How This Math-Hater Became Data-Driven

When I was six years old, a teacher told me that I was really good at reading and bad at counting. I still don’t understand why she had to frame it that way, but it got stuck in my mind forever. I shied away from all things that concerned numbers from that day. Even when I was finishing my masters degree in Business Administration I panicked during exams and wondered if 0 to 10 was actually 11. Did I have to take the 0 in consideration or not?

Nevertheless, when I fell in love with building digital products I realized that I had to overcome my fear of numbers. Otherwise, you are driving without any headlights on a pitch black highway, burning resources and no clue if your are heading in the right direction.

Here are the 5 ways I overcame my fear of numbers and learned to embrace data-driven product development.

1: Data has little to do with math
For me, being data driven means 3 things:

A: Having access to trustworthy data, making sure all event tagging is correct, data sources are sound and definitions across markets, teams and user cohorts are the same.

B: Have a profound understanding of the metrics that matter for your product or business. For example daily user engagement (time spent) is very important for a social platform, but not for a very functional airline app. I want to minimize, not maximize, the time spend in our app.

C: Most importantly: understanding the effects of real world events like weekends, holidays or bad weather – and adaptions of your product to your metrics.

Most of the calculations that you need for above are actually quite basic, percentages and averages will mostly do for most product managers. If you need some heavy analysis on big sets of raw data, and you need some real math, there are many people in your company who’ve been told that they were bad at reading and love to help you.

2: Create your own dashboard
The amount of different metrics, definitions and all the dashboards and sources can be overwhelming. I have to check 6 data sources – with their own tools and definitions – to get an overview of our performance. Something that really helped me was creating my own super simple dashboard of key metrics. Metrics that make sense to your product and context. Focus on getting a profound understanding off the first basic set of metrics and how they interact. Build it up from there.

3: Use metaphors for numbers
I have difficulty remembering numbers – especially large numbers. I mean what’s the difference between 100K and 100M really?! The way that I remember these fairly abstract numbers is to connect it to things that make sense to me and make it visual. So for example our daily active users is the amount of people that live in Amsterdam. Current daily revenue is 4 times the price of my dream boat (Boston Whaler 210 Montauk yeaah) . Downloads per month is the population of Zwolle.

Personally I prefer to look at daily numbers much more than at monthly or quarterly numbers. They seem to make more sense to me. It feels easier to connect them to events in the world and you get more familiar with the actual numbers. For a lot of numbers, I don’t need my metaphor trick anymore.

4: Daily key metrics
Once you have defined your key metrics and setup your own dashboard (which can be as simple as a regular spreadsheet), make sure to spend time on daily metrics every day. I have to get my key metrics from 6 different sources and it takes me 30 minutes, but if you do this, you’ll see the numbers become alive. The numbers become a story – aha! Stories! I was good at that all along.

I also got a lot more engagement from the team when I started reporting the daily metrics to them. They see the numbers fluctuate and try to figure out what the causes are. We have better discussions and insights when we are all involved.

5: It’s never perfect
The tagging is not updated, the definitions are not the same, you cannot compare these numbers. These demotivating discussions keep returning – and probably will stay forever. It’s my guess they are the same at almost every large company.

I keep telling my colleagues that it’s not the actual number that interests me (besides for A-B testing), but it’s the trend, the course, that I need to follow. The metrics are my compass – they tell me where to go and help us making decisions. If I have been looking at the wrong exact number – but the right trends and comparisons, that fine too. It took me quite a while to fully accept this. It’s perfection in progress.

To conclude
We can’t all be engineers and there’s a place for strategists, product thinkers and design researchers in product development. Hope this helps! Now go stalk your CFO, prioritize that tagging update and crunch some numbers my fellow Alpha’s and Gamma’s!

Marco

PS: to Miss Bos from the Engelenbergschool in Kampen. Screw you lady!

🧮 Metrics and Mindsets for Retention & Engagement

Great podcast with growth expert Andrew Chen, VC Jeff Jordan and editor Sonal Chokski talking about metrics for market places. 

They explain the value of the DAU/MAU metric, which gives you in insight in the frequency in which your product is used. This can help explain the behavior of your users. Especially when you break this up in cohorts and add profiles to these cohorts.

