How to Validate Your Product Idea

How to Validate Your Product Idea
Daniel Elizalde

In this episode, Jim shares valuable advice on how to manage the innovation process. We discuss his approach to validating your hypothesis, defining business models, and gaining support within your organization.

I learned a lot by talking to Jim in this episode, so if you are launching a new product within a startup or even within a large organization, I’m sure you’ll find Jim’s advice to be very valuable and actionable.

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Episode details: How to Validate Your Product Idea

 “Write down hypothesis of what you think the problem is that a customer segment has. You want to identify a specific customer segment, you want to identify the problem that they have and you want to identify a potential solution to that problem. But that solution doesn’t need to be very detailed. What you are really focused on, at least during the first interviews is identifying the right problem. 

– Jim Semick

About Jim Semick: 

Jim is passionate about software product management and designing successful business models. For over 15 years he has helped validate and launch innovative software products that are used today by millions of people. Prior to founding ProductPlan, Jim was part of the founding team at AppFolio, a vertical SaaS company (IPO 2015), helping develop multiple products. Prior to AppFolio, he validated and launched GoToMyPC, GoToMeeting, and GoToWebinar (acquired by Citrix).

About Product Plan:

ProductPlan makes it easy for teams of all sizes to build beautiful roadmaps. Thousands of product managers worldwide–including teams from Nike, Microsoft, and Spotify–trust ProductPlan to help them visualize and share their strategies across their entire organization. With our intuitive features, product managers spend less time building roadmaps and more time shipping products.

Topics we discuss in this episode:

  • Jim shares his background and about ProductPlan.
  • ProductPlan’s approach to IoT solutions.
  • How to approach market validation.
  • The dos and don’ts of interviewing customers.
  • How to develop the monetization strategy for a new product.
  • Why companies should create a separate team to validate and build a new product idea.
  • How to get internal buy-in within your organization.
  • Advice for Product Leaders who are new at developing IoT solutions.

To learn more about Jim and ProductPlan:

Recommended Articles:

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Read the Full Interview with Jim Semick –  How to Validate Your Product Idea

Daniel:             Welcome to episode number 18 of IoT Product Leadership, a podcast featuring in-depth conversations with product leaders on what it takes to build great IoT products. I’m your host, Daniel Elizalde. I have a very insightful show for you today.

Daniel:             My guest is Jim Semick, co-founder and strategy officer at ProductPlan. Jim is a seasoned product leader with experience in startups and large corporations alike. He’s a recognized product management thought leader, not only because he is a co-founder of ProductPlan, one of the most prominent product roadmap software companies out there, but also because he’s passionate about sharing best practices and pushing the product profession forward.

Daniel:             In this episode, Jim shares valuable advice on how to manage the innovation process. We discuss his approach to validating your hypothesis, defining business models, and gaining support within your organization.

Daniel:             I learned a lot by talking to Jim in this episode. So if you’re launching a new IoT product within a startup or even within a large organization, I’m sure you will find Jim’s advice to be very valuable and really actionable.

Daniel:             Hi Jim, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here today.

Jim:                Daniel, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Daniel:             Before we start, I want to take a second to let everybody know about yourself.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background, your journey, and how did you get to be where you are today?

Jim:                Sure. My journey was a little bit convoluted. I originally started out working as a trainer, a corporate trainer, and then that evolved product management. I think a lot of product managers have a similar experience where they started out doing one thing and then wound up doing another occupation.

Jim:                So I’ve been in new product development and product management for over 15 years now. And really got my start in product management working for a startup based out of Santa Barbara, California called Export City. And we were launching a new product called GoToMyPC. And I was the first product manager for GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, and GoToWebinar helping to validate and launch those products. And I was the first product manager for those.

Jim:                And then moved on to another company called AppFolio which was a B2B SaaS company. And that was a company designed to create vertical software solutions for different industries. And I left that company a few years ago and then started ProductPlan, which is a solution for helping product managers create product roadmaps.

Daniel:             That is really interesting. Yes, I agree, we all come from different backgrounds and I love hearing the stories from everybody. In fact, one of my first roles was actually as a professional trainer years ago and then I came back to it, how about that?

