App review: Vipps

I’m always on the lookout for new payment apps and I recently came across Vipps. Vipps is a Norwegian peer to peer payments app, currently only available to Norwegian users.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of Vipps – Taken from: https://www.vipps.no/

These are the main things I’ve learned about Vipps:

  1. Use the recipient’s mobile number – Similar to the way the likes of Monzo and Uber work, with the Vipps app all you need is the mobile number of the recipient. If you need to send money to someone else, your friend needs to download the Vipps app and the amount will be sent to his/her account registered with Vipps. Select the person you want to pay from your phone’s contact list or enter their mobile number.
  2. Use Vipps to split bills – For example, when you’re eating out with a group of friends, you can ask your friends for money when splitting the bill. Create a group name – e.g. Nando’s on Friday – and add the names of the group members. Now people in your group can enter all expenses that are to be shared between the group members. Once all the amounts have been entered and everyone has confirmed that there are no more outlays, it is easy to see who owes what.
  3. Personal account registered with Vipps – Vipps doesn’t have it’s own current account. Instead, users can send money through Vipps from any Norwegian bank, provided that they have a bank debit card and a bank account with the bank in question.
  4. Getting started with Vipps – To be able to use Vipps, users need to enter a Norwegian national identity number, a Norwegian mobile number, the details of their payment card (Visa or MasterCard), their Norwegian bank account number and an email address. Once you’ve created a four digit code, you can start paying or receiving money. When logging into Vipps, you can use your personal code or Touch ID.
  5. Vipps’ charges – Vipps doesn’t charge for amounts below NOK 5 000. For payments of NOK 5 000 or above, the charge is 1 per cent of the total amount. There is no charge for receiving money.

Main learning point: Love how apps like Vipps are making it easier and easier for people to pay and receive money. The splitting bills functionality is very welcome!

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Fig. 2 – Vipps’ peer-to-peer payments – Taken from: http://anti.as/news/vipps-by-dnb

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of Vipps’ Android app; making a payment – Taken from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=no.dnb.vipps

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Fig. 4 – Screenshot of Vipps’ iOSapp; selecting a contact or a company that you want to pay – Taken from: https://www.appannie.com/en/apps/ios/app/vipps-by-dnb/

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.vipps.no/
  2. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vipps-by-dnb/id984380185?mt=8
  3. https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/30131/dnb-spins-off-vipps-mobile-payment-service
  4. http://anti.as/projects/vipps-by-dnb
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipps
  6. http://www.lifeinnorway.net/living/money/mobile-payments/
  7. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=no.dnb.vipps&hl=en_GB
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mx5lsfs2d0
  9. https://www.vipps.no/vilkar.html
  10. https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/store/p/vipps-by-dnb/9nblgggz9jv1

Book review: “Influence without Authority”

As product managers, we’ve all experienced it: a sense of frustration when you’re accountable for delivering value without having any authority over the people that are critical to delivering that value. Whether’s it’s stakeholders, customers, developers, designers, there’s only so much we can do to influence and create the level of buy-in or cooperation required to create successful products.

In Influence without Authority (2005) Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford explore ways in which we can influence others without having authority over them. Cohen and Bradford’s “Model of Influence without Authority” forms the backbone of this book (see Fig. 1 below).

 

Fig. 1 – Summary of the Cohen-Bradford Model of Influence without Authority – Taken from: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/328270260312405687/

“Influence without Authority” outlines the key components of this model, illustrating the scenarios in which the model can be applied. These are the three learning points I took away from reading this book:

  1. The currencies of exchange – The aforementioned Cohen-Bradford model is based on exchange and reciprocity – making trades for what you desire in return for what the other person desires. There are number of potential currencies that one can use to trade (see Fig. 2 below).
  2. Gaining clarity on your objectives – For the Cohen-Bradford model to work effectively, it’s important that you figure out exactly what you want, and prioritise your goals accordingly (see Fig. 3 below).
  3. Deciding with whom to attempt exchanges – The ability to consider and decide potential allies to exchange is a critical part of the Cohen-Bradford model and the book outlines some valuable considerations how to exchange directly with a potential ally (see Fig. 4 below).

