Egress Solutions Product & Innovation Management Blog

Mike Smart

Mike Smart
Mike brings more than 25 years of high technology industry experience in a variety of leadership roles to the business. He has completed successful engagements with technology companies such as NetApp, Sage, VMware, BigMachines, K1 Capital, Vista Equity Partners, P2 Energy Solutions and Identive. Prior to founding Egress, Mike served in leadership and executive roles with a variety of companies including Pragmatic Marketing, Nsite (now SAP), Go-Remote (now iPass), and Tandem Computers (now HP) as Senior VP of Operations, VP of Product Management & Development, and VP Product Management. His depth and breadth in the industry give him insight and understanding to build, lead and manage teams that deliver outstanding performance and results for a company.
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Recent Posts

New to Market Discovery? Here's What You Should Know

Beware of early feedback, it’s mostly noise 

It’s so exciting to get new ideas and find market problems at the start of the process. The users are engaged and you are doing your best to empathize with their situation and feel their pain.  

Based on our experience with market discovery and the feedback we hear from our clients, it’s best to file away initial input and refer to it later in the process. It may be compelling, especially if it comes from a group of very impressive non-customers that your sales team is itching to win over. Generally speaking, this early input will not be enough to formulate a compelling problem statement 

Don’t be discouraged! Collecting input from a wide range of customers - current, competitors and potential - will unearth the true nature of the market problem explicitly, with emotion and provide the value of solving it.  

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Avoiding Hiring Interns For Your Small Business? Read this first.

As a small company we have learned the hard way that talent means everything. 

In this tight labor market, we have shifted to a balanced recruiting practice. Looking for experienced consultants and product management professionals while recruiting high potential individuals through internships 

For a company our size, the internship route can seem like daunting task and high risk. We had to invest a lot of thought into the goals of the internship. We sought to answer these and other questions.  

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3 Things No One Tells You About Market Validation

Your research has uncovered a market problem that your company may be able to solve. Congratulations! It’s worth celebrating, but keep in mind that your work is about 30% done. Just like you wouldn’t run off and marry someone you just met, your decision to move ahead with committing company resources to this particular problem must be based on more than just recognizing its existence. You must see if there is a fit – a true opportunity for your company to make money – validation that this market problem is a keeper.

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An Insight into the Problem with Finding Market Problems

We all know that finding and validating market problems are the most important activities for a product manager.

Yet, many Product Managers struggle to consistently engage in this best practice.  The reasons for this challenge may vary, however what we hear most often is that Product Managers collect ample data from customers and potentials but find it difficult to aggregate into meaningful information.

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8 Keys to Successfully Implementing a Product Management Framework

Organizations eager to do a better job building and launching products that win in the market are smart to look to product management frameworks. Who wants to waste time reinventing the wheel when market opportunities require speed and stakeholders are obsessed with agility? The tested, refined, and re-refined product management best practices from the industry’s thought leaders have done all the hard work, so why not just “paste and go?”

Not so fast! As we outlined in our previous post, training your product teams is an important step, but just that – a step – in transforming your group into a well-oiled product management machine. To truly leverage the product management framework, an organization needs to understand its objectives, identify strengths and weaknesses, and tailor the implementation.

In our years of helping companies adopt the most valuable elements of industry standard frameworks based on agile, lean product management and market-driven models, we’ve taken note of the key “ingredients” to a rapid, complete, and successful implementation.

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Our team has been through product management training… now what?

Getting a product management team up to speed is a big commitment and investment. Training is an essential part of their journey to high-performance, but multiple studies show us that overall retention of training material is very low – about 10%, according to most experts. Furthermore, if team members don’t get to put that new information into practice, they will struggle to retain even that small fraction.

This isn’t the fault of the product managers or product team leaders. The many high quality training courses available for product teams simply aren’t sufficient. Such training programs are the foundation of what is required to transform your group into a high-performing product management organization.

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Should You Hire or Grow Your Next Product Management Leader?

Perhaps your VP of Products has decided to join a hot startup or you just realized that it’s time for your product management group to have its own seat at the leadership table. Regardless of the circumstance, you find yourself in need of a product management leader.

You can picture who you want to step into this role:

  • someone in sync with the company vision and goals
  • an effective leader who will focus the product management team
  • someone who can earn the respect of development
  • a professional who really gets product management
  • they know it is also a market facing role and won’t let the team get bogged down in countless meetings

So how do you get from here to there?

Should you hire or “grow” your next product management leader?

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The ABCs of Win-Loss Analysis

As we discussed in our recent post How to Quantify the Return on Product Management, it’s essential for product management teams to focus on market-sensing activities. How do customers and prospects view your solutions relative to the competition? What are the most important factors in their decision? Who is involved?

A golden opportunity to gain insight is right after a customer or prospect chooses to buy or not buy. But it’s not as simple as just asking a new customer why your company won, or asking the sales rep why you lost. To pan the gold out of the wins and losses happening every day, you’ll need a carefully planned and executed win-loss analysis program.

Maximizing the Benefits of Your Win/Loss Analysis Program

Your program should consist of 4 main steps – prepare, survey, interview, and analyze. Because your sales team won’t be excited about this (you know it’s true) and not every customer/prospect will take part, your approach needs to maximize participation and extract the most value from each interview. Here is how to do that.

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How to Quantify the Return on Product Management

Do you ever feel like you have a target on your back? If you’re a product executive, especially with product management responsibility, you’ve felt the pressure to justify the existence of you and your team at some point. Sure, you can talk to the executive team about efforts underway to define the MVP, groom the product backlog and prioritize features for the next release. But they want something more concrete from you – a clear connection between the investment in your team and the top line or the bottom line results.

It may be tempting to jump to your product or product line profit and loss to justify staffing compensation, return on investment, contribution margin and productivity… However, this can be a big mistake if you haven’t laid the proper foundation and set expectations with your co-leaders and your team.

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An Executive's Guide to a Healthy Software Product Portfolio

The software market is constantly evolving. Want proof? In the span of a single week technology website Network World reviews an average of more than 20 software and hardware products. For executives at software development companies, the challenge is one of balance — too many products and you get lost in the noise; too few, and you're not taking best advantage of your market niche. Here's a top-level guide to help ensure your product portfolio is in good health.

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