Daniel:             It’s interesting that we share that as well.

Jim:                It is, yeah.

Tell me more about ProductPlan and how do you approach your product lifecycle?

Jim:                Yeah, absolutely. ProductPlan has been in business a little over five years now and we develop product roadmap software. And it turns out that every company is a technology company. Whether you’re in a software company or whether you’re in a consumer company or even a brick and mortar company. All of those companies have IT needs and the need for an internal or external product roadmap. And so we saw that opportunity and developed software around it.

Jim:                And now today, we have thousands of product teams all around the world using ProductPlan including Hulu and Spotify. And they use us to help them visualize and share their roadmap strategies across their organizations.

Daniel:             That is very interesting. And you know I have had [inaudible 00:04:14] in the past and I think that this idea of sharing your roadmap and the strategy with a company is a key aspect and a key role of any product manager. Whether you’re doing IoT or any type of solution, right?

Jim:                Yeah, absolutely. And it really … It’s cross-vertical and cross-industry and really across departmental. This need to communicate the strategy and why you’re developing something in the first place and how that ties back to the corporate goals or the strategic goals of the organization.

Daniel:             For sure. And so piggyback on that idea of understanding the why, I know you have a lot of experience on market validation. And I would like to ask you a couple of questions about that.

Daniel:             Because what I’m seeing in the IoT industry is that a lot of companies are enticed by the idea of creating connected products. And they see a lot of the potential, a lot of the value. And they start building hardware or add sensors to something they have. And they don’t really know if the idea’s going to work. But they launch in and they invest millions of dollars.

Daniel:             And that’s why we’re seeing a lot of challenges in adoption because a lot of companies are missing this key aspect of market validation.

Daniel:             So I’d like to get to some of your insights there.

How do you tackle market validation?

What does it mean to you and what have you seen work in the past?

Jim:                Yeah. That’s a great question. And a lot of companies actually bypass this process. They jump immediately to a solution. Whether they’re … It’s a software solution or it’s IoT, they jump to building something that they believe is a good idea. And they can sit around the conference room table with the key executives and develop the strategy and plan to build something. And unfortunately, some of the products launch in the market that hasn’t really been tested in terms of what customers want or problems that customers want to be solved.

Jim:                Market validation is a way of testing these ideas before you start to invest time and money and resources into developing something. And as you can imagine, building even software, even though we’re at this agile world, it can pivot. And so on building software’s really expensive. So if you invest some time up front with a small team in order to investigate the idea … And I can talk a little bit more about what that entails, that investigation.

Jim:                If you invest a little bit of time upfront, it can save you so much money down the road. And points you down the path … A better path, building the right features, pricing the product appropriately, solving a problem that it should be solved. And also the messaging too. All of the … What you learn through the market validation process can be tied back to messaging from the product that goes to the marketing time.

Daniel:             Yes, I completely agree. And a lot of companies skip this part and I want to emphasize this idea of how expensive it can be, particularly in IoT where building an IoT solution is very expensive because you have infrastructure, hardware, software, networking, apps, and all of a sudden, in order to put something together just to see if it’s works, I’ve seen companies that actually run out of budget before even launching the first thing to the market because they didn’t know how to go about it. And they were not building the right solution, right.

Daniel:             And I hear a lot of kind of inclination to go faster, to be more agile, to build faster. But oftentimes, companies are building faster the wrong thing, right.

Jim:                Yeah, exactly. That’s what the process is, is to point you down the right path. Because if you’re going to pivot, if you’re going to adjust because you’re learning from the marketplace, you want to do that as early as possible. If you haven’t yet built the product. [inaudible 00:07:41] the sales team.

Daniel:             Yes. So tell us more about what that process is… What does that entail from your perspective and what have you seen work?

Jim:                So I originally started the process with problem discovery. And so these are … The initial part is writing down a hypothesis of what you think the problem is that a customer segment has. So you want to identify a specific customer segment. You want to identify the problem that they have. And you want to identify a potential solution to that problem. But that solution doesn’t need to be very detailed. What you’re really focused on, at least in the first interviews, is identifying the right problem.

