One of my favorite movies is The Butterfly Effect. Ashton Kutcher plays a character who has experienced a lot of trauma in his life. He discovers by accident that when he sees something from his past, he blacks out and can go back to his past. From there, he is able to make decisions that change the outcome of the future.
One day I was coming back from Church with my grandma and my mom. We pulled up in our driveway. I got out of the driver’s seat and helped my grandma get out of the car. Our house has set of stairs with 8 steps leading to the house. My mother climbed up the set of stairs first to the house to open the door for us.
Walking for my grandma is difficult and she uses a walking cane now. I helped her up the first couple of steps. Then I doubled back to the car to grab the portable breathing cannister that helps with her breathing. I closed the door and then came back to help my grandma up.
My mom came back from the door and told me me something that I’ll never forget:
We have a new podcast episode for This Mobile Life! Season 1 Episode 10 (S1E10) is on “Create a blueprint with wireframes”. Its an in-depth chat on why we use wireframes and write requirements. We also discuss how we do it. I interview my good friend Jenny Hsu, business analyst from GPY&R.
I have always been fascinated with all things tech. Through the years I have been naturally finding my way into the mobile industry. Or did it find me? It used to be that mobile assisted us with calls. Then we added some personal features like playing 2D monochrome games such as Snake, calendars, taking photos and storing our precious, precious Mp3 music files. It widened its reach when it connected to the internet and then came the rise of the app store as a distribution platform. The inevitability of mobile is in our face (literally). It is now a go-to staple for our practical daily needs.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in building products is the exercise of restraint. The other day I started using a new product which was an early version available to the public and I thought “wow this is really good”. Someone has made a conscious decision as to what to include and what to exclude. This is product restraint.
Other times, I’ll start using a product and think “this is really confusing! I can’t figure out what to do”. I have to jump through a lot of hoops. They’ve added too many features to the product.
A challenge that all product creators would have come across is figuring what to put into the product. Product management is about building the right thing at the right time. This is incredibly hard to do. An art and a science.
I was reading this thread on Quora on “What’s the best advice you’ve gotten as a product manager?”. I came across this epic answer which I can relate to. I’ve embedded the advice in full. Its from Varun Singh, PM @ Facebook. He offers 3 pieces of advice. I particularly like the first one which is about product backlog. A backlog is like a to-do list of user stories – things we may do in the future.
The key takeaway from me is that the backlog is based on historical information. It can often be a blackhole where things go in. We dig around there looking for what to build for the next few months. It also takes a lot of mental capacity to look at it and to see the list continue to grow over time. You can waste a lot of time ordering and sorting your product backlog. Whilst it is important to update it regularly to groom your backlog, you must recognise that the product backlog was created at a specific point in time when we had information that was considered current. With new insights & customer feedback, a product manager needs to have the ability to react quickly and be flexible.
I also like his two other pieces of advice which I’ve had to deal with on a regular basis. Deciding what not to build and understanding the wrong reasons to build is critical.
I have been thinking about products lately. I was inspired to do a short 1 minute video on my thought of the week on “retention”. Its a prelude to my upcoming podcast.
I was inspired by this podcast by SAAS Revolution with Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot. He spoke about one of the key metrics for growing a SaaS business is retention. He argues that retention is important because you can’t grow a product unless you have retention. This applies to any product. It so happens that its what I have been thinking about – retention.