Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ensuring Data Availability Is The Responsibility Of A Product Manager

When designing and developing data driven products, it is the responsibility of the product manager to ensure that the data necessary for the product to function is gathered. Some times I see product managers focusing on prediction models, user interfaces and reporting tools and lose track of the fact that none of these matter if there is no data to drive the product.

Focus on the data. Everything else follows.

Product Management - Program Management - Product Operations

When we design software as a service, particularly in a small company, the role of a product manager goes beyond being the voice of the market. I have seen that they need to step into program managing the execution and lay the foundation for effective operations of the product.

In other words, it is even more important that they play the role of a general manager.

Building Data Driven Products - Identify, Intervene, Track, Report

When designing data driven products that are designed to change the behavior of a target audience, there are four steps involved.

The first step is to identify the nature of the people you want to target for behavior change and find out who they are from a larger population. To do this you need two kinds of experts. The first kind is a domain expert. For example, if this is a product for the retail industry, you will need a retail industry expert. This expert will identify the nature of the people you want to target.

The second kind of experts you need are data scientists and product designers who can then design the necessary models to predict who will exhibit the kind of behavior we want to target. After all we are trying to prevent those people from engaging in such behavior or nudge them to engage in the behavior we want them to engage in.

You might be wondering why I added product designers to this mix. Cant the data scientists do all the work of data mining? That is an interesting question. Data driven products not only have to worry about analyzing existing data but also gather data to confirm the hypothesis. Some time the best way to confirm our assumptions is to simply ask someone who knows the facts. For example, we can ask a customer if they bought a certain product directly and get the answer. Such design requires the expertise of human computer interaction specialists.

The second step is to come up with a plan and design to intervene to encourage those people to change their behavior. These interventions are designed by domain experts and behavior change experts. The design of the intervention defines how to intervene. The plan of the intervention focuses on the execution of the intervention.

The third step is to design techniques to track behavior change. These are usually done by communication platform experts, product managers and software engineers. Design of tracking methods depends on the interventions. Tracking methods could also influence the design of the interventions.

The fourth step is to report on the behavior you tracked. The design of such reports is done by metrics designers, analytics product managers and user experience designers.

As you can imagine, building data driven products involves close collaboration and coordination between a variety of experts. The standards for designing a team that can execute well are still emerging in this area. However, when a team gets the design right by quick experimentation, the results are quantifiable and verifiable. Customers will pay good money for such products that save money, increase revenue or simple change people's behavior.

If this kind of work interests you and have expertise in one of the above areas, please contact me via LinkedIn. I would like to talk.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

I Joined Castlight Health To Build The Enterprise Healthcare Cloud

A few days back I wrote about my decision to leave SAP and join a company that is playing an important role in changing Healthcare in America. The company is Castlight Health. I joined them because it was the right combination of purpose, people and possibilities. You can see their solutions here.

The Purpose
U.S. enterprises spend nearly $620 billion on healthcare. It is a top-three business cost that increases by 8 to 10 percent every year – and, it affects more than half of all Americans who rely on their employer for health coverage. Experts say that about 30 percent of that expense is wasted in unwanted or ineffective care. Castlight Health helps employers manage their healthcare cost by empowering them with data driven insight while improving the wellness of their employees. Castlight has already saved millions of dollars in healthcare spend for over a hundred employers in the US, while turning Americans healthier by making them better healthcare consumers.

The People
I get to lead a team of smart, dedicated and respectful people who bring varied skills such as clinical research, big data analytics, machine learning,  and behavioral psychology. In a short period, I got an opportunity to learn from and define new product management techniques for building big data driven products.

The Possibilities
Healthcare is poised for significant disruption in the next five years with technology disrupting it the same way it is disrupting energy, manufacturing and transportation. Within a few years your mobile phone will turn into a testing laboratory. You will be able to get near instant results about almost everything that a lab can do today for a fraction of the cost and in very little time.  Healthcare data will be able to predict and prevent unwanted expenses and avoidable health issues. I am not sure what the products are going to look like in five years. But I want to be a part of the team that is building them.

If you want to join me at Castlight Health, check out the many opportunities available.

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