Category Archives: Product Management

3 Questions to Product Manager Tyler Strand

 

DSCN0265We start the interview series of Product Mantra in 2016 with a young technologist and product leader Tyler Strand, who is very clear in his thoughts about various aspects of product management. Product Mantra asked Tyler three questions. Continue reading

What do people search about “Product Management”?

Curiosity to find what people search for about product management, led me to dig a bit into what people searched online in the last one year.
I split the the search queries into these categories:

  • Job Search like “product management interview questions”
  • Software tools like “product lifecycle management tools”
  • Skill upgrade like “product management certification”
  • Informational like “what does a product manager do?”

Share of different categories of search queries

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Michelle L. Harper @ ‘The Three Questions for Product Manager’

Michelle L. Harper

Michelle is a Senior product management and product marketing leader with a proven record of accomplishments in leading and implementing product management programs in diverse organizations to create, develop and position successful award winning products. Continue reading

Shadow Product Manager – salvaging out of the situation

There are scores of situations where a Product Manager might find herself/himself getting entangled completely in tactical aspects of product management because the situation demands it or there are simply too much chaos in the organ223670395_7ca0c7a061_zization due to a disorganised way of working. There are also situations when one is with an off-shore development team, “far away” from the customers and key decision makers. It is easy to get completely disoriented and frustrated at the situation. There are ways to salvage out of the “situation” of being a “Shadow Product Manager”: Continue reading

Juan Fernandez @ ‘The Three Questions for Product Manager’

JFJuan Fernandez has been working as a Product Manager for Liferay since 2013, after transitioning from being a software engineer. As a product Manager, his expertise includes product vision definition and development, strategy and product, portfolio management. Juan holds a B.S. in Software Engineering from the university of Seville, Spain.

We thank Juan for taking out time and be part of ‘Three Questions for Product Manager’ series. With Juan we will focus on some of the core aspects of the product management. I am sure you will enjoy reading responses from Juan.

Product Mantra: As a product manager, where would you like to spend more time, talking to customers or working on UX?

Juan Fernandez: I have zero doubts about this: talking to customers (or even better, listening to them) is one of the most critical tasks a product manager has to constantly be doing. Customer feedback, along with market research, is what helps us drive our roadmaps and steer the direction of the product, so, yes, definitely communication with customers is where I’d like to spend more time.

Regarding working on the user experience, I think that it is certainly true that as a product manager it is one of your duties to make sure the experience using your product is delightful, and a decent degree of knowledge in this area is always great, but it’s the User Experience expert, the UX designer, who needs to do the user research and analysis and finally design the optimal experience, not the product manager.

Product Mantra: How would you comment to ‘product managers are a jack of all and master of none’?

Juan Fernandez: I think we are often seen that way, but I don’t like the negative implications of that sentence. I see product management as a role that is needed to connect the dots: a person that brings market knowledge to the product team, and also brings product information to sales, marketing, analysts, customers, etc. Because of that you must be able to wear several hats, you need to be able to understand deeply technical issues, or be part of business talks…and that is why you are sometimes seen as jack of all trades: not a purely technical person, not a pure business guy, always in the middle of everything.

But in spite of this fact, I think a product manager needs to be master of one thing: you need to master the market needs. Having a deep understanding on what your customers need, what the market is demanding, and what those problems are, is the most valuable thing you can bring to the table: that is what you really need to be good at.

Product Mantra: How important is it for a product manager to have experience of project management?

Juan Fernandez: There’s often confusion about these two positions, product and project management, but at the same time they are extremely different.

In my opinion, the key for differentiating both roles is this: the product manager helps define what problems need to be solved while the project manager helps by coordinating the product team in the execution of a solution for those problems. The former is a strategic role, and the latter is a tactical one.

Having clarified this, I’ve seen product managers transitioning from sales, engineering and also from project management positions, and each of them, each of us, have different challenges when adapting to the new position. The challenge for a product manager with a project management background is to leave the control of all the execution details behind and focus on the vision and strategy of the product.

Thanks Juan.

Juan Fernandez on Social Media

  1. Follow Juan on twitter at: @juanferrub
  2. Get connected with her on Linkedin:-  https://es.linkedin.com/pub/juan-fernández-rubio/24/bb3/583
  3. Read his blogs: https://medium.com/@juanferrub

@mathurabhay

Risk Management in an Agile world

With the craze of many companies and organizations, big and small to jump onto the Agile bandwagon, a few areas of traditional Software development get ignored or trivialized. More often than not, these come back to bite us late in the cycle. In true Agile fashion, teams then scramble to do the best they can to get the product over the line.

One such area of Software Development that sometimes gets overlooked is Risk Management. Traditional Risk management had projects following either the qualitative or the quantitative approach to Risk management. Detailed risk mitigation would be then put in place to ensure that the Risk was well handled. Many times, this placed a considerable overhead on the team.

Agile teams following the Scrum or XP model inherently embed Risk Management. Risks would typically be identified when the team throws up impediments in the daily standup OR fails to meet its Sprint commitment (because of a story being more complicated or having a dependency that failed to fall in place). Whatever the reason may be, Agile teams are pretty good in throwing up Impediments quite early. These impediments could turn into significant risks, more so when they involve external stakeholders and other teams.

In view of keeping the processes light weight, Agile methodologies are not prescriptive about how the risks can be made visible or managed. From a management perspective, the PMO or Senior Management might see this as a flaw in the Agile methodology since they do not get enough visibility about the risks and hence unable to step in at the right time to clear the path.

In such a scenario, here are some tips that would help.

