Electronic Publishing -- SIMS IS-290-2



Project Plans

Review components of Project Plan

SWOT Analysis

Sales Points

Three Case Studies

Goal of Plan

Products Beyond Description

by David Coursey

In the world of high-tech hype, it is harder than ever to look good on paper.

Complex technology is hard to describe in simple terms. But, if you can't describe it simply, perhaps you should rethink whether people will ever understand what you're doing.

One of the things I do when producing a conference is sort through piles of product announcements and descriptions to find out which ones would be compelling enough to have other people see at one of my shows. This job is fascinating, but also makes me nuts sometimes.

Here are some of the product descriptions that have passed through the office in the past year. As you read these, try to picture exactly what it is the product does, looks like, or is supposed to accomplish. And remember these are mostly from companies that wanted an audience to pitch their product for Internet Showcase or a piece in the newsletter. (I took out the actual company and product names, but otherwise left the wording exactly as it was when I first read it.)

The product demonstration highlights the system's ability to acquire the most granular nuggets of information, even if they are buried within several pages of unstructured text…Once the system completed the process of knowledge acquisition from various sources, it automates the aggregation into one document. Saving the user countable time and energy. Lastly, Company X will demonstrate an organization's ability to transfer knowledge as well as create new insight by encapsulating research and analysis methodologies.

Coursey -- As a creator of new insight, I can't tell you how helpful it is to have someone automate the aggregation. It saves me countable time and energy.

We will demonstrate…a new product that will allow users to communicate with each other as they cross paths on the Web. For example, when a user is on the Amazon.com Sci-Fi page, they can post questions to other users about the latest Azimov book or whomever their favorite author is…Until now, chat sessions lacked context -- often resulting in the session being reduced to nothing more than boorish chatter…There may be 1,000 other people on the same Web site, but the individual user is essentially alone, oblivious to the other users at the same site, at the same time. Other than the performance of the site, there is no community between the user and the other users currently at the same site. Product X will bridge this gap, allowing you to see that others are with you, establishing context and community, which will ultimately initiate conversation.

Coursey -- This product allows users, who are alone, lonely, and oblivious, to create topical boorish chatter. One question: Would you want to see everyone who visits a particular site at the exact time you do?

This one was actually an email solicitation describing a product or service: There are 187 companies with capital/construction budgets from 20 million to over 500 million who have intentions of moving to your region in later 1999-2002. These intentions and other previously unavailable attitudes and facts are now available for the advanced marketer who wants to do it smarter.

Here's another gem: Product X, after two years in development, has a hardware/software device ready for launch that amazes Web users (beta proof). It delivers Web pages in a fraction of the time -- and those pages are fresh, not stale.

Plus, it's: Transparent, Simple, Scalable, Reliable, Backed by industry powerhouses!

Coursey -- The word transparent bugs me. If a product were transparent, would it be hard to find? What would happen if you had a transparent product running a virtual machine? Still, it is always good to say industry powerhouses back your product. As far as I know, you could be referring to a conglomerate of utility companies.

…While new products are often sexy and powerful examples of how new technology is being utilized, it is 'products' such as Product X that truly represent where the Internet rubber is hitting the road and provide companies with tangible and quantifiable value.

Coursey -- Though this person is admitting that their product is neither sexy nor powerful, they do force me to make a mental picture of an Internet rubber hitting the road.

The vision of Company X is to proved standards-based, integrated, and affordable information security to enable complete, cross-platform, browser-neutral information security.

Coursey -- This product description wins the buzzword contest. Too bad it wasn't transparent.

Numerous improvements have been made to allow higher performance, flexibility and back-end store administration, building on base products that have been used as models for well-architected, mid-range and scalable e-commerce solutions that are easy to set-up, maintain and expand.

Coursey -- In that same product description, the marcomm person informed me that the new product had an "increased performance by a factor of at least 10." Yea!

Product X is a breakthrough solution that offers for the first time seamlessly integrated tools that capture, share, and reuse information, effectively creating a group memory, while also integrating the best features of collaboration, information retrieval/search, database and groupware software to create the first environment in which people can easily share, discover and reapply each other's work.

Coursey -- At first glance, the above product sounds like something devised by college students to forge term papers and cheat on tests.

Amazingly, once I saw some of the above-mentioned products in person, they were actually cool. The challenge, though, is to get someone interested in what the product does, what problem it solves, etc., rather then just getting their curiosity up because they wanted to see what a transparent product looked like.

Another thing: How many products out there that say they're award winning have actually won awards? Just checking.

As I've said, I know the job of describing a product in a concise, understandable, non-sensationalistic way is tough. But if more technology companies could come closer to doing this, they would be doing themselves a favor and editors a great service.

So, to those all the scalable, reliable, cross-platform, standards-based, integrated product-hawkers I've piqued with this missive, good luck in getting your message across.

© 1998 -- coursey.com, inc. All rights reserved.


Product Concept

Product/Service Concept

Audience Analysis

Editorial, Design and Tech Development

Product Development Plan

Technology Analysis and Specifications

Consider how your project is an editorial, design and technical framework, a structure containing the valuable assets that you are developing. You'd like the assets to retain value even as the technology changes, and as editorial and design team members change.

Business Issues

Assessment of Benefits for Organization

Business Goals

Competitive Overview

Branding and Identity issues

"Positioning is not what you do to a product; positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect." Ries and Trout.

Marketing and Sales Plan


Potential Partners

Metrics for Success

Budget for Three Years

Process Issues


Design and Production Process


Schedule for Development and Deployment

Sales Points Examples

From a book publishing point of view:

"The sales points are intended for retail resellers. They are less concerned with the contents of the book than with information about positioning vis-a-vis the competition; popularity/credentials of the author; sales level relative to another title (e.g., we project sales to be similar to "The Perl Cookbook"; what makes the book unique; etc.) A bullet or two describing the technology in lay terms is also helpful. I've attached the salespoints that Lorrie, Madeline and I wrote for the books announced in the last reseller. They'll give you an idea of what we're looking for. Most of the sales points you list could go in the long description.


Oracle PL/SQL Built-ins Pocket Reference (Oct)

By Steven Feuerstein, John Beresniewicz & Chip Dawes
$7.95 US (est.), $11.95 (est.) CAN; 80 pages (est.)
Audience: Oracle developers
Shelving Recommendation: Database




Apache: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition (Includes CD-ROM) (Dec)

By Ben Laurie & Peter Laurie
$34.95 (est.), $51.95 (est.) CAN; 350 pages (est.)
Audience: Web server administrators and programmers
Shelving Recommendation: Web/Linux/UNIX


SWOT Analysis

Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunies Threats

Product Evaluation Model Used at Miller Freeman

In-class examples.

Case Studies

Three Internet Case Studies