Jim:                And so you want to get into at least 10 interviews with prospective customers that help you identify the problem and whether the problem is worth solving. So you want to identify some problems that are high enough on the customer’s priority list that they feel like it’s worth solving.

Jim:                And a lot of people take customer statements … A lot of product managers take customers’ statements at face value. Where a customer says, “Yeah, that would be cool if we could solve that problem.” But they don’t really dig in to understand if it’s a high enough problem on the customer’s priority list. So that’s a key part of this early stage.

Jim:                And so the process that I use is … First is problem discovery and then you go through more of a true market validation process where you’re actually presenting some sort of solution to the customer. And that could be either a presentation that you’re giving them outlining the potential solution that you have. Whether it’s a software solution, it can also be prototypes that you present to them. And you’re just talking about if they had that solution, how would their life be different? What kind of money would they save? What kind of payment they alleviate, those sorts of things. And you’re working through that process.

Jim:                And we did this for ProductPlan as well. We interviewed … Before we launched the product, we interviewed 70 product managers to understand what is the problem that they have with product roadmaps? What’s their planning process look like? And then what are the potential solutions that we could give to them?

Jim:                And that evolves over time until later stages you’re starting to talk about potential pricing for your solution. So after you have really nailed the problem and when you have high confidence you can go to a potential customer and say, “This is the problem I think you’re having.” And then they start to nod in agreement, you know that you have that. And then you start to talk about the solution and if you can get a high enough percentage of those people to say, “Yeah, that sounds like a fantastic solution for the problem I know I have.” Then you can go into pricing conversations, you can talk about the purchase process, the acquisition process, how would they find out about your solution. And get into some more of those details.

Jim:                So it’s an … Kind of an evolving process often goes through dozens of interviews that you’re conducting with customers.

Daniel:             I think it’s also very interesting to think about the ultimate goal is to figure out whether there’s a need and be humble, really, when we don’t find the need that the market is not validated, right. Because sometimes, I see companies pushing through to say, “Okay, I want to continue this process until I find somebody that says yes.” And that’s really not the idea.

Jim:                Yeah, that’s a great point.

Jim:                And I’ve been as part of several teams and lead teams where we get to a certain point in the process and we say, “You know, we’re not really finding anything here.” We haven’t identified a problem that seems to be persistent. You want to find … You want to be able to pattern recognition that identify problems that … Repeatable problems.

Jim:                And if you’re not finding that or customers are taking you in all of these different directions and you can’t really connect the dots, well that might be a sign that you’re going down the wrong path. Then you need to be able to take a step back and say, “Okay, let’s rethink this, let’s come up with a new hypothesis that maybe talks about a different problem.”

Jim:                And that’s hard to do especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and interviews and you’ve made some great connections. And you feel strongly about a potential solution. It’s really hard to stop at that point and say, “Okay, let’s move on to something else.” But it’s important to do because yes, you said if you continue down that path, it can get very expensive.

Daniel:             I agree. I think those are great insights.

Daniel:             And I can share with you one of the comments that I consider one of the biggest success stories. For me, in one of my Stanford classes after going through the whole process of identifying the problems and the needs, one of the teams of professionals I was working with was really disappointed and they said, “You know what? We’re kind of sad that we realize that our product doesn’t really solve the need that we thought. So I think we failed the course.” And I was like, “No, on the contrary, I think that’s a huge success story. Because now you know that you can move to something else. As opposed to investing millions of dollars trying to bring this solution and then finding that nobody wanted it.”

Jim:                Exactly. That’s my attitude as well. And I really feel that there are abundant ideas out there. There are abundant products that you can’t really develop. And so if you’re not really hitting the right notes in the validation process initially, that’s okay. It’s okay to move on to something else.

Jim:                In one example, I was working with a company to develop a new product for the nonprofit sector. You know, education, charities, and so on. And we interviewed almost 100 people to try to identify a consistent problem. And at the end of the day, we really couldn’t figure out a way to develop a product for this particular market for the problem that kind of met the criteria that we had for being a successful business.

