The Fine Balance of a Minimum Viable Product

One of the most difficult task for a product manager, let alone a company to do is finding that Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Whether you are trying to launch your first product, or updating an existing one, you’ll need to make those hard decisions to cut features and functions. If you’re going to try to get Widget A to have all 100 key features from its initial conception, don’t hold your breath. By the time you launch your product, you might already be chasing your competitors. YMMV.

But MVP doesn’t necessarily mean that your product won’t have any features. It may mean that you have just enough to get your customers off and running for the time being. With a SaaS product, you do have the freedom to go back and forth with your customers to fine tune your product. Missed the boat with a feature? Get those major items identified early on in your research.

I do like to make sure you give your customers the functionality they need to be able to get their job done. Just enough. Put the must-haves and nice-to-haves in separate buckets and move them from one side to the other based on your research. An important aspect of this to not forget to return back to your MVP and find out if the nice-to-haves still need to be implemented. You might find out it’s not needed after all.

It is a fine balance between what’s needed and what’s enough.

Which Car Should I Buy?

As a resident ‘car guy’, I get this question a lot. It’s a difficult question for me to answer for someone else. Your tastes are different than mine. It varies greatly depending on many factors. I have noticed a lot of people do buy cars based solely on asthetics. I don’t think this is this right approach as it can lead to a poor driving experience. Here are a few things to think about when you’re car hunting:

1. Set your budget.
The budget is the most important thing to set. It puts a cap on how much you want to spend and keeps it (hopefully) in that range. Don’t set it to something you can’t afford for obvious reasons. Make sure you factor in any additional costs to the price of the car such as interest rates if you’re getting a loan and taxes. If you’re looking at something used, you’ll also need to factor in inspection and post purchase maintenance costs.

2. Figure out what you will use it for.
Whether you’re buying a daily driver or a weekend fun car, you’ll need to set a requirement of what you really want out of it. Maybe all you’ll need is something that gets you to work or school? Or you need to be able to haul friends and family around. Every car can have a different use, or be very multi use.

3. How long are you going to keep it?
This can be important. Maybe you’re an expat and just need a car for a few years. You’re probably not going to need to get vintage MGB or a Ferrari 308. If you’re looking for something that lasts for years, do the research and find the brands that have great reliability ratings and focus on those.

4. Go test drive a variety of options.
Once you’ve narrowed down to a few options, go out and test drive them, as well as comparable ones. It’s good to get a feel for each as you may find that your first choice might not be the best choice.

In summary, it’s a very personal preference, high dollar item to buy. You’ll want to make it an investment to purchase the right car for your needs. Good luck!

The Importance of Networking

I recently started to realized how important networking really is in business.  Networks are oh so very important when it comes to doing some form of business whether you are seeking out customers for your startup, looking for a reference for a 3rd party vendor, and even seeking out new jobs or looking for someone to fill a role at your own company.  Sometimes you seek these people out for travel recommendations.  People have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, and from various ‘networks’ if you will.  They can be categorized up in the following, and possibly more:

  • Friends and Family – People whom you spend a lot of your free time with.  These are those whom are close to you, whether you have done any work-related business with them or not.  They are still close to you on a personal level.
  • Work Friends and Acquaintances – These are those whom you had worked with at your previous employers.  You might have spent the majority of your week with them for months and years at a time. They know you very well on a professional level and in many times, on a personal level too.  Some of these individuals may cross over into the Friends and Family
  • Work Acquaintances – These are a bit different from the above.  These individuals are those whom you did not work with (at the same company), but rather maybe they were your vendor, or your customer.  “Money” may have exchanged between your company and theirs at one point.
  • Social Media Acquaintances - Who are these people?  Well, you may not have met them before, but there was some connection at one point that brought you together with them.  They followed you on Twitter, you followed back.  They connected with you on LinkedIn or Facebook, you accepted for some reason.  You may not have even spoken to them at all!
  • Similar Interest Acquaintances – Not sure if that’s the right description, but will explain here.  These are those whom you have a similar interest with.  Perhaps part of the same book club?  Maybe you play intramural sports with them.

All of these are great networks to reach out to when needed.  I am part of a mailing list made up of Similar Interest Acquaintances and realized how far the reach of experience and connection there is there.  We all have one common interest, which brought us together, and even just asking the most out of the ordinary question brings a heap of answers and responses.  But isn’t this what social networks are for, you may ask?  Quite possibly.  I think they are complementary to how you communicate with the different networks.  There’s probably a different social channel for each of those categories.  Use them how you feel is right.

Good Riddance. Time to Come Up for Air

Whew. Long several months here at the new job. Spent the last several months working on some new and exciting things at Mindflash and loving every minute of it. It’s finally launched and probably one of my most proudest things I have accomplished.  Not to take any credit away from the awesome team I have here, because I sure remember bugging them like crazy.  It was fully a team effort and I really couldn’t get things off the ground without them, let alone complete the project.  Clearly, didn’t have time to post anything new to the blog! But I did learn an incredible amount of things about how small teams are run and how to run it efficiently.

Few things that come to mind from this experience and things that I probably should improve on:

1.  Working with teams who are busy with other stories is not as trivial as it seems.  Respect their time, but also let your requirements be known.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Sometimes I felt like I really needed to know something, and felt a little embarrassed to ask.  Next time, Ask!

3.  Make sure everyone is working towards the same goal.  I’m pretty goal oriented, so I need something to work towards to get me motivated.  I feel strongly that this really helped propel our company forward.

4.  Don’t assume.  Easy.

5.  Even in an agile environment, writing stories clearly, and spelling out details is still ok.  Seems to reduce some questions when you’re doing the acceptance.

6.  Working with a 3rd party integration partner is also not as easy as it sounds.  We had a really good one here during the implementation.  I highly suggest anyone doing the same to make sure you pick the best one (to your knowledge).  Ask around.  Get some references.  Find friends who have worked with ones that have had positive experiences.

7.  It’s good to take breaks. I do still try to go outside in the afternoon and go for a stroll just to take my mind off things. It really does help make the last bit of the day run better.

8.  Treat yourself out.  Don’t burn yourself out.  Get out of the house, disconnect from your leashes (phone!) and decompress with something you enjoy doing.

In the end, it was a great run, and I can’t wait to keep pushing forward in my job, and also in my personal ife.