Biggest Product Regret

Excerpts from our conversation with The Best Product Person of 2017, Melissa Perri.

Getting to Here

> What’s your biggest product regret?

The 32 page product specification document I wrote for a change password functionality at my first job. It was a beautiful, robust, unnecessary document for really simple functionality.

Watch now and see why she is counted amongst the ranks of the best in product management.

More to Come

The Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy and The Product Group.

Take a moment and congratulate The Best Product Person of 2017: Melissa Perri. (tweet)

Thank you to everyone who participated, nominated, interviewed, AND passed on the word! The nomination period for The Best Product Person of 2018 has begun!  Nominate your pick for The Best Product Person right now!

http://TheBestProductPerson.com

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

About ‘The Best Product Person’

The Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy (http://tpgblog.com) and The Product Group (http://meetup.com/theproductgroup).

TBPP Recognizes 1 person each year, invites them to speak and share their knowledge and experience with the larger product community. The nominations can be submitted by anyone. Over the course of the year, the various nominees are interviewed and the finalists narrowed down to: The Best Product Person of the year . The finalists are interviewed and evaluated for excellence in Product along the following lines… Becoming a Product Person, Your Product, Advice to Product People, and Future & Trends.

TBPP is both (1) the way the Product community gets together to recognize excellence amongst our ranks as well as (2) provide, to a large audience, insights into that excellence in a manner we can all learn from and leverage in our own Product journeys.

For more information about The Best Product Person award and past winners visit https://tpgblog.com/tbpp

About ‘The Product Group’

The Product Group is an opportunity for Product Managers, etc. to come together to meet, interact, and network. It’s an awesome way to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational environment within which sharing and learning can flourish and complement the knowledge base for all on a peer-to-peer basis. The NYC chapter of The Product Group meets the first Thursday of each month. If you are interested in a establishing chapter near you, please contact The Product Guy or The Product Group for more information. (https://tpgblog.com/theproductgroup/ )

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Prioritizing Product Features by ROI

Guest Post by: Roli Bhotika (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Zoe Feltham]

The most important lesson I learned in The Product Mentor program with Jeremy and Zoe was that Product Management has a language. That I spoke that language every day but my grammar needed some work. In more precise terms, my prioritization process factored in the things that it should, I just didn’t know how to translate it to ROI and present it logically. “We don’t do ROI assessments” was what I had been told at my company. I now know otherwise.

First we began by creating a data driven roadmap. This required separation and aggregation of data at various levels to assess the value of each feature and determine whether it could translate into opportunities.

Following this, we performed an ROI assessment on features that were already launched with a fresh set of eyes. The key here was to identify what I now know as “Key Performance Indicators” i.e. how do you know this idea is any good – how do you measure its potential? This was a critical step because it dictated the value a new idea brought to the business. Sometimes the value was in retaining business, sometimes in increasing it, sometimes there was no value at all – yet in the end some ideas remained. I was able to identify how my business measured the value of an idea and associate a $$ amount to it, positive,negative or zero – depending upon whether the cost of the idea outweighed its projected earnings. All ideas were rated on some additional key criteria apart from financial gains/losses such as: customer value, regulatory requirement, ease of adoption, whether it was a differentiator for us in the market or not. Because the reality was that, while sometimes there was no gain directly from an idea, there was a bigger driving force that was not financial at all on the surface but translated into a business need. The hardest step was assigning a weightage to each criteria in calculating a final ROI. This is where a regulatory mandate with no financial gain suddenly scoring a 5 on the regulatory requirement criteria shifted the overall priority for that idea even though there was no gain, only a cost to pursuing it. The ROI was finally a number but not a dollar amount. Just a ranking that factored in numerous criteria with specific weightage. And suddenly I knew why I had made a decision many months ago!

Finally – ROI wasn’t the final factor in making a schedule out of these ideas – it was also the ability to use pockets of available time across multiple teams and the desire to reach some key launches by specific industry events.

ROI calculation Template for a feature below:

Benefit

KPIs

Expected ADV (Average daily volume)

This is driver for my business area. It may be different for another industry.

Expected Weekly Profit

Differentiator in the industry (On a scale of 1-5)

These are key drivers/criteria for us to prioritize internally for our product. These can be expanded/changed to suit the product and its drivers.

Customer Service (On a Scale of 1-5)

Regulatory Ease (On a Scale of 1-5)

Ease of Adoption (On a Scale of 1-5)

Required For

Any mandates are noted here

Dependency on

Any added complexities/dependencies are noted here.