Jim:                And we eventually had to exit it. And that was hard because we had invested so much time and went to so many trade shows to understand the market. And at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. Because the alternative is to invest millions of dollars.

Daniel:             Yes. For sure. I think that’s the right approach.

Daniel:             And also, have you had the situation where when you find an actual pain that you identified and is this a real pain, it might not be aligned with the core capabilities or course strategy with the company, right? So not just because you found the pain it means that your company’s best suited to solve it.

Jim:                Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve encountered that as well.

Jim:                And that one’s hard because you might have a champion within the organization who feels really passionately about that problem. But it, again, as you said, it might not align with what the goals are for the company.

Jim:                I’ve seen companies who tend to move a little bit too far outside of what their core competency is. They maybe try to develop a brand new product for a market that they don’t have domain expertise in, for example. And that increases risk. And so when you’re looking for, as a product manager, looking for new opportunities within an existing company, you want to be able to kind of mitigate risk a little bit. And look for opportunities that are slightly adjacent to what you’re doing today. And those are more likely fit with the strategy of the company.

Daniel:             That’s great advice, thank you for sharing that, Jim.

Daniel:             We’ll be right back.

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Daniel:             Once again, the URL is I look forward to having you as part of the community.

Daniel:             I want to dig a little bit deeper on your comments about interviewing many customers. Obviously, you’ve had a lot of experience there. So can you share with us some dos and don’ts when interviewing customers.

How do you run that process and how do you get to really the meaty part of the interviews?

Jim:                Well, the interviewing process is a little bit of an art. And you want to be able to give it time. A lot of product managers have shorter interviews with prospective customers and that’s okay if you’re talking about maybe a feature or you just need to get some quick information or advice.

Jim:                But if you’re talking about a brand new product, you want to be able to give it enough time. So my interviews are at least 45 minutes long. So you want to be able to schedule enough time with prospects to talk about a potential solution. Problems and a solution.

Jim:                And then the interview is really an open-ended interview. You want to have a short list of questions that you want to ask, but it’s not like a survey. You don’t want to at all costs go through your checklist of the question even though you already know the answer. As you conduct a lot of interviews, you’ll start to hear patterns. And once you feel, okay, I feel pretty good about … I know enough here. You can take those questions off your list and move on to some other questions that maybe you hadn’t thought of in the first place.

Jim:                So you want to have these kinds of open-ended conversations with customers. And then what you’re focused on is uncovering pain, uncovering value that the customer might receive from the potential solution. And then their motivation to solve that pain that they might have.

Jim:                And then the other thing that I think is really important is that you want to be very curious as the product manager. So you want to be able to go into and challenge your previously held assumptions. So what I mean by that is that write down what you believe but know that most likely, you don’t know all the answers. You are probably wrong in several areas. So if you go into it with that attitude, you’re almost in a sense challenging yourself to find a different answer. I think you’re going to have a much more constructive interview with the prospect or a customer.

Jim:                And then you mentioned some of the don’ts. I have a couple of tips there. One is not to take what they say at face value. Because people are nice and people often want you to succeed, right. And they will tell you thinks that maybe they feel but may not be exactly the truth. So they’ll say things like, “Ooh, that sounds interesting.” Or, “That sounds exciting.” Or, “Yes, I’d use that.” But you need to be able to challenge that a little bit and not take it at face value.

Jim:                So you need to ask them, “Why? Why would this be a good solution for you?” Or, “How much money would this save you?” Or, “How much time would this save you and how would that benefit you?”

Jim:                So dig into their responses a little bit more and ask the five whys.

Jim:                The other thing that I like to do is to allow for some silence. And especially if you’re asking some, maybe some questions that might be a little bit uncomfortable for you. A lot of product managers might not be comfortable asking prospects, “What do you think is a fair price to pay for this?” Or, “Tell me about your procurement process.” Those sorts of things. And it’s okay to ask those questions and then sit back and just let there be silence. Because people will start to tell you a little bit more and maybe reveal a little more truth about how they feel if there is some uncomfortable silence.

