Earning the “Right to Build” Products & Features

Whether you are a Product Manager, Developer, UX or another member of a product team, you should always be able to answer a simple question. Why? Why are you working on this particular project/feature/product and why is it more important than anything else?

Regardless of the methodology, agile or lean or whatever, we are all striving to deliver the most value to our customers in the most efficient way possible. In addition, we are looking to become more scalable and more predictable. Interestingly, in the days of enterprise desktop software, we measured ourselves by the number of new features in the “What’s New” press release. More was better. So, how do you remain agile and predictable and deliver a bucket of features? Quickly.


With the change in platforms and business models the thinking is changing. SaaS and subscription are both changing the way customers use and interact with software. More importantly, the biggest change is their expectations. They expect that things will work and that they will work great. If its broken, customers expect that it will be fixed soon, really soon.
What does this mean for product teams? It means that prioritization, data analytics, intimate customer relationships are critical. We really need to know why we are building what we are building and be as confident as possible that it matters. We need to be accountable.

All of this leads to a philosophy I like to call the “Right to Build”. Teams need to be totally bought in on their plan and should be willing to sell or pitch their viewpoint both to customers and internal stakeholders. It’s more of a mental shift than anything else. It’s about checks and balances. We need to consistently ask ourselves whether we are working on the right things and are we working on them in the right way. We, as product people, owe it to our customers and our stakeholders to earn the right to build. Thoughts?!

Building Emotional Products

Today’s product leaders are obsessed with the idea of innovation. It’s in every presentation, at every conference and in every strategic planning meeting. Every company wants “the next iPhone”. Companies  want to significantly differentiate themselves from their competitors. Or so they say. I question whether they are really looking to differentiate. When in fact, they are really looking for quick, near term growth?!

I’m often heard saying – if you have to tell people you are innovating than…likely, you aren’t. Innovation isn’t a project. Innovation isn’t an initiative. Innovation is an emotion. It’s the world”s view on how you tackled a particular challenge. It’s the emotion that you generate within your products.


Companies can develop new business model, like Uber. They can create beautiful products, like Apple. Or they can leverage new platforms, like Amazon. Each of these companies leveraged innovative ideas and technologies to catapult themselves into leadership positions. They not only disrupted existing markets, they in the process defined a new market and became the sole player and instant leader. Begs the question, do you think there was a planning meeting that kicked off with “how can we be innovative”? I doubt it.

Likely someone had a brilliant instinct, bit of luck and some good timing. They pitched an idea to a group of friends/co-workers, many laughed, some didn’t get it and enough supported it to take it further.

What do all of these examples have in common? They created a product that has created an undeniable emotion within their customers. Their customers, literally, love their products. They are willing to pay a premium and without batting an eye are willing to evangelize the value that they see in the product.

My suggestion, next time you are summoned to brainstorm innovation, decline it. It will be a waste if time. Rather, consider approaching your next brainstorming with emotions in mind. Think like your customers. What would they love? What far fetched idea would make people love what you’ve built?



Focus on asking why IoT rather than how…


I just spent a week with customers discussing different topics around IoT. Everything ranging from their specific products, to sensors, to mobile carriers to data lakes to mobile access to the information. As with these things, we took deep dives … [Continue reading]

Product Managers Should Choose Service Over Product


As a product manager, often we are faced with the question. Is the customer always right? If we are honest, the answer, probably not. However, the customer expects and requires good service. Assuming you want to keep them as a customer. Loyal … [Continue reading]

Autodesk Inventor Promotes Open Design with AnyCAD

Many organizations have a very mature 3D design process. It often involves a complex process dealing with vendors around the world, all using various design systems, PLM systems etc. In the heart of the war of 3D CAD, we have all tried various ways … [Continue reading]

Join Autodesk at the International CAE Simulation Conference 2014


The Autodesk Simulation team will be attending and presenting at the International CAE Simulation Conference in Verona, Italy next week. The team will be there available to have open discussions about where we are going and how we can help. We are … [Continue reading]

Autodesk Nastran In-CAD: Powerful, Trusted, Embedded FEA


CAE Simulation tools have evolved significantly over the last 15 years. There have been a variety of advancements in the technology both from a software and a hardware perspective. In the early days, we were fortunate enough to take a few part … [Continue reading]

The Cloud Opens the Doors to Design Exploration for Manufacturers


There have been some interesting conversations in the CAE community around the benefits and drawbacks of the cloud. One of the points I find most interesting is around the idea of “Infinite Computing”. This is a phrase that we use here at Autodesk. … [Continue reading]

Surface Wrapping for CFD on Autodesk Labs

CFD engineers around the world deal with geometry from multiple sources. From various CAD systems, to various surfacing systems and more recently scanned data. Some of this geometry is “clean”, but most of it is not quite ready for meshing. In fact, … [Continue reading]

TechTalk: A real-life case study about CFD in the Autodesk 360 Cloud


Autodesk entered a partnership with the uberCloud experiment over a year ago. It was an interesting opportunity to get out in front of a community of engineers, scientists and early adopters who are interested in leveraging the cloud for computation. … [Continue reading]