I wonder if you have insights on good feature/function/backlog prioritization – especially when there are a ton of them (700+). Specifically, best practices for how to store and retrieve the important ideas, while being able to ignore the ones that will never matter. Some think we need to store any and all ideas so that we don’t forget them, but the noise is overwhelming and the organization of the content is impossible.A fast way is to rate all 700 with +1 or -1. Give it a +1 if it'll help many of our customers; a -1 if it'll hurt some of our customers. You can use a 0 for neither good nor bad. Then set aside all those with a -1 and just look at the +1 items.
"This before that. Oh this is a good one. Ooh, move that one to later."
It sure seems that many people use a prioritization scheme based in opinion, deal-of-the-day, and "whoever I talked to last."
In Requirements That Work we recommend a prioritizing formula grounded in market problems: how many people experience it and how bad is it?
In a recent session, Adrian shared this scale representing the impact of the problem on customers:
50: solving the problem will make money for customers
40: solving the problem will save money for customers
30: they think it will make/save money
20: an existing customer wants the problem solved
10: a cool feature idea
And what did we learn from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one."
When prioritizing, choose a scheme that is simple and objective, which aligns the product strategy with the market and its problems. Try to use a formula to represent the product strategy so that your team makes changes to the formula and doesn't just move around individual items.
What is the impact of the problem on the persona? Let's get that right.
What scale do you use?
My friend Barb shared this with me: imagine computing not in the billions but in the trillions!
This presentation uses animations very well... and the cute people icons actually help, instead of distracting. (Anyone remember those annoying string bean people?) Notice as well the SPEED of the animations; most animations in presentations are waaaaaayyyyy toooo sllloooowww.
I know we can't duplicate this technique in Powerpoint or Keynote but it's a handy reminder that each animation should add real value to the presentation.
Trying to do the impossible in your company (or your personal life)? These tips from Daniel Tenner might help. He writes,
In large corporations, almost everything new is impossible. Try to do anything new, and typically you are met with dozens of reasons why it can't be done. As a consultant (which I was throughout my time in the corporate world), however, you've been hired to get something specific done, so you don’t get to echo the "it can’t be done" line back to your client. Your job is, effectively, to do the impossible.
Read more in Dealing with impossible crises.
Product managers tell me that their travel budgets have been slashed. How do you visit customers or attend training when there's no money for travel?
Smart product managers are looking for local customers to visit. How many client companies exist within a drive of your office? Most product managers have a few dozen local companies that would be glad to have some time with a product manager. Sure, everybody's busy but you'd be surprised how much time customers will give you once they realize that you're not trying to sell them anything. Watch them use your product; talk to them about new problems that they're encountering. Shadow a user for a day and you'll learn a dozen things that could be improved in the product.
Don't forget that sales people are still traveling and always need technical help. There's always travel money available for sales calls. Go on a few sales calls with a sales rep and then stay an extra half day to visit someone in the area (without the sales rep).
As for training, Pragmatic Marketing's travel budgets are still in place. Can't come to us? We'll come to you! Learn more about our onsite classes.
The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they can overrule the hierarchy.-- Jeff Bezos
QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO BE A TECHNOLOGY MANAGER?
If I don't understand it, it must be...
If you answered "B" then you are ready to be a manager. Some managers think anything they don't understand must be easy. They give vague assignments; they make simple requests that create huge projects; they make promises that their teams cannot keep.
If you are a product manager who answered "B"-- if you think developing, promoting, and selling products is easy--you need a harsh dose of reality. Spend some time working closely with those groups to see how many hours it takes to turn out quality work. Or if you really want to see the results of your decisions, spend a week shadowing the folks in customer support. You'll see clearly that simple decisions made by corporate folks are extremely difficult to explain to the customer.
If you are a product manager working with people who answer "B"-- if you work with those who think developing, promoting, and selling products is easy--you must often wonder how you can get anything accomplished.
Use facts to show managers the ramifications of their actions. Use roadmaps to show the impact of changes; use retrospectives to show that Project Gazelle was delayed because the contract specifying custom work for ABC Co caused a redirection of limited resources; use surveys to show that only one client wants feature 'x' while a hundred clients want feature 'y'. Use facts instead of your opinions.
Remember, no amount of process can overcome incompetence or malevolence. But tabulated survey results and a good chart can go a long way to showing the results of bad decisions.
I was asked recently about some new book recommendations. The old classics like Positioning and Crossing the Chasm are still great but here are some newer books for your reading list:
And don't forget to order World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories by David Meerman Scott, available March 3rd.
My friend and colleague Stacey shared this with me. She writes:
Should you have a cross-functional team for your product? I mean, why wouldn't you? This group can provide valuable support and feedback for all its members. For Product Managers, the team provides considerable benefits. It helps us communicate more broadly, gain alignment more easily, and build better products (hardware, software, and/or services).
