The Hardest Lesson B2B Software Product Managers Learn

July 25th, 2021 | Posted in Software

As a B2B software product manager, you spend your day responding to internal and external requests for help. In between these requests you find time to manage requirements, roadmaps, and customer intelligence all before you invest the necessary time politicking for your team.

Since we all know success rests heavily on learning new things, innovating new ideas, and competing better to achieve more with the same resources, this scenario is a dangerous one because in all this flurry of activity, there’s simply no opportunity to learn.

When I ask product managers what they’re learning, I often get one of two responses: a dry-winded summary of a book they read a few months ago or verbal diarrhea of the 99 things they learned since lunch.

Here’s the truth: in an average day, you’re learning a lot about making today’s business more efficient. But when I ask these B2B managers to think about what they are learning that challenges their assumptions about the company and its opportunities, the response is almost always awkward silence.

Looking for Disruptive Opportunities in the Fringe

Learning how to achieve goals slightly more efficiently every year is an important priority for many companies, and companies that evaluate internal processes may discover small ways to improve the existing business or make slightly more money. However, far bigger wins can come from shifting your thinking from incremental growth to big-picture innovation.

These fringe ideas and customers usually sit on the edge of your typical thought processes and therefore go unnoticed until it’s too late. And when you combine this efficiency-focused attitude with the fact that companies seldom learn new, earth-shattering ideas from their current market, it becomes clear that most companies have built up a wall of incremental progress that lets no innovative idea survive.

When senior leaders over-invest in building efficiency because over time, it narrows a company’s field of vision. This makes you fragile because your systems, processes, and culture outweigh the importance of efficiency, resulting in difficulty to implement change (such as when IBM, SAP, and Oracle moved into the cloud). This also makes you slow to respond because you’re often playing catch up with companies that embraced the fringe much sooner (such as Nokia’s response to smart phones and Microsoft’s response to search engines).

It’s this dangerous company culture that threatens the future of your company’s ability to compete, and it’s the opposite strategy — similar to BCG’s tagline, “Strategy happens at the fringe” — that will free your business up for unlimited opportunity.

Finding Your Company’s Fringe Market

Every company has at least two fringe markets that they can tap into to unveil innovative ideas and white space opportunities. Simply identify your primary market and look a step below it to see what tangential audience is not being served by the processes and ideas you already have in place.

For example, almost 100 million customers shop at WalMart at a monthly frequency. Its fringe market, then, are the 100 million occasional shoppers who shop at a yearly frequency. Another example is Workday. It’s strong in healthcare, but it stands on the edge of a huge fringe opportunity in hospital functions such as asset management that it doesn’t currently offer. It could also grow from near verticals such as long-term facilities.

Creating a Fringe Strategy

Should you redirect your entire service from the served market to the fringe market? Definitely not. It’s all about balancing today’s risk while lining up new opportunities for the future. The most strategic, forward looking product VPs I know spend about 80 percent of their time focused on today’s customers and 20 percent of their time focused on the fringe. Junior product managers should spend 95 percent of their time on today’s business, leaving about 5 percent of their time to explore the fringe.

The tyranny of the served market and the opportunity of the fringe are at odds with each other. Focus too much time on increasing efficiency in today’s processes, the future will pass you by. However, too much learning from the fringe and you won’t have the profits (or customers) to propel you to the future. As a senior B2B leader, you are obligated to balance what you learn between what serves your customers now and what will serve them in the future to best organize your time today.


How to Find the Best Vlogging Camera

July 24th, 2021 | Posted in Technology

If you’re a startup or small business owner looking to put a human face to your company, vlogging (video blogging) may be the answer you’re looking for. After watching a video, people relate, connect and feel that they’re buying from a person and just a website.

As your vlogging and video creation skills grow, you’ll learn what a difference a good vlog camera can make to the overall quality of your YouTube videos. The good news is that a good digital camera for vlogging doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Have a look at these quick tips for finding a good camera for your video blog:

Look for a Wide-Angle Lens

If you’re looking to shoot video in the widescreen format you’re going to need a wide-angle lens. As mentioned before, people are watching YouTube videos on their HD TVs, and most of those are built for widescreen viewing. Widescreen is also formatting looks a lot more professional and is preferred over the older pan and scan narrow ratio. It all comes down to this; a wide-angle lens makes everything look better.

Good Optical Zoom is Key

A great optical zoom on a digital camera will show you where to focus your shot in the viewfinder. The beauty of the zoom focus is that you’ll usually use it to tell how each shot will look before you start filming.

You want to try and avoid grainy or blurry video, and that’s why checking the range is so important when zooming into a subject from a long way away. The optical zoom is a useful tool whether you’re filming up close or from a distance.