Daniel:             Yep. That’s a great technique. Thank you for sharing those insights.


Daniel:             And I also think that it’s important to keep an open mind and be curious like you said do the five whys. Because I’ve done it myself right when we have some ideas of what customers want and the customer just mentions something that’s aligned with what we want to hear. We would jump in to say, “Ah, Ah-ha! There it is. It’s validated.” Right?

Jim:                Yes. I’m validated.

Daniel:             I like that. I’m validated. But it’s not about us. That’s a really good one.

Daniel:             I want to move on to the next level of questions in terms of the process of building something. And that is If we think about validating an idea, now we have something that we believe solves the customer’s pain and it’s aligned with the core strengths of our company. It’s also important to understand the monetization strategy. Are we going to make money and how are we going to make money? And I know you have a lot of experience in that area.

How do you develop a monetization strategy for a new product?

Jim:                Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can give a couple of examples. When we were doing the pricing for GoToMeeting, the eventual pricing that we came up with was this all you can use, we called it all you can meet pricing where for a single monthly fee, you get an unlimited number of meetings. And you could invite, I think up to, at the time, up to 10 people to an online meeting. And at the time, that was revolutionary. That was very different in the marketplace.

Jim:                And the way that we got there is by talking with prospective customers about what they … How they were conducting meetings today with their other solutions. And the other solutions that the time was often charging kind of like a cell phone bill where it was per minute. So it was per person attending a meeting per minute. And there was a lot of frustration around that because they would get their bills every month and then not quite know what they were on the hook for. It wasn’t predictable. And so for budgeting purposes, that was frustrating to them.

Jim:                So we honed in on that customer frustration. And then in addition, that sort of cell phone type pricing model was disincentivizing to them to conducting meetings. And really what you want to be doing with an online meeting solution, is having a lot of meetings. Because it’s saving you travel time, it’s making your company more productive, you’re able to conduct many more sales demos rather than traveling to the prospect. So there are all these benefits conducting meetings. Yet with the other solutions, the pricing model wasn’t aligned with that.

Jim:                And so my belief around pricing is that you want to try to figure out how can my pricing model deliver customer value? And how can that be aligned with the value proposition, the product. And so with GoToMeeting, we did that. We were able to come up with a pricing model that one, was unique in the marketplace and was a differentiator in the market. And two, it aligned very much with the value proposition of the product of having a lot of meetings. And we felt the online meetings were very valuable. So that aligned.

Jim:                And I encourage people to look for pricing models that are not just simply cheaper than the competition. That doesn’t always get you to where you be. You want to look for a pricing model that aligns with the value that your product is bringing to the market. And almost think of pricing almost like another feature where you can kind of tweak it and come up with something unique.

Daniel:             That’s really interesting and I really like that idea of creating a price that incentivizes a usage of your product. Because in IoT, for example, I’m seeing a lot of new business models that have to do with usage-based. And so because you have this connectivity with your device, you can monitor how much the device is used and you can charge per usage of the device as opposed to the device.

Daniel:             But I’ve seen that sometimes that backfires because customers, like you say,

say, “Well, I don’t want to spend money, so I don’t want to use this thing. And I’m going to use it as little as possible.” For your adoption goes low and the value proposition that you could’ve provided, it’s kind of constrained by the pricing model.

Daniel:             I think that is really, really interesting.

Jim:                Yeah. And we did something similar at ProductPlan here. So our roadmaps, offer … We charge only for the editors and creators of the roadmap. And then we give away these commenter and reviewer licenses. And so those are free and unlimited, which benefits everyone. Because you want … As a product manager, you want your roadmap to be seen widely. You want your roadmap to very transparent within your organization. And so you want to be able to distribute that widely and you don’t want to have to pay more for that.

Jim:                And then it benefits us because we get more viral spread within organizations, means a lot of people are seeing the roadmaps and they say, “Ooh, I want that for my team as well.”

Jim:                So it’s another example of a pricing model that just kind of is in alignment with the value product.