Fig. 2 – Frequently valued currencies – Taken from Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford, “Influence without Authority”, pp. 36 – 51

Inspiration related currencies:

Inspiration related currencies reflect inspirational goals that provide meaning to the work a person a does.

  • Vision – You can help overcome personal objections and inconvenience if you can inspire the potential ally to see the larger significance of your request.
  • Excellence – The opportunity to do something really well and pride in having the chance to accomplish important work with genuine excellence can be highly motivating.
  • Moral/ethical correctness – Probably most members of organisations would like to act according to what they perceive to be ethical, moral, altruistic or correct thing to do.

Task related currencies:

Task related currencies are directly related to getting the job done. They relate to a person’s ability to perform his or her assigned tasks or to the satisfactions that arise from accomplishment.

  • New resources – Resources such as budget, people, space, equipment or time are important currencies when it comes to enabling someone to get the job done.
  • Challenge – The chance to work at tasks that provide a challenge or stretch is one of the most widely valued currencies in modern organisational life.
  • Assistance – Although large numbers of people desire increased responsibilities and challenge, most have tasks they need help on or would be glad to shed.
  • Organisational support – This currency is most valued by someone who is working on a project  and needs public backing or behind-the-scenes help in selling the project to others.
  • Rapid response – It can be worth a great deal for a colleague or boss to know that you will respond urgently to requests.
  • Information – Recognising that knowledge is power, some people value any information that may help them shape the performance of their unit.

Position related currencies:

These currencies enhance a person’s position in the organisation and, thereby, indirectly aid the person’s ability to accomplish tasks or advance a career.

  • Recognition – Many people gladly will extend themselves for a project when they believe their contributions will be recognised, so it’s importance to spread recognition around and recognise the right people.
  • Visibility to higher ups – Ambitious employees realise that, in a large organisation, opportunities to perform for or to be recognised by powerful people can be a deciding factor in achieving future opportunities, information, or promotions.
  • Reputation – Reputation is another variation on recognition. A good reputation can pave the way for lots of opportunities while a bad one can quickly shut the person out and make it difficult to perform.
  • Insiderness – For some members, being in the inner circle can be most valued currency. One sign of this currency is having insider information, and another is being connected to important people.
  • Importance – A variation on the currency of inside knowledge and contacts is the chance to feel important. Inclusion and information are symbols of that, but just being acknowledged as an important player counts for the large number of people who feel their value is under recognised.
  • Contacts – Related to many of the previous currencies is the opportunity for making contacts, which creates a network of people who can be approached when needed for mutually helpful transactions.

Relationship related currencies:

Relationship related currencies are more connected to strengthening the relationship with someone than directly accomplishing the organisation’s tasks.

  • Acceptance / Inclusion – Some people most value the feeling that they are close to others whether an individual or a group/department. They are receptive to those who offer warmth and liking as currencies.
  • Understanding / listening / sympathy – Colleagues who feel beleaguered by the demands of the organisation, isolation or unsupported by the boss, place an especially high value on a sympathetic ear.
  • Personal support – For some people, at particular times, having the support of others is the currency they value most. When a colleague is feeling stressed, upset, vulnerable, or needy, he will doubly appreciate – and remember – a thoughtful gesture.

Personal currencies:

These currencies could form an infinite list of idiosyncratic needs. They are valued because they enhance the individual’s sense of self. They may be derived from task or interpersonal activity.

  • Gratitude – While gratitude may be another form of recognition or support, it is a not necessarily job-related one that can be valued highly by some people who make a point of being helpful to others. For their efforts, some people want appreciation from the receiver, expressed in thanks or deference.
  • Ownership/Involvement – Another currency often valued by organisational members is the chance that they feel that they are partly in control of something important or have a chance to make a major contribution.
  • Self – concept – These currencies cover those that are consistent with a person’s image of himself or herself.
  • Comfort – Some individuals place high value on personal comfort. Lovers of routine and haters of risk, they will do almost anything to avoid being hassled or embarrassed.

