Project Leadership and Entrepreneurship

This week, I had the amazing privilege of being the guest tweeter on the weekly #PMChat discussion.

I can’t begin to describe how much fun I had, answering questions, debating, and engaging in an intellectual tweet-dance!

The topic of this week’s #PMChat was one I recently wrote a guest blog post about on Robert Kelly’s blog, titled “5 Ways a Project Leader is Like an Entrepreneur”.

 

For most people, the words “entrepreneur” and “project manager” conjure up very different images. This was evident during our tweetchat on Friday.

At some points, the discussion was intense (as expected with a group of driven project managers who make things happen!), and people made some compelling arguments regarding whether or not entrepreneurs and project managers could be considered similar.

 

In all honesty, I couldn’t have asked for a better debate. Part of my goal was getting project managers to think of themselves (and other project managers) in a different light. Part of it was also to bring to light the idea that leadership and innovation do not live only at the top.

 

If you’re interested, you can listen to my interview with Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo, in the pre-game radio show at the link below. It was great connecting and talking to them, and I look forward to upcoming editions of #PMChat! (Here is the link to the schedule for upcoming PMChat topics and guests.)

 

Listen to internet radio with KellyProjectSolutions on Blog Talk Radio

How to Market Better: 3 Key Tips for More Successful Projects and Products

Remember at the end of this post, where we talked a little bit about marketing, and I promised to write a post with some key marketing tips? Well here you go!

 

If you’re a project manager, you may be wondering why a post about marketing would have any significance to you.

 

Really? REALLY? You’re seriously wondering that?

Didn’t you read this post about the 5 Ways a Project Manager is Like an Entrepreneur?

(Shout out to the inspiring and awesome Robert Kelly of Kelly’s Contemplation, who is also the co-founder of #PMChat – the coolest project management tweet chat there is!)

 

Ok, so back to marketing, and how SMART marketing can make your project and product successful.

Let me give you a little tip.

Successful marketing boils down to one thing: Understanding your customer.

 

If project managers can get into the head of the end-customer and understand their need, their pain, their desires, then guess who has the upper hand when requirements need to be prioritized? Or when a feature compromise needs to be made?
(Better yet is if project managers can get the end-customer to TELL them what their need, their pain, and their desires are.)

Yep, youuuu guessed it! The mighty project manager!

 

Here are 3 key tips to help you market better, regardless of the medium you decide to use as your main marketing platform (you will need many, by the way).

By focusing on these 3 things and keeping them in mind, you can create a marketing strategy that brings your target customers running to you!

 

1- Define your target market. (Be specific!)

Seriously. You don’t want to be marketing your product to everyone who has a pulse. Not even to everyone who uses a computer. Not even to everyone who needs to manage their finances.

 

Ask yourself this: Can you imagine a specific product for those target markets?

 

A better target market would be, for example, people who need to manage their finances on the go, need to access their information from a mobile device, and are looking for ways to save money on their monthly expenses.

 

NOW can you imagine a specific product for the above target market? I see a mobile personal financial management application that can analyze recurring expenses and make suggestions for how to save money.

(Ok, so maybe you can come up with a better target market than the one I came up with, but you get the point.)

 

2- Figure out where your target market spends their time, and market to them there

Is your target market on Twitter all day long? Are they reading blogs? Are they on Facebook? Are they on the playground?
Then that’s where you need to be, too.

 

3- Speak your target market’s language

Simply put: Don’t use complicated, industry-specific jargon and terminology if that’s not how your target market talks.

(On the other hand, if that is how your target market talks, then by all means, go ahead and use those big words and complex sentences.)

 

As always, I’d love to know what you think! Are any of these marketing tips something you can benefit from in your role? Do you have any other killer marketing tips we can benefit from?

3 Reasons Why Your Project or Product isn’t Making You Rich

features_value

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 3 Reasons Why You’re Not Releasing Your Money-Maker Project (click the link to read the post), and presented the following:

  1. Chaos (or Lack of framework)
  2. Authority Ambiguity (a.k.a Too much access to the product development team)
  3. Perfectionism

 

By now, you’ve figured out what you need to do to fix these 3 things, and you’re well on your way to releasing your product in appropriately-sized iterations of business value, RIGHT?!

I thought so. Because you are a genius. (Yes you are!)

 

So now you’re releasing away, happy as a clam, until one morning you wake up, look at your company’s finances, and see the following questions flash in front of your eyes:

 

WHERE’S THE $$$$? The Cash? The Profits?

In other words, why isn’t your product making the money it was supposed to be making?

 

Here are 3 reasons why your product/project isn’t making you rich:

1) Too many features

Have you heard of the 80-20, or Pareto rule?

In a nutshell, the 80-20 rule states that for many events, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Translated into the product development or software products world:

20% of product features provide 80% of the value (to the user)

 

In other words, you should be focusing 80% of your time and effort on that magical 20% of features that provide the most value to your target users!

Most of us, however, love to create. It’s easy to get sucked into a mode of adding more! more! more! features and thinking we’re providing more value to users, when instead, we’re making our products harder to use.

So, instead of thinking bigger is better, try to take a step back, and figure out  how you can simplify.

Can you identify that magical 20% of features, then focus the majority of your efforts on them? Maybe cut out a feature or 2 or 10?

 

This leads us nicely into the next point, which is..

2) Not involving your target users/customers

How can you figure out what your magical 20% of features are if you haven’t involved your target users/customers in the design and review of your product?

A lot of us think we understand our target user really, really well.

