Four Phases of the Coronavirus Crisis – How Should Businesses Take Action?

It was only a few weeks ago that a colleague and I spoke about the strange virus spreading around in China. Back then, my colleague, like many others around me, said something along the lines of “It’s just a flu”. I didn’t argue and certainly didn’t feel like any of this was going to influence my life or our business, at least no more than SARS or Ebola ever did.

Little did we know, all of us, that in just a couple of weeks our lives are going to be put on hold. It is now clear to everyone, especially companies of all sizes, that the Coronavirus crisis is not something that can be tucked away and ignored, but something to be proactively dealt with. We can now safely (and ironically, because nothing feels safe now) say that the crisis is here to stay, at least for a while.

We feel like nothing is certain, and many things indeed aren’t, but in this unpredictable era of uncertainty, dilemmas and many question marks, a few things are very clear to me, and I would like to offer you my perspective on the business metamorphoses we are all going to deal with and go through, during the crisis and after it. It will take place in four phases, each of them requires a different type of proactivity.

An empowered product management team, supported by the executive management, is essential in driving this process of analyzing the company’s specific impact of the crisis and proactively managing the company’s transition through the different phases.

Phase 1: Crisis Entry – the Phase of Confusion

Most western countries are already deep within this phase, characterized by drastic restrictions increasing daily and influencing our ability to work, specifically halting most of the face-to-face interaction and altering the way we communicate and work.

If I had to describe this phase with a single word, it would be confusion.

Working remotely, not everyone has the same capacity. Some deal with challenging physical conditions – they don’t have a proper office at home, do not have the fastest internet or need to take care of their children while working, while others are simply not so great at working alone.

In most cases, however, communication has dramatically changed overnight, and most of us are now using voice and video conferencing, remote presentations and collaboration platforms.

One of the key challenges of companies within this stage is coping with the new situation, not just because of the restrictions themselves, but also since they are changing all the time. Many companies are not able to deal with this dynamic nature of the situation and the constant changes.

The goal of this phase should be modest: to move out of this phase, as quickly as possible, into phase 2. This transition is NOT an external condition imposed on a company, but to a large extent, something that the company needs to determine. The transition depends on a proactive decision.

Phase 2: The Crisis Plateau – Value and Revenue

This is the crisis in its steady state. Work and travel are very limited, but at least we know what we are dealing with, as restrictions are likely not to change dramatically. Assuming that face-to-face interaction is still very limited (until further notice), we can relate to what we see now as the new status quo.

This phase, which is already here, for most companies, may be very long (months) or very short (days or weeks), but since we do not know how long it will last, we must structure the business so it is highly functional at this time. This may require rethinking processes in creative ways, so that we restore a maximum level of normality, generate value to our customers and monetize this value (generate revenue).

Dealing with this phase should be focused on our customers, our vendors and partners, and ourselves.

  • Customers: What is happening to our customers (current and potential)? How does the crisis affect them? Does our product or service still generate the same value to them as it did before? Is it still required? Does it need to change to generate value? Is there an opportunity to generate even more value or a different type of value we have not generated before? How is our sales process affected?
  • Vendors and Partners: Has our ecosystem changed? Can we look at the situation from our partners’ perspective? What restrictions are they dealing with that we are not? Are they going to continue operating (with us) the same as before? Do they need to make their own adjustments to enable our business to carry on effectively and generate value to customers and generate revenue as usual? Can we help them do so?
  • Our Business: How does the crisis change our own processes? How can we work with social distancing? How can we work remotely? Do we need to come up with new processes? Do our engineers, Product Managers, Developers, Salespeople need to change?

The goal here is to restore normal operations, production, and service level and value generation to our customers, as much as possible. We should also seek new opportunities, as every crisis presents them. Of course, in many industries this is impossible, however, in many others, this is mostly just an adjustment that is going to become easier with time.