Negative currencies:

Currencies are what people value. But it is also possible to think of negative currencies, things that people do not value and wish to avoid:

‘Withholding payments’

  • Not giving recognition
  • Not offering support
  • Not providing challenge
  • Threatening to quit the situation

‘Directly undesirable’

  • Raising voice, yelling
  • Refusing to cooperate when asked
  • Escalating issue upwards to common boss
  • Going public with issue, making lack of cooperation visible
  • Attacking person’s reputation, integration

Fig. 3 – Gain clarity on your objectives – Taken from Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford, “Influence without Authority”, p. 82

  • What are your primary goals?
  • What personal factors get in the way?
  • Be flexible about achieving goals.
  • Adjust expectation of your role and your ally’s role.

Fig. 4 – Deciding with whom to attempt exchanges – Taken from Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford, “Influence without Authority”, pp. 134 – 136

  • Centrality of the ally – How powerful is the other person? Power means more than hierarchical position: What needed resources does he or she control? How exclusive is the person’s control of those resources? How dependent are you on that person for success?
  • Amount of effort / credits needed – Do you already have a relationship with the person, or will you be starting from scratch? Is the person likely to insist on trading in currencies you do not command or cannot gain access to? Will the person be satisfied as long as you at least pay your respects and stay in touch, without asking anything directly?
  • Alternatives available – Do you know anyone whose support will help gain the support of the potential ally? In other words, who can influence the ally if you are not able to directly? If you can’t influence the person in the right direction, can you find a way to neutralise him or her? Can you reshape your project to take the person’s opposition into account or to skirt the person’s worst concern?

App review: THEO

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of THEO – Taken from: http://fintechnews.sg/3137/roboadvisor/robo-advisory-services-asia/

I recently came across THEO, a mobile, Japanese investment service offered by Money Design. THEO acts as a ‘robo-advisor’; enabling users to invest using their smartphone, and applying machine-based learning to offer users investment suggestions. The service allows users to start investment from 100,000 JPY. By answering nine questions (see Fig. 2 below), Money Design’s proprietary robo-advisor’s algorithm selects an optimum combination from about 6,000 Exchange-Traded Funds (‘ETFs’) in about two minutes and provides discretionary investment management to the user.

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of questions asked to THEO users to create their investment profile 

The user’s answers will trigger THEO’s underlying algorithms to deliver the most optimal money management plan for the user (see Fig. 3). At this point, we’ll need to consider the artificial intelligence aspect of THEO. This is where the accuracy of the proposed plan, as generated by THEO’s algorithms, comes into play (see Fig. 3 below). As one Japanese investor commented: “I am an aggressive investor with a long timescale so I was surprised to see how conservative the allocation ended up.”

 

Fig, 3 – Screenshot of sample diagnosis results based on answering THEO’s questions

Main learning point: The key point with apps like THEO is going to be the accuracy and personal fit of the investment plan its algorithms will suggest to investors. I wonder whether any manual ‘tweaking’ is involved in assessing investment profiles and subsequent recommendations.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://jftoday.com/THEO,+the+robo-advisory+investment+app,+exceeds+5,000+users+for+100days/
  2. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-12/hedge-fund-founder-turns-robo-adviser-for-japan-s-cash-hoarders
  3. http://fintechnews.sg/3137/roboadvisor/robo-advisory-services-asia/
  4. http://www.retirejapan.info/blog/japan-robo-advisor-theo
  5. https://theo.blue/
  6. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/etf.asp
  7. http://fintechnews.sg/3137/roboadvisor/robo-advisory-services-asia/
  8. http://www.theasianbanker.com/updates-and-articles/robo-advisors-poised-to-take-off
  9. http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-china-wealth-roboadvisors-idUKKCN10S2GT
  10. http://finovate.com/drivewealth-brings-robo-advisory-china-new-partnership-creditease/
  11. https://medium.com/@Mosaic_VC/trust-in-a-robo-advisor-world-62397cbe75fe
  12. http://www.wired.co.uk/article/how-ai-is-transforming-the-future-of-fintech
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence

Book review: “The Art of Active Listening”

Listening. Listening. Listening. I know how important it is, but I also know how hard I sometimes find to truly listen. I guess I’m not unique when I miss half of what the other person is saying because I’m so preoccupied with what I’m going to say in response. This realisation prompted me to read The Art of Active Listening by Josh Gibson and Fynn Walker. These are my key takeaways from reading this book:

What is active listening?

