"The Twisted Life of Clippy: Managing New vs Established Products"


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 20, 2023

3 min read


"The Twisted Life of Clippy: Managing New vs Established Products"

Managing new vs established products can be a complex task. When developing a long-term roadmap for a new product, there are several important factors to consider. Internal alignment, ensuring that all stakeholders within the organization are on the same page, is crucial for success. Strategy fit with the user is another key consideration, as understanding the needs and preferences of your target audience is essential. Additionally, keeping an eye on the changes in the competitor landscape is vital to stay ahead in the market.

On the other hand, optimizing and growing an existing product or segment requires a different approach. For these initiatives, the focus is on building upon the foundation that has already been established. It's about refining and improving the product to meet the evolving needs of the users. This often involves analyzing data, gathering feedback, and making iterative improvements.

For aspiring product managers, breaking into the field can be challenging. One valuable resource is an Associate Product Manager (APM) program. These programs provide structured training and mentorship opportunities for individuals looking to kickstart their career in product management. If an APM program is not available, joining a company that has an APM program in a different role can be a stepping stone towards transitioning into a product management role.

Transitioning from one company to another can also come with its own set of adjustments. Moving from a smaller organization like Yelp or Yahoo to a tech giant like Facebook can be overwhelming due to the difference in size. In a large company, effective communication becomes crucial to ensure alignment and maintain agility. PMs at Facebook often democratize information through strong company-wide communication channels. Additionally, the scale of impact is significantly larger, as the products you work on can potentially touch millions, if not billions, of users.

Sometimes, working on certain areas of a product can be challenging when it comes to proving return on investment (ROI). This is particularly true for areas like improving customer service, where the impact may not be easily quantifiable. However, it's important to remember that most things are measurable in some way. Finding the right metrics to track and analyze can help in assessing the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at improving customer service. For example, in the case of WhatsApp business messaging, metrics such as the number of advertisers, messages being sent, and the number of businesses using the product can be indicators of the health of the overall ecosystem.

The story of Clippy, Microsoft's infamous virtual assistant, is a fascinating example of the complexities of managing a product. While many users found Clippy's suggestions invasive and obnoxious, some people felt attached to the character. Microsoft faced criticism for its rollout of Clippy, but the emotional attachment some users had to the assistant was undeniable. Despite attempts to retire Clippy, the character still found a place in the hearts of some users.

This level of emotional attachment to technology is not something that is commonly seen. It highlights the importance of considering the interpersonal skills and adaptability of a product. Clippy lacked the natural ability to adapt to user preferences, which is what made him both frustrating and funny. Understanding the user's needs and preferences and constantly evolving the product to meet those needs is crucial for success.

In conclusion, managing new vs established products requires careful consideration of various factors such as internal alignment, strategy fit with the user, and changes in the competitor landscape. For aspiring product managers, seeking out APM programs or joining companies with such programs can provide valuable opportunities for growth. Transitioning between companies may require adjustments in communication and understanding the scale of impact. When working on areas that are difficult to prove ROI, finding measurable metrics is essential. Finally, understanding the emotional attachment users may have to a product and constantly adapting to their needs is key to success in product management.

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