Writings

­

About Melissa Perri

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Melissa Perri has created 33 blog entries.

Stop Blaming the User

By |

I’m finally going home from a long business trip and I’m very excited. But my experience with United Airline’s customer service this morning completely killed my good mood. They keep blaming me for their mistake. It’s a story I know well because I see it so commonly in Product Management too. When I was booking my return ticket from London to Newark, the cheapest option was for something called “Mixed Cabin”. I could fly Business Class between London to Dublin and then Economy from Dublin to Newark. Since I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 5am to get to the airport, I thought that could be a nice treat on my first leg. So I booked it. Here’s what my reservation looks like from a few minutes ago: Imagine how surprised I was when I checked in for the first leg on Aer Lingus and they gave me seat 27B. “There must be a mistake,”,I thought. So I told the flight attendant that I was booked through United in Business. She replied, “We don’t have Business Class on any of our flights.” What a bait and switch! United is selling me something that doesn’t exist. It’s only [...]

What is Good Product Strategy?

By |

“What is your Product Strategy? YOU NEED A STRATEGY.” When I replay this scene in my head, I can hear the CTO very audibly yelling (slash pleading) with our product team. He was on edge. We had been experimenting towards a very concrete goal for two months, and had made a lot of progress. We had learned so much about what was preventing users from signing up on the site, and it was a lot clearer which direction in which we should be going. BUT we still had to test our ideas. This didn’t sit well with the CTO because in reality he didn’t want a strategy, he wanted a plan. He wanted a list of what we were going to build, and when we were going to build it. He wanted to feel certain about what we were doing when we all came in tomorrow, so he could measure our progress based on how much we built. It’s not his fault though. This is the way we were taught to think about Product Strategy. Most companies fall into the trap of thinking about Product Strategy as a plan to build certain features and capabilities. We often say our Product [...]

How to Educate Stakeholders

By |

There is one question I always get during every Product Management workshop: How do I convince/teach/educate stakeholders to work this way? We need to change this perception. The class has bought in on validation before building, a focus on problems, and defined metrics. They can see the value, but they are afraid they will return to work and get shot down. Often they do. Unfortunately, there's really not much you can do about it as a Product Manager. Your job is not to educate and train your entire company on this way of working. It's to create valuable products for your customers and your business. The way I approach stakeholders is the same way I approach customers - empathize. Stakeholders aren't at this company to make your life miserable. They are there to do a job. So start to ask questions and learn about them. How are your stakeholders measured for success? Usually they have concrete goals they have to hit. Learn what those are. What are your stakeholders problems? How can you solve them? When you start empathizing with stakeholders, you realize that the things they are demanding or requesting relate back to assumptions. These assumptions are based on what they think will help them solve their problems. Become a Product Manager for [...]

Ignoring Innovation: Lessons from Kodak

By |

In 2007 I joined an innovation swat team at Cornell in the Johnson Graduate School of Business. It was called the Business, Science, and Technology Initiative (known to the cool kids as BSTI). We were working with Kodak to come up with a completely new product that would appeal to our age group, the early 20s. For the next two years our team of nine would meet biweekly to research, experiment, and learn more about our fellow peers. I remember walking into the room on our first day. We sat down to write science fiction stories about how the world would look in 10-15 years. I really had no idea how this would pertain to Kodak or innovation at all. Were we going to build robots? Surprisingly our stories weren't crazy fantasies. We were pretty level headed and realistic people. We broke down the stories into motivations, desires, fears and needs. Then we made a motivational profile. We zoomed out to a 176 need and want statements, and then zoomed into 20 key ones that we would work with. Here's some of them: I need to feel in control of my image. I want to know what others think about me. (Later proved not to be a good idea by the infamous Juicy [...]

Finding the Truth Behind MVPs

By |

If you're interested in learning more about MVPs, I'm running a one day workshop in Paris on June 14, 2016. More information here. A Successful Start I learned about Minimum Viable Products like 99% of other Product Managers - through The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. When I happened upon the book and Eric’s method, I thought, “YES! This is what I’ve been searching for. This makes so much sense.” Testing products before you build them? What a novel idea! I was excited. I was energized! I was now going to build things that mattered to my customers. Frankly, this came at the perfect time for me. I was tired of building products that no one used. Watching and waiting for the numbers to go up in Google Analytics, only to be let down again. It was getting old. My team and I spent months building products we thought would be successful, only to be disappointed. When I had the chance to try the MVP approach on a new product, I jumped on it. The CEO of our ecommerce company approached me with a new product idea that was going to increase engagement and sell more items. He wanted to implement [...]

