It seemed an appropriate time to stumble upon @swankins blog post the other day about Happiness. This along with recent events in my life has prompted this short post.

How we choose to live boils down to perspective and attitude. As human beings we experience the joys and hardships that shape us to become who we are. And in moments of dystopia where we can only see how bad a situation might be, it’s worth reminding oneself that these trying times bring great opportunities to  grow as an individual. I experienced that with my recent Laser Eye Surgery, which failed to correct my eyesight in the 2nd round of operation. Feeling like it was the end of the world, I learned a week later that a once very healthy friend of mine had developed Scotoma which will eventually impair vision across both eyes.

This coupled with an open minded approach to hearing, seeing and adapting to your surrounds also help create opportunities that might not be there in the first place. The digital world is made of twenty-something, energetic, creative entrepreneurs who thrive on experimentation. This can be as natural to any older person if we took on the same tenacity as these young-bes. My 62 year old dad is an excessive iPad/iPod consumer, who has a love for BitTorrent (he will remain anonymousJ) yet also persists with playing one of 100 vinyl records each night.

Life also involves being bold with making choices. Whether it’s right or wrong is only a matter of opinion and not the point – it’s the fact that you make a calculated decision that helps you take that one step forward in knowledge, experience and character is what counts.

So, what are we waiting for? Embrace every moment and proactively seek new opportunities to learn!

Upcoming Events in Sydney

Posted: July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

After Tuesday night’s amazing line up of speakers at Digicitz (see a replay of the Twitter stream on Crisis & Reputation Management here), I’m pleased to say that there are more events to look forward to in the following weeks:

22 July, 6.30pm (tonight!): Continuing the ASR debate on online measurement.

Venue:  The Supper Club in Darlinghurst. Hosted by Media Monitors. Overview of topics and registrations are here.

27 July, 8pm: Shhh Sydney – launch!! Its premise is built on the belief that a meaningful experience can be discovered when a group of people share a space in a silent way.

Venue: 655A Darling St, Rozelle. Created by Alan and Miles. To register, click here.

14 Aug, 10.30-5.30pm: Social Innovation BarCamp. An un-conference about social innovation related topics from an unplanned set of speakers (love the free-form approach!).

Venue:  College of Fine Arts, Oxford St & Greens Rd, Paddington. Created by Michelle Kate. To register, click here.

Another good source for digital media, marketing and technology centric events is the Digital Ministry Events page.

A final plug: Regular Product Maven meet ups in Sydney (Twitter hashtag: #pmms) will also continue on the first Wednesday of each month at Cook & Archie. Updates on these events are found at our Posterous site.

If I’ve missed any event, add them in the Comments field. Hope to see you at one of these events soon! <Ciao for now>

Companies these days describe themselves as ‘customer centric.’ Cliché, till proven. True orientation is manifested by how activities and business decisions are conducted with a customer’s best interests in mind.

I’ve come to realise that understanding customers by traditional characteristics– social class, demographics and worker type, is simply not enough. Enter Personas.

Personas, as the name suggests, indulges in defining characteristics about your customers, as a person or individual. It is based on a fictional person’s preferences, cultural tendencies, role within an organization (for business), behaviours and personal/career goals, which, if simulated effectively during research, should effectively represent multiple individual consumers of your product or service.

What Personas do is compliment, rather than replace, existing customer segmentation for a business so that more informed decisions are made. My recent experience with developing Personas for the Media Monitors group demonstrates its versatility – rather than just steer product development and interface design (which was the original intention), our HR department has taken a chapter out of Personas to recruit staff, whilst our CEO refers to our Persona profiles to justify decisions made on corporate strategy.

The process of learning about current and ideal customers is also uber fun. Commissioning Different, a research company who specialises in user design for the project, we were a fly on the wall for a few hours as 12 of our customers went about doing their usual business (observational research). We were also heavily involved in bringing the Personas to life: choosing a face and name (a female staff member specifically asked for a more ‘handsome, meterosexual-type’ representation for one of ours!) to the size of their family and the type of job they’re in.

Whilst you might say that this level of detail is pointless and questionable in its representation of the entire customer base, I’d argue that any data is worth considering for validation purposes, be it a product concept, marketing campaign, or business case. Particularly when what you’re validating is radical, and rocks the ‘norm’ boat!