When I talk with product managers, and "their team" comes up, they often begin by thinking of their development team – those who actually build the product. The Product Manager enables the development team to succeed, by doing and documenting great market research and writing clear, prioritized requirements. The development team is (obviously) important, building amazing solutions that make people want to buy.
However, there is another team that we must consider. Today when I talk about the team, I'm referring to the "cross-functional team". It's a much broader concept than a development team, and rather than the pure technology that's built in Development, it's focused on the whole solution--technology, product marketing, sales, support, professional services, production, localization… any department who spends time helping our product succeed. A cross-functional team can be a powerful tool for the agile product manager.
The cross-functional team is a group of people who collectively represent the entire organization's interests in a specific product or product family. This team provides benefits for the individuals on the team, the product and its customers, and the organization at large.
For the individual, the team is a support group and cheering section. It's a place where the individual can easily get updated information for their department, and it's an environment where each individual is safe in bringing up issues or roadblocks that they're encountering. The group can help solve issues that are impacting any department. And, when there is positive news to share (e.g., reduction in call volume in tech support, increase in sales revenue, development milestones completed on time within budget), it's a group who will celebrate successes. All of this results in increased job satisfaction and motivation for team members.
The product and its customers will benefit from the cross-functional team as well, because it can inspire ongoing improvements in product quality. Team members provide input throughout the product life cycle, and also bring issues to the attention of the team for resolution. When the team is assembled appropriately, and meetings are run effectively, we see improvements in customer satisfaction due to increases in product quality and support.
A healthy team improves organizational alignment. Members are kept "in the know" regarding product status, including market research, customer feedback, product development progress, product-related financials, and promotional plans and events. Each member is held responsible for bringing that information back to their own department or team. In addition, they feed the team their own department or team's feedback. The cross-functional team allows us to get one representative group aligned; in turn, they exponentially increase organizational awareness and alignment.
Assembling a cross-functional team and leading with market facts is the domain of the Product Manager. A strong team results in increased job satisfaction and motivation for the individual, improvements in product quality (and therefore customer satisfaction), and elevated awareness and alignment for the organization.
Alan of On Product Management writes,
If the product management surveys are to be believed, most product managers spend very little time doing the things we know that we should be doing, and instead spend all our time managing logistics, and doing detailed work in marketing, development, or sales.
He continues with specific tips for getting refocused on what product managers should be doing. Read Product Managers: Do the opposite!
CNN reports that emergency officials are responding to a downed US Airways plane in New York's Hudson River. (update: Happily everyone survived.)
Call your mother. She doesn't know where you are.
Back in the early 80s, I worked for a great guy, Rob Porter, who was truly one of the best managers I ever had. He had a rule: if there's ever a problem in the news, particularly if it's travel-related, always call your family to let them know that you're safe.
Rob called me into his office one day to complain about my expenses. I was terribly anxious because I had been very careful with expenses, watching every penny. "You don't call your wife often enough," he complained. "You need to call her once a day at least. After all, she is raising two kids without you whenever you're traveling. And what is your mom's phone number?" he asked. I told him and he was truly annoyed. "You haven't called your mother in a month? What the heck is wrong with you?" In his view, the corporate phone plan--(before cell phones of course)--was as much for personal reasons, to make sure everything was okay at home, as well as for business. Part of the job is traveling; sure it is. But that means that a spouse, a parent, or a child is wondering where you are and if you're safe.
Our families know that we travel. And today, particularly with cell phones, it's doubtful that they have any idea where we are. Always call home after a travel-related disaster.
The typical product manager sends and receives about 100 emails a day. Some have many, many more, so good email hygiene is a must. Use some smarts in managing your email and start being productive right away. Let's start the new year on the right foot by getting control of email.
In 4 Ways to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox, Sally McGhee offers these tips.
The "Four D's for Decision Making" model (4 D's) is a valuable tool for processing e-mail, helping you to quickly decide what action to take with each item and how to remove it from the Inbox. Decide what to do with each and every message.
- Delete it
- Do it
- Delegate it
- Defer it
You should also learn to use filters or "rules" in Outlook jargon. Microsoft describes how in managing messages using rules. Some rules to consider:
(If you're using a Mac, you can also change the font and background color of the messages.)
When you're in the midst of a project, you can't get anything done if you're interrupted frequently. Consider using Out of Office replies even when you're in the office. So while you're heads-down, set up an Out of Office reply for your incoming emails. "I'm away from my desk and I'll get back to you in a few hours. Also check out my product information page, particularly the FAQs." A link to the appropriate page helps.
And one final tip: Email doesn't replace phone calls or meetings; it supplements them. When the thread gets more than two or three messages, pick up a phone and talk to the person or schedule a meeting for a bigger team discussion.