Retention is the amount of users that you keep. Engagement is how active your users are on your product. Which is basically frequency and time spend. A weather app for example is low frequency and high retention. You keep the weather app installed, but you only use it like once a day to check the weather. Games or e-books have very high engagement, because people enjoy the game or want to finish the book but low retention. You don’t go back to the game or book once you are done with it. 

In the beginning of every new product you have to focus on acquisition, but as your market get more saturated – or you’re running out of new users – you have to start focussing on engagement and retention. Retention and engagement can really vary in different markets, products and user cohorts. 

How do you get your users to be more engaged?
1: Content and education. Explain how to use your product.
2: Use incentives to use the app. Like Free Time to Think or extra loyalty point through an app booking. 
3: Refining the product. Add, kill or improve features.  


To understand your users:
1: Frequency: how often do users use your product. Regardless of the length of the session or intensity.
2: DAU/MAU ratio. Which gives insight in the amount of daily users compared to monthly users.
 3: L28: histogram which shows how many users have used your product on how many days over the last 28 days. 

Growth vs engagement“It is relatively easy to brute force your way in to growth. But if all your new users, don’t actually start using the product. You still don’t have anything. That’s why investors are skeptical about growth, but really look at engaged users”. 

“The better companies, just rip apart their metrics. Understand the dynamics of their business and figure out ways to improve the business through that knowledge. That knowledge can feedback into new product execution, new marketing strategies or new something. It’s a constant iteration, but it’s formed by the data, that at a level that we see at the best companies. It really really deep” 


https://overcast.fm/+BlzHihA4o
https://andrewchen.co/dau-mau-is-an-important-metric-but-heres-where-it-fails/

Desktop hack for daily files clutter!

I’m a heavy desktop user – is that even a thing? – But during the day I drag and download all things that I’m working onto my desktop. Which turns into a gigantic clutter on which nothing can be found.

During a boring plane ride I came up with a small template to keep my desktop organized. Upper left corner are all the current files that I’m working on that day or week. Right upper corner are strategic documents and information that I want close at hand.

Lower left corner are all the things that I don’t really need anymore, but still have archive to their proper location. Right lower corner is all the stuff that I still have to read or study.

Anyway – it’s not rocket science and I’m no designer, but it really works for me! I can find all my files back super fast these days. Feel free to download the file and use it for yourself!

KLM Mobile

Responsible for strategy, product, revenue and growth of KLM Mobile app. € – M yearly revenue (51% YoY) 1.1m MAU. Co-manage a team of 50 people worldwide with IT counterpart.

KLM Mobile app was awarded second place, best airline app in the World at the World Aviation Festival in 2019

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has 35K employees that take care of 35.1M passengers with a revenue of €10.9B per year (2018).

ROLE(S) Product Management 
DATA 2019 – current
CLIENT KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France.

KLM – Location Based Services

Created the Location Based Services team, product strategy and initial products. We developed the airport way finding feature, which helps the passenger find their way through the Airport and to the gate as fast a possible. In the feature we show the map of the Airport, your own location, floor level and your gate. At this moment 28 Airports are available of which Amsterdam Airport, London Heathrow and JFK are the most used. Once you can determine the location of the passenger in the Airport – with consent of-course – you can build a host of interesting features.

Walking & Waiting times at Amsterdam Airport was the following feature that we build. The API’s of Schiphol Airport, can provide real time waiting times at security and can calculate walking times to gates. Combined with real-time location of a passenger and their gate information we can provide individual walking and waiting times for every iOS app user that shares their location.

Together with the Lounge team we developed a digital queueing system to ensure maximum relaxation time in lounge 52 and 25 at Schiphol Airport. The lounge agents can locate passengers with a service request in the lounge on their device. So the passenger doesn’t have to wait inline for the agent and sit at their desk, but the lounge agent will come to them.

ROLE(S) Product Management 
DATA 2015 – 2019
CLIENT KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France. 

KLM – Airport Wayfinding

For an Airline it’s important to have as little missing passengers and missed connections as possible. If a passenger cannot find the gate, or is stuck in security and cannot get to the gate on time. His bagage has to be offloaded off the plane. This means that ground personal has to crawl in the containers holding the bagage and find the individual suitcase. This can take up to 20 minutes. The result is that other passengers might not make their connecting flights and the plane burns extra fuel trying to make up for the lost time. 

Therefore, helping passengers navigating the airport by helping them find their way to their lounge, point of interest, but especially to their departing gate, is important. 

