Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

Feature creep – why apps get too complicated

When an app has too many features and pop ups, most users get confused and frustrated. This is feature creep: when the product’s core functionality becomes hidden in too many options and things to do.

Feature creep happens when a team is determined to stay productive, but loses sight of its strategy. Sometimes stopping is better for the product than doing more.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Feature creep is problematic for two main reasons: it confuses users and it costs money. This is because product teams have to be paid to design and code, and you also have to pay cloud costs to store your pointless features.
  • Feature creep happens when there is a pressure to produce, which is contrary to the ability to focus. It can be easier to present new features as productivity to investors and corporate bosses, rather than saying that the product team took time to review results and reflect.
  • To prevent feature creep, go back to the fundamental product development questions...
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How to get people to be nice to each other on your platform

On Airbnb, people stay at strangers' homes. On Twitter, people get trolled. Both are global tech platforms, but why do people treat strangers well on one, and badly on the other?

The answer lies in platform governance: the rules you make to encourage good interactions and punish the bad stuff. Learn how to set up platforms where people are nice to strangers with this week's podcast episode.

Learning notes from this episode.

  • Platform governance touches product development, engineering and marketing. It isn't just a corporate mission statement nobody reads.
  • The logic we apply to creating good offline environments also apply to platforms, but just on a bigger scale. Ask yourself: how do I want people to feel when they get here? What do I want them to do?
  • The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker is an excellent book on how to create offline environments. You can apply these lessons to the online world you are creating. 
  • Community leaders and opinion...
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You can't be half pregnant

Developers don't work in the same ways as non-technical professionals. If you don't know how to work with developers, you can waste thousands of dollars and get very frustrated, as you'll see from the story Sophia shares on this week's episode.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • A feature cannot be released when it is not ready. It is either ready to release, or it is not. There is no half way line. A feature can't be half ready, just like you can't be half pregnant. 
    • Developers usually work in two-week cycles, when they are focussed on a specific set of tasks. For example, in a two week period, developers may be working on a specific feature for an app. Then they release it, and start on another feature.
    • Since what developers do affects the rest of what the product team does, this lesson is relevant if you want to work with other people in the product team, like designers, community managers and data scientists.
    • Corporate accelerators for technology start-ups, which...
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How to commercialise innovation

Success in tech consists of two parts: making great products and using them to build a business. No matter how brilliant an app or algorithm is, if people do not want to pay for it, it is unlikely to live for long.

This is why all tech innovators need to learn the core skills of commercialising innovation.

Listen to this episode to learn how Salesforce, Starbucks and Xero commercialise their tech products, and so you can apply their lessons too.

The top 3 questions you need to answer to ensure your tech product has business success are:

  1. How will this product help people make more money?
  2. How will this product improve customer experience?
  3. How will this product improve efficiency?

Always focus on the benefits that the product will bring customers, not its features.

Tell Sophia what you’re working on and submit your questions to her on [email protected]

Or reach her on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

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How tech companies bring new ideas to life

If you have an idea for a new product in a traditional business, you will probably have to work on an extensive plan before you do anything else.

This is not how it works in tech companies. When the likes of Airbnb and Slack bring new apps or features to market, they use the Sprint Method. It is a methodology developed by Google Ventures to bring new ideas to life and test them quickly and cheaply.

Learn how this works in this podcast.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The aim of a sprint is to test an idea for a new product to find out whether it is worth investing more money in. For example, you can use a sprint to test an idea for an app by creating a prototype. If users like what you’ve made, only then should you hire developers.
  • Each sprint should focus on one idea to test. Do not try to test multiple ideas in one sprint.
  • To figure out where the biggest risks in a new idea lie, ask yourself: if this time in a year, this project failed, why would it have done so?
  • A sprint...
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Intro to agile for non-techies

Agile is now a ubiquitous management term, but few people understand what it means in practice.

For some products, agile is THE BEST system, for others, it is THE WORST.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out what it is, how it works in practice, when to use it and when to avoid it.

You’ll hear how WhatsApp used this methodology to release its first product, and learn how to use it yourself.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • There are two methodologies to make things: waterfall and agile.
  • Waterfall came from manufacturing and construction and emphasises planning in order to release a perfect product. For example, if you’re building a house, you need to plan ahead and only let people move in to live in it when it is complete.
  • Agile methodology is an iterative process, used by software developers. Simple changes get released frequently, in response to user needs or technological changes. The product is by definition never complete, because it is always changing.
  • ...
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Do this before hiring developers

Money isn’t enough to hire the best product teams. If you want to hire great people to build your product, you need to convince them that your vision has potential. To do this, techies and non-techies alike need to come prepared.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. You use Uber to get from A to B, not because you want to use an app.
  • Great outsourced product teams like the Evil Martians will question your assumptions and want to validate your idea. If a product team doesn’t ask you any questions and just wants to take your money, they are probably not very good, and so you should not work with them.
  • To prepare to work with a great product team, research the problem you are solving and your target users. This research will also be useful if you are fundraising or applying for accelerators.
  • User and problem research is also relevant if you want to get a job in a tech business, invest in tech or lead digital transformation. This...
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Break Into Tech: three examples of successful career transitions

The number of technology oriented jobs is predicted to rise to 190 million in 2025, according to Microsoft. But, if you're a non-techie, how do you get in on that?

In this episode, you'll hear how three people transitioned into successful careers and tech, and learn how to apply their tactics to your career transformation.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • To succeed in tech as a non-techie, you need to learn core technology concepts and understand how they translate to business outcomes and user needs. You do not need to retrain as a coder.
  • There are more ways to be part of the tech boom than you think. For example, if you're a marketing expert, you could run a marketing company, which only serves tech clients. 
  • Transitions into tech often have an interim step, like volunteering for a start-up or helping a product team do user feedback. You can use this interim step to build your network, learn about new opportunities and add a tech position to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Listen...
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How to solve the right problem

95% of new products fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. But, usually this isn't because they are badly made, but because they don't solve the right problem.

Before you delve into product development, define the problem you are solving. In this episode, you'll learn from Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, author of What's Your Problem and Innovation As Usual, about how to reframe problem solving in business and in life.

Learning notes:

  • Non-techies can play an important role on product teams by being focussed on the problem they are solving, because they are less likely to get stuck in the weeds of building.
  • Not all problem solving needs fancy technology. Often, small changes in design can have a big impact, at a much lower cost. 
  • Being focussed on the problem is vital at the start of product development, and as your product matures. Keep analysing how people use it to see if you're still solving the right problem.

To learn key technology...

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What Product Managers do and how to become one

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of VC fund A16Z, both started their careers as Product Managers (PMs).

PMs rise to leadership positions in the tech sector, because the job combines user perspectives, business needs and technological capabilities.  Whatever you want to do in the tech sector, learning how product managers think will help you succeed.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem somebody is experiencing. Good product managers always focus on the user and the problem.
  • Product Managers lead developers, marketers and designers, but rarely know how to do all those jobs themselves. 
  • To lead the team successfully, product managers set product goals. This means telling the team where to go, not how to get there.
  • To get into product management, learn a bit, do a bit. Taking courses is useful, but make sure to also participate in making a product.
  • You can get involved in product management by...
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