Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0

You’re a dreamer? You’re a doer? You’re a doer-turned-dreamer? You’re a dreamer-turned-doer? If you are some or all of that, you are quite likely an entrepreneur!! It is no secret that a start-up’s journey is action-packed—identifying the right problems to solve, validating possible solutions, getting the product-market fit right, building an awesome product—figuring out the roadmap items to say yet to and say no to, scaling growth—and the challenge is to yet do it in a focused way. Sounds familiar? Worry not, we have one advice for you “Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0”.


If you are a discovery stage start-up, we have something specially tailored for you at PNCamp 2.0. Here are 5 reasons to NOT miss PNcamp 2.0.

Zeroing in on the product fit:

One of the biggest challenges a start-up faces is the right problem to pick to get product fit correct. There are many viable paths and how does one find the one. Learn to use the effectuation framework to help with entrepreneurial decision making in unpredictable environments.

Building the right product, building it right:

Having gone past the initial problem-solution fit validation, it’s extremely critical to build the right product, and to build it right, to build it fast. How do you define your MVP, how do you build a compelling yet rapid to build roadmap, how do you prioritize, how do you rapidly iterate? A track on building the right product for B2B companies by Suresh Sambandam address will cover “Building the right product”.   

Getting traction tips:

Finding right prospects, reaching them and converting them are key to getting early traction. Get insights from experts into mastering the sales funnel and process, campaign strategies, and hiring the right sales and marketing teams.

Product teardown sessions:

Beyond insights, tips and practical advice get ready for some coaching format feedback where selected companies will do a quick pitch for 10 mins and get feedback from experts. An excellent opportunity to not just learn from practitioners but also your peers and from their experiences and challenges! An immersive learning opportunity!

Building your own product tribe:

Join a social evening to meet and network with the experts and peers; and to make connections for life.

There are few seats left and you can grab yours here.

Product Leaders Forum brings PLF 2015 to create and celebrate product leaders!

There are two things that ring loud in my head whenever I think about PLF. The first is the teaching by renowned Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And the second is the quote “Celebrate what you have accomplished but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed” by Mia Hamm a leading soccer player who has many firsts to her name.

At iSPIRT we dream of making India a product nation. In it’s 2-year journey so far (yes #iSpirtturns2!), the dream has taken shape in different ways! It is great that there are others who share the dream and the passion! Product Leaders Forum (PLF)—a not-for-profit is one such catalyst working in the eco-system in the same direction. PLF’s mission is to build an active forum of product leaders helping build stronger product mindsets and skillsets in India. This journey is going to be made of many steps and as a part of its early steps it brings an upcoming event PLF 2015!

As a product citizen I am very excited about “Product Leaders Forum – 2015” a 4-day event coming up in Bangalore between 17-20th February 2015! True to it’s core, PLF’s promise for the event is to bring together product heroes and sheroes—visionary practitioners who have successfully run product centers for global companies or transitioned to start-up on their own; gurus—product management, leadership and design gurus; and practising and aspiring product citizens.

A key goal of PLF 2015 is to help create product leaders and to celebrate product leadership! As we know a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and the Indian eco-system has made a bold start in the last few years. As the country was fast thriving in the Indian services industry making a global impact, the product journey slowly but surely began! With the vibrant eco-system of MNC companies and local start-ups, it is only going to grow further. Start-ups have an appetite greater than ever to get bigger and the R&D centers want to go beyond being R&D centers to become product and business centers! This shift in appetite and need to move up the value chain calls for a greater role of product management, product leadership and product leaders in the play.

The product leadership evolution has become a revolution and it stands on two key pillars—product mindsets and skillsets to make the shift! At PLF 2015 all sessions and speakers have been hand-picked to exclusively focus on that. Here are just a few of the many exclusive things that can be expected at PLF 2015:

  • 11 CEOs, 1 stage, 1 topic — Panel discussion on Product Leadership’s journey from evolution to revolution!
  • Series of career tracks, workshop tracks and best practice series carefully hand-picked for product leaders to build the mindset and turbo-charge career paths
  • Candid conversations on a spectrum of topics ranging from intraprenuership; product management; design and experience; leveraging emerging; transformative technologies; and organizational championship to build great product teams!
  • First hand success stories from accomplished stalwarts on their journey from product leadership to intrapreneurship to enterprenership
  • Actionable takeaways
  • An exposure to a bagful of unexplored possibilities to become a product leader and a great one at that!
  • Form lifelong, meaningful connections in the eco-system not just at the event but ones that open up dialogues beyond it as well

This is a not-to-be-missed event by every product leader, and anyone who’s in the business of building products needs product leaders!