Phase 3: Emerging Out of the Crisis

At a certain point, the world, our country, and our company will start emerging out of the crisis. This is probably going to present us with a slow and gradual process, as the pace of getting back to normality may be fairly slow. My assessment is that it is going to be slower than the entry into the crisis, i.e. phase 3 is going to be significantly longer than phase 1.

Like the first phase, this is a transitional phase, and our goal here is move, as fast as our environment allows, into the next phase.

The two major challenges here are:

Analyze New Normality: What does your market look like at the end of the crisis? Define it in terms of the detailed operation, challenges and opportunities. You want to look at your competitors at this stage and see how they are moving into the New Normality phase.

For some industries, such as Banking and Insurance, that were already undergoing a structural change moving from physical to digital, the crisis may create a great boost enabling accelerated pace in digital transformation, generating opportunities, and enabling increased revenues and reduced costs.

Capitalize New Transition Opportunities: Observe the restrictions being lifted and see how this presents opportunities and challenges, during the transition. Think of this in terms of expanding your market at the expense of your competitors.

Phase 4: The New Normality

Finally, we emerge from this crisis. There is a vaccine, a large part of the population is already recovered, thus cannot be infected again and cannot transmit the virus. We may even think that everything is going back to the way it was before the crisis. But thinking that things will just be the same as before is unrealistic. Some of the habits of social distancing will actually stay with us, creating what may be referred to as The New Normality.

Realizing that costs can be reduced by using remote communication, it is likely that more people are going to continue working from home (at least partly), many of them now proficient in using various types of communication platforms.


The four phases are likely to find different businesses in different modes of operation. Each business needs to assess how the phases are related to its specific environment. One of the key aspects of understanding the way to cope with the phases is to analyze how long each phase is. This is a key assumption that everyone needs to make.

During all phases, the role of the product manager as a product leader is critical. We believe that an empowered product management team, supported by the executive management, is the driver behind managing this crisis successfully and moving into a stronger position as we step out of the crisis in phase four.

StarVision has the tools to make a quick assessment for each business and indicate how long the phases are and what kind of impact is the business going to encounter in each phase.


5 Tips for SAAS Product Managers

In SaaS Products, the software provider controls the operation. SaaS Product Managers have more freedom to schedule new versions and updates, and have access to their product’ usage data. So, how can you use it for the benefit of your product?

Tip 1: Continuous Deployment requires Continuous Product Management

New versions and updates in a SaaS Product do not require marketing the new version to customers and deploying the new version for each customer. Therefore, SAAS Products updates can be frequent and in some cases Continuous Deployment is used (Suzie Prince provides an excellent overview of Continuous Deployment in mind the PRODUCT blog).

SaaS Product Managers should apply continuous product management processes to utilize the advantages of frequent deployment. This means continuous product definition process – from continuous review of the product goals, roadmap and priorities to frequent communication of detailed requirements to the technical team, as well as continuous product marketing process (frequent micro launches instead of major launch of a new version).

Tip 2: Get new ideas in front of your customers faster

Avoid wasting too much time on internal iterations. Do not hesitate to introduce changes – as a SaaS Product Manager you can introduce small changes and iterate using real market feedback – a much more efficient process than work internally and make assumptions regarding market feedback. You can use AB testing to check new ideas on a small number of users and launch to all users based on market response.

Tip 3: Continuous improvement

Define relevant metrics that will enable you to analyze your product performance.  Use the data to check what works and what does not (both success and retention). Analyze the data, understand what the market is telling you, and use the insights to improve the product.

Tip 4: Do not lose contact with customers

Having usage data available, it is tempting to focus on these metrics and assume that they provide all the information you need. They do not. You have to engage with customers in order to understand their day-in-a-life, understand the value beyond the metrics. Allocate time to speak with customers and bring the insights to the product in addition to the metrics.

Tip 5: Do not lose the big picture

When dealing with many small changes, there is a risk of losing focus. As a Product Manager your job is to add significant value to the product and make it better for the customers. Keep the big picture in mind and make sure the result of the many small updates add up to greater customer value, improved user experience and more satisfied users.