Daniel:             That’s very smart. Thank you for sharing that. I’m learning a lot from this conversation.

Jim:                Great.

Daniel:             I want to switch to a different topic as we continue with this idea of the life cycle of launching a new product.

Daniel:             And you and I talked a little bit about this idea of creating skunkworks teams and some people call it tiger teams or delta teams. And it’s idea of creating something small to go research an idea before trying to switch the whole company into another direction.

Daniel:             And I think that’s a really interesting idea, very valuable. And I’m seeing, actually, the opposite in a lot of companies going into IoT where all of a sudden, they’re traditional companies and for some strategic reason, they want to adopt IoT throughout the corporation in all its aspects. And all of a sudden, overnight, they’re switching their whole model to an IoT model. And that’s hard, right. Especially with big companies that have momentum.

So let’s explore this idea with you.

Can you share with us why it’s important to have these “Skunkworks” teams?

What do you mean by that? And what are the benefits that you’ve seen there?

Jim:                I’ll reiterate what I said before that if you invest a little bit of time up front, and by the time I mean, you need to have some people almost dedicated to this research.

Jim:                It can be a part-time job, maybe half-time. Or maybe full-time. But the company needs to acknowledge and accept that they need to invest a little time upfront and resources upfront in order to make a better decision that will have these payoffs down the road. So the company needs to be onboard and the executive team needs to be on board with that concept, to begin with.

Jim:                And then these tiger teams are really these cross-functional teams that have a kind of mission. And by cross-functional I mean it can have representation from engineering, from Product, maybe marketing and sales can have representation. Because when you’re researching these new markets and new opportunities, everyone sees it a little bit differently. And everyone has their own, I guess viewpoint on what is feasible.

Jim:                So sales might see some things, for example, in the acquisition model or in the sales model. You need to dig into it a little bit deeper. Or engineering might have some questions about what is technically feasible. And Product, of course, is very, very focused on the problem that you’re solving.

Jim:                So you want to have these cross-functional teams that can then talk about what they’re hearing in these customer interviews. And so I encourage that these teams meet regularly, they have dedicated time to set aside to have customer interviews. There’s one person on the team that’s responsible for going out and getting customer reviews. But everyone is responsible for sitting in on those interviews.

Jim:                Now, not everyone may be asking the customer questions. They may be sitting perhaps in the background. And there might be just one or maybe two people that are actually engaging with the customer.

Jim:                But everyone is listening to that because after that call is done, you want to have like a recap meeting. Like 15 minutes where you’re talking about what you hear. What did you learn that was new? What’s the probability of this person actually becoming a customer? Why or why not? And you want to have that sort of conversation because if somebody’s just simply … One person’s just simply interviewing the customer and taking notes and then distributing notes, you’re getting just that person’s lens. Their view of what’s going on. And it may be missing the mark.

Jim:                And so that’s what I think about these skunkworks teams. And then they can last for several months. And their mission, they evolve over time. They may have started out with a mission to explore perhaps an IoT product for a particular market segment and then if they don’t find something in that segment they can evolve over time. So they kind of have this … Almost an open-ended mandate. And again, that sort of, I guess, the project needs the support of the management team in order to make that successful.

Daniel:             Yes, I think that’s really interesting and I really like this idea of evolving mission. To begin with, a clear mission which is exploration. Because I often see companies that want to transition quickly into IoT and these teams are immediately taxed with a profit goal. Not even revenue, but like a profit goal. And all of a sudden sales teams are tasked with go selling this thing. And we’re not there yet, right. We have to figure out if there’s market first.

Jim:                And the next thing about having several people as part of the team is that you can almost assign different tasks for the team. So one person would be responsible for customer interviews, another person or maybe two people could go off to a conference that’s related to the domain that you’re exploring. And you can kind of assign different tasks and everyone comes together and shares what they’re learning.

Jim:                You can certainly have a cut-off date for this. You can say, by the end of December we’re going to have found out whether we’re going to launch a product in xyz category. But the answer at the end of that maybe we’re not going to do it. And that’s okay … As we said before, that’s an okay answer.