  • If you’re a product company making global products, you need product leaders
  • If you’re a service company with thriving services business, but are looking to build great platforms that not only allow you to take the best to all your customers, but also monetize it better; you need product leaders
  • If you’re an entrepreneur running a start-up for local or global customers, while you are focussed on managing funding and selling of the product as you build it, you need to also play the role of a product leader! And as you grow, you need a team of product leaders!

Being part of both families, I can see and feel the passion; and visualize a product nation for all us product citizens; and inspired and upskilled product leaders; and it is this visualized dream that keeps me marching one step at a time every day in that direction! Before we continue on the journey ahead, I do plan to stop by at PLF 2015 to celebrate product leadership and become a champion product leader! Given the way the iSpirt family is a fan of building great products, definitely hope to see many of you there J!! To find out more about the schedule, speakers and registrations check out the PLF website before the bus is full!

DNA mysteries of Products and Services

It has been an interesting coincidence on the last few occasions in different discussions and industry forums I participated in, they have attracted a good amount of the classic “Products and Services” in IT deliberation. As such, this is not a new debate. It is common to see patrons from the products world root for it by generating IP and for the services gurus illustrate how they are able to tailor deliveries as per customer need to make good revenues.

In the various roles that I have been involved in be it front line sales, to working with target customers, to addressing markets through the channel, or driving product management for products of different types right from enterprise to small and medium businesses that are deployed on-premise or delivered as a service; I have realized it is more than “this versus that”. At the face of it, running “product or services” businesses largely seem to be two different ball-games. They do have different DNAs. However, in addition to the different focuses that are essential on some aspects; these also involve some common influences that need to be capitalized upon. And no, it doesn’t end there. An important element of success viz the customer expectation is undergoing an interesting shift. A customer increasingly expects…a solution! They are neither looking for a product or a service in isolation, but instead for a solution that delights and delivers timely value. In this post, we will explore the characteristic differences—the DNA differences between IT products and services; and some common factors that have a bearing on the business opportunities and performance.

The landscape—A holistic view

Let us start with a holistic look at some key characteristics of what constitutes a product and a service. The marketplace typically includes an offerings continuum. At one of the two ends are pure-play products and at the other pure-play services with combinations in between. It can be illustrated as below:

Offerings ContinuumThe DNA differences—A closer look

If we take a deeper look and closely evaluate this in context of IT products and services, around which this post is primarily focused, it involves some common influences, but with distinctly different DNAs to run both businesses. The evaluation of key indicators across these businesses includes consideration for common factors, but with different approaches. For instance, both product and service type of offerings involve evaluation and use of technology, assets and resource planning, cultural bearings and so on.  A comparison of DNA differences for some key indicators is included below:

Product-Services-DNACommon influences—A quick digest

As we can see, there are some distinct DNA differences. For instance, meeting a market need versus single customer requirement; transactional approach versus relationship driven, internally focused culture and processes versus tailored to customer. At the same time, aspects like technology, people, and processes are the common influences that can either enable or inhibit effectiveness in either model. They serve both as an opportunity and a challenge! The previous section has covered how the approaches vary across indicators. Let us now briefly assess the common aspects that can greatly influence outcomes.

