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Moving from Solutions to Problems

People from all over the company come to you with feature requests and ideas. From minor things like UI tweaks to major ones like a new Search feature. Depending on how pushy and persistent stakeholders are in support of their feature, you might be forced to eventually let it through. Once this happens, expectations are set. “My feature got into the product,” they think. From that, it’s a slippery slope. That person casually talks to others and word gets around. “You should talk to the PM about your idea. It seems pretty cool. I talked to him about this other idea I had, and look, it got released last week.” Soon after, an email arrives. And then you get a …

6

How to Deal with “Sinatra” Stakeholders

No matter how much we’d like for our Product Management role to be solely focused around building great products and making customers happy, the reality is that we need to work inside organizations. We’re part of a larger team and that means interacting with a broader group of people with direct or indirect interest in the product: our stakeholders. I wrote about dealing with unresponsive stakeholders in the past, but there are many more personas to consider. A very common kind is what we may refer to as the ”Sinatra” stakeholder. You know the type: the ones insisting on doing things “their way.” These stakeholders manifest themselves in different situations. They’re determined to get some idea or feature unto the product, because they’re convinced it’s the right way …

Benefits (and Caveats) of a Simple Estimation Process

We’re all aware that we pretty much suck at estimating how long it will take to build a given piece of software. There are many reasons we fail at this. However, the core of the issue is simple. In general terms, if we want to know how much time some task will take, we need to be pretty sure about What to do, How to do it and to Have done it multiple times. Since building software products is essentially exploratory work, we are usually lacking at least one of these conditions (a fourth one, the Why, often also goes unanswered, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) Our current toolset This age-old issue has seen many different approaches over time – ranging from the informal, to the extremely detailed and …

6

A Trello template for your Product Backlog

Since publishing my article on how to organize a large product backlog, I got a lot of questions from readers that wanted more details on the workflow and how to set it up in Trello. That’s why I decided to create a set of template/example boards that you can copy to your own account and tweak as you wish, as well as a sort of FAQ from a couple exchanges I had with readers. If you haven’t yet read that article, I recommend you do, as a lot of things in this one assume that you’re familiar with the ideas it put forward. Anyways, here’s a quick recap: We create a problem for ourselves by thinking of and managing our …

4

Deadlines are evil. Deadlines are our friends

Deadline. Even if you didn’t know what it meant, the word surely sounds ominous. And then, when you look up the origin of the term, it gets even nastier. The word comes from US Civil War prison camps, where guards would shoot any prisoner that crossed a line about 19 feet from the wall. That is the kind of inspiration  for one of the most common concepts that we have to deal with on our products and projects. Just lovely. Having recently emerged from an intense period of work to hit a very demanding deadline has gotten me to reflect upon this dirty word and other frequent  issues I hear on this subject. Things like: Why should we work hard …

9

Organizing a Large Product Backlog

Trying to organize a large product backlog is a tough thing to do. As times goes by, and the product grows, what was once a simple list of prioritized items gets unwieldy. Working from a huge list makes it very difficult to navigate and very easy to get “lost” in it. You lose track of what’s going on, what should come next and what’s really low priority. Duplication abounds. None of this is helped by the fact that the backlog keeps growing: as higher priority items get done, new work is added and older items accumulate further down. A self-inflicted problem We’re creating problems for ourselves through the amount of stuff we put in the backlog and by structuring it as a list — let’s go …

2

How to Deal with Unresponsive Stakeholders

As Marty Cagan puts it, managing stakeholders is probably the least favorite part of our job as Product Managers. It is, however, something we need to constantly keep on our radar, specially those of us working for larger organizations. A stakeholder is any individual or group that can affect or is affected by your project or product. By this definition, the product’s end users are also stakeholders. However, in the context of product teams, the term usually refers to the internal side of the organization. We’re talking about people or groups whose buy-in and collaboration are essential to make certain things happen: executives, sales, finance, legal, marketing, etc. They have a vested interest in the outcome of what you’re working on and can potentially …

Customers value Results, not Tools

As toolmakers, we tend to often be thinking (and talking) about the tools we make and the process of making them. We are Product Hunters, Thinkers, People, etc. It is critical for us to have those conversations and try to define and improve what is a very empirical craft; but it’s also imperative that we don’t forget what drives all of it: providing results to our customers. It’s very easy to get drawn into the internal dynamics of the Product and forget about the Bigger Picture. This tweet’s popularity is proof to me that this is a common feeling: Product Managers: let’s keep our role in perspective #prodmgmt pic.twitter.com/KoQ2ErikdJ — Daniel Zacarias (@listentodaniel) April 28, 2015 This focus on results has been described by many different names: It’s the pain we’re solving It’s how we think about our …

2

Product Managers: Let’s Keep our Role in Perspective

  Here’s a pun on Martin Eriksson‘s now classic diagram. As Product Managers we must always remember that our role is to look outwards at least as much as we look inwards. Although the product delivery process is noisier and demands a lot of attention, let’s keep in mind that our job is to create value for our customers and consequently, for the business.

2

Book Review: “Badass: Making Users Awesome”

Kathy Sierra’s latest book is a must-read for any product person. The book’s premise is this: if we want to create bestselling, sustainably successful products or services, we have to shift our thinking from “making awesome products” to “making our users awesome”. The path to long-term success and customer satisfaction is forged by giving our users the tools to succeed not just in using our product, but in the context in which they’re using the product. That is, if we’re making a video editing app, our goal should be for the user to be badass at producing great videos. This will lead to that user naturally recommending our product or service within her social circles and thus create a virtuous cycle of success. Getting …