Daniel:             Yes, I completely agree.

Daniel:             And so how did you get internal buying within the organization to do something like this. Because this might be a new concept for some companies or executive teams might not be willing to quote-on-quote at a call center just to explore, right.

Daniel:             So what advice would you give there?

Jim:                So as with product management, anything you’re doing, even for your existing products, needs to tie back to the strategic goals of your organization. And so that’s the starting point. To make sure that everyone’s on board, including the executives with what the strategic goals are.

Jim:                And then you can … If one of the goals is market expansion, right that feeds very naturally into one of these teams. And I think that product managers can do … Are probably some of the best communicators in the organization and I think they can do a really effective job with spelling out the cost of not doing it a certain way.

Jim:                What is the risk and the cost of launching a product that maybe the CEO has for a pet project where if it doesn’t work out or doesn’t get the traction that they assume it’s going to get, what’s the cost of that? And so when you start to put it in those terms, then the cost of a few people spending half their time for a few months on a project and maybe some travel time and so on, it pales in comparison to that.

Jim:                I think a lot of this is up to the Product Manager and Product executives to kind of spell out the value of taking that sort of time.

Jim:                And the product team is already doing this. They’re just doing it on a … I guess a smaller scale. Even for a new feature, right, you’ll product manager and maybe a small team will validate that that’s the right feature to build. And this is just on a bigger scale.

Daniel:             Yes. That’s really, really good advice. And I think that ability to communicate with the executive team in terms that make sense to them. Even timelines, opportunity cost, risk, profitability, et cetera. I think it’s one of the key roles we need to play as product leaders in our organizations. Especially when dealing with new initiatives.

Jim:                Yeah. Exactly.

Daniel:             Jim, this has been a great conversation. Before we go, I’d like to ask you a question that I ask all my guests, and that is,

What advice would you give product leaders who are new at developing IoT solutions?

Jim:                That’s a great question.

Jim:                I would suggest to them that they thoroughly understand the problem that they’re solving. And the problem can be quantitative. It can be that maybe the customer isn’t making a certain amount of money. Or perhaps you’re developing an IoT solution for some industrial application, for example. There are real problems with maybe not monitoring about, for example. You can quantify those.

Jim:                But then you also want to somehow understand the qualitative benefits of solving problems for your customers. Because at the end of the day, people buy products not just because it saves them money or makes them more money, there’s something else there. And it’s up to the product manager to try to understand what that is.

Jim:                So for example, at GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, those products allow people to work remotely. And obviously, there are travel savings, right that you can quantify. But there is significant value in being able to be home for your kid’s soccer game. And I challenge product managers to figure that out. And there’s a real, I guess psychological aspect to products that new product managers, whether it’s for software or IoT or some other product, they need to really try to crack that.

Jim:                So I would have them try to figure that out as part of their evaluation process.

Daniel:             That’s excellent advice, Jim. Thank you so much. I really appreciate having you in this show. I learned a lot and I always enjoy having our conversations.

Jim:                Oh, good. Good. Well, I appreciate the opportunity to.

Daniel:             If people want to learn more about you or ProductPlan, we’ll add information in the show notes, but where should they go?

Jim:                Yeah, absolutely. So ProductPlan is product roadmap software, you can get a free trial at We also have a great blog that has a ton of content for product managers, both new and existing on our website at

Jim:                And we also have books and other resources for product managers.

Daniel:             Yep. They’re great resources. I’ve actually been featured in your blog a few times and it’s an excellent place for getting good information about the day to day working of product managers. So that’s great.

Daniel:             Well, Jim, thank you so much. I look forward to continuing our conversations in the future.

Jim:                Okay. Thanks so much. Take care.

Daniel:             Thank you for listening to this episode of IoT Product Leadership. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of my conversations with IoT product leaders, make sure you subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Daniel:             Also, don’t forget to check out my online courses designed specifically for product managers in the IoT space. To learn more, visit

Daniel:             I am Daniel Elizalde, and I’ll see you next time.

1 Comment

  1. Great blog! Nice information

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