So now, as a Product Manager, I am better equipped to make the right decisions as:

  1. The concept of a primary persona focuses effort when there is a resource clash. In addition to 1 primary persona, we have 3 secondary personas who, as Brainmates point out, should still be accommodated for, provided the needs of the primary persona is not compromised;
  2. It articulates in detail the characteristics of a Persona, so that there is minimal uncertainty on who a company, product or brand is targeting;
  3. Personas direct corporate strategy, and all the activities that support this strategy.
  4. For Product people, products are designed and subsequently tested against a manageable set of requirements. As Step Two puts it succinctly, ‘design for a discrete set of personas and satisfy all users with similar goals.’

Here’s a comprehensive perspective of the Personas process, courtesy of Technomarketer.

Do you also have Personas for your company? How useful have you found them? Do share!

Global, cultural, inspirational. Three words that describe the line up of speakers and topics at X|Media |Lab’s  pro-day conference on the 18th June. Themed Global Media Ideas, the day was characterized by an eclectic mix of speakers who showed genuine passion in sharing their experiences as entrepreneurs in their specialised fields in media related sectors.

The event was precise with insights on individual experiences whilst still bringing a global perspective into the mix. I was pleased to see a broad mix of cultures, with representatives from Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern regions keeping the usual American and British contingent in good company.

I shared about Ralph Simon talking about innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, here are some other insights worthy of mention from the day (thanks also to tweets containing the #xmedialab hashtag):

~ Dana Al Salem: The more things change, the more things stay the same: shares how she built on the uncanny similarities between the Hippy (which she is one herself!) and the Gen Y demographic to create interest for her teenager-meet-band site, Fanshake.  To her, Gen Y is a hippy at heart, seasoned with empowerment, tech savvyness and high spending power.

Salem also recommends being selective with who you market to: targetting Trend-setters who are influential to their peers, instead of a random ‘shot gun’ approach which is hit and miss (sorry on the puns J).

Parmesh Shahani: Media convergence and development is a cultural, not technological process.

Youth & Culture: Indian Idol (source: @parmeshs presentation)

Whilst most people see India as highly developed and thriving, Shahani believes the boom is yet to come.  The emergence of educated, savvy youth and proliferation of sophisticated user cases with the mobile phone are considerations to this point. He also reminds us one must design a product or site for your customer, rather than yourself, suggesting the importance of validation across all different user types and cultural domains during development.

Nick Yang: The 34 year old founder of KongZhong and Wukong.com is a working example of how economically sound ideas, cast iron persistence and luck (a plug on feng shui!) can see through success. In less than 2 years and 2 months, he successfully floated both companies, and looks to take on Google’s search model with his predictive search concept. You can read more about his plans in this transcribed interview.

~ Yang claims that now is the ‘era of product.’ I tend to agree (no bias, honestly J), and here’s proof:  as the rest of Australia make a dash for iPhone V4, there’s already some really cool innovation already available: Ocarina by Smule is one which transforms the iPhone into a musical instrument. A whole new symphony genre has just emerged.. hear Led Zeppelin here (I kid you not). Updated, 30/6: St George today launched its own AR enabled app, named House Finder , with data powered by the Australian Property Monitors.

~ Practical applications of Layar were touched upon by Halcomb and Manson. With around 2m installs on the iPhone and Android, and 2.5k layers under development, countries like Japan are already taking advantage of Layar for virtual real estate and musical artist promotions. To that I’m very excited about the prospects of what augmented reality can offer in the next 12 months!

Presentation on LAYAR

Finally, if there was a prize for the most captivating speaker of the conference, I’d hand it over to Anand Giridharadas. The New York Times writer narrated his views on how the digital movement is challenging our ethics and priorities across online and offline worlds. Whilst traditional ways of sharing is well emulated in social networks by our behaviours, Anand points out that growing interest with personal branding may deter content distribution for the greater good.

Other useful sources circulating the interweb are here:

  1. Brad Howarth’s blog
  2. Paul Wallbank’s blog
  3. Augmented Reality’s slidedeck
  4. Stilgherrian’s live blog

Ralph Simon, the father of ringtones, kicked off today’s X Media Lab’s pro conference on Global Media Ideas, touching on the basic ingredients of innovation and successfully bringing this out to market.

Ralph Simon (courtesy of http://www.cmw.net)

He reminded the crowd about the differences between Invention and Innovation:  something simply new and shiny is hopeless without firstly pinpointing who you’re appealing to and how you plan to make money (i.e. your business model). Knowing these points bring your idea from the bedroom to the boardroom. So, the top 3 ingredients to creating compelling mobile apps are:

  1. Be obsessed with quality: across technology choices, feature set and user experience
  2. Make sure there’s something to talk about to stimulate conversation and word of mouth
  3. Think about  a free vs paid app model:  seek to entice and lure users to pay

Plentiful success stories from Australian companies ensued his talk: Wiki/collaborative platform provider Atlassian, Freelancer.com, 99designs and Spreets.