The difference between “active listening” and “normal listening” was my first learning from reading “The Art of Active Listening”. The authors of the book, Josh Gibson and Fynn Walker, make it pretty clear from the outset that there are only two communication states: actively listening, and not really listening. Gibson and Walker then go on to explain that active listening is the art of listening for meaning; active listening requires you to understand, interpret, and evaluate what you’re being told.

With active listening, your attention should be on the speaker. This means that whenever you feel an inner urge to say something, to respond, try to stop this urge and instead concentrate on what’s being said. Just to give you a personal example from how this urge often manifests itself when I listen:

Speaker: “So we decided to do X, Y, Z.This felt like the best approach, because …

Me – thinking: “Why did they decide to do XYZ, that doesn’t make sense!”  – Thus completely ignoring the “because” part of the speaker’s statement

It’s easy to see from this example how people like me run the risk of missing critical bits of a conversation, purely because the focus is on the response instead of on listening actively.

Importance of active listening

In the book, Gibson and Walker explain why it’s so important to actively listen:

  • Active listening encourages people to open up.
  • Active listening reduce the chance of misunderstandings.
  • Active listening helps to resolve problems and conflicts.
  • Active listening builds trust.

To me, active listening is the key to empathy and relationship building. I liked Gibson and Walker’s simple breakdown of human communication: “In simple terms, speaking is one person reaching out, and listening is another person accepting and taking hold. Together, they form communication, and this is the basis of all human relationships.”

7 common barriers to active listening

Learning about the seven common barriers to active listening was my biggest takeaway from “The Art of Active Listening”. In the book, Gibson and Walker point out the typical barriers that most of us deal with when listening:

  1. Your ignorance and delusion – The first barrier to active listening is simply not realising that listening isn’t taking place. Gibson and Walker make the point that most of us can get through life perfectly well without developing our listening skills, deluding ourselves that listening just involves allowing another person to speak in our presence.
  2. Your reluctance – When you actively listen to another person, it may be that you become involved in their situation in some way. There might be instances where you’re reluctant to get involved and as a result fail to lend a sympathetic and understanding ear.
  3. Your bias and prejudice – Your personal interpretation of what you’re hearing may cause you to respond negatively to the speaker. You either assume that you know the situation because you’ve had a similar experience in the past or you allow your preconceptions to colour the way you respond.
  4. Your lack of interest – You may simply not be interested in what the speaker is saying. We all know that this can happen when you feel the conversation topic is uninspiring.
  5. Your opinion of the speaker – Your opinion of the speaker, as a person, may influence the extent to which you’re happy to pay attention and give your time to the speaker. Often when you don’t like the speaker, this is likely to affect your desire to listen to the speaker. I’ve also noticed how in certain places, the status of the speaker has a big influence on whether he or she is being listened to. In these places, the CEO tends to be listened to automatically, whereas ‘people of lower rank’ might struggle to be heard.
  6. Your own feelings – Your ability to listen to other people can easily be affected by how you’re feeling at a particular moment. For example, if you’re in a good mood you might feel more inclined to listen actively and offer your best advice based on what you’ve just heard. In contrast, if you’re in a bad mood, the last thing you might want to do is listen to someone else’s thoughts and offer advice in response.
  7. The wrong time and wrong place – These are the physical factors that influence whether you’re willing or able to actively listen to what you’re being told. For example, having a heart to heart conversation in a busy coffeeshop is unlikely to positively affect your ability to listen actively.

