Reflektions.com

Paul Ortchanian

This blog discusses leadership and product management. Contact me at paul@reflektions.com

To make engineers more autonomous create a partnership

It is 5:00PM in the office, and a member of the engineering team stops by the Product team desk and expresses they want to build everything at once. When discussed, the head of engineering states that excessive rework undermines motivation. That they prefer focusing on code without a lot of distraction. That continual change tends to corrupt the structure of the software and once something is “done" it should never be revisited. What is wrong with these people? Is there a subculture of haters holding back continuous integration so to prevent the validation of the evolving product? It turns out the answer is no. Customer-centric rapid delivery can be perceived as a randomized environment. Rework could show problems in the requirements ...

Great companies are built on great products.

Product Management aims to clarify objectives, priorities and help focus efforts on them. Founder Institute startup founders and attendees were focused and truly enjoyed my product management presentation. I was lucky enough to be able to talk about Product Management and how now it’s their job to sell the goddam dream… every day. Founder Institute is the world’s premier idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program. - check out my event deck below: Great companies are built on great products. from Paul Ortchanian

The story behind my advisory role at Porpoise

I’m delighted to finally be advising Porpoise, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Evidence from surveys, management consulting, journalistic and corporate sources show that CSR is an emerging and important driver of employee engagement. These sources identify CSR’s influence on employee attraction, retention, and satisfaction. Porpoise provides a turnkey solution for organizations to excel in this area. Their unique engagement-first approach to CSR transforms the way employees and companies support the causes they care about. “Only 31% of businesses engage employees on the company’s CSR objectives and initiatives1". It is true, and most businesses don’t use their CSR strategy development and implementation to rally the company ...

You need to be contagious and thrive on the right amount of tension

I've been in product for a while. Each year I write a few lines to re-frame what the hell it is I do and how to remain successful.--- Product management is a discipline of quirky nonconformists responsible of defining the “why". Winning products thrive on the direction of these individuals who evolve in tandem with the types of products, customers, and markets they engages with. I have yet to see a standard job description for a Product Manager. None of the work I do happens in a vacuum which is why we must learn to influence; not direct. Remain aware of company culture while managing the product system to build social capital. Earned social capital allows us to influence the success of product roadmaps. The first decision to make is...

The story behind WatchMojo's AI-powered chatbots

About a year ago, thanks to my product leadership role at WatchMojo I got to lead an AI-powered chatbot initiative. There’s been an explosion of messaging apps: 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger, 1.2 billion people use WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Snapchat, in terms of non-native iOS apps, is No. 2 in terms of how much time people spend with that app. iMessage is the most used iOS app. And of course, good old-fashioned SMS is on 4 billion phones. Often companies decide to expand their product portfolio of offerings to better support an existing market. Instead, we decided to promote our existing set of video offerings to a new market segment. We wanted to engage users through 100M+ devices including voice-activated ...

I do it because it’s good business

This year, by partnering with Founder Fuel, Founder Institute and D3 Innovation Center I set a lofty goal to undertake pro bono advisory work. I gave over a hundred hours of advisory services in the startup interest. Including to individuals, fast scaling tech companies and incubator groups. I did so for the pedagogic value of enhancing my product and business related skill sets. The standout component was the one-on-one time with the startup founders. Running a startup is not easy work. They forgo stability in exchange for the promise of fast growth. The solutions are not obvious and success is not guaranteed. I hope they gained from my experience, network of people, encouragements and ideas. The ones below are leapfrogging to su...

Be the CRO (Chief Repeating Officer)

The tyranny of the urgent can lead product managers down slippery rabbit holes. The ones that set you up to those "unconnected dots" discussions where all you do is puke out frustration. You improvise, make up emotional reasons why certain features will take priority over others. You say it with a this-is-my-turf-don’t-touch-it tone. It stirs up resentment, leads to a loss of integrity and sometimes irrational acts. I’m often asked how I pull myself out of the weeds and work strategically and long-term. The first and paramount responsibility of a product Manager is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task of building a shared understanding of the product strategy through listening, influencing, and repetition. The creation and man...

Empathy is the mother of all product roadmaps

Empathy is key to building great products. Give it to your office community, and they will love you. Be a good listener. Encourage them to talk about their product ideas. Talk in term of their interests, let them feel that the idea is theirs and use it to firm up your roadmap. The empathic component is what makes a product manager special. In a field that values objective performance, spending your time on empathic interaction is perceived as a waste of time because is not measurable. But there is a connection between empathy and other outcomes, such as enhanced team buy-in, smoother communication and information exchange. Patient-physician interactions Let's analyse this from another professions point of view. Researchers have long...

Appeal to the nobler motive

A business usually has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one. The product manager will think of the real reason. Their job is about finding monetizable market opportunities. Business results matter and acquiring new customers and increasing average revenue per user is part of the monetization equation. But all of us, being idealists at heart, like to think of motives that sound good. So, in order to make it sound appealing, we talk in terms of what customers want. There is an approach called "working backwards" that is widely used at Amazon. Work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. Because value springs out of what customers fu...

Product man, Renaissance man

Software development has become a strategic priority for all companies in today’s digital era. In turn, the product management role has expanded. The product manager of today is wearing many hats, using a broad knowledge base to define the problem-solution-fit, make trade-off decisions, bringing together cross-functional teams, ensuring alignment between diverse functions, while still commanding the respect of engineering. Required skills include a grounding in customer experience, market orientation, business acumen, technical skills and soft skills. That's not all, the product-management role will continue to evolve toward a deeper focus on data and a greater influence on nonproduct decisions. Jackof All Trades, Master of None O...