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Archive for the ‘Product Management’ Category

We are struggling in a profession with no definitive answer about what it is, but lets be honest. Most of us does to much. Lets go back to basic and do what we are best at. 

A product manager should steer the product. Have a vision. Somehow know where the market is going, or even better where it needs to go. prioritize, interact with customers, look at competition, write requirements, think about marketing and make sure Sales and Delivery have something really good to sell and deliver. (I might have missed some things also).

 

 

Is that not enough?

 

So why do we insist on adding so much else to it?

A product manager is not a product owner. Product owner is the developer role. Its day to day interaction with the development team, go down that road and any time to actually meet customers dwindle. So let the Product Owner be the day o day expert who gets our vision, and then sort out the details when needed. We trust them and they make sure our vision is brought to life.

A product manager is not a designer. We know what we want, why we want it and have a good idea on the road there. But most of us are not experts in user experience (we are probably good at spotting a good or a bad one). The User Experience experts will listen to us, interact with us and come with proposals and different versions for us to comment upon and react to.

 

A product manager is not the tester. We know enough about QA to keep those experts in high regard. They know what they are doing. When we do the same we test that we got what we wanted, we don’t test all different use cases in detail and setup tricky data to see if the analytics is working 1000% time of the run tests. QA are experts on that.

A product manager is not the documentation and user guide expert. Far from it, we today strive to get systems that don’t need much of that. But when we do need it we know enough about it to hand the actual writing and sorting and layouting to experts.

 

So lets make sure we have experts around us. People who are as committed to their expertise as we are to ours. That way we can really shine in what we are good at. 

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But is that so bad? Or is it good? I dont know. I just know that I want to have control of the whole chain from idea to delivery. And off course I don’t, but when I loose control of some details I don’t trust that they are done right.

 

Does that make me a control freak? Or just a freak? Or someone who thinks he is best at everything so better do it myself? You judge.

 

I am now back to running teams in the dual role of product manager and product owner. The 2 roles we have debated now for a couple of years and that are overlapping. One way of ending that debate is to just combine them in the same person, Who cares where the line is drawn then?

 

Anyway. I will now be running 2 sprint teams, 2 teams I have worked with before and that I love and respect. But with 6 months of team absence I have come to some conclusions.

 

  1. I will require to not be first instance for approval of design and stuff. Come to me when designers have approved them, when you are sure they follow the guidelines. Unless you have a totally new idea.
  2. Stories are either DONE or NOT. Its binary, nothing in between. 0 or 1. May sound hard, but good for all in the long run, It makes it really easy to know what will happen, no speculation. Are they DONE, tested, and pass the PO test with acceptance critera, then they are approved. Fail just one bit, and they are Not passed.

 

These 2 items are my intentions this time.

 

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I had a surprisingly good day yesterday

  • Not surprisingly because I was surprised by the level of professionalism of my collaegue, I knew that already.
  • Not surprisingly because it was a creative day  that was expectedNot surprisingly because we got good results, I expected that

But surprisingly that just by spending a day face to face we proved that 1+1=3 and achieved more than I expected

We worked on navigation and user experience,

  • We had made some first mockups,
  • And a requirement spec
And then we discussed. Not always structured, but allowing us to go off on some side discussion. At the end of the day
  • We had a good understanding we shared
  • We had an enhanced spec
  • We had some really good ideas
  • We had covered short and long term.

Sometimes a good creative unstructured day, workshop, is all you need. And don’t try that over phone. I have and it is never the same.

Now we just need to sell the result to the other stakeholders.

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I recently came across a new application that is so obvious once you see it that everyone could have thought about it, but did they?

Video showing the transportation/tourist app

No, but some product manager at the local public transportation company in Gothenburg did. They had an app showing their transportation, the phones had GPS and they had a city full of tourists.

So someone obviously connected the dots and put tourist information into the app, and then connected these into a tour, so you could use the ordinary local transportation to get a narrated tour thruogh the city, full with info about the city, but also with directions on where and when to change public transportation. No need anymore for expensive tour operators.

