Dropbox question 4- Product manager

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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  zhieeep on Tue Nov 22, 2011 3:29 am

Now that Dropbox has reached substantial size, they need to focus more on securing the data as one blow to their security system could damage the reputation irrevocably. This is why hiring more capable engineers instead of allocating resources to marketing and a product manager works for the company in the beginning stages. However, a product manager will eventually be needed to handle the premium accounts and to convert more users to the paid model. If Dropbox grows exponentially through free users, eventually the costs of server maintenance will create huge strains on the company and along with payroll.

The same growing stages can be seen with other fremium ware such as gmail. Initially, the bulk of resources should be used in creating a hit product, and then when the user base has stabilized, product managers are needed to go into the battlefield and monetize the product (in this case with ads and paid business accounts) to ensure that the platform is sustainable and justifies server costs.

Dropbox should not be faulted for initially hiring a product manager. Many times it is an issue of timing, and perhaps it was too early at that time to use a "business man," but eventually after several rounds of seeding, someone in the company will need to play the role.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  benjituf on Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:49 am

Thanks to your replies, I realise that my question should not have treat with the marketing side as it is true that a product manager usually does not manage the marketing plan. As a result, what would be the product manager's future challenges/ missions to sustain Dropbox's growth?
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  r99725051 on Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:07 am

I think there is some misunderstanding about PM. PM is not the person to plan the spec or market plan. Spec is SA's duty, strategy is manager or marketing department's duty.
PM only can try to put project on time, fixed schedule by the time, communicate with SA, but not doing things here expect to do.
So if they want to improve there products, maybe they don't need PM but better SA or better design department people.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  andykorn87 on Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:58 pm

MarieDelasson wrote:In my opinion, the key is more the marketing manager rather than the product manager: indeed: even if a product is good, if nobody knows it, nobody is going to use it. This is why you need marketing to promote your product :sometimes, you have average products, not to mention Iphone - for example- which have a great marketing and become a product impossible to miss, even if you do not even need it (ok, I won't say anything more about the applications of the Iphone!)

Anyways, the product manager and sales representatives should focus on increasing the numbers of customers, and not just free customers. In order to make them pay, they could implement new premium options which make Dropbox more appealing. Also, they would need a marketing strategy, for instance, creating some buzz or brand building to be more recognized and attract more customers.

I do not agree in this point. From my experience the product manager has an overall overview and cannot be replaced by a marketing manager. I think marketing can be done almost by everybody, the most of marketing is being creative and you should have a good understanding for the market situation. A good product manager has most of the time a lot of experience and many contacts which helps to place a product. Furthermore contacts and a good working network are really important for launching a new product and from my experience this seperates product managers from a marketing manager.

The Iphone for example was not only so successful because of the good marketing strategy, Apple had a good understanding for the market and greatet even more a complete new market and this I think was supported by good marketing activities but it was not a result of good marketing activities.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  MarieDelasson on Mon Nov 21, 2011 4:48 pm

In my opinion, the key is more the marketing manager rather than the product manager: indeed: even if a product is good, if nobody knows it, nobody is going to use it. This is why you need marketing to promote your product :sometimes, you have average products, not to mention Iphone - for example- which have a great marketing and become a product impossible to miss, even if you do not even need it (ok, I won't say anything more about the applications of the Iphone!)

Anyways, the product manager and sales representatives should focus on increasing the numbers of customers, and not just free customers. In order to make them pay, they could implement new premium options which make Dropbox more appealing. Also, they would need a marketing strategy, for instance, creating some buzz or brand building to be more recognized and attract more customers.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  Laurent Corigliano on Mon Nov 21, 2011 4:29 pm

Ming-Hui Huang wrote:A product manager, by definition, manages products, not customers. A marketing strategy without a understanding of custmer demands can only succeed by chance or luck.

Hi,

I do agree with you that a company needs to take into account the customer's needs in order to perform well. But what if the customer doesn't know what he wants? What if the company was able to create new needs, like the iPad did.. I remembered reading an interview of steve jobs, and the journalist was asking him about the iPad : "how did you know it'll work? What kind of market study did you do?" and steve jobs' answer was quite funny:"do you think Graham bell did a market study before inventing the phone?" Wink
My point is that in high tech companies, the way it works is more from the product to the client rather than from the client to the product. Engineers do not often adjustate the product because of the client, of course they improve it sometimes to fit more the client needs, but from my experience, in high tech companies, everything starts from the engineering process and the product they want to do. Also that's the only way to innovate, you have to think ahead of the client, and think about what he will want in one year.
That's why a product manager is really key because he has to transform an invention into an innovation and make it successful.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  benjituf on Mon Nov 21, 2011 4:03 pm

Dear All,

Thank you very much for your imput. I quite agree with Xiaowei on finding an engineer as a potential product manager but he would have to possess a business oriented mind in order to both understand the product features and be able to define a proper marketing strategy (including the management of public relations). However, I don't think it was really necessary in the early beginning as the team of managers who were here since the creation of the company would have been more flexible and reactive than a new comer who did not know extremely well the product. They may have had some problems with the management of PR and marketing campaigns but the product was stable and the use of a marketing consultant allow them to change rapidly their marketing strategy.

Taking the situation now ,after some researches, dropbox is growing drastically and has doubled the number of its staff to reach 65 employees. The new opportunities that arose (upcoming partnerships) and the increasing number of users pushed the company to hire a product director and at the end of last year, Jeff Bartelma, a former Google product manager, joined the company. He is an engineering student from the MIT and worked in the product search department of google.