4 Tips for Agile Product Managers

More companies are using agile methodologies – according to the latest State of Agile report from April 2017, 94% of respondents said their organizations practiced agile (at least some of the teams).
Moving to agile has a major impact on our work as Product Managers. While it improves visibility, increases team productivity and enables managing priority changes more efficiently, agile introduces challenges such as finding the time to be available for R&D while handling all other product tasks, breaking requirement documents to user stories and more. Here are 4 tips that can help you be a more effective Product Manager in an agile environment.

#1 – Do not neglect longer term Product Management activities

Agile introduced the Product Owner role, which many confuse with the Product Manager role. Although in many cases one person performs both, these are different roles (with some overlap). The Product Manager is more customer-focused and market oriented, and the Product owner has internal focus and handles more detailed definitions. You can easily find more information about the differences between these roles, for example, this post from Aha! Blog.

If you are a Product Manager who is also acting as a Product Owner, you can easily become entangled with Product Owner responsibilities which are usually more urgent. Be careful not to neglect your Product Management responsibilities which are more strategic and long term. Allocate specific, well defined, time for your Product Management activities. Do not allow those times to be compromised with your Product Owner activities.

#2 – See the forest for the trees

In agile, you break requirements into many user stories. With so many user stories, it is not easy to keep the bigger picture in mind. Furthermore, the constant pressure to define enough user stories for the team to work on may draw you to detailed definitions and distract you from strategic definition of requirements that add significant value to your product.

Follow a structured Product Definition process that starts top-down with definition of strategic goals and themes for your product. Make sure the detailed requirements you work on are not there because they help you fill the team capacity, but because they are steps on the way to the product strategic goals.

#3 – Do not define details ahead of time

In order that the agile team will be effective. You need to provide them well defined User Stories they can implement. If you use SCRUM, you have to provide enough User Stories until a deadline before every sprint. You may be tempted to define many detailed user stories for backlog features, in order to avoid the deadline pressure. Don’t!

While you do need to have enough stories that you want to implement in the near future (next sprint and a few more), defining User Stories that you plan to implement later is in most cases a waste of time, since by the time you get to implement them, things change and you have to rewrite the User Stories. When you add items that are not for immediate implementation, write only a high level definition, start with a title and elaborate later. Write the detailed definition only when you plan to implement the feature.

#4 – Adopt agile product processes

There is no reason that only processes that involve R&D will be agile. Apply agile process and practices to other Product Management dimensions – Product Strategy, Product Marketing and Product Definition. Increase visibility of these processes, involve relevant stakeholders early in the process and manage changes using strategic goals as guidelines.

If you use rituals when you work with R&D, use rituals for strategic activities. Following such rituals will help you allocate the required time for longer-term activities.

To B2B or B2C Product Manager?

Both B2B (Business-to-Business) product manager and B2C (Business-to-Consumers) product manager are responsible for managing their products throughout its lifecycle.  However, their day-to-day work can be very different. So whose job is better?

Note: while there are B2B products that are sold in large volumes, and are similar in some aspects to B2C products, I refer here to B2B products that are more complex and are sold to a smaller number of very big customers at a high price.  

Data, BIG Data

The number of customers of a B2B product is usually in dozens, hundreds or in the better case thousands, while a B2C product can have millions or even billions of customers. A B2B Product Manager who wants to get market feedback in advance can speak with friendly customers (and hope their opinions represent the market) or conduct a survey (hoping that the number of respondents is sufficient and that their answers represent reality).

A B2C Product Manager has a more direct exposure to the market. For example, a B2C Product Manager that manages a cloud-based service can use multiple versions and conduct AB testing to check which UX is more efficient, or to set different prices in order to see which price works better.


The strategic customer bear hug

In B2C, the average deal size is small. You need many deals to generate significant revenue. In B2B, one customer (or a few) can generate a significant percentage of your revenue.

