PRODUCT MANAGEMENT, project management

Why Product Development Projects Suck?

The WTF project mgt and team collaboration problem

Today, complex products = complex organisations

Bob Story

Bob, a Marketing manager in a car company who is working on a new car concept project team. Bob needs to prepare a marketing launch for the Paris auto show planned in October 2018. Leading the marketing initiatives, he is doing different activities (plan/define tasks/tracking). Each team peer Bob interacts with has a different way of working (the hardware teams are in waterfall, the software team in Scrum, the digital team in Kanban and plant manufacturing in Lean six sigma). Each team and its members use different tools/apps (CAD, Trello, MS Project, Jira, SAP…) from various devices (IoT, mobiles, PCs…) generating different documents, files or transactions that create tremendous data.

Project GIF-downsized_large

What looks on the surface simple is not. Bob has to deal with 57 different interfaces!!! Just for a one-shot marketing launch…

Academic researchers have shown a high correlation between product complexity and organisation (Sosa et al, 2004). Well, the bad news is complex products will get more complex (i.e. today 10% cars value is software based, in 2030, it will be 30% according to McKinsey Global Inst, source: which is creating even more “complicatedness” (according to Yves Morieux from to TheBostonConsultingGroup, source: Watch tedtalk here

Organisation creates “complicatedness” by multiplying layers, interfaces and interdependencies. Productivity plummets. Organisations increase project failure risk exponentially.

Bob has a real difficulty to execute the project. He does not give up. However, he is spending much time in coordinating and reporting. TheBostonConsultingGroup estimates managers spend up to 70% in coordination meetings and reporting, leaving only 30% for added value tasks (source:

Bob is courageous but feels he is not working on added value activities and begin to disengage.

Bob is not alone, there are 800 million knowledge workers like him (according to Forrester research), meeting and writing reports instead of DOING the work. Just imagine the waste in the scale of industries output or countries GDP.

800 Million knowledge workers like Bob are struggling

Emergence of organisations 2.0

Only 12% Fortune 500 firms in 1955 exist today (according to Forbes). Firms face faster and more brutal technological and market changes that create higher uncertainties. These forces push organisations to be more reactive, responsive or ambidextrous. However, this is not happening or with tremendous sacrifices because firms are still organised as a rigid structure living in highly predictable environments.

Alike the agile manifesto, newly created community #ResponsiseOrg urge to give up the old “command and control” for a new “responsive” organisation, (source:

reponsive organisation manifesto

Massive problem = big bu$ine$$

This massive problem is also a big business. The project and collaborative management software spending is estimated $21,4 Bn in 2017, growing 7,3% CAGR 13–18 according to IDC (IDC, 2018)

Not surprisingly, a lot of companies like AsanaAtlassianMicrosoft, and PLM vendors like Dassault Systèmes are trying to tackle the problem. Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein explains how the company is positioning as firms “backbone”.


Organisations must better collaborate and work in a more efficient way to gain productivity. I do believe there are huge opportunities to disrupt the project and collaborative software industry like Airtable or Station, the 2017 product hunt winner based in Paris. The recent acquisition of Github, the developer collaboration platform by Microsoft is just the beginning.

The $5 billion dollars market tech players are missing

There are a massive team project and collaboration issues, defying today’s organisation rigid norms. Tech firms can help firms morphing into a more fluid organisation. I believe, however, software vendors and startups have only addressed primarily knowledge workers in services and support activities function (marketing, finance, HR etc..), software and design. Hence missing huge untapped market worth $5bn (CIMdata and IDC, 2018)

Based on 80+ project and collaborative tech firms market analysis(i.e. AsanaAtlassianSmartsheetAutodesk…), we can claim the knowledge workers involved in complex product teams in discrete industries are unaddressed today.

Knowledge workers involve in complex product teams in discrete industries are unaddressed today.

Through complex product I mean multi-disciplinary teams working for a new product development project. By discrete industries I mean automotive, aerospace, high tech, industrial equipment. For example Uber or Tesla Motors self-driving cars, Airbus air taxi project teams. There, hardware prototypes, manufacturing plant managers, software developers, mechanical engineers, data scientist, finance, legal, sales, design and product management people collaborate together. In this scenario, as shown above with Bob’s story, team peers inter-dependance, interfaces and data generated are incredibly complex to manage and exponential.

PPM and CWM competition matrix
Project and Collaborative work management competitive intensity, Zishan M CC


Industries are transforming. Industry 4.0 movement, millennials and post millennials entering in force the labour market with new aspirations and purposes, tech (AI, the blockchain, social messaging…) and market rapid and brutal turbulences, I do believe a change dynamic is underway.

Enabling that transformation will need a new type of project and collaboration management paradigm. The open question is, who will enable Bob?


TV intervention @tv5

Honoured to participate in @tv5monde  “tour du monde de la francophonie” (French culture world celebration day) in October 2017 in Lahore.