Average weekly cost

This factored in requirements, development, test cost based on the actual pay of an employee in that role

Total Earnings in 1 Week

Total Earnings in 1Y

The time window for an earnings calculation is really what might be relevant for the mindset of your company.

Earnings (On a scale of 1-5: under 500k, under 1 mil, under 5 mil, under 15 mil, Over 15 mil)

Note: here, features that were net loss, got assigned a score of zero.

Final ROI calculation

60% Earnings

15% Differentiation

10% Customer Service

10% Ease of Adoption

5% Regulatory Ease

The weightage above is only a sample, you must adjust it to find the right blend for your product and your current industry trend.

About Roli Bhotika 
5p10 - Roli 2As a part of Nasdaq’s US Options team, Roli Bhotika leads a team of Product managers, creates business roadmaps, sets the strategic direction, and makes prioritization decisions for ISE’s core options trading platform. She is focused on building and executing business strategy with a long term cutting edge vision for trading products. Roli enjoys keeping abreast of industry trends, concerns and market structure issues.

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Putting Customers First

In a recent live stream from one of our mentors of The Product Mentor, Zoe Feltham, lead a conversation around “Putting Customers First”.  We are always looking for more product mentors from all around the world.  Signup to be a Mentor Today!

Check it out…

 

About The Product Mentor

The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Mentors and Mentees from around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A

Signup to be a Mentor Today!

Throughout the program, each mentor leads a conversation in an area of their expertise that is live streamed and available to both mentee and the broader product community.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Starting at a New Company as a PM

Guest Post by: Jen Hau (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Ladislav Bartos]

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Product managers tend to be maximizers – always looking for the best possible choices and outcomes for their product. It’s no wonder then that product managers also tend to apply the same outlook to their own careers, often wondering whether there is another company or role that would be more optimal than the current.  Whether it’s the promise of more responsibilities, a higher salary, a riveting mission statement, or just simply a break from the same faces and routines of your current role, taking that new job is a step towards an unknown path.  Despite the fluidity of the industry – especially in New York, where it seems PMs have an average shelf life of about a year – there are surprisingly few resources dedicated to ensuring the success of an incoming product manager. Having just recently relived the experience of joining as a PM at a new company, I am living through this state myself and am seizing upon this opportunity to document my takeaways.  

Give yourself a break:  you won’t really “get it” for a while.

If you’re anything like me, you will be impatient to prove yourself. No matter what your prior accomplishments, your first day at a new company comes with a blank slate of achievements and some giant question marks. “Was this hire worth their salary? Will she meet our expectations? What will be the first thing she ships?”  These are questions – kitkat-snap[1]oftentimes imaginary – that can hang over your head, applying increasing pressure until you rush to make moves to demonstrate your worth.

I am fortunate enough to have access to Jeff Patton, the product thought leader, for periodic product coaching sessions. During my first call, he didn’t mince words on this topic: “Give yourself a break. You’ll be pretty useless for at least 3 months.”  And no – that’s not to say that you can’t start immediately providing value.  After all, there is a reason that they hired you.  It just means that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and to not feel everything “click” for a while, and that expecting more from yourself can lead you to make ill-informed decisions.  

Instead of rushing yourself into action, relish this time when you can view the industry, problem space, customers, or the product itself with a fresh set of eyes, as there will be plenty of time for you to get into the weeds later. If you seize this opportunity, your newness can be an advantage, rather than a handicap.

Clarify expectations with your manager.

It’s all well and good to take the requisite amount of time to onboard, but if this is not in line with what your manager expects, you need to address that right away. Depending on what you’re walking into, your manager may be impatient for you to start doing x, y, and z immediately. This isn’t malicious; it is human nature to forget what it was like to be a blank slate. (I can almost guarantee that in a year’s time, you yourself will likely forget what it was like before everything “clicked” into place.)  

I would encourage you to have an open conversation with your manager during your first week to go over the timeline of your onboarding. This timeline should be a week by week rundown of goals and objectives, and the types of activities that you will undertake to achieve those. If you do this exercise successfully, it will not only give you the room to  onboard properly, but it will also demonstrate that you are thoughtful and proactive in setting yourself up for success. Brownie points already earned!

Be shamelessly hungry.  You’ll need the information.