Maybe we even think we are our own target user.
(Tip: Consider that a conflict of interest, and find someone else to represent your target user!)

I invite you to conduct an experiment, which may shock and awe you, but will also show you how far you’ve gone down Assumptions Road when thinking of your target user.

Experiment:

  • Gather a few people you consider target users/customers
  • Provide your selected target users with a version of your product that they can test/play with
  • Give them only MINIMAL instructions – just enough to get your product up and running – and then sit back and observe
  • Watch how your target user interacts with your product, and TAKE NOTES!
  • Do your best not to get involved
  • Questions to think about:
    • Did your users have issues just getting your product to launch?
    • Did your users have issues figuring out how to use a certain feature?
    • Were your users confused about the reason for having a certain feature?
    • Did your users use any features differently than how you had planned them to be used?

Hopefully, by conducting the above experiment, you will realize how important it is to involve your target user or customer:

  • At the beginning of your project
  • Throughout your product’s development lifecycle

 

3) Marketing Done Wrong

Oh, Marketing. You are so elusive, and tricky, and fickle.

One day you want us to be on TV ads and in newspapers, and the next you are shouting at us to create banner ads and spam-email everyone who has a pulse.

Then you come up with this whole social media thing, and we’re all just totally. confused.

 

There are many approaches you can take when marketing your products, and there are many other people (that are a lot smarter than I am about marketing) that can tell you how to do it right.

Still, I plan on writing a post that talks a little bit about some key marketing tips that I think are constants, no matter your medium.

 

What do you think? Which of the above 3 reasons can you focus on to start making more profitable products?

3 Reasons Why You’re Not Releasing That Money-Maker Project

Are you an entrepreneur, investor, team member, or executive of a small business/ startup who is feeling the pain of being stuck in perpetual ‘almost-ready-to-release-but-not-quite-there-yet’ mode?

A few years ago, I was.

I learned (the hard way), what was standing in the way of us being able to release, to launch, to get out there and hustle!

I want to save you from having to learn the hard way, by sharing my lessons learned.


If you want to learn what things are holding you and your team back from releasing that money-maker project, read on!

Three main reasons you may be having trouble releasing your product and gettin’ your profits on:

1) Chaos (i.e. Lack of framework)

2) Authority Ambiguity (a.k.a Too much access to the product development team)

3) Perfectionism

 

Let’s break these down:

1) Chaos – or Lack of product development framework

I’m all for flexibility.

In fact, flexibility was one of the key things I highlighted in a recent presentation to my local PMI (Project Management Institute) chapter on how to achieve project success.

But before you can be flexible with your process, you need to have a solid working knowledge of it.

(To illustrate this, check out slide number 14 from my People over Process presentation. The one with the cool aikido move where one guy flips another guy in the air!
Note: For access to the presentation, use the sign up form in the sidebar!)

In the presentation, I introduced the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri, which you can read more about in Martin Fowler’s blog, as well as on Alistair Cockburn’s site.

Basically, there are 3 levels of learning/practice, with Shu being the very first, most basic level, and Ri being the highest.

Once you reach the Ri level of mastering a certain skill, you are able to effectively modify or adapt it while still achieving your desired result.

In a newly formed organization/team, there is a need for a certain structure and/or framework. This structure can be ultra-lightweight while still providing the roadmap to follow for building and releasing products/projects, and ultimately, MAKING $$$$.

Solution 1: Ensure you have someone in your organization who has experience and knowledge in different product development processes.

This person should have enough experience to be able to modify and adapt processes as needed for the organization and team, leading to successful release!

 

2) Authority Ambiguity (a.k.a Too much access to the product development team)

Open-door office policies and flat company structures are great.

They foster open communications, leadership at every level (because people don’t feel “managed” by other people in closed-off offices), and transparency.

However, too much manager and executive access to the product or software development team can become a problem for a couple of reasons:

  1. Conflicting directives: Who does the team listen to? The product development manager, or the charismatic CEO who, inspired by a great conversation or article, may drop by the product development team and throw out a “We should do THIS!”? (Leaving the team to wonder: Does that mean we’re supposed to BUILD that feature? Or was it just an idea?)
  2. Distraction: It’s tempting in a startup environment to want to question what’s happening and what the progress is at virtually every minute of the day, but this quickly becomes an impediment for the team.

Solution 2: Put an effective project leader in the right place at the right time, and allow her to be the buffer (when needed) between the team and management.

This creates more focus, productivity, and clarity of direction for the team. (And gets that product out the door!)

3) Perfectionism

You’ve hired the best of the best.

The people that know more about what they’re doing than you ever will. You know that combined, their potential is limitless.

But together, you’re still struggling.

That’s because the best of the best do not accept anything less than perfection (or close to it!). They know that if they spend 2 more hours, 2 more days, 2 more weeks on that feature, they can get it just right.

The secret here is realizing: You don’t have to be perfect. At a certain point, the returns you get from perfecting something are not worth the effort required.

Someone needs to help guide the team towards accepting what’s “good enough”. This can happen at 3 different stages of the project or product development:

  • When defining the product features (i.e. up-front)
  • When writing test cases and acceptance criteria for the features
  • When reviewing test and/or demo results

 

Solution 3: Empower your project leader to challenge the definition of “good enough”.

Make sure to evaluate the benefits gained from adding features and functionality vs. the cost of doing so.

Your turn! Share with us:
What are your pain points as a team, startup, or small business? Which of the above solutions do you think would make the biggest impact on your project team?