Changing the Conversation about Product Management vs. UX

By |

If you had to pick one, would you rather be a Product Manager or UX Designer? I’m both. You can’t be both. We need to put you on the right team. That’s not your job. I had no idea what a Product Manager was when I started at Capital IQ, almost 10 years ago. I didn’t even apply for the job. A friend told me they were hiring, and I asked if there were any roles for people like me — engineers who liked Photoshop. After talking to a few people, I was told I’d make a good Business Analyst (their term for Product Manager, I’d later learn). The combination of business and analysis sounded intriguing, so I jumped on the offer. My responsibilities were gathering business requirements, specifying features, passing the specs off to engineers, mocking up the interfaces in Photoshop, user acceptance testing, gathering feedback from customers, user research, and managing the scope. The company was far from Agile or Lean at the time, but I didn’t know any better. I loved it. Solving problems and watching them come to life was way better than my other options — supply chain management or coding. Four years later at OpenSky, I heard the [...]

Hi Fly: A Lean Airline Story

By |

This past year I took six trips to London. Five of those round trip flights were on Norwegian Air. I HATE Norwegian Air. Without fail, every one of my Norwegian Air flights were delayed at least 2.5 hours. But on one trip back from London, I got a surprising test message. I had never heard of this HiFly airline before. I was incredibly skeptical but I needed to get home. The plane I boarded was a completely white, unmarked jumbo jet that looked like it came back through time from the early 90s. “Limited” entertainment system is laughable. There was no entertainment system. But I was pleasantly surprised to find they served us food and drinks, unlike Norwegian. Overall it was a decent trip home with a good book and some wine. I had my second run in with HiFly in September when I was traveling back from England with my mother. I assured her it would be fine, even better because we would get free food and drinks. So she promptly dropped the sandwich from M&S and we boarded the plane. After we took off I found out we would not be getting food on our eight hour journey [...]

The Product Kata

By |

A while ago, I was introducing the Kanban Kata by Hakan Forss to a team that was struggling to meet their deadline. They had failed twice before and their jobs were in jeopardy. Implementing Continuous Improvement and Kata helped the teams create better processes and remove bottlenecks. I was the coach that took them through the motions that Hakan eloquently teaches, which is based on the Toyota Kata by Mike Rother. The team was able to solve their own problems by getting into a habit of learning. They shipped on time, and kept their jobs. As I was working with the Kanban team, I realized that I was using this process to create successful products. This framework was just much clearer than the way I was going about it in my own head. Before I tell you how to apply this to products and Product Management, let's first start with the fundamentals. Toyota Kata is a Continuous Improvement framework that creates the habit of improving by focusing on learning. It's teaches you how to analyze problems and then create small experiments to solve them. This is the secret sauce that made Toyota great. Every team member was responsible for improving the company's processes. With thousands of people flexing their problem solving muscles daily, they were able to [...]

Agile and Lean Chat with Dave Gray

By |

A few months ago I had the opportunity to chat with Dave Gray on my experiences using Agile and Lean for the book he is writing, tentatively named "Principles of Agility". I thought it was a great discussion and left me with a few blog posts I've been meaning to write about the subject (coming soon!). If you don't have time to watch the whole video, I'd suggest skipping ahead to the last 15 minutes.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_c8IE4OQ28

Creating Effective MVPs coming to NYC!

By |

Creating Effective MVPs Full Day workshop is coming to NYC on July 16, 2015! Full Day Workshop on July 16, 2015 in Manhattan (9:30am - 5:00pm) Only 20 tickets available! Buy Tickets Now Traditionally there is usually little validation before work begins on a new product; and teams end up wasting time building something that no one wants. User Experience suffers and companies are left with products and features that remain unused. MVPs; or Minimum Viable Products; can boost a product's user experience exponentially. Teams who implement MVPs correctly will learn more about customers, waste less time, and deliver usable solutions faster. But, MVPs are wildly misunderstood today, and setting up one wrong can deliver false results. In this workshop you will learn the ins and outs of creating MVPs and how to introduce this concept into your companies successfully. What you will learn: In this hands on workshop, Melissa will teach you framework for creating effective MVP experiments while practicing the fundamentals. You'll also learn: How an MVP is one of the most effective tools you can use to learn about your customers How to formulate problem and customer hypothesis How to align product experiments with your KPIs How product [...]