ProductCamp Ottawa – November 2, 2013

This upcoming Saturday, November 2nd, ProductCamp Ottawa will be held at the CaseWare 0ffices located in the Saint-Laurent Shopping Centre.

If you have any interest in the various aspects of product management, you should consider registering and attending. There are currently 11 proposed sessions, including my own (session #9: Agility in Product Management).

No one is sure yet which session will be running as the participants will be voting for the selection as the first action of the day.

I look forward to meeting you there!

What to do with “legacy” products?

I am now in charge of the product management for a bunch of “legacy” products. You know, those products that are old and, some cases, decrepit, but that our customers just love to keep around. They are comfortable like a well-work pair of jeans or broken-in shoes. But these products are based on old technology and we now have new platforms, enhanced capabilities, new UIs, etc. that should entice our clients to move…but some of them are stubborn.

So what do we do with these products that still bring in revenue (mostly maintenance, but some transactional)? They bring too much revenue for us to simply decide to throw that away (especially in this time of economic upheaval) as we fear those stalwart clients will move to the competition. And our new offerings, although more powerful, are scary in just those additional capabilities!

There are a few things that we have to look at for those products.

  1. First, to borrow from the medical profession, do no harm. This means that our current clients must feel they are not in a dead end – even though the product itself will not be updated. These users like the product as it is, so we need to work with them to determine why it is still the best tool for them. We need to see if this is a niche that we need (want) to address with an offering, perhaps a modified version of an existing, high capability offering.
  2. Second, we need to get these clients to move to something that we will want to support and augment in the future. We need to make this transition as painless as possible both from tool migration and from usage perspectives. Note that I states “as painless as possible” as it is often difficult to make this painless. Sometimes the artifacts do not migrate properly between the tools and require manual changes, sometimes the user experience is different. In either case, there will be some pain. From a tool perspective, the goal is to make sure that not information/data is lost in migrating the artifacts and to document the migration caveats. From a usage perspective, we need to document the changes in the way the tools look and in the way standard or common tasks are accomplished. This is where the user-centric design teams are very important. In all cases, we would want to consider services to help these clients including consulting, training, and pre/post-sales support.
  3. Third, we need to arrange the two previous points so that our development, maintenance, and support costs are minimised. These are legacy products and are typically not expected to be a drain on resources. We also want to be able to move the resources from these products to our strategic offerings (which should be the migration targets!). Although this is not directly related to our clients, we can’t expect them to stay on the old, comfortable applications forever and, at some point, all these resources will have to move.

So how does this translate into actual plans and activities? This is where knowledge of your products and clients comes into play – and this is what I have to figure out for my products! I don’t yet have an answer, especially not a generic one. But I may just come back to this blog to let everyone know…

Drinking from a fire hose…systematically!

It’s been a while since I last posted… I had indicated earlier that I was to start a new job within IBM Rational in January. Well, I have and since then, it has been like drinking water from a fire hose! Not only do I have to get up to speed with the new job, but it appears customers had a backlog of questions over the holidays!

First, the new job is certainly very interesting as it brings me back into an area for which I am passionate: systems and software development. After a couple of years dealing with governance, I am back in the software development realm! Yes! After a few years of concentrating on the IT market, IBM Rational is now getting back into what was always a more traditional Rational market: “technical” software development. Granted, since IBM is somewhat larger than Rational ever was, the new scope is somewhat larger than what Rational used to do. There is more to industrial systems than just software: mechanical, electrical/electronics, and governance are all issues that we need to deal with in this domain. However, I will be concentrating on the software and governance parts of the equation.

So what does this mean from a practical point of view? First, I will be looking, from a product management point of view, at the IBM Rational tools in this domain. This means Rational Rose Technical Developer (a.k.a., RealTime) and Rational Systems Developer. This also means that I will be looking for feedback on these tools, both in this blog or in the developerWorks forums for RSx1 or real-time and embedded

In my new role, I will also have to deal with customers (clients?). I actually like that part of the work. I like taking my head out of the sand within IBM and to see what our users are actually doing with our tools. This can be a very important tool for a product manager. And I already have my first trip planned for next week.

Now… I wonder if the IBM powers-that-be would let me have an official blog on developerWorks

  1. I use “RSx” to denote the new, Eclipse-based, Rational modeling tools: Rational Software Modeler, Rational Systems Developer, and Rational Software Architect

User + Great Product = Passion

Passionate users are what anyone would want for their products. They are what causes viral marketing and are a major factor in retention. And the best part is that you typically don’t have to goad them to talk about your product! But how do you get these users?!? The simple answer is “make a great product”! Well, that would be too simple… Making a product is easy, making a product that users will use is difficult, and making a product about which users will be passionate is close to a miracle!

For example, look at all the blogs out there. How many are truly popular blogs? Well, this one is not (yet!). It was very easy to create this blog and there are a few readers, but I do not think it has created a passion just yet. Interestingly, my internal blog at IBM is faring better – but then there are things I can say on the internal blog that would get me fired if I put them here… And what about all those open source applications on SourceForge? What makes one succeed and another one fail?

All that to say that there is a blog that can help open up your eyes about the user experience: Creating Passionate Users. This one has been in my syndication feed for a while, but I have renewed my interest in it since I am getting back into product management – and will therefore be looking for those users who are passionate!

In the interest of research, I will leave you with a question: Have you ever found a product for with you were passionate? If so, what pushed you from content to passionate user?