Tag Archives: management

BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

BCG Matrix as a Product Roadmap

The Boston Consulting Group Matrix is a useful way of viewing the stages of development of a product line.

It describes 4 phases of a product’s life cycle:

  • QUESTION MARK: Low market share, high market growth
  • RISING STAR: High market share, high market growth
  • CASH COW: High market share, low market growth
  • DOG: Low market share, low market growth

Originally developed to analyze cash flow, I’ve found it helpful to:

  • Pin down a product line’s stage and where it may be going
  • Choose product strategies
  • Identify and allocate resources

Question Mark
When a product begins its life-cycle, it remains an unknown despite our best estimates about who will receive it and how it will be received. Product development is the most innovative at this stage: taking risks, learning on the fly and adapting rapidly. The focus of efforts is on developing PRODUCT KNOW HOW.

Some companies don’t manage this phase well, hoping to jump to the cash cow phase without making useful adjustments and improvements, or taking advantage of learning opportunities that arise during this time.

Rising Star
The product takes off: it’s starting to make money. Development still needs to be nimble and make creative decisions but now must stay within the product’s initial framework and identity (i.e., no crazy changes). This is an excellent time to promote the product line and establish the company’s expertise in the space. The focus is now on PROMOTING the KNOW HOW.

Cash Cow
This is the pinnacle of the product line; it’s got a positive, steady cash flow. For some, it’s both the most boring and most desired phase of a product life cycle. Product development at this point is the most conservative and by-the-book. The focus is now on MAINTAINING the KNOW HOW.

The end phase for the product line. Sales are declining, market is compressing. This is the trickiest time for product development, since the options are now distinct and drastic: a simple make-over, major plastic surgery or a casket. The focus now is on WHAT TO DO with the KNOW HOW.

Some companies fail to recognize when the cow is dwindling into a dog. As a result, inappropriate product strategies are still maintained, hastening the eventual demise of the line and perhaps even, the company.

Warming Up

Warming Up

Performers do it, athletes do it – but rarely do we game developers warm up.  And yet, our jobs are just as demanding both creatively and physically.

Actors have many different ways of warming up, but their activities fall into the following categories:

Vocal Warm Ups
The voice is one of the most important parts of the actor’s instrument, so it makes sense that they’re warmed up. We activate our breath, articulators and resonators with silly exercises such as tongue twisters. These would be good for developers to do before important pitch meetings, sloggy code reviews or long schmooze fests at conferences.

Physical Warm Ups
The body is also an important aspect of an actor’s repertoire and actors usually spend most of their warmups stretching. It’s an excellent way of getting energized and reducing stress – things we all can use more of in our face-paced industry.

Circle Games
These are very popular among improv troupes as they foster group dynamics, trust and strong connections with each other. They’re also extremely silly thereby enabling people to take greater risks. All great things to have in a collaborative, creative environment. My favorite is one called “Bunny, Bunny” but it’s so silly, no improvisers have yet put up a Youtube Video demonstrating it.

Many athletes will prepare for an event by walking through their routines or imagining the motions that they will perform.  This activity preps the mind to synch with the body.  Actors will do this as they run lines in their head or do speed throughs of the play.  While developing games is more cerebral, you can still imagine successfully accomplishing a goal.  I find too that this helps reduce anxiety by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Testing a Programmer

Testing a Programmer

We’re hiring a programmer and ProdDev discussed how best to interview candidates.

We like our code clean and organized, so one task applicants will need to do is alphabetize a list of random words.  To come up with them, I found this gem of a website:


I love randomness.  Many times I’ve put the random number generator to good use.

Finding the Right Ingredients

Finding the Right Ingredients

spice_1One of the most difficult challenges in creating a game or any product for that matter is figuring out what the consumer wants.  Inexperienced developers will often just ask consumers what their preferences are or worse yet, list a bunch of features and ask whether they want them in the game.

It’s like walking a kid in a candy shop, pointing at every candy bin and asking, “Do you like this?”  More than likely, you’ll end up with a lot of “likes”.

Kano modeling offers a more sophisticated approach to assessing consumer preferences but one that’s simple to use.  By asking a series of questions about features, you can determine which features the consumer must have, would like to have, would be willing to pay more for and those she is indifferent to.

Over several product cycles, we struggled with a certain feature.  It took significant production time to maintain.  Some of us felt that it was an essential feature, others felt it was a wasted and cumbersome distraction.  When we polled our users about how much the users ‘liked’ it, the response was tepid.

Believing that the feature was not that important, we were set to scrap it.  Luckily we polled our users using Kano modeling and discovered that it was a ‘Must Have’ feature thereby avoiding a disaster if we had removed it.



The Value of Vague

The Value of Vague

One of my favorite interview techniques is to ask the interviewee to solve a vaguely stated question. This can sometimes make me look stupid but it reveals a lot about how a person approaches a poorly framed problem.  Of course, if they start to ask questions to define the issue, you need to provide them with further information.

I also find this to be a useful technique when soliciting information from companies, especially initial estimates before the RFP process.  It demonstrates that the company is thinking about the project and adding a level of accuracy to their quote.

And being Vague helped Julie Brown in her clever Madonna mockumentary, Medusa.