The right product begins with a validated user need and a market
In this episode you’ll learn about some of the big ideas in product management to help you make the move to product master, specifically:
- The difference between building the product right vs. building the right product,
- Challenges of working with development teams,
- How to assemble a roadmap,
- Release planning, and
- The benefits of first using divergent thinking followed by convergent thinking.
My guest for addressing those topics is Suzanne Abate, a seasoned product coach who has developed hundreds of digital products for clients and helped dozens of startups go from idea to execution. She is the Co-Founder of The Development Factory, an LA-based product consultancy, and Chief Product Officer of 100 Product Managers, a free online resource and weekly podcast for new and aspiring product managers.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
- [2:59] Do the topics we’ll be discussing apply beyond software/digital product management? The mindset and processes of product management apply universally across industries. There are specific processes that apply to development and manufacturing, but the product concepts for building a great product cross industries.
- [4:44] What is the difference between building the product right and building the right product? They are both important but they are philosophically different. Building the product right is the easier aspect as there are a lot of good people who can develop and execute. Businesses don’t typically fail because they couldn’t get a product out the door. Therefore, building the right product is the first and more important consideration. Compared to the cost of building the product right, the pre-work of building the right product is almost free work…
Pre-work is free work.
- [9:27] What is involved in building the right product? An observed need is a good starting point. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Validated needs and identifying a market with those needs is the start of building the right product.
- [12:06] What about the benefits and challenges of insourcing vs. outsourcing development? One starting point to address the challenges is being Agile. While our group uses an Agile approach, we find the approaches used by our clients vary greatly and we are constantly having to modify our approach to align with the client. Regardless of the dynamics of product development, a cross-functional product team is needed. If a role is missing, the project suffers from the beginning. There are three critical roles:
- A technical quality manager/project manager to focus on tactical execution.
- The interaction designer to be responsible for user experience.
- A product manager or owner to advocate for the customer and understand the business and technical impact of decisions
- [21:25] Take us through the relationship between roadmaps, release plans, and sprints. Let’s take each one at a time.
- Product roadmap. This is the vision of where you are going, why you’re going there, and the impact we expect for the product.
- Release plan. This is the creative exploration of the theme or epic. It is anchored to the measurable result you expect to see. It expresses what we are doing, who we are doing it for, and what is needed. It incorporates feedback or customer research we may have collected. We use a tool called StoriesOnBoard for user story mapping, which integrates with another tool we use, PivotalTracker, for agile project management. We use a lean approach to releasing planning, taking a minimal approach to meet the expectations.
- Sprints. The combination of tools quickly gives us a backlog of user stories for sprints.
- [28:38] What is the role of divergent and convergent thinking in release planning? At release planning, begin with divergent thinking to broadly consider meeting the expectations built from the user stories. Then consider what aspects could be removed without detracting from users’ expectations or could be saved for a future release. We want to strip away everything that does not contribute to the goal. Objectives and Key Results (ORKs) are a tool to help with release planning.
“You will never be ready if you keep waiting until you are ready.” -Suzanne Abate
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.