I went to the Product Mavens meetup last night at Hub Sydney in Darlinghurst. Tim Cowan, from Optus shared a few rules of thumb he uses to effectively manage products to the business (as opposed to consumer or enterprise) sector, and to measure solution viability.
Tim made some great points about why this sector's needs are usually badly met:
- Most small to medium sized businesses are started for non-business-related reasons, such as spending more time with friends or family;
- Additionally, once they get started, small-medium business owners tend to find it difficult to focus on business-building activities as the administrative aspects take over;
- However, product managers tend to focus on the consumer or enterprise sector, with solutions that are tailored to helping work get done in a certain way and not necessarily in a time-saving manner, and with the expectation that one or the other will service the smaller business sector;
- The result is that small-medium businesses have solutions sold to them that take up as much time as existing solutions.
The small-medium business sector is huge, with about two million small businesses in Australia. There's a massive opportunity, in other words, to offer solutions that cut down the time consumed by administrative work in order for small-medium business owners to focus on either business-building or personal activities.
Tim also shared the matrix he uses to determine if a proposed solution is viable:
- The solution meets market needs;
- The solution can be easily marketed and sold;
- The solution is technically possible; and
- The solution is commercially viable.
In Tim's (and my) experience, most organisations tend to start at the technical requirement, then check for commercial viability. Marketability/Saleability and Market Needs tend to take a second fiddle, in this approach.
A much more preferable approach is to start from market needs, then develop a marketable & saleable solution, then move onto the questions of technical possibility and commercial viability.