From a technology perspective especially finding a good solution for Indoor Location was the most challenging part. We started off with Beacons with turned out to be a very unreliable solution. We experimented with dead reckoning solutions but eventually we found Apple core location – if the an Airport has been “fingerprinted” – to be the most reliable solution for iOS. 

Today, there are currently 28 Airport maps available in the KLM app, AirFrance app and the apps that are used by ground and flying personal of both brands.

The features shows your own location on the Airport map, your departing gate. And search results filtered based on distance to your own location. It’s interesting to see that most passengers have the most trouble finding the smoking area’s and the lounges. 

Building this fundamental product first opened up a wide range of possibilities and features around Airport wayfinding and the location of passengers.

On the KLM iOS app the MAU varies between 280K in peak season to 150K in slower months. 

ROLE(S)Product Strategy, Product Management 
DATA 2015 – 2019
CLIENT KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France. 

Tech in 2020: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Benedict Evans – partner at Andreessen Horowitz – released a new presentation with his insights for 2020. It’s a wealth of information and gives me so much energy and inspiration! You can download the deck here. Hereunder the six points that stood out for me. 

😴New tech goes from stupid to exiting to boring (p3)
Interesting to also see this trend within KLM Mobile. From being considered one of the most innovative departments, mobile transformed into a mature touchpoint that focuses on a super dependable product. Our “Boring is the new sexy” vision, really aligns with this insight. I do think that we need a new definition of innovation. It’s not the fastest adoption of the newest fad or tool. Real innovation is solving hard customer problems in a fundamental and elegant way. That’s true innovation. 

💰Only 15% of American addressable retail is online (p15) 
$500 Billion of goods and services are purchased online. If you’ve been working in tech for a number of years, you can have the feeling that everything has already been done. Or has been crushed by FAANG, and all great opportunities are taken. This graph shows that only 15% of all money is spend online. We’re still in the middle of the goldrush! You just have to open your eyes a little wider. 

📺Netflix is the UK’s biggest TV channel (p46) 
An average person in the UK (between 13 and 34) watches 65 minutes of YouTube and 40 minutes of Netflix. Good old BBC only accounts for a measly 20 minutes of attention per day! Personally I haven’t had a regular TV connection for the last 6 years and haven’t missed DWDD or the endless parade of Dutch TV celebs for a single bit. 

🍑In 2017, 40% of Americans met their partners online (p52) 
Software eats everything, also dating. Tinder has been one of the highest grossing apps, and the company owning it Match.com makes $2 billion in revenue with dating related software! It actually surprises me, that the amount of Americans who met online was only 40%. In my dating life, offline dates were like 2% of all dates haha. 

📱What is the next generational change in scale? (p61, p64)
Roughly every 15 years there has been a new break-through technology. For smartphones, it has been the 13th year now. So what will be the next wave of innovation? Nowadays there are so many interesting and specific fields, neural interfaces, wearables, micro satellites, crypto, 5G, AR glasses. There is so much going on. I would not know on which to make my next bet. 

🦾Software ate the world, so all the world’s problems get expressed in Software (p119)
This reminds me of our current challenge of involving our KLM stakeholders more within the Digital processes. Software is everything and everywhere, this means everyone wants in. Our succes means the eventual sharing of power, roadmaps and priorities. Oh the beautiful  irony of it all. Ya’ll want to be part of the nerds now? A little too late my friends. 

Best of September 2019

🌮Are cloud kitchens a new category?
Much like cloud computing services, cloud kitchens have become a popular business model for food-delivery providers that want to serve up meals while avoiding the expense of traditional restaurants with their associated high real estate and service staff costs. And is Travis back?
 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-23/uber-ex-ceo-kalanick-grabs-slice-of-india-s-cloud-kitchen-arena


🧠1 $Billion for a mind reading mouse on your Arm? There are alternatives to voice commands, including technologies like eye-tracking, but simply thinking about what you want a device to do, and having it happen, would be the ultimate solution. Crazy, but what a cool company, check out:
https://www.ctrl-labs.comhttps://gizmodo.com/facebook-just-coughed-up-close-to-1-billion-for-a-comp-1838399633


🤯 Wait wut? 13 $ Billion lost? If you wake up on a Casper mattress, hail a Lyft to get to your desk at WeWork, use DoorDash to order lunch to the office, hail another Lyft home, and have Uber Eats bring you dinner, you have spent your entire day interacting with companies that will collectively lose nearly $13 billion this year.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/unicorn-delusion/598465/

Are IPO’s the new Ponzi Scheme?