In addition, I went through some recent job propositions of Dropbox and found that they are searching for inside sales representatives who will have in charge to for example:

- Deliver awe-inspiring product demos, provide insightful technical answers, and recommend creative ways to get the most out of Dropbox
- Make every potential Dropbox user happy with every interaction; regardless of deal size, or likelihood of close
- Build and manage your own sales pipeline over time, and build successful customer relationships

As a result, on which fronts could the product manager and sales representatives focus themselves in order to sustain a long term marketing strategy as Leopoldine suggested?



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doing it right

Post  alexchen on Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:51 pm

i think the role of product manager is that of execution. I think yes, dropbox does need a product manager to execute on their plans, but they also need to get everyone on the same page. from marketing to design to long term road map, everything needs to be agreed upon in order for the PM to execute well.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  rio ohmori on Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:36 pm

If dropbox believes delay was due to lack of PM, definitely they should hire. Compared to before, dropbox is well known. If they frequently may not able to keep their words, reputations will goes down which won't result in good way. If in any case, dropbox is going to customization deal with corporation, absolutely PM will be very important to coordinate with engineers.

But initially perhaps, PM were not that important. The company was started by engineers, and they had clear visions of what they wanted to do. Especially for start up company, I believe some sort of fanatic driving force is required. Bringing someone and clashing many times will pace down and the plan will be compromised somehow. They just have to go forward and adjust it on its way. (before going bankrupt of course)
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  Ming-Hui Huang on Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:09 pm

A product manager, by definition, manages products, not customers. A marketing strategy without a understanding of custmer demands can only succeed by chance or luck.

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cultivate a PM from the original team

Post  Xiaowei Wen on Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:08 pm

HI Im not sure why the term shows less customer centricity? Isn't it widely used in IT companies?
Dropbox is really unusual regarding its organization structure: few staff and no product manager!
Even though product manager, or chief customer officer is important, which I strongly agree with, I still think that for this company some other methods may be introduced, like, to cultivate a PM from its old team, which full of engineers. I've worked at an IT company and found out that many genius really look down upon the so-called "PM" and describe them as "only raise requirements, never use logic". I'm sure that engineers in Dropbox can never have better comments on PM, so to avoid a clash, they may hire someone for consultant or even teacher as a PM, instead of cooperating with the genius in one team, and step by step, find an engineer who also has such kind of nature and is willing to take the responsibility.

Ming-Hui Huang wrote:Using the term "product manager" shows Dropbox's lack of customer centricity. The company should have a chief customer officer or chief marketing officer in position to help it deal with all the strategic issues they are facing, e.g., pricing, parternership, customer acquisition and retention, etc. It may result in a cultural clash (technology vs. management mindset), but it is a necessary process to go through.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  LeopoldineVivant on Mon Nov 21, 2011 2:59 pm

I don't think that e commerce businesses should be considered as a particular case regarding this question. Hence, a product manager is necessary, especially when DB starts to face a real success and gets bigger. Otherwise, the threats might come from the inside of the company: to keep on being sustainable on the long run, they have to start shaping a consistent marketing strategy to create clear and define product. We already said that DB suffers from a lack of "consumer loyalty" (I use it because it is useful and easy to use, not because it is Dropbox), a clear and long term marketing strategy might be the first step to solve this issue.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  Ming-Hui Huang on Mon Nov 21, 2011 2:34 pm

Using the term "product manager" shows Dropbox's lack of customer centricity. The company should have a chief customer officer or chief marketing officer in position to help it deal with all the strategic issues they are facing, e.g., pricing, parternership, customer acquisition and retention, etc. It may result in a cultural clash (technology vs. management mindset), but it is a necessary process to go through.

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Product manager: YES

Post  Laurent Corigliano on Mon Nov 21, 2011 10:09 am

Hey,

I definetly think that a product manager or a product specialist (like at Google) is necessary to conduct a business like Dropbox.
Indeed, the challenge is to create a bridge between an engineering work and a business revenue, such a company should have people that are capable to lead the engineering teams in order to improve the product thanks to the feedbacks of the business guys who are in touch with the client, and so know better what the client needs and wants. It cannot work without this cooperation (even if the engineers are genuises Smile )
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  EsbenSvaneKrarup on Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:49 am

At the time, taking into to account the size and culture of the company and stage of the product I do not think that Dropbox would have been more successful had they hired a product manager. However, as Dropbox grows especially within the business segment, some kind of product management is needed in order to prioritize to stay competitive. Whether that means hiring a product manager or implementing some form of managerial practice is a moot point.
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Re: Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  DennisProesch on Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:18 am

I think it is important to have experts with managerial and business expertise involved in the decision making in order to crreate a coherent strategy since a main issue with technologically oriented companies is their trend towars refocusing and reorienting themselves to often for them to appeal to specific customers. A clear vision and strategy created by making use of a product manager could help the company to be successful quicker.
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Dropbox question 4- Product manager

Post  benjituf on Mon Nov 21, 2011 4:19 am

Dear All,

Here is my question:
After the early stages of its existence, Dropbox decided to hire a product manager in order to coordinate engineering efforts and help defining the products features.
However, it did not work at all and the product manager left after 6 months. For the next year Houston and Ferdowsi decided to do the product roadmap on their own but faced many delays in the projects and issues (ref.: Part “building the company”). Then, they chose an online marketing consultant to define their marketing plan. While they launched the product to the public they changed several times their positioning and marketing strategy.

As a result, do you think that Dropbox would have had greater success by now, if it would have had a product manager?

According to Dropbox’s success and new opportunities that arose, should it hire a product manager now?


Thank you very much in advance for your contribution!!
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