I have urged French and European tech firms to invest in South Asia a home for roughly 25% world population with 2/3 pop <30 years. a young, mobile only, social, entrepeneur and start up mindset generation like Rocket Internet (Germany), Telenor Digital (Norway) or Hello Tomorrow (France). A huge opportunity in e-commerce for example. do not let alone to alike Alibaba investing massively int he Region (400 million only in Pakistan)…


Talk: #product management for startups, (Intro)

A talk I gave @NIC, National Incubation Centre about #product management for startups. it is just an intro, the subject is vast of course, there are a lot of concepts that I just mentioned but would rather need to dig deeper (platforms, growth hacking, KPIs, analytics, agile, lean…). I emphasised more on the audience, technical background, young startuper who never got a product management intro before. I’ve deliberately focused on product strategy;  building the “right thing” Vs “building the things right”

Any comment, suggestions, please share with me.




Roku needs to pivot to survive

Roku successful IPO should not hide the big challenges the Los Gatos firm faces and will in the near future.
As a “simple” video/TV platform, Roku is poised to be disrupted by platform systems like Amazon, Apple and Google sooner or later if it does not change.

Roku Platform
Fig: Roku TV platform business model, Zishan AM CC


Started from smartphones, Android TV and Apple TV are edge platforms built from greater platform systems. On the producer side, Google’s Android Studio and Apple’s Xcode offer full suit of developer tools and services that allow to leverage their myriad services (i.e. maps, analytics, ads…), assets (i.e. material design, devices, tvOS and Android TV OS) in the form of libraries and API calls bundled in a native SDK. Both tech giants have expanded their platform system to cover different devices in order to offer fully coherent, comprehensive and consistent ecosystem to developers, marketers and advertisers but also a frictionless user experience (UX) to their users/audience (pull, capture, match virtuous UX circle).

Both tech firms follow an envelop strategy (@PlatformRevolution from Parker, Van Alstyne and Choudary, MIT Media labs, 2016)  to compete against incumbents’ single product and/or platforms to increase traffic and digital content exchange on their respective platform. It avoids multihoming by increasing user’s platform switching costs (i.e. as an iphone user, you may have acquired many apps and content that can’t be played on Android and vice versa).

It follows as what economist called a complement offering (@TheContentTrap from Bharat Anand, Random House, 2016). Two products are complements if a user’s value from consuming both is greater than the sum of her values from consuming alone as Anand described. Like selling hot dogs and ketchup separately, it is OK but together it is tastier and better sell.

More on platform system in this article.
Platform systems (Google, Apple, Amazon) > TV platforms (i.e. Roku) > product/service
Ps > Po > p
While Roku has one of the best of todays TV/Video B2C platform it has number of limitations:
  • Roku platform is not a Platform system
  • Roku is too much TV screen centric
  • Roku OS is today only offering TV centric Ux
  • Roku data capacities are limited compared to GAFA and even Rovi/Tivo
  • Roku infrastructure is limited in terms of geo
  • for the Network – Marketplace – community layer, Roku has limitation in terms of:
    • Multi-screen user friendly UX
    • unified search
    • personalised and smart curation
    • content deep library and tail
    • unified content and aggregation
  • limited Advertising capabilities compared to GAFA and internet players (Twitter, Facebook, Rakuten…)
I believe that if Roku wants to be really competitive in the new TV/Video market reconfiguration, it needs to:
  1. Focus on Software capabilities, pivot positioning to B2B TV/Video platform. Positioned as the Twilio of the TV/Video platforms for Telcos, content and developers
  2. Ditch the hardware, retail and B2C
  3. Strengthen its Network – Marketplace – Community platform layer with following skills:
    1. Multi-screen user friendly UX
    2. unified search
    3. personalised and smart curation
    4. content deep library and tail
    5. unified content and aggregation from linear, non linear, User generated content/broadcast and protected content, represents all genres (music, documentenray, education…) and localized (Indian, Spanish, Chinese…)
  4. Strengthen its Digital, Programatic video, recommendation and analytics capabilities through partnership or acquisitions in the SSP and/or DMP.
However it will not be easy because Roku will then face directly the large bluechip companies alike: Ericsson (media room/reach), Cisco (NDS, Videoscpae), Accenture (AVS) and all Network service providers (Nokia/Alcatel, Huawei etc…)
As such, Roku will then sits between the GAFA and the traditional TV/Video platform vendors Ericsson et al. I feel that Roku’s products are superior than the traditional incumbents one however, having the best product does not guarantee success (remember Apple Newton or Sony eReader or Mp3 players?).
Through my discussions with operators, I see a lot of them resistant to Android. Roku can be a viable alternative.
Briginghtcove has succeeded in pivoting from a C2C platform to a B2B OVP platform. Roku can do it but will require bold moves.
Let see ˆ_ˆ