Thoughts from Google Cloud Next

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It has been just over a year since the last time I was reminded of a simple principle. Last March, it was the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit.  This year, it was the Google Cloud Next event.  The principle is this … if you are the smartest person in the room, find another room.  I was most certainly in a different room, and somewhat overwhelmed by what I experienced. But as a Product Management leader, it is an experience I find necessary and useful from time to time.

Roughly 30,000 people … some of the leading technical minds of our era … topics such as the launch of Google Anthos (their multi-cloud capabilities), Containers, Kubernetes, Redis/NoSQL, and so much more I can only begin to understand at a foundational level.  So why does a Product guy even subject himself to Analytic Summits and Cloud Events? Simple answer, really.

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So, What’s Your Next Move?

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It has been many years, but when I first set out on this blogging journey I made the assertion that as Product Management leaders, having the right “story” is absolutely essential.  At the time I was focused on such elements as positioning or messaging, but of late I have been reminded even within areas such as strategic planning and even competitive intelligence, how you frame the story is critically important.  We are indeed caWhat's next headlinelled to be Master Storytellers, and today I want to key in on one component most stories have … the villain (competition).

Competitive intelligence should not be reduced to a Google searches where you are abstracting news articles; it should not be a thick volume of facts and figures; and it certainly should not be a one-time effort.  Competitive intelligence should be able to answer the question: What will my competition do next?

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Similar Story, Different Perspectives

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The Rubin’s vase illusion is something most of us have been exposed to at some point in our lives.  I love these types of images because they challenge our visual perception and memory … sometimes what you see isn’t as simple as what you first perceive.  What did you see the first time you encountered it, vase or face?  How long until you were able to perceive bVaseFaceoth?  This is a simplistic 2D example, but have you ever looked at some of the more abstract 3D versions?

I know along the journey of my professional career, there have been many instances where this lesson has come into play.  Perception isn’t always reality … there are two sides to the coin … etc.  Such was the case this week as I was sitting at our Sales & Account Management kickoff meeting listening to one of our senior sales executives share a story about mountains and valleys.

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Interpret. Influence. Inform.

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Last October, the idea of ‘always start at the end before you begin‘ had captured my attention. Begin with the end in mind … align towards a common vision (destination) … strive towards a common purpose. I concluded the post with this point … as Product Management leaders I don’t think we can afford to not have the end in mind.  But the obvious question is how do you get a clear picture of the end?

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. – Steven Covey

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The Gap Between the Average and the Exceptional

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Another New Year, which means a clean slate with new goals and results to strive for.  And it also means another kickoff meeting to prepare for.  Two years ago, I posted this piece about how to use kickoff meetings as an opportunity to Align, Educate and Motivate. Check it out for helpful tips on presentation basics, storytelling & vision casting, common kickoff mistakes, and much more.

And while the kickoff is top of mind this morning, it isn’t necessarily the topic I want to cover.  You see, while registering for this years event there were several questions posed in the sign up form as input for our executives leading into the meetings.  One in particular captured my attention …

How would you define excellence?

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Transitions, Mirrors & Growth

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

Admittedly, I’m reusing the intro to a previous post about change … but once again it is totally applicable. Whether you attribute this quote to the song from the mid 1960s from The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!), or go even further back to its original source from King Solomon, the context implies a sense of change … over the course of time, things are not going to stay the same.

Looking back over the course of my career, I can certainly see the truth in this. And I know I’m not the only one.  Think about it, (and in sticking with the theme of the song) haven’t you experienced …

  • jobs you’ve enjoyed, and jobs you’ve endured
  • leaders you’ve admired, and those you’ve disdained
  • teams with chemistry, and teams with dysfunction
  • projects that have succeeded, and projects that failed

The reality is change is neither good nor bad necessarily … it just is.

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“Screw it, just get on with it”

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So the first part of this week was spent exploring topics around FinTech that could have easily left one overwhelmed.  With nearly 12K attendees, 450 speakers and 15 different agenda themes … Money 20/20 was certainly a sight to behold!

To keep from getting lost in the fray, I decided to focus my attention on a couple of specific themes playing out within the strategic initiatives we are looking at.

Digital

  • AI & Deep Learning – with a focus on how AI has grown to have far-reaching implications for the world around us.
  • Digital Identity & Bio-metrics – centering on how to securely authenticate an individual and their permission to complete a specific transaction?

From the various sessions I sat through, I took the time to jot down major/common themes and created this word cloud.  Granted, nothing really new was revealed.  But it was interesting, and encouraging, to hear from industry leaders about progress on these topics over the past year.

Out of everything I saw and heard, there were two high impact ideas I walked away with I wanted to share … one from Sir Richard Branson, the other regarding the Greek & Roman god Janus.

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“Always start at the end before you begin.”

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I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about strategy, and was struggling to get my point across. There are many different types of people in the world, and this particular person tends to be more inclined to action and would prefer to just get on with solving the problem at hand.  As a result, she doesn’t see much value in strategy.

I can’t fault her for the opinion she holds … in fact, quite honestly we need people like her in the organization.  But I also firmly believe there is value in understanding the broader reasons behind why we do what we do.   A purpose that ultimately guides our decision making. So I thought of a simple story to convey the point.

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Revisiting Agile: Definition of Done, Metrics & More

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I recently accepted additional responsibilities after a Product Leader left our organization, and out of necessity I’ve had to dig in and immerse myself in a new world.  So it shouldn’t surprise me when I see it has been just over a month since my last post.  What a powerful reminder of how easily you can lose focus on being intentional when you get sucked into the day-to-day activities of the business.

As part of this transition, I’ve been thrust back into the mix of what it means to be Agile, so I’ve recently spent some time digging back through a few concepts.  It was helpful for me to revisit these, so I thought re-sharing would be a good idea.  Enjoy.

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Digital, Value, & Process

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Over the course of the past several weeks, my attention has been captured by three articles in particular.  I’m just getting the chance to get caught up with post-vacation reading, sodigital as I am processing them myself I thought I’d share as well.

All of the articles focus on a common theme … and you’ll generally see it in articles from McKinsey, Accenture, Gartner, Forrester, etc … how is digitization radically changing the dynamics of the markets in which we operate and the speed at which we need to move to remain competitive? How do we create value in this new ecosystem as Product Management leaders? And how do we shift our focus from a strategic standpoint from the complex to the simple?

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