Thursday, August 7, 2014

Design Thinking and the blurring of Product Management and Marketing

An outstanding colleague of mine, +Scott Souder send me a link to a very fascinating article on design thinking:

As makers of technology we might also understand deeply that design is not just about how a product looks but how it works: components that enable people to use your product, and how it all fits together. All that cascades from your company’s strategy, values, and principles, and the scope of the problem you choose to tackle. All of that manifests itself in the design of the experiences you offer.

It's one of they design principles that is being used for a new IBM collaboration offering under development, one of the first from our new Design Thinking.

I've been thinking a lot more about design since IBM announced a major new initiative to re-infuse design thinking across the company. A company that had been known for outstanding design in the 60s (including in our real estate, just look at some of the gorgeous pictures of not just products but buildings on IBM's Instagram account) had sorta kinda de-emphasized some of those principles. It looks like we've happily rediscovered that.

I've been a fan of good design every since I saw an unbelievable retrospective of Japanese post-war consumer design in London way back in 1992. There are so many implications of design thinking it spins the mind. But one in particular that has surfaced for me personally is a very practical consideration.

With the rise of cloud, mobile and social computing, user expectations have been radically shifted by designs that favor lightweight, often single-purpose, apps that "play nicely with others" and "just work". That implies that the app is the experience, and the experience is the app. That further implies that the lines between product management (feature, function, traditional offering design) and marketing (communications to drive awareness, interest and consideration of the offering) are blurring -- very rapidly.

Product management has to take into account the entire purchase lifecycle because it's easier than ever to not just pick up a new app, but to drop it as well. On the marketing side, 70% of the purchase decision now happens outside of the brand's direct properties (its website, it's direct sellers). So the days of a clean, sharp handoff between the product experience (trial, purchase, use) and the marketing experience (learn, solve, compare) are, for all intents and purposes, gone.

The very relationship between product management and marketing is changing rapidly. I certainly don't have any answers yet as this is just starting to hit me, hard. But I'm very excited to see how the possibilities play out here.

How about you? If you're a marketer or product manager, is your experience similar? How are you dealing (or not dealing) with the shift?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Loss and reminders

It has been a very tumultuous few weeks. On the heels of the Apple + IBM Announcement (and the resulting post-announcement scramble), we're preparing for the major launches for the remainder of the rest of the year, with (of course) accelerated timetables and never quite as much money as one would like. The refrain of every corporate marketer, I'm sure.

Sadly, all of this was happening while a friend had a terrible meltdown, a harrowing relapse, and ultimately took his own life.  From the outside looking in, we all thought that while his situation was traumatic, it certainly didn't seem that bleak. But when you're looking at it from the inside the black hole, and can't see a way out, who knows what dark and dreadful place the mind goes. It was unexpected mainly because he was so full of life, or at least on the surface he seemed so.

This isn't a post about suicide, or recognizing its signs, or trying to understand it. It's more about in the midst of all the shenanigans we let modern life thrust upon us, the universe sends not so subtle reminders our way to stop, think, and remember that nothing is permanent. All our #firstworldproblems -- digital overload, self-indulgence to excess, minor annoyances writ large via social media -- pale when something like this happens. I'm old enough to know from repeated first-hand experience that you can NEVER say "thank you" and "I love you" and "how are you REALLY doing?". Ever. Never ever.

All the announcements and press releases and advertisements and social media posts and digital creative that we do. All the television shows and movies and videos we watch. All the status updates we read on our phones while we bump into things. Unless we're curing cancer, or finding better ways to feed the hungry, or deliver potable water to the approximately 2 BILLION people who don't have regular access to it, or finding ways to identify and treat mental illness, or any number of ways we can directly benefit people's most basic needs, then we ought to find every possible way to make every interaction we have the most meaningful, personal and pleasant engagement it can be, so at least we're doing SOMETHING for someone, not just ourselves. Even if we (especially because we)  aren't here for as long as we had hoped.