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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.

 

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.

Christmas time, again

SantaSo its Christmas time, and right thereafter New years eve. And its time to summarize 2012. Or not.

 

I will not summarize a year that probably was so diverse it cant be summarized. I will however reflect over December and Christmas.

 

For some December is the last month to actually get the deal signed so you reach your quota.

For some December is the month that is rather slow, and you can get done what you dont have time for the rest of the year.

For some its simply a good month to have a bit of vacation.

 

Which category you are I dont know, but most product managers ae probbaly the middle one and most HR professionals probbaly want to prepare for next years Talent Management processes and therefore bordeline category 1.

 

So please, when you are done, make sure you land in category 3 at least some time. The human body and brain need time off. And by time off I dont mean connected to the office through your phone. The only reason that is ”needed” is that everyone else thinks the same. If we all turned them off and did not read email. There would not be any emails to read.

 

So a merry christmas and a email free holiday

Imagine you are creating a software and there are similar softwares out there. You compete in UI, features and support for different file formats. Should you announce your upcoming support for new file formats?

Nikon D600

I am talking about some specific examples here, I am talking about RAW converters. Software used by all photographers that don’t want the camera to create the JPEG file. And each camera has its own file format for their RAW file, so when a new camera hits the market the RAW converter manufacturers need to support it with a new version of the software.

 

 

Here are a couple of options. Either you do it really quick, always first supporting new cameras. Or you might not be the first but do it really good. But how far can you wait? How long will you users wait for support for their new shiny camera? A lot longer if you tell them how long it will be. If you say “we never tell what and when we support new cameras” they will wait for a while, and then lose faith and change to your competition.

 

 

The funny part is that for some cameras you actually “know” the support will come. It just don’t makes sense to not support the major camera manufacturers models. The cameras are out there also, they are already released. So its not like your competition cant guess what you do, they just cant guess your delivery date. But is it more important to keep that secret from your competition or to publish it to your users? The competition know you are working on it, they are doing the same. The users know you are working on it, but will lose interest if you do it for to long, and switch to a competitor that is faster than you.

 

 

So be secret, the only real loser is you. The only real winner is your competition. And the users have to pay for a new software and learn it, but they will do that

 

 

Or be smart, announce what everyone knows anyway. Keep your new features under wrap, that’s totally another thing. 

 

and yes, I have a new camera, and yes my raw converter does not support it and yes they just refuse to tell us when they will. A number of their competitors do however.

 

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.

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

 

Yes, I finally came around reading it. But as you all product managers know, the backlog was full, it was on my roadmap, and it took some time to get it prioritized.

Steve Jobs a Biography

But it finally came to be.

This will be some reflections from a product managers point of view, the literary qualities of the book is written so much about anyway.

Steve Jobs was a visionary. He had ideas on new product, new behavior, what the public “needed” and he drove his team towards his goal. In short he was doing product management, among other things. He used to say about people that they were ok, as business persons, salesmen or other, but they were not a product person. You need to be that in order to be a successful product manager. So he may not have used the “standard vocabulary” but he used the same message.

So this man that often is referred to as a genius, how was he as a product manager?

  • Was he listening to his customers?
  • Was he building relationships with marketing and sales?
No not really. He was really convinced that he already knew what the customers needed, and in some cases he were right (Mac, IPhone and more) and some he was wrong (some Apple models, Next). He did not really need to build relationships within his company. He owned it, and he was ruthless enough to just kick out anyone that he did not like, as he lived after the motto that A people preferred to work with A people.

But he had visions, he had a hard view of what the goal was, and he made damn sure he got there. He did not just influence marketing, he drove them before him, kicking and screaming. He decided the price on the things, the delivery model, in short everything. He embodied the saying that a product manager should be the CEO of his product. If anyone had an idea worth stealing he stole in and claimed it as his own. It may be that your job is to make your boss look good, his subordinates surely learned to know that. He stole from them to.

I would have hated working for the man. He was a to big egomaniac to be around for it to be worth the ride (and I am far to fond of taking the praise, or blame, for my accomplishments myself).

Reading the book as a product manager you will get insights into the man. What was his driving force, how did he achieve his goals, and frightening enough how can you learn from him to handle your everyday life (and try not to learn to much, you don’t own everyone around you). But its interesting to see how he worked and what made him tick.

As a product manager, read the book. Not just for the story, but for the lessons in product management. While you read it, ask yourself

How would I have done that differently

and more importantly

Could I have reached the results without his dictatorial management style

If you have a good answer to the first one, and a yes to the second, you will be successful, even though you don’t own your company.

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