4 components of active listening

With the four components of active listening that are pointed out in the book, the onus is on the listener to develop these components:

  1. Acceptance – Acceptance is about respecting the person that you’re talking to; irrespective of what the other person has to say but purely because you’re talking to another human being. Accepting means trying to avoid expressing agreement or disagreement with what the other person is saying, at least initially. I’ve often made this mistake; being too keen to express my views and thus encouraging the speaker to take a very defensive stance in the conversation.
  2. Honesty – Honesty comes down to being open about your reactions to what you’ve heard. Similar to the acceptance component, honest reactions given too soon can easily stifle further explanation on the part of the speaker.
  3. Empathy – Empathy is about your ability to understand the speaker’s situation on an emotional level, based on your own view. Basing your understanding on your own view instead of on a sense of what should be felt, creates empathy instead of sympathy. Empathy can also be defined as your desire to feel the speaker’s emotions, regardless of your own experience.
  4. Specifics – Specifics refers to the need to deal in details rather than generalities. The point here is that for communication to be worthwhile, you should ask the speaker to be more specific, encouraging the speaker to open up more or “own” the problem that they’re trying to raise.

Tips to improve your active listening skills

The book provides some useful pointers on how you can best improve your active listening skills, explaining the essence of each tip outlined here:

  1. Minimise external distractions
  2. Face the speaker
  3. Maintain eye contact
  4. Focus on the speaker
  5. Be open-minded
  6. Be sincerely interested
  7. Have sympathy, feel empathy
  8. Assess the emotion, not just the words
  9. Respond appropriately
  10. Minimise internal distractions 
  11. Avoid “me” stories
  12. Don’t be scared of silence
  13. Take notes
  14. Practice emotional intelligence
  15. Check your understanding

The main principles of reflective listening

Once you’ve listened actively, “reflective listening” is what comes next. Reflective listening is concerned with how you process what you’ve heard. The four components of active listening – acceptance, honesty, empathy and specifics – all work towards creating reflective responses in the listener. The main principles of active listening are:

  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Deal with personal specifics, not impersonal generalities.
  • Decipher the feelings behind the words, to create a better understanding of the issues.
  • Restate and clarify what you have heard.
  • Understand the speaker’s point of view and avoid responding from your own viewpoint.
  • Respond with acceptance and empathy, not coldly or with fake concern.

Main learning point: Understanding more about the common barriers to active listening – and how to best overcome these – was my biggest takeaway from reading “The Art of Active Listening”. The book does a great job at offering practical tips on how to listen actively and how to better process the things you’ve heard.

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen
  2. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening
  4. http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/active-listening

 

App review: Tide

How did Tide come to my attention? – I vaguely recall receiving an email from Tide a while ago about signing up for Tide, and a chance to learn about this new service before launch.

My quick summary of Tide (before using it)? – I expect a bank account exclusively geared towards to small to medium size businesses. A bit like Varo Money or Simple, but aimed at SMEs.

How does Tide explain itself in the first minute? – When I googled Tide, the top search result has “the Business Current Account that saves you time …” as its byline (see Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1 – Screenshot of top search result for Tide Banking

When I then go to Tide’s website, the homepage’s key messaging explains how Tide provide a small business current account (see Fig. 2). Speed and costs are the main things I take away from looking at Tide’s homepage at a first glance. I’m immediately intrigued to learn more about Tide’s “powerful tools that save you time and money.” This perception is reinforced by a “Sign up in 5 minutes” call to action button, just below the fold on Tide’s homepage.

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the homepage of https://www.tide.co/

Getting started, what’s the process like? – I click on the “Sign up in 5 minutes” button and a popup appears, telling me that Tide is available on Google and Android (see Fig. 3). I (wrongly) assumed that Tide’s services would also be available on my desktop, but I’m happy to go the App Store and download the Tide app.

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Fig. 3 – Screenshot of Tide’s popup message, directing me to Google Play and the App Store to start creating a Tide account

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of the opening screen of the Tide iOS app

I click on the “Get started” button and land on a delightful screen that shows me upfront what I need to open a Tide account. I like how the app informs me upfront of the documents and information I need to open a Tide account (see Fig. 6). As a user, there’s nothing more infuriating than starting the account creation process and learning halfway through that I don’t have the right documents.