It would be nice if every company had an extensive onboarding program or bootcamp for their incoming PMs, supplemented with an impeccably organized company wiki and a series of check-ins so that you could ask any “dumb” question you will undoubtedly have. Those places may exist, but if your experience is anything like mine – especially if you’re all about that startup life – that rosy picture remains in the realm of fantasy.  

Even if your onboarding isn’t well thought-through, that is no excuse to sit around and be complacent.  The truth is that you will have to get yourself up to speed somehow so use what you have at your disposal.  Look around you – there is a treasure trove of information if you look hard enough, whether it is in shared folders, hung on the walls, or in people’s heads. Spend those hours hungrily digging through any shared Google Drive folders, and I guarantee you’ll learn something.  Establish a relationship with the veteran customer service team and I promise that you’ll gain a deeper perspective about your users and how they feel about not just your product but also about the company. Hack your way to knowledge when it’s not presented to you on a silver platter; it’ll pay off for you in the long run.

Coffee chats are your friend. It pays to know everyone.

As I mentioned above, getting to know people, regardless of their role or tenure at the company, is crucial for gaining knowledge when you start as a PM.  But there is also a bigger, overarching reason to establish these reasons, and that is simply because being known is better than being unknown.  Call it political if you want, but the reality is that our jobs as PMs is inherently political in that we have to weigh multiple interests, make tough decisions, and get people to believe in us (sometimes on nothing more than faith). It may not be the only way to do it, but I’ve found in my experience that it helps if people genuinely like you as a person.  

I’ve been around enough tech companies to know that PMs – and more broadly, the product team – are almost always perceived by the rest of the company as being surrounded by an aura of mystique surrounding them. Remember – the role of Product Manager is still a relatively new one in the grand scheme of things, and even more unfamiliar to those who  are new to the tech industry.  This lack of understanding and separation between PMs and the rest of the company can often lead to scapegoating when times get tough, as they’re bound to get at any startup. When sales plateau, it must be because the “product team isn’t really doing anything.” Or, when we turn down customer requests, it must be because the PMs are too lazy to pull off those “no-brainer quick wins.” This is why I am a huge believer in breaking down those walls by getting to know as many people across the company as I can, especially early on in my tenure. It’s much harder to point fingers when you empathize and understand the rigors of each person’s role, no matter what department they’re in.

Gain the trust and respect of your team.

The old joke about PMs is that we must move mountains to do the impossible, all while hiding the fact that we don’t actually hold any true power since none of the people we often work with report to us. The joke is true – and you should never forget it! To that end, you should seek to gain the respect of your team, and this is especially salient when you first join. And while it’s true that you will need some more time before leading the team through your first launch (see point one about gaining context before making key decisions), you can gain respect in other ways.  How you choose to do so is discretionary and, in my opinion, highly contingent on understanding how your team currently works. I would recommend having one-on-ones with every member of your team in the first week and make it clear that you are keen to listen to whatever they want to throw your way, inclusive of what is going well on the team and “what keeps them up at night.” Just by listening, you can immediately prove that you are a team-player and that you’re there with the intention of making your team and product successful.

The thrills of joining a new team are numerous, but the experience is not without its challenges. There is no silver bullet for navigating your way through these challenges and these takeaways are far from all-encompassing. Be open-minded and hungry – and you’ll be on the path to success in no time at all.

About Jen Hau 
5p3 - Jhau HeadshotJen is a product person who parachuted to safety from a career as an attorney.  After wearing a number of hats at fast-growing, lean startups, operations to data, she now leads a product team at Hightower, a commercial real estate tech company.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York and is always up for a strong cold brew.

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Influential Product Management Mentors

Excerpts from our conversation with The Best Product Person of 2017, Melissa Perri.

Getting to Here

> What key people helped shape you into the product manager you are today?

The first person who really started me on the path to where I am today was my VP of Product at OpenSky, Chris Keane. He inspired me to try new things and learn as much as I could.  Then, when I began using Lean Startup techniques in my role in 2012, Chris encouraged me to start a class on Skillshare to teach others. I was skeptical at first because I didn’t think anyone would be interested, but he insisted, and hey, it worked. I am disappointed by how much the importance of people management is underestimated in some companies, because I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if Chris hadn’t pushed me to grow.

Chris also gave me my first book specifically on Product Management, “The Art of Product Management” by Rich Mironov. Reading that book was the first time I felt like I was part of a larger community. There weren’t many Product Managers in New York when I first started- I had only met a handful of others outside my company. The book propelled me to follow more PM thought leaders like Hiten Shah and Ken Norton.