  • If using an electronic tool like Jira or Rally, raise a work item of type ‘Risk’, provide a severity rating to it and put a Blocked status onto it. Assign them to the right stakeholder and publish a weekly list of these risks to the management. Note: Make sure that the key stakeholders have access and are watchers to these risks.
  • If using a physical board, create a 3 x 3 Risk matrix (Probability(L,M,H) vs Impact(L,M,H)) on the physical board, put up the risk and assign the stakeholder’s avatar to it. Take a snapshot on a weekly basis and send it out to the management stakeholders.
  • Report your blocker in the Scrum of Scrums meeting, explain the potential consequences and nudge the management to take action (mitigate, avoid or accept).

In short, the key to an effective Risk management in an Agile world is to make it highly visible, accountable, time bound and easy to action upon.

Are there other light weight and effective Risk management practices that your Agile team follows ??
Do let us know..

Alicia Dixon @ ‘The Three Questions for Product Manager’

Alicia Dixon

twitter at @Li_Li_D

Alicia Dixon is a Product Manager with a specialization in mobile software. Her expertise includes product development, product strategy, and market research. Throughout Miss Dixon’s career she has successfully produced enterprise and consumers products through positions held at leading companies including Hilton Worldwide, UPS, Dell, Blackboard, Fruit of the Loom, Nike & Toys R Us. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Howard University along with an MBA from Baruch College, CUNY and an MS in Marketing from the University of Alabama. She is an active member of technology  community and sits on the planning committee for ProductCamp DC.

We thank Alicia for taking out time and be part of ‘Three Questions’ series for product managers.

Product Mantra: What is the biggest challenge facing the discipline of Product Management?

Alicia Dixon: In the push for designers to learn to code, and developers to learn design, and everybody doing product, I feel that one of the biggest challenges for product management is staying relevant.  Lately there seems to be a trend that everybody feels that they can do product successfully.  My personal point of view is that this is because people assume that doing product is easy.  I attribute this to the fact that the core skills and talent needed to do product are so esoteric.

You learn product by doing it and you can’t really get it from a book or class.  And there’s no one-method-fits-all approach to building successful product.  Thus, there’s an assumption that since the skill set is so undefined that it’s an easy one to master.  Those of us doing the job know this couldn’t be further from the truth.  We know that creating product is an art form.  And like all good art, you know when it is good or bad, but you might not be able to define WHY it is good or bad.

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend to push product away from working with potential customers to formulate business strategy and into areas that should be handled by other disciplines.  In an effort to clearly define the product role, hard requirements for the job (such as being ScrumMasters, Design Thinking facilitators, and multivariate testing experts) have become commonplace.  These attempts to make the parameters of the role more concrete have actually had an adverse effect; making product roles irrelevant because there are already groups that do project management, design, and analytics.  As those groups claim the job functions that are rightfully theirs and there are no other defined components to the product role, I believe that the result is those disciplines start to question why product is needed.

Of course, product is needed!  Why, you ask?  My answer is to give direction as to what comes next.  Product is out canvassing the streets to uncover the customers’ problems and bring those back to the organization to say ‘here’s an unsolved problem that we have an opportunity to fix’. Understanding the challenges that target users are facing and why of those challenges have significance is the cornerstone of the product management function.  Achieving this requires listening and empathy — two soft skills that don’t translate well into a job description or RACI matrix.  All of this means that the onus is on Product Managers to prove their worth.  Doing that is really hard when we are off doing tasks that we shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

Product Mantra: How best can a product management professional leverage upon the growing virtual community of product professional for his/ her personal development. Would you share some insights on this with our readers?

Alicia Dixon: Social media and online networking have made it so that Product Managers now have a thriving virtual community.  Through my own experience I can say that everyone I have met virtually who works on product has been very welcoming and friendly.  While it is tempting to seek out a relationship with the most popularly recognized product folks, I encourage you to connect with people who work on similar products or within your local area.

My advice for anyone wanting to acclimate oneself with this community is to start by consuming the popular blogs and following thought leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Then start commenting on any post or article that you find compelling.  Share these within your network as well.  As you get more comfortable, create your own posts based on your specific experiences. Finally, don’t stop with the virtual community.  Make connections that you take into the real world.  Meet other product people for coffee, take them for drinks, and attend local meetups or ProductCamps.

Getting involved in this way will not only expand and improve your product knowledge it might just lead to your next opportunity. For example, a good online friend of mine is now slotted to be the keynote speaker at an international conference based on a referral I made. I spoke at the event last year and recommended her to the organizers. I knew that they were recruiting speakers for this year and that she would be great at it, so I was happy to connect them. Most of the product people that I know are eager to help foster the community in this way.

Product Mantra: Which is your most memorable experience from a startup and what do we learn from it?

Alicia Dixon: A key learning that I took away from working in a startup environment was that what is appealing at any given moment can quickly change.  My startup experience was actually at an internal startup at a 90 year-old company.  When I first joined the business, the product that I was working on was deemed the next generation evolution for the company.  It was to be the new and significant revenue stream for the business.  All of the executives were very excited about the new growth opportunity and trade publications spoke highly of the upcoming industry change.  At that time, the product was the core focus. So it was heavily funded.

However, the industry had a hard time moving forward with the adoption of a disruptive technology.  The need to continuously make iterative product improvements was a new paradigm which was not embraced by the company nor clients.  The one-and-done mentality (i.e. build it once, then sell until sold out) was so ingrained in the business that they just couldn’t get past it.  Over time, funding was gradually pulled from the initiative.

So the takeaway from a product sense is that one must continuously scan the marketplace to be aware of the receptiveness to what you are creating.  When you notice it begin to wane, it is time to move on, either to another product within your current role, or to a new position entirely.

Thanks Alicia.

Alicia Dixon on Social Media

  1. Follow Alicia on twitter at @Li_Li_D
  2. Get connected with her on Linkedin @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/dixonalicia
  3. Read her blog http://just1morething.com/

@mathurabhay