Make sure High-Definition Video Recording is a option

YouTube first rolled out its HD 1080 high-definition five years ago. Ever since then HD has become the dominant YouTube format. These days people watch HD YouTube videos on their smart TVs, smartphones, tablets,and laptops. To create the kind of video that your audience craves you must make sure that your vlog camera is capable of recording in HD.

Be aware of camera size and weight

Once you’ve found a camera that’s compatible with your budget, the next thing you’ll want to look at is size and weight. If you shoot a lot of footage while on the go, you will want something small and light enough to fit into your pocket and that isn’t going to feel like a you’re carrying around a brick.

Built-In, High-Quality Microphone Make All The Difference

Audio is right up there with video quality in terms of importance, so making sure that your digital camera has a high-quality in-built microphone is something you will want to do. A microphone that can filter out background noise is good, an extension for an external is better again.

There’s no doubt that an external microphone improves audio quality, and it’s true that you may not get the best audio without one.  That being said, you don’t need to rush out and buy one straight away. It’s good enough for now if your camera supports an external microphone, an external microphone is something you can think about another time.

Conclusion

You will be surprised at just how affordable a high definition camera that’s easy to carry around can be. Make sure that that you get a camera that is going to meet all of your needs. Remember, it doesn’t matter how small a camera is, it’s not worth the packaging it came in if it doesn’t take quality footage.

Finally, make sure to do your research before making a purchase. Read the reviews, keep in mind that one or two bad reviews do not mean that it’s a bad camera. It’s good to come across a couple of bad reviews as these will give you a balanced overview.  Obviously if nobody has anything good to say about it, then move on and look at other makes and models.

Try to keep these basic features and tips in mind as you look for a good vlogging camera for your video blog.


4 Websites That Will Make Your Kids Smarter

July 23rd, 2021 | Posted in Education

Being a modern parent means embracing the power of online education and teaching your kid to use the Internet in a productive manner. Try to show your kid that the world web is not only about watching funny cat videos and sending emojis on Facebook with the next four amazing educational websites.

1. Skillshare

Skillshare is a creative community where you can master new skills or gain expertise in various professional areas ranging from creative writing and web design to music and game creation. It’s a productive way to keep your elder kids busy during the breaks and let them develop their creativity, while gaining new experiences. For instance, you can take a screen writing course by  James Franco or learn marketing basics from Seth Godin.  Skillshare is an awesome way to test and try various career options and make sure your kid chooses the right college major.  It’s one of the best educational websites available. The community is free to join and enroll to a limited amount of classes per month, whereas going premium (8-10$ per month) will let you access all the classes, plus unlock offline access to supporting materials and videos.

Besides, the service can be highly beneficial for both parents and kids! If you have expertise in a certain area and can convert it into a series of easy-to-follow videos, maybe you should become a Skillshare educator yourself? Some of them claim to make around 1.000$ per night.

2. The 11+ Tutors in Essex

The Eleven Plus Tutors in Essex  team offers an innovative new service with virtual lessons conducted with the help of BigBlueButton virtual classroom technology.  It allows students to collaborate with the mentor online via chat and webcam, plus interact with all the resources in real time.  Along with their VLE, the service offers conventional 1-to-1 private tuition.  These sessions are targeted at primary school children to help them successfully pass the 11 Plus exam and gain a prestigious grammar school place. If you opt for a private session the tutor will visit your child at a suitable time, whereas exam preparation sessions are usually held online. Your child will be mentored by a fully qualified teacher with a respective degree and certifications.

Also, the service offers amazing creative writing classes where your child will master common writing techniques establish their own writing style and increase overall literacy. Learning to write compelling essays is one of the key factors in passing any examination successfully and entering a prestigious school afterwards

 

3. Duolingo

 

Duolingo is an incredible free language learning website (and app) that gives actual results fast. My kid started to read and translate short stories in French within just a month! I love the gamification elements included into each lesson with points added for each activity that could later be redeemed as special boosters. There’s a limited amount of lives (attempts) to pass each assignment and an instant in-lesson grading system.

So far you can learn French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Swedish and  Danish language with Duolingo (plus English if you are not a native-speaker). This year, the developers plan to add Russian, Polish, Turkish and Romanian languages.

4. BrainPop

BrainPop was launched back in 1999, yet it’s still one of the best educational resources out there! Fun interactive classes are available in numerous subjects from sciences to basic engineering. Learning goes in fun and engaging manner with knowledge presented in form of short animated movies and quizzes. The most difficult concepts are broken down to simple points and topics introduced by the website characters.

BrainPop has been successfully used in numerous schools around the US and gotten numerous praises from parents homeschooling their kids, along with top accolades from prestigious educational institution and the government. Prices vary depending on the type of subscription you choose.