After learning more about my domain, I became influenced by adjacent areas like Agile, Lean, Lean UX, and Lean Startup. Eric Ries’s book was really the turning point in my career. I sought out and learned a lot from people like Jeff Gothelf, Josh Seiden, Giff Constable, and David Bland, who were at the forefront of that movement.  Jabe Bloom, Arlo Belshee, Hakan Forss, and many people in the Agile community (especially at Lean Agile Scotland) challenged me to explore new ideas in the Agile and Lean space that pushed the boundaries of what I knew as product development. Seeing how all of those systems intertwined really inspired me to get better at what I do.

Watch now and see why she is counted amongst the ranks of the best in product management.

More to Come

The Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy and The Product Group.

Take a moment and congratulate The Best Product Person of 2017: Melissa Perri. (tweet)

Thank you to everyone who participated, nominated, interviewed, AND passed on the word! The nomination period for The Best Product Person of 2018 has begun!  Nominate your pick for The Best Product Person right now!

http://TheBestProductPerson.com

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

About ‘The Best Product Person’

The Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy (http://tpgblog.com) and The Product Group (http://meetup.com/theproductgroup).

TBPP Recognizes 1 person each year, invites them to speak and share their knowledge and experience with the larger product community. The nominations can be submitted by anyone. Over the course of the year, the various nominees are interviewed and the finalists narrowed down to: The Best Product Person of the year . The finalists are interviewed and evaluated for excellence in Product along the following lines… Becoming a Product Person, Your Product, Advice to Product People, and Future & Trends.

TBPP is both (1) the way the Product community gets together to recognize excellence amongst our ranks as well as (2) provide, to a large audience, insights into that excellence in a manner we can all learn from and leverage in our own Product journeys.

For more information about The Best Product Person award and past winners visit https://tpgblog.com/tbpp

About ‘The Product Group’

The Product Group is an opportunity for Product Managers, etc. to come together to meet, interact, and network. It’s an awesome way to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational environment within which sharing and learning can flourish and complement the knowledge base for all on a peer-to-peer basis. The NYC chapter of The Product Group meets the first Thursday of each month. If you are interested in a establishing chapter near you, please contact The Product Guy or The Product Group for more information. (https://tpgblog.com/theproductgroup/ )

Top 40 Product Management Influencers 2017 [Highlights]

Product Management Year in ReviewI’m completely psyched to have made this year’s list of Top 40 Product Management Influencers of 2017 for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR!

whole-head---LS---large132The list exists to recognize the many influencers who helped to establish best practices and enlighten the industry this year.

Following are a few of my excerpted Influencer highlights from the list…

Julie Zhuo // Facebook

Eric Ries // Long-Term Stock Exchange

Eric Ries // Long-Term Stock Exchange
Eric Ries is an entrepreneur and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup. He is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology, which is practiced by individuals and companies around the world. This methodology was the inspiration behind his founding of the LTSE and his books The Leader’s Guide and The Startup Way.
Continuous Transformation is Product Management
The Prototype Mindset
Eric Ries on 4 Common Misconceptions About Lean Startup

Twitter | Linkedin | Blog

Chris Butler // Philosophie NYC

Chris Butler // Philosophie NYC
Chris is the Director of Product Strategy at Philosophie where he helps organizations like Google and PwC with product strategy and management. He’s previously held roles at Waze, Microsoft, and Kayak.
Real competitive analysis is about learning to love your competitor
Product people KPIs aren’t about the product
Robots need love too — Empathy Mapping for AI

Twitter | LinkedIn | Medium

Jackie Bavaro // Asana

Jackie Bavaro // Asana
Jackie is the Head of Product Management at Asana. She is also the Co-Author of “Cracking the PM Interview.”
How we build our Product Roadmap at Asana
Everything I need to know I learned from Product Management
Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology

Twitter | LinkedIn | Medium

Ken Norton // Google Ventures

Ken Norton // Google Ventures
Ken is a partner at Google Ventures where he provides product and engineering support to various portfolio companies. He is also a group product manager for GV’s quantitative research and data science team. He is the author of the oft-referenced post: How to Hire a Product Manager.
Ants and Aliens: Why you need a thirty-year plan (yes, thirty)
Becoming a Great Product Leader
A Certain Ratio

Twitter | Linkedin | Blog | Medium

——————

Do check out more of the the Top 40 Influencers in Product Management @ http://www.pmyearinreview.com/

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

The Future of Product Management

In a recent live stream from one of our mentors of The Product Mentor, Ladislav Bartos, lead a conversation around “The Future of Product Management”.  We are always looking for more product mentors from all around the world.  Signup to be a Mentor Today!

