Focus means saying “no” sometimes

In my earliest days of doing product management, it pained me a lot to deny a feature request. I like to make people happy, and the people who build products want more than anything else for their products to be used. But no product can have every feature added, so saying “yes” to something is always effectively saying “no” to something else. As a product manager, the first time you really come to grips with this can be a little depressing. For me, this realization makes me truly treasure how synergies in our product strategy or the efficiency of our development allows us to deliver more than most people expect. And it makes me really focus on value.

Focusing on value is central to everything we do in our products. We use our own software to have our customers and partners vote on the features that will deliver the most value. We work in rapid and highly iterative development cycles, so that we can get software into real use to find out how to make it more valuable more quickly. We talk to our customers and partners every day through our eNGage site to understand what they are trying to accomplish and how the software fits or doesn’t fit their use case.

The result of this is that we build and release quickly while having a bigger picture product strategy and an overarching vision that guides us. The bigger picture product strategy has three primary axes for differentiation. In the ecosystem area, we continue to have a deep and strong integration with Microsoft technologies. At the same time, we are expanding to work with other ecosystems because we know that customers have many valuable use cases that span both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies. We also know that customers can get the most value out of social when it enables a full business process. Our releases of our Internal Communications solution and upcoming Innovation solution show our commitment to delivering full business stories that leverage our rich social platform. Finally, we continue to invest in cloud capabilities that match up with the real use cases of our customers. Today this primarily means hybrid capabilities that do things like secure mobile access, cloud-based video encoding and playback, premise-to-Office365 bridging, and mobile push communications. As we go forward, we will offer more and more capabilities running from the cloud while still leveraging some of our unique knowledge and technical capabilities. The diagram below shows this concept in a very simple way.

All of this product strategy resides under a larger company vision. Our vision statement sounds deceptively simple:

Learn more about our very cool “SP^CE” strategic framework in this blog post from our CEO.

For me, the key words in our vision are “work” and “empower”. Our core mission is about software for enterprises. To make work better, we have to make software that actually helps to do the work. You can see how this ties back into our ecosystem integration portion of the product strategy. The work in enterprises is being done in the platforms of major vendors like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. It also ties into the notion of solutions. If we can deliver a complete business story within our social platform, we know that it will help users to get their work done better. When we think about empowering people, we’re looking at the notion that the software does some of the heavy lifting. As work continues to become faster-paced, software needs to do more to let people use their creativity and energy on the interesting problems and have more tedious things handled for them. When you start looking at what it takes to accomplish all this, you realize that this is truly a huge vision.

And this brings me back to the part about saying “no”. To support our vision and make social real for the enterprise, we are not able to also put enough effort into evolving and running our Glassboard platform. For many of our customers, this statement may produce the response, “What is Glassboard?” Glassboard is a cloud-based private group sharing service. Social Sites can integrate with Glassboard, but the majority of use of Glassboard has come from consumer users. With the cloud-based capabilities we’ve developed for Social Sites, most of the use cases for integrating with Glassboard are already covered in other ways for enterprise customers.

Many people worked hard to create Glassboard, and we have gotten a lot of praise and thanks for creating it. Glassboard has lots of loyal users who love it. We want Glassboard to not only continue running but also to evolve and flourish. So we’re looking for a good home for Glassboard. The backend service for Glassboard runs in Azure, and it has wonderful iOS and Android clients. It took a team of talented people to create it, so we want Glassboard to go somewhere that has enough resources. More importantly, Glassboard was created with the vision of private group sharing. If Glassboard continues to operate, it’s key that the new owner shares that vision. So if you think your organization is a good fit, please contact me. We are open to hearing from people until September 13, but if we find a great fit before then, we’ll move quickly.

Like I said at the start of this blog post, saying “yes” to something means you have to say “no” to other things. For NewsGator, our vision of making work better and empowering people is our focus. So while we’re looking for a new home for Glassboard, we are also continuing to build powerful and exciting capabilities in Social Sites. I’m looking forward to posting more in a couple weeks about all the exciting work we’re doing to support our vision.

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