With any entrepreneurial feat comes the need for cash, and Simon was surprised about the lack of representation from the Finance profession in the room (it’s end of year, to be fair, but hey we don’t typically associate innovation with Finance gurus? :0)). This is one key tipping point for innovation: without cash or the availability of the right resources, you can forget about bringing your idea to life.

Most importantly, your attitude towards rejoicing on the positives and thriving on the negatives is what takes an idea over the line. Simon expresses this as cast iron belief and persistence throughout the journey, and points to Tubthumping’s I Get Knocked Down lyrics to keep you going (nice segue from the Wikitune’s case study!).

P.S Officially back on the blog trail after finishing my MBA at the AGSM!

Product Camp, organized by Brainmates and generously sponsored by Atlassian, was downright awesome. The day consisted of talks, discussions and friendly debates on pertinent topics that are close to every Product person’s heart: knowing when to innovate, the remit of a Product Manager at work, Agile vs Waterfall product development and renumeration trends in Product Management in the U.S (via Skype).

Here are my key takeouts from the day:

  • [Tim Buntel] Product Managers need to strike a good balance between satisfying customers and creating shareholder value. On satisfying customers, meet them online and face-to-face to build repoire and identify needs on the spot
  • [Mick Liubinskas] Success lies in focus: this involves identifying a microsegment (market niche) at the expense of other potential opportunities and serving that segment well. This also means being brutal with product features – only those that are critical to that microsegment should be developed. Lean products first, world domination should logically follow
  • [Simon Cantt & Nick Coster]  Product Managers should be more than a feature filter. Take ownership of product lifestock by setting the development agenda for the company. An awareness of where the business is on the typical lifecycle (growth, maturity, decline) should also be factored in
  • [Steve Johnson] Pragmatic Marketing recently conducted a salaries and skills based survey of Product Managers in the U.S and shared that:
  1. You earn more if you have a Masters degree and you see yourself as ‘technical’
  2. Around 20% of Product Managers now report directly to the CEO (rather than Marketing or IT) – up from 4% from a year ago
  3. Company culture (Sales vs Engineering) plays an important part in determining which ‘flavour’ of Product manager is preferred

There’s also a comprehensive matrix of activities that make up a Product Manager’s working day. I don’t agree with the spectrum labels, but it does help create a good checklist of things to consider when developing or launching product.

I also had the opportunity to impart some views on Product Innovation and happy to say that this triggered off a cool discussion on disruptive vs incremental innovation, knowing your customer problem before you innovate and focusing on ‘Outlier’ opportunities across the elements that make up a product in order to be truly remarkable. These slides, plus online tools that can be used in the Product Development cycle can be found on Slideshare here.

If you attended the day and have other insights to share, please add them in the comments below. Tweets on the event are found here.

This post has been inspired by my experience yesterday where I farewelled my 20 years of frustration as an intensely short sighted chick in a 60 minute laser eye surgery session. [give it a few months and I can safely endorse the Vision Eye Institute as the place to go to for vision correction in Sydney, Australia!].

Apart from the free Valium dose, free Illy coffee and a chirpy Opthamologist being overzealous with keeping my spirits up, what really amazed me was their commitment to process control: making sure that every interaction you have, whether it is with humans, the LASIK machine or the recovery chair, is timed and executed to the required standards.

This explains why the Institute is so successful: they’ve nailed their core value chain, the essence of what keeps their service reputable and high quality. Each activity is created and structured with precision and purpose, and because of the risky nature of their service (to correct eyesight), there is no room for error. Most importantly, the essence of the procedure has a huge impact on the customer (life changing!), so making sure they are well informed and comfortable the whole way was of critical importance. So that’s what the Valium was for..

The same rigour needs to be applied to any business wanting to sustain their position in the market. Identifying the product or service you want to sell and pinpointing the bits you need to be good at (capabilities) in order to make your product /service stand out. In this example, the VES dedicates efforts on R&D with advancing laser eye technologies and sharing these advancements with the public, building on the brand reputation that a customer like myself would look for.

And just for entertainment, here’s a snippet of what I looked like straight after the procedure – eek, it’s Femme de Cyclops (X-men fans will concur!).