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Fig. 5 – Screenshot of the second screen of the Tide iOS app

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I use the camera to take a picture of my driving license. Doing this makes me realise again how my passport is still registered to my old address, and I wonder if and how that’s going to impact my application for a Tide account.
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Clearly, something isn’t right and I see a popup message which explains how Tide was unable to verify my details automatically. I now expect a phone call or an email from Tide about my identity verification. The good thing is that I can still continue with the account creation process, by simply clicking on the “Continue” button.

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The bit where Tide links to Companies House feels very seamless and it automatically picks up my company.

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This is the point where I hit a spanner in the works as the app doesn’t seem to accept the security photo that I’ve taken of myself. There’s a circular type button which enables me to take my picture again … and again … and again. Meanwhile, I’m unclear as to what I’m doing wrong and there’s no tooltip to explain what I need to ensure my picture meets Tide’s criteria. Clicking on the “next” button in the top right hand corner of the screen doesn’t help unfortunately, so I feel a bit stuck here.

After contacting Tide, the issue gets resolved and I continue the onboarding process. “Terms And Conditions” is the next step I’m presented with. The calls to action are clear and I like how I can easily read through Tide’s “Member Terms” and “Account Agreement” if I wish to.

 

After clicking both tick boxes, I receive a notification stating that my account has been opened, but that Tide needs to do some extra checks before creating a sort code and account number for me. I suspect this is due the fact that my driving license is still registered to my old address and doesn’t correspond with my company address.

The additional checks get carried out pretty swiftly and I can see a confirmation screen within the app, containing my account number, sort code and balance.

 

Did Tide deliver on my expectations? – Yes, apart from the issue with my security photo, onboarding with Tide felt intuitive for the most part. I believe that the app and the overall user experience would benefit from some simple tooltips (e.g. when submitting security details) to further simplify things.

 

 

My product management toolkit (20): the art of saying “no”

Saying “no” is possibly one of the most challenging parts of being a product manager. There are so many great business and product ideas out there and ideally we’d like to do all of them. I can, however, only refer to one of the greatest product people and his views on the importance of saying no:

Fig. 1 – Taken from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/focusing-saying-avelo-roy

These are the main reasons why I believe in the importance of saying no:

Focus – We can’t do it all! What’s truly important, why? Will it move the needle? If so, how?

Constraints – Every business has constraints, e.g. people, time, money, opportunities, etc. As a result, saying no sometimes acts as an absolute necessity. 

Cost and risks – We need to say no from time to time to manage (opportunity) cost and risks.

As a consequence, every product person benefits from having a few ways of saying no in his or her toolkit. I’ll highlight five different options for when you want to say no:

Option 1 – Open the kimono

“Opening the kimono” is quite a popular phrase, but is effectively just stressing the importance of being fully transparent with others. As a product manager, you’re typically in a great position to provide full transparency on:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Roadmap
  • Backlog
  • Tradeoffs
  • Cost (incl. delay)
  • Value (incl. ROI)

Open the kimono helps you to start an open conversation about the potential impact of certain decisions. For example, what will be the likely cost of delay if we decide to deprioritise feature A in favour of feature B.

 

Fig. 2 – Taken from: https://uk.pinterest.com/olivialatenight/lolita-harajuku-korean-streetwear/

Option 2 – Scope small and test assumptions

I absolutely love Peter Merholz‘ wedding cake analogy: there are two ways to bake a wedding cake (see Fig. 3 below). One way is to create a big wedding cake; starting with a cake base, adding the filling and icing. Alternatively, you can start with a small cupcake and see what the soon to be married couple think about it, after which you can decide to make a cake or a proper wedding cake.

The key here is that you’re not saying no and shutting the door on an idea or project. In contrast, you’re proposing to start small and get real user feedback ‘often and early’:

Scope small – “I suggest we don’t commit to the entire product or project upfront. Instead, I suggest we focus on a single feature or value component first and measure its impact. We can then always decide to do more and iterate.”

Test assumptions – “We assume that our users need a tomato juice to quench their thirst. How can we best validate this quickly before we commit to making tomato juice?”

