Woopra is a new hot web-analytics product in beta release.
There is a lot of discussion around the differences between product management in startups and product management in enterprise companies. In this article, we take a look at the product management around Woopra, and gain a little insight into how things work at iFusion Labs. I had the great privilege to interview John Pozadzides, CEO of iFusion Labs.
Woopra is a web-analytics program that is currently in a beta release (request access here). The iFusion Labs team has some differentiated features that you don’t see in other analytics packages. For one, the analytics are real-time, so you know (and can watch) exactly what is happening to your website while it happens. That’s a pretty cool customer “more is better” feature (right now, not later). But what really got my attention was the way you can take advantage of those real-time features to open a chat window with a visitor on your site. No extra software for them to install, just start chatting. How’s that for a differentiated “surprise and delight” feature?
Cali Lewis did a great video interview that introduced me to Woopra (and John). If you want to know more about the product, check out Cali’s video interview. If you want to know more about the product management of Woopra, read on.
I reached out to the folks at iFusion Labs to find out what product management is like in their startup. The Woopra team had just moved from a private beta with 200 users, to over 10,000 – what a perfect time to get a feel for the combination of strategy and chaos that must be! You can follow them on the Woopra blog too. I didn’t expect to find someone with a product management title, and I was thrilled to find out that I would get to interview John Pozadzides (also the author of One Man’s Blog).
John is the CEO of iFusion Labs, as well as CMO of Layered Technologies. He has graciously agreed to an interview about how Woopra is approaching product management. Like all start-ups, Woopra team members wear a lot of hats. Because of that, their responsibilities don’t always line up with the role-definitions we see in larger organizations. John’s time is precious, given the demanding schedule as Woopra explodes on the web-analytics scene, so I prepared a series of questions in advance for him, and with the help of Vi Vu, we pulled together this email -based interview.
John’s response to my request for the interview
Thanks for your interest in Woopra from a product development standpoint. We’ve had a lot of press time, but no one has yet inquired along these lines.
Since iFusion Labs is a small start-up company, I would actually say that we don’t have anyone doing the traditionally defined job of Product Manager. Woopra is our first and only product, so there is really no need for a strict product management discipline. Having said that, we are heavily involved with Project Management with Woopra because it’s important to make the most of our limited resources.
How did you get involved with the Woopra product?
I became involved in the project as the result of an invitation from Elie Khoury and Jad Younan. They were seeking some senior executive level involvement to add value in a number of areas such as marketing, management and financing, and after spending time with them and Woopra I quickly decided to join the team.
Have you worked with larger companies?
I have indeed. I’ve held leadership roles at some of the largest Telecom companies on the planet (Verizon and Cable & Wireless) and I currently serve as CMO for Layered Technologies, where I actually have responsibility for product management among other things.
How do you balance product management with executive responsibilities?
Our mantra at iFusion is to divide and conquer. Our project management duties are fairly simple, though they do require some time and planning. In essence, we have established goals we’d like to reach along a timeline of events, and we stop to plan how to reach the next stage each time we complete a stage. This means that we need to devote some time to defining the steps in the project plan, and once we’ve agreed upon the goals we each set out to execute our individual tasks.
Do you think of Woopra as a product or a service, how does that affect how you approach product management?
Woopra is definitely a service. The “product” we provide requires a large amount of hosted infrastructure and we have an ongoing relationship with our clients unlike the transaction oriented experience typical of your average product. I think this makes us extra sensitive to the perceptions of our clients since we need to continue to earn their business on an ongoing basis.
How have you approached market segmentation for Woopra?
From a market segmentation standpoint, we do not need to be as concerned about traditional enterprise segmentation – for example, by SIC code. Instead, we need to focus on the different tiers of Internet traffic that various clients receive. High traffic users create exponentially more use on Woopra infrastructure than small ones, so it’s important for us to segment the customers in order to best handle their needs.
How did you approach (or have you approached) competitive analysis for your market?
We have not completed a full competitive analysis comparing Woopra to the various legacy providers, mainly because we feel the benefits appear to jump out so easily as to hardly warrant the comparison. However some of the primary differentiators include the fact that Woopra is real-time, it’s more accurate, has a far richer graphical user interface, a desktop client that doesn’t require users to log in via a Web browser, and offers features not available anywhere else such as live Web chat, individual user tracking, and extensibility.
Why did you choose those features? I am personally a fan, and as a product manager, I’d love to hear about how you picked them.
The choice to include, or not include, certain features was simple. Being Webmasters ourselves we’ve tried to think of exactly what we’d want to use in one integrated tool, then we built it. The nice thing is, the feature set you see today is far from the finished product. In fact, the product may never be finished because it was built as a framework which will allow us to continue to expand on it’s capabilities far into the future.
Does Woopra have an independent business model, or is it a component in a larger iFusion strategy?
Woopra is an independent line of business within the larger iFusion model. Our intention is to allow it to stand on it’s own before proceeding to pursue our next business line – which has already been identified.
How do you approach users / feedback / forums / bug requests?
We try to treat our users as part of a big extended family. We want them to know that we are working very hard for them, and are extremely appreciative for any assistance they can give us by helping out in the forums, giving us bug reports and generally spreading the word. We have, as you’ve noticed, both Lorelle and Vi helping to administer the forums and blog, and we’ll be adding more resources soon. Communication with our clients is key to our success.
How do you manage your product roadmap, do you ever plan to make it public?
Again, since there is only one product, we don’t really have a roadmap at this point.
What is your approach to the software development process? Does your team use one of the agile methodologies, or a traditional waterfall approach?
This question is a little too detailed for me. I’m not entirely certain which type of development process that Elie and Jad are technically following, though I’d describe it as agile, and those guys are definitely the pigs and I’m the chicken. :-)
What is the biggest problem (aside from not having any time) you’re currently chasing?
Our biggest hurdle is clearly scaling the project quickly enough. We have tens of thousands of user requests in just a few weeks, and in less than 5 weeks the Woopra.com site went from practically no links to over 500,000 in Google, so the number of incoming requests continues to accelerate.
Any “success stories” other product managers would appreciate that you could share about how you helped foster the product?
It’s a little early to think about success stories, but I’d offer the following general advice:
– don’t release a beta until your product is baked enough to resemble the final product
– find a few bloggers to share the product with and make sure they are enthusiastic about it to help spread the word
– listen to your clients and respond rapidly to feedback
How did you get feedback before your beta? Was it just hitting team-member’s blogs? How did the move from a 200 user closed beta to 10k users change how your team manages feedback?
Prior to the beta we ran Woopra on several sites offered up by friends and family, then we did have a sort of “alpha” test that added some more random sites. In order to step up our user base from 200 to 10k, we had to shift from a personal response system to the creation of our Blog and Forums since the users far outnumber the staff. This was planned anyway, but we had to escalate the timelines.
Did you consider releasing Woopra as open source (instead of just open APIs)?
Yes, but we didn’t feel that we could provide an adequate service model with an unknown number of client variants floating around.
Scott: Thank you John, very much! We’re all sure to be watching your successes with Woopra!