The upside for a B2B Product Manager is that a few good deals can make your product profitable. However, having a small number of customers make them strategic for your product success. As a result, the B2B Product Manager is under pressure to develop custom features for the important customers, which may distract the product from its course and may make it a custom solution that meets the needs of specific customers, but is not relevant for the rest of the market.

Who buys your product?

In B2B, the product users are not usually the buyer. Furthermore, as the purchase decision has to be approved by multiple people in the buying organization, the B2B Product Manager should take into consideration (besides the user) the buyer and other influencers who are critical to the sales process.

Customer relationships

B2B Product Managers maintains close relationship with customers. It can start from presales meetings and continue in ongoing face-to-face meetings and calls throughout the product life cycle, before and after launch.

B2C Product Managers usually do not know their customer. They can hold focus groups, run surveys and interviews to learn their customers’ point of view, but they do not, usually, have ongoing relationship with them.

Your daily activities

Both B2B Product Managers and B2C Product Managers write product definitions, prioritize features and work with other teams (technical, sales, marketing) to bring the product to the market.

If you are a B2C Product Manager, you usually start your day checking the latest analytics to see what works well and what should be improved and you continuously plan AB tests to optimize the user experience. If you are a B2B Product Manager, you invest more time in customers meeting/calls and work closely with the sales team to obtain market info.

So, which job is better?

At the end of the day, it is a personal preference. If you prefer longer cycles, like to develop relationships with your customers and work closely with the sales team, you may enjoy more managing a B2B product. If you like analyzing statistical data and are focused on user experience, you may enjoy more managing a B2C product.

As a Product Manager, you do not have to select either B2B or B2C. In order to be able to manage both B2B and B2C products, consider where you are on the B2B-B2C spectrum, and work on the skills required for the area you are less experienced in.

The Product Manager and the Art of Pricing: Moving from “best guess” to data-driven practices – Part 1

Guest Post by Sagy Gulinka

Part I – Quantitative Tools

Pricing is one of the critical and complex processes in a company. Complexity stems from many factors, among them are company’s strategy, competitors’ pricing and positioning, market segmentation, products’ portfolio, cost structure and more.

Pricing decisions making associated with these factors requires data from different sources and involvement of different stakeholders in the organization, sometimes with conflicting interests. In light of this complexity, it is no wonder that Product Managers sometimes feel that their impact is eroded and they find it difficult to navigate pricing decisions.

Another point worth mentioning, and I face it frequently – pricing discussions are too often qualitative in nature and are not based on enough quantitative data and facts. This kind of discussions is sometimes leading to bad pricing related decisions. As bad as it is, in life, every problem can be also an opportunity – Product Manager’s opportunity to lead a structured pricing process based on facts and data. The Product Manager is in a central position and in close relations with all stakeholders and hence can be the focal point that balances a variety of different vectors.

Directors tend to side with anyone who brings facts and knowledge to a decision-making process. The tools available to product managers include:

  1. Quantitative metrics and reports that point to the price performance of the product
  2. Methods and specialized Pricing knowledge
  3. The presentation of an integrated picture of the various considerations (marketing, sales, development, finance, etc.)

Example: Quantitative Analysis – Sale Price Distribution

Sometimes you may be asked questions such as: “Why is the average deal price significantly lower than the goal you have set a specific corresponding segment of customers?”

This below form of presentation better allows understanding the company’s sales operations because we look at the amount of deals made at every price level rather than just discussing the average deal price…

Price Distribution

In this example you can identify a well-known phenomenon called the Magnet Effect. Sales people are selling at the lowest price allowed to the point where they have to get a managerial approval (in the graph above it is happening at a price of 110). Even an intermediate level manager will try to exhaust the process prior to turning to the next level of approval (for the price of 70).

I will quote a sales manager at a large high-tech: “We did not hesitate to drop the price as long as it was allowed, but we made a tremendous effort not to reach the regional manager for approval…”

The key, in this case, was the remuneration model of the sales team that was based mainly on sales quantities and without direct binding to the sale price. You can see in the chart different selling prices of the same product within a specific market segment and it is clear that there are deals that were closed at a too low a price due to the magnet effect.

