared with Amber Naslund http://www.brasstackthinking.com/2010/08/offer-or-sell/ “Offer or Sell?”.  Are we offering what we sell or selling what we offer?

Companies need to further the customer relationship and offer value vs. a product. Do you want to be perceived as a company that pushes widget after widget with little value add? You might  sell units, but will might fail to build a lasting relationship with your customer.  The marketing activities you use to support your product should not only push your current offer, but enhance brand awareness and elicit brand resonance/loyalty. If your brand fails to resonate and people don’t buy in to, you are doomed.

In today’s climate of corporate distrust fueled by bankruptcies, accounting scandals and non-transparency, your brand must be consistent truthful and respected to continue to enjoy success. As David Kiley explores in the clip on my vodpod widget on the right for Business Week, brand trust is what sets the stage for great performance and consumer trust.

In a nutshell, bring your product/service to market, build your reputation, treat your customers as your #1 commodity and watch the profits roll in.

By now, you have all read my previous post on the GTM cycle and the interrelationships between the various phases. You also now know that it’s critical to develop a go-to-market plan that clearly describes the goals of the new service and outlines the steps needed to market, operationalize, and support the product/service.  Just as important as the go-to-market plan, is the controls that are put in place to manage the risks/dependencies and timelines. This is where a good program/project manager is introduced.  

PMI, the standards organization that sets the guidelines for Project Manager Certification (PMP) recognizes 5 basic process groups typical of almost all projects. The basic concepts are applicable to projects, programs and operations. The five basic process groups are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or phase. Processes are described in terms of:

  • Inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.)
  • Tools and Techniques (mechanisms applied to inputs)
  • Outputs (documents, products, etc.)

These ITTOs form the document base for most projects and guide the project teams through the GTM process to bring products/services to customers on time and under budget.

A quality program/project manager works cross functionally to “connect the dots” and keep everything on track. Without this experienced professional, the best product/service will fall flat before it reaches market and before it delivers on its promises. Organizations need to segment each product/service and structure the GTM process with the PM being the lead.  If successful, companies will capitalize on their often sizable investment in human capital.

Through my experience in numerous SDLCs and product development/deployment cycles one common theme seems to hold true. It is one axiom that when implemented correctly will bring any product to market on time and under budget. This process unifies marketing, IT, channel support and back office.

The cyclical process of Learn, Get, Buy, Use Pay, Service is a proven Go-To-Market strategy that will insure all of your items are cared for and managed to bring a product to market effectively. It is important to consider all of these elements to fully design, develop and deliver truly customer focused products.  Proper implementation however also requires close program management and controls. This approach demands that the customer is placed directly into the deployment cycle. Below is a definition of the different phases throughout the cycle. 

Learn – Contains all of the items that will be implemented that a customer will use to learn about the product. It might contain: Marketing (off and online), PR, cross-channel, blogs, facebook, twitter etc.

Buy – Defines the customer interfaces to purchase the product and the process to complete purchase. Can include transactional, resellers, direct buy, new payment processing etc.

Get – Contains all of the processes to be implemented that will deliver the product to the customers. This may include any fulfillment, legal terms, downloads, FTPs etc. These are the key methods that will get the product in the customers’ hands.

Use – This is the part of the cycle that most people focus on. There are the key methods that enable the product to function. Contains enabling all access points, and opening up code if necessary.

Pay – Defines the processes implemented to enable bill payment by the customer. This might include modifying existing bill adding out additional services, opening up credit card billing, or any transactional services.

Service – In my opinion, this is one of the most important, but overlooked phases of the Go-To-Market process. Most companies seem to consider this as a standalone process and divorced from the deployment process. This includes considering agent support processes, e-mail, chat, twitter, facebook, FAQs, blogging etc. Spending time building these interfaces before a product is deployed will reap tremendous benefits in cost savings, revenue and customer experience.

In summary, if a company utilizes this cycle of deployment they will be forced to place the customer first and challenge all elements of their existing strategies. This will also lead to comprehensive, logical project plans which can be managed and bring customer focused, effective products.