CourseBuffet Makes Finding the Right MOOC Easier

July 22nd, 2021 | Posted in Online Business

Let’s talk MOOCs! As someone who could have stayed in college forever (purely for the pursuit of knowledge, lest you get any other ideas), I am a hardcore advocate of Multiple Open Online Courses. However, the playing field is pretty well saturated by now, and the offerings can get a little overwhelming. Also, if I’m any example of your average MOOC-er (is that a thing? It’s a thing now) there’s probably a fairly high dropout rate. I’ve been known to sign up for a course, sit through the first couple lessons, quickly realize it was nothing like what I was expecting and lose interest.

Cleveland based CourseBuffet is one of a few MOOC aggregators out there, yet they say they do it better. They find and aggregate courses from over seventeen platforms and over two hundred universities. They organize classes based on subject matter and use their own classification system to give users a clearer idea of what they’re signing up for.  According to the website:

“We examine every single course and classify it using the CourseBuffet classification system. We show you the approximate level a course would be at a traditional university and which courses are roughly equivalent. This allows you to easily compare courses and know which order to take them.”

In the process of building this platform, the founders have learned some lessons of their own. Co-founder Bruce Bolton says that one of the hardest lessons they’ve had to learn is to reach out and form relationships with their competitors. He mentions one competitor in particular that he wishes they had reached out to, as this competitor ultimately shut down and CourseBuffet could have benefited from some of their assets.

Another lesson Bruce has learned personally, is to focus on one task at a time, and that it’s okay to delegate tasks to teammates.

“There are so many challenges to tackle but taking them on all at the same time can lead to sub optimal resolutions. Drill down to what challenges you personally must deal with and decide which can be taken on by other teammates. Trust in others that they can do it.”

Their ultimate goal is to create the gold standard for online higher education course listings. Down the line, they also want to enable students to take free (or steeply discounted) courses for real college credit. It would eventually (hopefully) dramatically lower the cost of online education across the board.


Prepare Yourself for the Mobile First World We Live In

July 21st, 2021 | Posted in Technology

Why do certain developers choose to build for iOS or Android first? It differs from person to person and company to company: sometimes the limitations of the iOS approval process turn people off while other times the varying specs and size of Android devices makes developers pull their hair out.

Each has their own respective strengths and weaknesses. However, they’re both united by the fact that the world we live in is now a mobile first world. That is, they’re both winners over web platforms these days.

Tech.Co has been compensated by University of Phoenix for this article. All thoughts and opinions come from Tech.Co.

Let me lay out some quick stats that I got from Mobithinking, via Code My Views:

  • There are over 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide
  • 25 of mobile web users in the US are mobile only, meaning they rarely use a desktop to access the web
  • Mobile apps have accumulated 10.9 billion downloads to date on app markets
  • Mobile device sales are increasing across the board, 85 percent of which are able to access mobile web

The numbers here corroborate the fact that we’re in a mobile first world, so there’s really only one question to ask. Why wouldn’t you build for mobile first? The simple answer is that you wouldn’t.

“If you still have it in your head that mobile web design and application development is a niche industry, you need to change your way of thinking. Mobile isn’t a trend, nor is it even the future, it’s the present,” reads the Code My Views article.

We heard as much from Matt Galligan and Brady Forrest, two huge proponents of building for mobile first, at our Celebrate Conference in Downtown Las Vegas. During their time on stage, Galligan asked the audience a question: How many services do you use that are actually built on a web platform?

We do use some, but for the most part the services we use are built for the mobile first world we now live in. It’s also why mobile developers are in such high demand these days.

There are a lot of startup companies who have embraced this mobile first mentality as well. Take, for example, Ink Messenger – they built out an alternative platform to the traditional SMS messaging. Wouldn’t it be totally ridiculous to even consider developing for web in this situation?

It absolutely would be, but that also says something important about the state of startups these days: mobile development has opened new doors for them to rapidly innovate and iterate platforms. Though, this isn’t a trait relegated purely to the archetypal startup: bigger companies like Imgur are also starting to shift towards mobile first.

True enough, Imgur did in fact start out web based and they’ll continue to maintain that presence. However, over the last few months we’ve seen a host of new releases for Imgur that are completely mobile first and mobile focused – the future for them is in mobile.

It doesn’t matter if a company is old, new, big, or small – everybody needs a mobile developer. That is to say, there are a lot of job openings for those interested in pursuing a mobile development career.

If you’re headed back to school, courses in mobile development will help you adapt to this rapidly changing technological world. Pursue classes in web, mobile, iOS and Android programming as well as web and software coding courses—it’s well worth your while.