  • Technology: Technological advancements are constant. With every technological paradigm shift, right from main-frames to distributed systems to the cloud, with the change in technology capabilities available, businesses have looked at methods to leverage these for maximum benefits. So for a provider, irrespective of the nature of business, they have to constantly find ways to stay abreast of technological advancements to be in a position to lead the market or advise a customer with right solutions. For instance, if we take a look at one of the hottest shifts around SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud), it is not prudent for either product or services companies to ignore those. Products need to evolve to cater changing customer preferences, interaction methods and deployment models. This is not just limited to product companies. These shifts need service companies to ensure their offerings weave these in to truly to ensure customer delight in-line with newer preferences.
  • People: One of the most significant contributors to the success of any business is the people assets they have. Knowledgeable, motivated, productive and enlightened workforce is needed for runnnig both products or services successfully. Ensuring the workforce it kept current with the market and technology demands and on the soft side ensuring they’re productive is of paramount importance. This of course is an obvious one. But going wrong with this could have the entire game go south even if all else is right.
  • Process: Processes are a great tool any company can have through which preferred frameworks can be pressed into action for a more consistent and repeatable outcome. These could be applied to internal focused activities like training and development, knowledge sharing, documented development methodologies (e.g. Agile, etc.), sales methodologies and so forth. Processes can help with managing OpEx for both frameworks. Similarly, they’re applicable even to external focused aspects like processes to demonstrate thoroughness of approach, for compliance and so forth. How far to adapt really depends on appetite and culture; which varies from company to company.
  • Success factors:  While the measuring metrics might differ across lines of business, it is a fact that there is no better way to walk towards success than to be driven by results that ensure customer success and delight. This is an essential metric to keep track of that cannot be overriden or ignored in either business.

Looking at all of above, one can think of products and services as two separate circles having distinct DNA differences with some overlap of common influences. All of these put together, put organisations in a position to meet the need of tomorrow. Let’s take a look at an illustration that highlights these put together:

Product&ServicesThe Ultimate structure—Solutions shift

At the same time, given the economic challenges, the markets becoming buyer markets, general shifts in buying patterns, need to respond to businesses faster, and need to demonstrate value and return on investments (ROI), the focus is increasingly on the “customer” than just a product or a service that is up for offering. Customers today carefully evaluate every penny being spent. They expect to realize value from investments faster. Customers are tired of siloed approaches either by just having a product deployed and not having a working solution, or having a solution frame-work, but the underlying products not being stitched to deliver the value the customer expects from the investments made. Gone are the days where companies could deploy a product and take months or even years to tweak it to customer need. Or suggest a service without having their own skin in the game when it boils down to technology or products involved.  Customers today expect product companies to not just deploy a product, but to provide a working solution tailored for their needs. Customers today expect services companies to have the required levels of expertize, coordination and relationships with involved products and technology stacks, to effectively tailormake a solution to meet their needs faster. They do not expect the ball to be dropped in either of the cases to have prolonged deliveries. Customers today are looking for working solutions. Customers today are looking for faster realization of value. Customers today are looking for a positive experience to respond better to business needs rather than being tied up with large IT projects. They need to be delighted—truly!

The shift is really towards using products and services together effectively to deliver effective solutions. Irrespective of their primary DNA, every company will need to evaluate how they can work out the entire DNA strand to have a solutions structure!

The new shift focus

Bass tu bhaag Milkha…(the third Cohort #PNCamp)

Running a start-up is like running a marathon. It is not for instant gratification; it is not for short cuts; it is not for everyone. Completing a marathon needs planning, perseverance and technique. As marathon runners know, for every marathon, be it your first or nth, the odds of succeeding are high when you train right for it. Marathon running training is intense; so is the #PNCamp going to be!

One of the popular methods of marathon training is training in groups. It helps to properly prepare to run a safe marathon, with support, advice and a team of people cheering you on. At the same time, each runner builds different targets with each race. Your #PNCamp experience will be something similar—train for the marathon and beyond!

At #PNCamp you will train with cohorts! We intend to enable you to run the customer discovery hacking marathon or scale hacking marathon depending on your start-up stage.  You will be with like-staged peers in a cohort as you go through the day-long drill at PNCamp with great coaches. As it often happens, the tribe grows quickly with time. Yes, we are happy to announce our 3rd cohort!

Cohort3 #PNCampWe have the next set of attendees signed up for each of the tracks. We are also happy to announce two new coaches—Shashank, co-founder and CEO at Practo and Sangeet Paul, mentor 500 startups and contributor for HBR. As it happens with marathon runners, everyone has a different target, so based on your timing targets, preferred trails and routes; this will be a great opportunity to also help you choose your future training partners beyond the bootcamp.

As we get closer to the event, we hope you’re feeling the rush too! To be a marathoner! To train! To look ahead for the pleasant aches from a run! If you want to but haven’t registered yet, hurry, the last few seats are filling soon. So, just do it!

Like me, are you too going to be humming this song all day? Ab tu jaag Milkha… Ab tu bhaag Milkha…