If you've been wondering about using Twitter in your business or just for your personal network, you'll want to read 8 Tips to get started on Twitter. Lots of good info plus links to other resources. To get you started, you can follow me on Twitter. More Twitter feeds are The Cranky Product Manager, David Daniel's Launch Clinic, David Meerman Scott of The New Rules of Marketing, and of course, Pragmatic Marketing's social media group. See also the Gift Guide for the Twitter addict.
A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job.--Harry S Truman
Seems like there's lots of advice for job seekers lately. Everybody has a webinar or article about what to do. Whether you have just been laid off or just want to be prepared, here are some tips for managing your career.
The book Die Broke by Stephen Pollan argues that you should quit your job today--mentally. You are a free agent, currently employed by a company (or not). Since they can change the contract at any time, you should be prepared to do so also. Be ready to take another gig or start your own business.
You are free.
Remember, God never closes a door without opening a window
Rethink your job objectives. Do you really want to continue in this job or even in this industry? Just because this is what you've done, doesn't mean it's what you have to do. Maybe you should look at a job in customer support or quality assurance or sales.
One friend got tired of watching sales people make the big money so he went into sales and soared to the top of the sales charts. Because he actually knows the product and the industry (and so few of his sales peers do), he is now the trusted advisor to his customers that so many sales people want to be. Your expertise is truly valued by your market.
Another friend took a temporary job in customer support and has been in the job now for almost a decade. She loves it! But it's not what she majored in in college. For that matter, who is doing now what they thought they'd be doing a decade ago?
Who do you want to be? Only you can decide.
Position (or re-position) yourself. Your resume is a spec sheet; it's a list of your features. But it's not really a very good brochure, is it? What problems can you solve for a potential employer? What is your unique selling proposition? What do you know that no one else does?
Write down all the problems you can solve, group them into some logical organization, and build your resume around it. Are you good with research? Great at interviewing customers? Able to define clear and simple process where none exists? Are you an expert in security? Education? Expert in security in education?
What is your brand? What is your story? What is your "magic"?
Position yourself, just as you would a product, and then create a marketing campaign to sell your solution.
A friend of mine wrote her resume around the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, using the various activities and artifacts as the bullets in her skills definition. (By the way, did you remember to put your Pragmatic Marketing Certification on your resume? It matters.)
Here's a technique: use the new rules of marketing. You're an expert in something; start a blog at blogger.com and also write an ebook on the top 5 issues that people need to understand about your specialty. Be specific. Give detailed explanations. Include a self-assessment tool. Blog about it. Post the ebook at ChangeThis.com and send the link to any blogger who might be interested in your topic area. Bloggers and magazine editors are always looking for good content. If it's related to product management, send it to me and I'll post a note about it too.
One friend wrote an ebook that went viral. He turned the ebook into a seminar and a top-selling print book and is now doing extremely well on the speaking circuit.
Another friend created a blog about the issues facing managers in her industry. When she posted that she was looking for a new job, she received a dozen offers from managers who were subscribers.
Leverage your network. The book Build The Well Before You're Thirsty by Harvey Mackay reminds us that you need to be building a network constantly, not just when you need a job. If you haven't already done so, sign up for LinkedIn and start building a network. Go ahead: spam all your friends with your LinkedIn info so you can extend your network with their networks.
Be a good friend too. Post recommendations for your friends before you ask them to write a recommendation about you. And don't be afraid to help your friends with the writing. It never hurts to say, "here are a couple of paragraphs to get you started." Most managers find it easier to edit than to create. Make it easy for your friends and colleagues to help you out.
Yes, being unemployed is traumatic. Grieve... and then get to work on your next gig. Think like a marketer. Your next employer is deficient in your area of strength. If only they knew that you were available!
More on this from David Meerman Scott in Downsized? Fired? Here are the new rules of finding a job.
Seth Godin makes an interesting point in "." He writes,
Not only is this a total waste of time for most attendees, it doesn't even satisfy the core objective, which is thanking and rewarding the folks who helped. And it certainly doesn't encourage others to look forward to helping out.
It seems to me that conference organizers know almost nothing about organizing conferences; they seem to lose sight of any of the conference objectives. Conferences are usually designed around papers delivered by speakers yet they often don't provide printed proceedings and they typically do not provide support for the speaker--such as the ability to see the slides without turning around.
Maybe that's why conferences are often so expensive and yet so poorly attended.
Alas, organizers seem to focus mostly on the logistics and the exhibitions. They get everything in the right place at the right time and they make sure that the sellers have a place to hawk their wares. But in my experience, these organizers do a poor-to-fair job of promoting the conference, do a poor job of supporting the speakers, and do a poor job of supporting those who attend.
Perhaps that's why "unconferences" were born. Rather than suffer a glitzy but empty traditional conference, people who are actually interested in the conference topics have started their own conferences. Many of you in the Austin area participated in the The Strategic Role of Product Management at in Toronto next month.last month. I'll be speaking on
If you are a conference organizer, actually watch the sessions at your next conference. You'll see dozens of ways to improve the experience for the speakers and attendees.