Category Archives: Business

Evaluating New Platforms

platform

As a product manager inevitably you’ll be asked to research and evaluate new platforms and new partnerships from time to time. Recently I was asked to consider how NextRadio could fit into Moody Radio’s platform strategy, so I sat down with my contact at NextRadio and we walked through their platform.

Platform Evaluation

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

When I’m evaluating a potential platform for Moody Radio the first thing I keep in mind are some of the KPI’s we care about as a non-profit.

  • Listenership
  • Donations
  • Awareness / New Audience Development

Market Reception

Next, I’m interested from hearing from the platform provider about their market reception. Building a platform is easy, and in this case we’re looking at a multisided market. For NextRadio they have at least 4 sides to their market:

  • Smartphone users
  • Smartphone manufacturers
  • Carriers (i.e., Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile)
  • Broadcasters (i.e. NPR, ESPN)

Because we’re a niche broadcaster, I’m interested in the size of their audience and those users’ engagement level. I’m also interested in the uptake of their potential market (how many of their potential users are users?). This will help us gauge the health of the platform from the consumer’s perspective. The other factors, manufacturers, carriers, and broadcasters helps me understand the potential growth of the platform, but to me it’s secondary to the first factor, because too often the “industry” can get ahead of what consumers want. Too often we can think we have a great idea and you can attend industry conferences where everyone is desperately trying to tell each other how relevant our products are, but it’s clear the consumers don’t agree. To avoid the echo chamber of the industry and value consumer uptake multiple times higher than industry uptake of a platform (unless regulations are involved).

Strategy

The final filter is strategic alignment which comes from the organization. Sometimes we do things because they are part of our organization’s values or strategy. Maybe that means a green initiative, or a focus at getting a foothold into a new market (even if it’s unprofitable at the moment). While this can be a trump card to overrule the above filters, frequent use of should suggest that you have an incorrect strategy or poorly defined strategy.

Implementation Impact

Sometimes you’ve got a great platform or idea, but the implementation costs are just too high or will take time, attention, and resources away from a more valuable initiative. While knowing the full impact of an implementation can be difficult at this point, it’s necessary. Usually optimism is a good approach in life, except for right now as you are estimating the impact. You should be pessimistic at this point on the impact it will have (over estimate) to avoid future problems.

Conclusion

If you’ve done your research and proper discovery, you should have a good sense at this point whether to buy into the new platform or now. As you run through this process repeatedly it will get quicker and easier. Also you’ll find what additional factors unique to your organization you might want to include in your evaluation.

 

 

Disruptive Improvements vs Iterative Improvements

Do we focus on innovation that’s new and disruptive? Barbwire was disruptive to the ranching and farming industries of the US when invented. Moving from a rotary dial phone to a touch tone phone was iterative.

Clayton Christensen in the article, “Key Concepts – Disruptive Innovation” states: [emphasis his]

Because companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are too good, too expensive, and too inconvenient for many customers.  By only pursuing “sustaining innovations” that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations”.

I’m not an expert on Iterative Improvements as used in Lean and Agile Development, but as I’ve read in the book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, the problem with the sustaining innovations he’s describing is that they aren’t being developed in a customer-centric manner.

If we only develop or add features in response to customer “pain” and real needs and avoid the feature bloat that lean/agile companies aspire too, then we should never experience the effect of “producing products or services that are too good, too expensive, and too inconvenient for many customers”.

In an agile/lean context as I understand it you would implement just what you had to. What would you do with your “extra” time (compared to your competitors who keep improving even when the customers don’t want it? You can start working on another disruptive product, based on the customer development model described by Steven Blank in his book I linked to above.

Don’t worry though, your disruptive innovation will be treated like a toy at first if it’s good.