As with most good product management its an elegant idea, easy to understand, useful and nothing fancy.

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No matter what is in your definition of Product Management. You need to communicate, communicate and communicate some more.
 
I recently worked on a vision and roadmap, both short and long term. At the same time I then worked on 3 versions of same story as the audience is different of these different documents
 
  • First I have the PowerPoint, with info on market, quotations from industry analysts and a really high level roadmap. 
  • Then we have the word document, describing the process in detail, all integration touch points, phases in development and all sub parts in detail. 
  • Last we have the Excel file with EPIC stories, rough estimates and order of development. 
 
They all tell the same story, for management, product owners, designers and developers. 
 
What you need to do is to tailor your presentation, amount of text and prerequisite knowledge to your audience. 
 
By using my PowerPoint to get buy in for the vision I can then use my Excel to get funding. 
My Word document in conjunction with the Excel file will get the development team started, and the designers going. 
 
What is the fundament is that you in all different versions of the story are telling the same one. Someone who looks at one version should recognize it if they see another. You should be able to start with the high level overview PowerPoint and lead the audience into the detailed document and estimations in the Excel. If you don’t have the same story they will get confused, and you will lose their interest. 
 
So adapt tour storytelling to the audience, but make sure it’s the same story

 

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One thing that always cause issues and grief is the boundaries of responsibilities and handovers. Who is responsible for what, and what is the hand over from product management to product owner are just two examples.
And wow, it has been more than 2 months since last post, vacation and summer it is:-)

As we live in an agile world the development team and the product owner work with user stories, but can that also be done between the product owner and the product manager (if you are lucky enough to have both). I dont think so.

A user story tells what I want, why I want it and the developers can build something based on it. But it is also often a small subset of features (try to go to the team with a story saying “As a admin I want good drill down ad hoc reporting so that I can produce any reports at any time”. Its just to big. So you break it down into pieces.

As a product manager you want to have the overall view and therefore doing an epic might be an idea. But the list off acceptance criterias will be very long. So we are then back to the question, what is the hand over from product management to product owner.

I prefer to answer the questions:

  1. What am I trying to achieve
  2. Why am I trying to achieve it
  3. What are the hard facts
If I do that the product owner can first present me with epics to make sure they got it, and then do user stories for the team.

I dont really care of all the details, I want to make sure I get my features, they are

  • designed properly
  • a great user experience
  • solves the business pronlem I forumlated

I can do that with epics and also by sign off on the design. I don’t need to put my nose i to each and every detail/user story.

That would make an epic the sign of between product manager and product owner and the user story the signoff between product owner and team.

It will also let the product owner drive the creative process, and just go to the product manager for feedback, present ideas and get signoff.

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I have earlier argumented that a Product Owner and a Product Manager is not the same thing. I believe that the Product Owner role as defined by the developer community is one role that has some of the Product Management in it, but by no way all of it. Now its time to show that this is true.

I our latest reorganization (they are always latest, never last, believe me) we split the role. I will head back to Product Management territory and hand over my developer teams to dedicated Product Owners. I will work more with customers, analysts, sales and marketing to define what we call the “what and why” and the Product Owners will then work with the developer teams work on the “how” (this is hugely simplified off course). So now its time to split the roles and make the boundaries clear. 

I will get back to that as we get on with it. But for now I intend to spend more time on

  • What should we do, and what should we not do
  • Why should we do it
  • What are my requirements when we do it
  • What innovative options do I have
  • What is must have and what is nice to have


I will then leave to others to answer the questions about

  • What is the detailed design
  • Who does it
  • How is the error messages formulated

Interesting items to pick up when you change roles and responsibilities are:

  • Where does my responsibility end and the Product Owners start?
  • What is the deliverable from me?
  • What does the Product Owner deliver back, and when?

These questions need answers. Previously I did both roles, and before that waterfall. It will he exciting to now try Agile with separated Product Management and Product Ownership .

Stay tuned for updates….

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