Fig. 3 – Peter Merholz’ two ways of baking a wedding cake – Taken from: https://blog.intercom.com/start-with-a-cupcake/

Option 3 – Consider side effects

We all know how easy it can be to say “yes” to an idea or an improvement that sounds ‘small’. However, in doing so we often forget that even the smallest of features or changes can have a big impact. There are a number of potential side effects to consider before saying yes or no:

Development cost – What are the cost of creating this? What is does the expected ROI look like and why?

Maintenance cost – Can we maintain it? What are the cost involved in doing so?

Business model – How does this fit with our business model?

System impact – Are there any ramifications on the wider system?

Technical debt – Will we incur technical debt as a result of this feature or change?

Unhappy customers – By doing this, will we alienate clients?

Fig. 4 – Estimated vs actual cost of a small feature – Taken from: https://blog.intercom.com/product-strategy-means-saying-no/

Option 4 – Not now

It’s not a straight no, it’s something we could or should be doing later. For example, “let’s do this once we’ve implemented our new shopping cart feature, as it will be easier to add this feature on then. We will add this to the “next” section on our roadmap.”

One word of warning: I’ve seen many people using this approach to kick things into the long grass, burying things into the roadmap or backlog in the hope that it gets forgotten about. I believe this counterproductive and dishonest. If you already know that something isn’t going to get done, then it’s better to be transparent about this upfront.

Fig. 5 – Taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/terdata/287937963

Option 5 – Provide options

Instead of offering a downright no, provide options and explore the pros and cons of each option. I’ve found that this approach really helps in having a constructive conversation with business stakeholders about business goals and tradeoffs.

For example:

Option 1: build on top of existing APIs

Pros: speed to market, less costly, meet partner expectations

Cons: not scalable, opportunity cost

Option 2: create API framework first and then create new API endpoints

Pros: fully scalable, revenue and partnership opportunities

Cons: takes longer to develop, and will be more costly

Main learning point: Saying no and declining a request or an idea can be hard, but very necessary at the same time. Whilst it can feel a tad uncomfortable, there’s a lot of value in saying no in a more informed and constructive kind of way.

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://blog.intercom.com/product-strategy-means-saying-no/
  2. https://www.prodpad.com/2014/05/saying-tough-love-product-managers/
  3. http://www.cleverpm.com/2015/02/24/saying-no-without-saying-no/
  4. http://www.mindtheproduct.com/2015/02/just-say-no-hard-decisions-in-product-management-2/
  5. https://www.productplan.com/how-product-managers-can-say-no/
  6. https://vimeo.com/110270432
  7. http://www.jamasoftware.com/blog/product-managers-you-can-say-no-and-still-make-people-happy/
  8. http://www.mironov.com/strat-priority/
  9. http://adaptivepath.org/ideas/cupcakes-the-secret-to-product-planning/
  10. https://blog.intercom.com/start-with-a-cupcake/
  11. http://www.peterme.com/2012/09/04/reframing-ux-design/
  12. https://www.under10playbook.com/blog/dealing-with-one-off-feature-requests

Learning more about what’s coming under PSD2

The second instalment of Payment Services Directory, “PSD2”, will come into effect on 13th January ’17. By that date, EU member states are expected to have implemented the new payment rules as outlined in PSD2.

I recently listened to a radio programme where ex Barclays boss Antony Jenkins described PSD2 as “an opportunity for third parties to access a person’s bank data and to do something with that data.” He thus captured the core what PSD2 is all about: opening up banking data and using that data to create better, more integrated customer experiences.

Jenkins also talked about how in the new PSD2 world banks effectively provide the utility components that other services build on, acting as the frond end and being more customers experience focused. One can already see from the success of Fintech startups such as Monzo, Remitsy, Varo Money and Abra the distinction between financial service players that focus more on front-end customer experience and those concentrating on the underlying ‘plumbing’. Jenkins mentioned the concept “a browser for your financial life”. Viewed within the context of PSD2, the idea of a central browser for one’s financial life really resonated with me.