💸 🎣 Since Uber became a public company in May of this year, they have to report their quarterly numbers. In the last Q2, they reported an insane loss of 5.2 Billion Dollar 😳! On the other hand, they have an average of 17 million trips a day and an expected total turnover of $59 billion for 2019.

According to their CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, the total addressable market for Uber is $12 Trillion, which is 15% of all Global economic activity ($80 trillion). Would it really be possible for 1 company to take such a giant piece of the global economic pie? 

Len Sherman, adjunct professor of business at Columbia University states that none of the ride-sharing companies around the world can articulate a path to profitability. “Along with Lyft, Uber will be able to sustain itself without posting a profit for as long as the capital markets remains confident in the companies’ predictions about the future”. 

This sounds crazy to me, as long as interest rates are low and people have no clue where to put their money, the capital market can keep fueling these beautiful, crazy and ambitious dreams. But in the end the only ones who actually see money in the bank are founders, early employees and VC’s.
The same kind of system, appears to be happening at WeWork

“When applying our average revenue per WeWork membership for the six months ended June 30, 2019 to our potential member population of 149 million people in our existing 111 cities, we estimate an addressable market opportunity of $945 billion. Among our total potential member population of approximately 255 million people across our 280 target cities globally, we estimate an addressable market opportunity of $1.6 trillion”. Hahahahaha, this makes my WSJF’s calculations seem a lot less crazy! 

Ben Thompson from Stratechery: “Did you catch that? WeWork is claiming nearly every desk job around the globe as its market, a move that by definition means moving beyond being a real estate company”.[ ] “Everything taken together hints at a completely unaccountable executive looting a company that is running as quickly as it can from massive losses that may very well be fatal whenever the next recession hits”.


I might be old-fashioned or maybe even naive. But I prefer a company like Foursquare, who spend the past 10 years figuring out how to turn their technology into a profitable business. So I was really happy to read that Foursquare is is reporting to surpass the 100 Million revenue this year with a team of 350 people. Such of good job of perseverance and actual love for your product! 


Exiting times ahead! I just hope that the crazy – and beautiful – dreams of Uber, WeWork, Peleton and the rest are not leading us into the next tech bubble!

Best of July 2019

🏔🤯No More Backlogs?! 
Sometimes it feels there is such an avalanche of feature requests coming to mobile, it will never be possible work your way through the backlog. This can feel quite overwhelming for everyone in our team.

So this Interesting idea from Basecamp  – who’s CEO Jason Fried was tweeting last week how much he loved flying KLM and the KLM Houses App -. caught my attention. 

He states that a backlog takes a lot of time to manage and to maintain – can’t argue with that. And gives us a feeling like we always behind, even when we’re not. He argues for distributed backlogs, where every stakeholder maintains his own list of ideas. “This approach spreads out the responsibility for prioritizing and tracking what to do and makes it manageable” 

Every 6 weeks, pitches are made on what to build next. Good and urgent ideas return, bad ideas die. 
https://basecamp.com/shapeup/2.1-chapter-07


🏨  ✈️There’s trouble within internet darling 
Booking.com 
Interesting article in the NRC two weeks ago. The online hotel platform suddenly replaced their CEO, Gillian Tans, who had only been in this position since 2016. So whats wrong? Apparently the growth in turnover is slowing down. Turnover in 2018 was 14.5 Billion Euro’s with a growth of 14.5% compared to 18% in 2017. Also the first quarter of 2019 turnover was lower than the year before. 

75% of the turnover of Booking is generated by hotel bookings. But new competition is slowing growth down. Especially the rise of AirBnB is hurting Booking. Other competition like Expedia is successfully trying gain access to the complete travel value chain. They are aiming to become the gateway to the complete travel experience. From hotel, to flight to rental car. 

Interesting to think about KLM’s position in this market. How do you work with these powerful platforms without them eliminating access to the your customer and cutting your margins. 

https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2019/07/15/van-alleen-de-overnachting-naar-hele-reis-a3967186
https://skift.com/2018/09/27/how-booking-holdings-is-plotting-the-next-decade-of-online-travel-innovation/