This example demonstrates how collection and integrated presentation of quality facts and data can assist in fixing product pricing and sales guidelines which immediately inflicts on the company’s bottom line.

In Part II of The Product Manager and the Art of Pricing we will explore 2 additional tools that are more qualitative in nature. See you soon…

This is a guest post by Sagy Gulinka, Owner at TMsight

Striving for Pricing Excellence? See details about our upcoming Pricing Workshop

4 Assumptions that Product Managers Must Challenge when Setting Price

One of the most challenging tasks of product mangers is to set the target price for their products. This task is even more challenging as there are certain convictions that are“public-knowledge” and often raised by the rest of the stakeholders in the organization.

These assumptions may create misalignment between product management and sales management on the target price as well as ending up with a price that is too low.

#1: “We cannot charge more than our competition”

When penetrating the market with a new product, it is a common assumption that price must be lower than the incumbent market leader in order to put a foot in the door.

Well, this isn’t necessarily true. If you have a product that has unique features that are not offered by alternatives or competition, you can certainly apply a segmentation approach where you target a subset of the market that is looking for your product uniqueness. The segmentation can be geographical, demographical or any other parameter of choice. The higher the value customers place on your product or service, the higher the price they’re likely to pay. It’s a natural law and a fact of human behavior.

EVE model will help to position and communicate your price

Key take away for the product manager:

? Segment the market

? Define your ideal customer

? Tune your product accordingly

? Apply value modeling to set the right price

Supporting Tools & Related Conventions:

? EVE price model


#2 “Customers care only about price”

This is a common belief – which is far away from the truth. Of course they care about price, but this is only part of the big picture. A basic marketing concept refers to customer’s “persona” which reflects your target customers’ behavior, likes, dislikes preferences, tastes, lifestyle, income levels etc. By learning these attributes, you will gain a lot of insight that will help you to set the right value for your products or services and from there – the right price.

Key take away for the product manager:

? Study your customers’ needs

? Tailor your solution around it

? Set the right Price

Supporting Tools & Related Conventions:

? Persona Analysis tools

o Price-sensitive customers

o Convenience-centered consumers

o Quality/Status-conscious customers 


#3 “Let’s penetrate low. We will increase the price later”

Many entrepreneurs set a price that looks attractive in order to trigger market traction, without first checking if the price covers their costs and cerates profitability. The notion that customers will be willing to pay you more for the same product as they become addicted to it, is delusional. If you set a price that favors your customers, but is bad for your business, it will only be a matter of time before you won’t have a business anymore. Conjoint analysis can help in prioritizing between the features and set a profitable roadmap

Key take away for the product manager:

? Understand what your costs structure

? Set the right Price (low enough to attract customers but high enough to be profitable)

Supporting Tools & Related Conventions:

? Cost Structure Analysis

o Direct costs

o Indirect costs (or “Overhead” costs)

? Conjoint price model


#4 “Product cost structure must remain product manager’s property”

Many product managers believe that their product’s cost structure must be kept hidden from the rest of the organization due to possible risks:

1. Sales pressure to reduce price

2. Information leakage to customers

3. Information leakage to competition.

To explain a price to your sales team, you need to discuss your margins, and explain why it is important to detach the target price from the product cost. This means that you may defend low price for a high cost component (merely because it is not a differentiator) and a high price for a low cost product (i.e SW) because it is a differentiator. EVE model analysis will help you stand in front of your sales team and explain your price and target margins.

Company’s stakeholders should be aligned with your pricing strategy, knowing why you priced each feature the way you did, and feel comfortable defending it in front of the customer.

Key take away for the product manager:

? Be as transparent as you can – internally!

? Deliver a win-win pricing strategy for you and your customer

Supporting Tools & Related Conventions:

? EVE model combined with product cost analysis