Horizon scanning is a technique for detecting early signs of potentially important developments through a systematic examination of potential threats and opportunities. Product managers can use horizon scanning to analyze what features would mean the most given several different possible futures for the organization.
Using horizon scanning for competitive strategy. Let’s say that I have a successful mobile product, and I’m creating a 3-year plan for it. The biggest driver for what I do is how competitor x performs in the market. Also, there is a patent lawsuit against competitor x that has a lot of focus from the executive team in my organization. I identify 5 futures that may happen, and 7 features that I want to consider. Then, on the second row, I assess the likelihood of each of the 5 futures (1-3). Next, on the third row and below, I plug in values of 1-3 for each feature, and my spreadsheet multiplies the value by the likelihood of the future. The column on the far right is a simple sum of the other columns.
What I find through the above example is that competitor x’s performance is more important than the outcome of the lawsuit, and I get a really good analysis from the face recognition feature across all 5 futures. Click here for the Excel version of the spreadsheet above, and feel free to use it as a template.
Using horizon scanning for proposed laws or industry standards. Horizon scanning is really useful when you’re doing an analysis of an industry that has different laws or standards that are coming in the next few years. Examples: when Canada added a new email spam law or when Europe added a new cookie law. In most countries, you won’t know for sure whether the law will become official on the date proposed, so you need to analyze several futures. Futures to consider with proposed laws:
- Law implemented on time
- Law implemented later than expected
- Law struck down in court
- Clause x added to law
- Law canceled by government agency
- Another country adopts similar law
I hope you enjoyed the post. Leave a comment on ways you’ve used this technique, and how it helped. For more activities for product management, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.
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Tagged competitive strategy, features, foresight, government, government policy, horizon scanning, law, legal policy, planning, predictability, prioritization, probability, prodmgmt, product management, product roadmaps, risk assessment, risk management, strategy
Here is a really simple, but morbid, group exercise for a product management team: write your product’s obituary. Being a proactive product manager means planning the demise of your product before it happens. Sometimes you’ve got a plan for end of life…sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want to delay the end of life, and sometimes you want to accelerate it. Try these 8 questions for a quick group exercise.
- How will customers remember your product?
- What is the cause of your product’s demise?
- Is the demise of your product expected or unexpected?
- What is the date of your product’s demise?
- How are other products in the portfolio affected by your product’s demise?
- Now that your product is gone, what will take its place?
- Who is handing out their business cards to your customers at your product’s wake?
- What 3 things could you have done to delay your product’s demise?
Share and compare your answers with others, and discuss.
For more activities for product management, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.
Sherman, E. (2013, December 11). For Your Year-End To-Do List: Write Your Company’s Obituary Now. In Inc.com. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.inc.com/erik-sherman/what-3-things-will-kill-your-business-soon.html
Yohn, D. L. (2014, January 28). Write Your Brand’s Obituary. In Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/write-your-brands-obituary/
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Tagged end-of-life, EOL, foresight, obituary, prodmgmt, product management, risk assessment, risk management, SDLC, software, software development life-cycle, strategy
I’ve been looking at what organizations should consider when adopting new technological solutions, and it got me thinking. Which factors need to be considered in the research and implementation of new customer-facing products and services? Here is a checklist that you can go through during your evaluation of new technologies:
- Will new products and services pose any risk to data security? If a user were to log in and have her personal information compromised, this would be a disaster!
- Will new technology solutions have outages? Many of today’s technologies are “up” for less than 99% of the time. Is this acceptable? Is there something else that users can use if the solution goes down?
- And will they strain other technologies we use? Some software types “sit on top of” existing systems and occasionally cause them to go down.
- Consider the performance for the product or service. Will users feel it is dramatically slower than Google or Amazon?
- Are the features going to be there on Day 1 or will users experience iterations to get to full functionality?
- Is there broken functionality in the product or service? Ownership: whose problem is it to fix? Accountability: to what extent is it our throat that is going to get choked when there is a problem?
- One-size-fits-all and one-search-fits-all: should search software work out of the box for 60% of users or 99% of users? Specialists may be alienated if the general search tool is optimized for laypeople (and vice versa).
- Is a new technology-based product or service going to change the UX of other services? Major changes to your online presence have major implications for users. Even changes that are seen as very positive by most will frustrate some.
- For a potential product or service, at what point will UX assessment be possible? Can you do UX assessment before making a large investment in resources?
- Will the UX for mobile users change?
- Redesigning the user interface to incorporate a new product or service is risky, and most organizations avoid drastic changes. Look at the CNN redesign model…
Impact on employees
- What will new technology mean for existing employees’ job responsibilities? Is there currently expertise in the organization or will new positions be required? For those affected, will their other job responsibilities be lessened or changed?
- Will the implementation of new products and services open doors for collaboration with other organizations? Could nearby organizations share costs with us? Do we want to work with those guys?
Resource usage patterns
- Will new products and services change the current usage of your organization’s resources? Will end users incur the extra costs?
- Where does new technology live? The days of organizations having to buy/lease/maintain servers are coming to an end. Software companies offer SaaS solutions. Cloud companies like AWS can cheaply offer huge amounts of virtualized space. Due to cloud computing, initial development investments can be $$$, instead of $$$$.
- How do potential new products and services address your organization’s priorities?
- What is a new technology’s impact on ideal of being green? Is there a reduction in data usage? Does the fact that someone else is hosting it make it green?
- Will new technologies remain sustainable? Sure, we can afford to have them now, but what about ten years from now? If organizational priorities change in a few years, will we still be locked into supporting the product or service?
- Will new technologies be scalable as usage grows?
- Will new technologies be scalable as the organization grows?
Getting the word out
- So let’s say we did implement a new technology-based product or service…how would we tell people about it? What is the marketing strategy?
What other factors should an organization consider? Leave a comment!
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Tagged Best practices, Cloud computing, CNN, collaboration, customer-facing products, features, functionality, green technology, hosting, Marketing, Mobile web design, performance, product marketing, risk assessment, risk management, SaaS, scalability, security, software, stability, strategy, sustainability, system analysis, technology, User interface, user-centered design, UX