Even when you find genuinely good things to copy, there’s another pitfall to be avoided. Be careful to copy what makes them good, rather than their flaws. It’s easy to be drawn into imitating flaws, because they’re easier to see, and of course easier to copy too. For example, most painters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used brownish colors. They were imitating the great painters of the Renaissance, whose paintings by that time were brown with dirt. Those paintings have since been cleaned, revealing brilliant colors; their imitators are of course still brown.
The lesson here for product managers is to make sure you understand the customer for that feature you are thinking of copying. You never know when a feature that looks so bright and shinny from the outside is another product manager’s nightmare feature on the inside.
The competitor’s customers are probably different, their customer problems are probably different, and their long term strategy is probably different. If you aren’t building something that is truly valuable to your customer, you could end up with a feature that flops…that stays “brown”.
I was fortunate to get to present at the Project Management Institute (PMI) South Dakota’s 2017 Professional Development symposium in the Leadership Track. I got to talk about my favorite topic – how to understand customers.
Topic: How to Write Human User Stories
Jay Fisher, PMP is a Product Manager at MetaBank focused on creating software that builds relationships with cardholders. Jay believes that the key to a successful project is creating user stories that connect the team to the customer. After spending almost a decade working on new product development projects, Jay knows that building the heart connection requires focus and an agile responsiveness to surprises. Jay has launched cardholder websites, mobile apps, and enterprise software in the consumer products and financial services industries. He is a certified Project Management, New Product Development, and Pragmatic Marketing Professional. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics and Economics from the University of North Dakota.
“How to Write Human User Stories” is a practical conversation on how to connect teams to the needs of the end user. We will discuss using customer visits and personas to discover user problems and to make user stories more relatable.
Understanding user’s expertise level and usage frequency vs the types of complaining customers to show how to target user stories for maximum impact. We will show how focusing on a well-defined customer can increase team effectiveness and bring novel solutions to light.
PMI SD: Symposium 2017 Leadership Track
I would be excited to facilitate a innovation workshop for your team or organization. The material can be customized around your industry and challenges. We will work together to explore multiple innovation techniques and add them to your strategy toolbox:
- The subtraction technique
- Big unsolved problems
- Disruptive innovation
Check out my Innovation Strategy Deck and feel free to send any questions or requests to email@example.com
The app is the Taco Bell mobile app; customers can earn rewards, get coupons, and order food for pickup. After conducting customer interviews and a small survey (n=2), the biggest consumer problem is the need to get fast food into the customer’s mouth faster. The existing pickup experience has too much friction; it requires the customer to tell us when he is on his way and to read a number to the cashier.
The new feature would rely on license plate optical character recognition (OCR) scanners to notify the food preparation team to make the food when the customer pulls into the parking lot and to notify the cashier which car to hand the food to in the drive through. Taco Bell and Dominos are the market leaders in using technology to improve their fast food deliver experience, but the same feature would improve any app to physical pickup experience.
Our target customer is “David Drive Through”. He has a smart phone with a data plan that he uses continually. David eats Taco Bell more than once per week. He orders the same thing 60% of the time, but he is attracted to new items and specials. David uses the drive through when he is on the way to work and he will not eat here if he thinks it will take too long. If Dave comes with friends, they will come into the store so they can each pay separately (future feature idea).
- As David placing my first online order, I want to enter my license plate number, so that I can get my food faster.
- As David placing my second order online, I just want to pick my food and hit the order button, so that the experience can be as transparent as possible.
-Verify that the customer can hit one button to repeat last order.
- As David after I receive my food, I want to receive an in app notification, so that I can know my credit card was charged.
-Verify that there is a feedback mechanism in the alert to block fraudulent purchases.
- As the food preparation team, I want David’s food added to my order que when he pulls into the parking lot, so we can have it hot and ready for him.
- As the cashier, I want to know when I should hold David’s food out the window, so he does not even have to stop.
- As the restaurant manager, I want to report against in app purchase in my location, so that I can manage my business.
The expectation is that this feature will save time for the cashier, make the food preparation more effective, drive new customers into stores, and increase the frequency that existing customers visit the store. We will measure or estimate each of these variables to justify the cost of two OCR scanners in each location and the development expense. I propose we pilot this feature in the Sioux Falls market, where we can iteratively improve the feature before a nationwide launch.
When faced with imprecise knowledge, a scientist will be inclined to improve it, yet an engineer will routinely accept it. Might predictions be wrong by as much as 10 percent, and for poorly understood reasons? The reasons may pose a difficult scientific puzzle, yet an engineer might see no problem at all. Add a 50 percent margin of safety, and move on.
Safety margins are standard parts of design, and imprecise knowledge is but one of many reasons.
Read the full review here
I enjoy watching these videos about related products when I’m trying to brainstorm new ideas, start at 16:30 and let me know if you see any.