Check it out…

 

About The Product Mentor

The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Mentors and Mentees from around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A

Signup to be a Mentor Today!

Throughout the program, each mentor leads a conversation in an area of their expertise that is live streamed and available to both mentee and the broader product community.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

The Best Product Person of 2017 is…

TBPP2017_alt-abrv-114Out of the hundreds of nominations, and amazing finalists, the 8th annual winner of The Best Product Person is … Melissa Perri.

Melissa Perri Headshot - 300dpiThe Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy and The Product Group.

Take a moment and congratulate The Best Product Person of 2017: Melissa Perri. (tweet)

Melissa Perri is the CEO of Produx Labs, a consultancy that helps organizations become product-led, and creator of online Product Management school, Product Institute. Melissa works with organizations to add the missing pieces to many digital transformations: training the product teams and consulting on strategy, structure, and process. She coaches them to answer two important questions – “Should we build this?” and “Why?” She is also writing a book on Product Management with O’Reilly called, Escaping The Build Trap, due out the Spring of 2018.

Watch and learn more about Melissa…

More to Come

Over the coming weeks we will be speaking with and learning more from Melissa Perri.

Thank you to everyone who participated, nominated, interviewed, AND passed on the word! The nomination period for The Best Product Person of 2018 has begun!  Nominate your pick for The Best Product Person right now!

http://TheBestProductPerson.com

And, don’t forget, take a moment and congratulate The Best Product Person of 2017: Melissa Perri. (tweet)

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

About ‘The Best Product Person’

The Best Product Person (TBPP) is the leading international award honoring excellence in Product Management. Established in 2010, TBPP is awarded annually in association with The Product Guy (http://tpgblog.com) and The Product Group (http://meetup.com/theproductgroup).

TBPP Recognizes 1 person each year, invites them to speak and share their knowledge and experience with the larger product community. The nominations can be submitted by anyone. Over the course of the year, the various nominees are interviewed and the finalists narrowed down to: The Best Product Person of the year . The finalists are interviewed and evaluated for excellence in Product along the following lines… Becoming a Product Person, Your Product, Advice to Product People, and Future & Trends.

TBPP is both (1) the way the Product community gets together to recognize excellence amongst our ranks as well as (2) provide, to a large audience, insights into that excellence in a manner we can all learn from and leverage in our own Product journeys.

For more information about The Best Product Person award and past winners visit https://tpgblog.com/tbpp

About ‘The Product Group’

The Product Group is an opportunity for Product Managers, etc. to come together to meet, interact, and network. It’s an awesome way to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational environment within which sharing and learning can flourish and complement the knowledge base for all on a peer-to-peer basis. The NYC chapter of The Product Group meets the first Thursday of each month. If you are interested in a establishing chapter near you, please contact The Product Guy or The Product Group for more information. (https://tpgblog.com/theproductgroup/ )

So, your boss’s boss walks into your office and changes your roadmap…

Guest Post by: Jessica Waite (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Radhika Nayak]

So, your boss’s boss walks into your office and changes your roadmap…

No, this is not a bad joke.

shutterstock_222658030[1]

As a product manager you prep, plan and execute. You spend months in discovery carefully understanding the customer, the business needs, the software requirements and how to execute it all. Once you discover what the root problem is, you lead a team to making the solution a reality. In my case with my product, I knew the main problem when I started. The problem was an unstable code base that supported (if, and when it worked) all of our internal tooling. The only real solution was to rebuild everything from scratch; requiring phasing out the old platform and creating a new one and managing multiple products and roadmaps. Product 101 was key: understand the stakeholder’s problems,  customer needs versus wants, and making informed, strategic details for feature roll out, and ensuring what you build will scale.

We knew from the start  a better solution to our collapsing software would be a huge undertaking. One of the main things I learned this year was the importance and execution of phasing out products. It’s important to continually question priorities, identify solid wins, and develop a realistic timeline. Anyone who has worked with software knows, you can not just stop development and bug fixes on a current product because you know you are building something new. The platform we were replacing still needed to work until it  all of its core functions were in  the new code base.