All of this made me have a first stab at understanding the essence and ramifications of PSD2. This is what I’ve learned sofar:

Develop new payment solutions – Account Information Service

Ultimately, PSD2 aims to stimulate new payment solutions, using digital tools and infrastructure to create a more seamless payment experience. As a result of PSD2, there will be two new types of service providers: “account information service” (‘AIS’) and “payment initiation service” (‘PIS’).

Under PSD2, an AIS is defined as an “an online service to provide consolidated information on one or more payment accounts held by the payment service user with either another payment service provider or with more than one payment service provider”. As customers, we can benefit from AIS through its ability to offer an aggregated view of a customer’s accounts. Having this consolidated view should make it easier for customers to analyse their transactions and spending patterns across a number of their payment service providers (‘PSPs’).

Develop new payment solutions – Payment Initiation Service

Whereas AIS covers the aggregation of account data, a payment initiation service (‘PIS’) enables the movement of money between accounts with different PSPs. Under PSD2, a PIS is “a service to initiate a payment order at the request of the payment service user with respect to a payment account held at another payment service provider.”

In essence, a PIS acts as an online service which accesses a customer’s payment account to initiate the transfer of funds on the customers’s behalf, provided the customer has consented and authentication has taken place (see Fig. 1 – 2 below). Payment initiation services thus provide an alternative to paying online using a credit card or debit card. PIS aren’t allowed to hold payer funds or store sensitive payment data but can initiate payment transactions on behalf of customers.

To me, the future payment initiation capability for “merchants” feels like the most exciting opportunity that PSD2 offers. It means that merchants such as ecommerce marketplaces can access the payment accounts on their customers’ behalf and initiate payments, without the need for credit or debit cards. PIS will be allowed to communicate securely with the customer’s bank and seek information required for payment initiation.The PIS will use APIs to link to the merchant’s website or app with the customer’s bank.

Fig. 1 – PIS workflow, merchant acting as a Payment Initiation Service Provider (‘PISP’)  – Taken from: https://www.temenos.com/globalassets/mi/wp/16/temenos_psd2_whitepaper_v2.pdf

Fig. 2 – PIS workflow, merchant goes through a PISP to collect money from a customer’s bank account – Taken from: https://www.temenos.com/globalassets/mi/wp/16/temenos_psd2_whitepaper_v2.pdf

Reinforced customer protection

As a direct consequence of the data sharing and integrations that PSD2 enables, customer protection will be increased. For example, all payment service providers will need to prove that they have put specific security measures in place to ensure safe and secure payments. PSD2 requires “Strong Customer Authentication” (‘SCA’), which is also known as two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is already a common feature of lots of digital products and services (see the Google example in Fig. 3 below). Typical components of two-factor authentication are (1) knowledge (something you know, such as a password) and (2) possession (something you have, such as a card or mobile device) or ‘inherence’ (something you are, such as a fingerprint or voice recognition). Each element must be independent from the others so that if one is breached this does not compromise the integrity of another.

Fig. 3 – Google 2-factor authentication example – Taken from: https://paul.reviews/does-two-factor-authentication-actually-weaken-security/

Main learning point: My biggest, initial takeaway from learning about PSD2 is that digital payment services will become a lot more seamless and easy. APIs will act as key ‘enablers’ of new opportunities to integrate customer’s financial activities and online behaviours.

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/banking-apis-what-you-think-jason-bates
  2. http://www.eba.europa.eu/-/eba-paves-the-way-for-open-and-secure-electronic-payments-for-consumers-under-the-psd2
  3. http://www.iosco.org/library/pubdocs/pdf/IOSCOPD554.pdf
  4. https://www.finextra.com/blogposting/12668/psd2—what-changes
  5. http://www.pwc.com/it/en/industries/banking/psd2.html
  6. https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/revised-payment-services-directive-psd2/ais-pis
  7. https://www.temenos.com/globalassets/mi/wp/16/temenos_psd2_whitepaper_v2.pdf
  8. https://www.starlingbank.com/explaining-psd2-without-tlas-tough/
  9. https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/revised-payment-services-directive-psd2/consumer-protection
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08hpwbz
  11. https://www.gmc.net/blog/banks-beware-impact-psd2-and-xs2a-accelerating-digital-disruption