August 4, 2011

Has the mobile created a gap in your product offering?

To put things in perspective, analyst are forecasting 1 billion (1 BILLION ...) smartphones are going to be sold by 2015. In a way a number that big means that no business will go on and not have to change or be impacted or transformed by the smartphone phenomenon in one way or the other.

This is where it gets interesting to me. I don't know what impact it will have on anyone's business for sure, I just know it's going to change all of them in a big way. The way we buy is going to change and many commerce experts are piping up on the topic. Another interesting angle to understand is how a company's brand and products will engage its users differently from today because of the mobile.  So with your permission, I will just publicly muse about it!

The Gap That Wasn't There Before

Soon enough my 70-year-old mother will be carrying a smartphone. The point is everyone around me will be carrying a smartphone. What my product used to do well in the pre mobile era has a good chance of missing the boat in the post mobile era.  

The mobile is the return of the pendulum in a sense; it's about finding ways to make use of the fact that it's always in our pocket. The mobile is to local, what the web was to global. The mobile should be a conduit for all brands to connect to the "right now" reality we find ourselves in in our day to day. 

Me, The Product Manager 

From a product management standpoint, the mobile I'm carrying in my pocket today is creating gaps in my well thought out product strategy. Use cases that didn't exist before now make sense. The company that was just another company yesterday is now a competitor because of these new gaps. My job with this challenge is to look at the whole experience again and ensure I still have my bases covered. What I have taken for granted so far has changed and evolved.  

Three angles I need to look into right away (as per Kano model), are there new attributes to my product now that mobile is prevalent:
    Kano Model of Customer SatisfactionImage by martymadrid via Flickr
  • Must-be Quality: These attributes are taken for granted when fulfilled but result in dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. 
    • Are there new attributes that are now a must with a mobile being in the pocket of everyone at all times. I have a fairly good idea of those already; they don't need long bets.   
    • Example: Does your product provide mobile access to the centrally located data? If I have this in a world where mobile is prevalent, this is table stakes no more; if I don't, then I get dinged. 
  • One-Dimensional Quality: These attributes result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. 
    • Since there is only so much dissatisfaction my product can endure, I need to pay attention to this as well. 
    • I am now getting outside the beaten path so this is where I need to put my creative hat on. A solid understanding of the market is now required. I need to go out and observe the new behaviours of my users given the mobile wave.
    • Example: If my product allows for information access on the road and doesn't allow for modification of the information, I run serious risk of dissatisfaction because I'm not fulfilling my promise of mobile information access.  
  • Attractive Quality:  These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled.
    • This attribute can get people talking about my product; this is getting my product into the delightful space. If done right, this can be very impactful with users. Observing my users with our prototypes will help me make the best decisions on which one of those attributes I should invest in for our next release. 
    • Example: To stay in the same line of mobile access, in this case it could be providing a text access versus a rich text access. The user will be satisfied to have rich text, but getting the job done is feasible with text access. Now we know too well how that has bitten RIM and helped propel Apple to the top of the smartphone charts, and this is another story. 
Let's keep in mind that the attributes evolve with the maturity of the product audience as well. Building an experience that fully encompass the user's model is a constant race to stay on top. The maturity of a product versus the experience it delivers is also a nice vector I will explore in a subsequent post.  Design thinking is about the whole experience, encompassing the task and the technology, while the functionality is technology centric.

The examples above are simplistic. I would like to explore some real life examples of products and companies out there that might be seeing cracks in their offering when putting on the lens that everyone is to have a smartphone soon! 

For example:
  • How does the HP business notebook business need to think of the webOS
  • Or What does a Health EMR vendor need to do with the mobile for the patients it so carefully stores the information of? 
Wrapping It Up

The must, should and nice to have attributes of the product are related to the satisfaction and expectations of the users. It's important to start observing the new patterns of usage that mobile and local are bringing up. The new patterns of usage are a good start to identify your product gap in this new reality. These new usage patterns will be the way things will be done in a not so distant future. It's time to start. 

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