About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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The Founder’s Paradox: How Do You Listen to People You Trust Tell You It Cannot Be Done?

founders paradox brian de haaff

The brother of a friend — I had spoken with him in the past and he was thoughtful. Plus, I knew he was an experienced product manager who had built a number of important products. So after we launched Aha! in 2013, I thought he would be interested in our private beta. Well, he ended up stopping me about two minutes into my demo. This is what he said. Read more…

Is Your Company Ready for a Data Transformation?

data enterprise transformation

“Today’s customers want more.” You have been reading this a lot lately — especially from me. Customers want a personalized experience and want it delivered fast. Many companies know that change is needed to meet those expectations and demands. But they do not know what that change should look like. This is where data can help. Read more…

How to Spy on Your Team

spy on your team

The corporate spies are out there. Monitoring emails. Tracking phone calls. Even peeking into your computer. What is this covert operation? It is the company — the one you work for. I once even had an employer start backing up my computer automatically without telling me. Why were they afraid? There was no reason to be. I already backed my computer up regularly (per the company policy). Read more…

6 Questions to Ask If You Want to Grow Into a Leadership Role

Grow Into a Leadership Role

Difficult work is often the most rewarding. This is especially true for those in leadership roles. I am incredibly proud of our software and the high-growth business we built at Aha! — but I am even more proud of the leaders we have helped grow. I am amazed at how we have grown our leadership team entirely from within the company. Read more…

What Does Digital Transformation Really Mean?

what does digital transformation mean

Yes, it is true. I did recently write that I do not believe in digital transformation. Foolish? Maybe. But my point was a bit more nuanced. Improving technology and digital capabilities is not an end game. The goal is to deliver better customer experiences. Digital transformation is just one strategy that companies invest in as part of an enterprise-wide effort towards better serving customers and employees. That is the real objective. Read more…

Product Managers Are Smarter Than a Spreadsheet

product manager smart spreadsheet

Does greatness come from a spreadsheet? Probably not if you are a product manager. Yet many are attempting to do so at this very moment — using a spreadsheet to manage the building of a product. Really, those spreadsheets are nothing more than a glorified list of features and priorities. This may work for a while. But spreadsheets are not meant for roadmapping the future. Read more…

You vs. Your Company

you vs your company

What motivates you at work? We all have ambitions regardless of our role — individual contributors, managers, and executives. Ambition is good and it should be encouraged. But if your priority is reaching superstar status, you will almost always fall short. Read more…

Going Agile Is Not a Transformation

going agile is not a transformation

Enterprise transformation. I have been writing about it a lot over the last few weeks. And I have been talking with other technology leaders about it even more. It is interesting to hear how so many people view this concept differently. But four words keep popping up when I ask about how companies are changing: “We are going agile.” Huh? Read more…

7 Product Management Job Titles (and What They Really Do)

product management job titles

There are some Inuit dialects that have dozens of words for “snow.” The dialect spoken in Canada’s Nunavik region, for example, has at least 53 words to distinguish between wet snow and crystalline powder. Interesting, right? Even though I really like being in the mountains, you might be wondering why I am writing about snow. Read more…

What Is Needed for Real Enterprise Transformation

enterprise transformation

I want to begin with three business truths. The first is that most companies will need to fundamentally change to better serve customers. The second is that the transformation required will be enterprise-wide and include digital, solutions, and data-oriented strategies. And finally, for meaningful change to happen, the organization needs to think and behave differently to execute on the chosen strategy. Read more…

Hey Boss: Your “Open Door” Policy Is a Joke

open door policy

The big boss strolls into the big corner office. “Remember, my door is always open,” they call out to the team. If this sounds like the start of a bad joke, that is because in a way it is. “Open door” policies are usually empty gestures. Because if you have to tell people that you are open and accessible, then it is probably not true. And you have a transparency problem.

Read more…

The 3 Types of Enterprise Transformation

3 types of enterprise transformation

What does transformation really mean? Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a grounded and elegant definition: “The act or process of changing completely.” Interestingly, I am not the only one to be curious about this word recently. The online dictionary tracks the popularity of word lookups — “transformation” is in the top 20 percent. Why? I have some theories. Read more…

4 Ways Being Nice Is Hurting Your Career

are you too nice at work

Are we morally obligated to always tell the truth? What about telling a small fib with good intentions? White lies are one of those things that give deep thinkers fits. Soften or obscure the truth to avoid hurting somebody — it frequently happens at home and at work. And it is a problem. Because this ends up doing more harm than good. Read more…

Why This CEO Does Not Believe in Digital Transformation

digital transformation enterprise

I recently asked people on LinkedIn to explain how their companies are trying to achieve meaningful organizational change. Most said with “greater efficiency” through “digital transformation” — with technology as the way to realize those efficiency gains. Read more…

The Founder’s Paradox: So You Want a Team of Superstars?

founders paradox superstars

Pelé. Beyonce. Chavez. Oprah. Salk. Magic. There are some names that require no explanation. You know exactly who these superstars are. The level of talent and impact supersede the need for their complete name — these folks have moved from mere mortals to one-name legends. But there are plenty of other stars in our midst. Read more…