Time is the most valued asset but it is in most cases not on your side.

time-management[1]A product manager sets expectations appropriately while maintaining a level of transparency but this can be extraordinarily hard to do. To properly set expectations you have to understand the problem and become an expert in how the product will be used, and how it should work long term. Setting expectations early on depends on having enough information to actually get it right. The tough part is once someone knows you are trying to fix or build a solution they want to know when they can have it. If you don’t know the scope of the issue you can’t solve the problem and you can’t give a realistic answer. While doing phase one of document storage and planning out the execution of the next phase and overseeing the maintenance of the old platform, I was asked if I could rebuild our ticket management system for ads in three months and in doing so move my next planned phase till after I could deliver ticketing. The person on the other end of this question happened to be my boss’ boss.

As humans we have a deep desire to have all the answers especially to someone who is in a higher authoritative position. So you can imagine my stress when this was asked, my new knee jerk reaction was to say yes in order to sound “informed” but in reality that wasn’t planned for discovery for another six to eight months. I had only been at this company for six months and I knew that ticket management was a huge build. My response was, “That sounds like a very aggressive deadline, I can not confirm that until I do some research. I will get back to you after I have had some time to scope this out.”

When you are trying to investigate a problem you need to not only identify your stakeholders but you need to be efficient in getting information. You move quickly to find out what you didn’t know. One of the biggest time sucks for me initially was inefficient meetings. Through talking with my mentor, I found that it is best to keep your meetings with stakeholder small, no more than four or five people in the room. Give them an agenda of what will be covered in your meeting ahead of time. The agenda will help all stay on task and maximize your time together. And if you have good stakeholders, you will be able to identify quick wins that will boost moral as well as the harder to tackle underlying issue. Had I not been allowed this time to properly scope I wouldn’t have had enough user centric information to think this problem through and start phasing ticketing.

Epi-201-M2M[1]

Had I just said yes initially I would have failed in meeting the deadline because I didn’t fully understanding the massive undertaking that was ticketing. I would’ve also failed as a manager because I wouldn’t have known that I needed to hire more people to execute so we could deliver quicker. Discovery alone took three months. Having the old platform as a cautionary tale of being built without scaling in the future in mind, I wanted to solve this and provide a sustainable solution. I initially thought ticketing was made of a few components, a couple forms and one or two workflows. It turns out it was over 35 forms that were riddled with conditional logic, a redundant backend ticketing system, several dashboard views and needed to cater to a myriad of job functions. There was no way that I could have done this just my original team in the initial time asked. I needed to be in the room with with stakeholders, hire another dev, and work with a designer who could establish a pattern library to ensure consistency across the  new platform. Additionally, we weren’t just going to be duplicating what had originally existed, I had to improve it by coming up with a more efficient process and workflow to save the company time and money. Those were all things I needed to identify before I possibly committed to a delivery date. In the end I kept the trust of my upper management because I was transparent, and I didn’t miss a deadline that was unachievable.

I have found in my six months in The Product Mentor Program when you focus on building something that scales and solves the needs of your company by being driven by customer needs, that you have to be all in in order to really solve big problems. This is a hard job but we have a community of brilliant people who have been where you are and are willing to help. The tools you use can definitely help but it is the strategic planning of your phases; learning how to constructively set expectations of both your role and your team; and investing a piece of yourself into the company and your product are what make a good product manager. Even when your roadmap gets changed quickly because of company needs, you will be alright as long as you have established a good cadence of steps to execute

About Jessica Waite 

5p6 - jessicaJessica Waite a Technical Product Manager at Townnsquare Media in New York City. She is currently working on rebuilding all internal tooling for TSM from the ground up. Learning from the prior code base she has implemented new, more efficient workflows, to ensure all around smarter tooling that is focused on the long term scalability of her newly developed product.

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Driving Product Priorities with a Stakeholder Roadmap

Guest Post by: Marc San Luis (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Dave Skrobela]

In the education-technology sector, there is one hard-set deadline. That deadline is simple: you must release a working product before back-to-school begins. Period.

When I returned to the Ed-tech sector a year ago, I joined a team with a very aggressive goal. The goal was two years in the making. It was to create a new online education platform and then transition the newest versions of digital product offerings into that platform. All of this must be launched before the 2016 back-to-school season.

I was brought in to head the Data and Reporting platform and eventually started to take on more responsibilities as a product owner of the Teacher platform. One of the biggest challenges I encountered was the overwhelming amount of features my team had to deliver.

201tickets[1]The backlog was growing and the deadline looming. It was at this time that I joined The Product Mentor and was teamed up with my mentor Dave Skrobela. Dave’s experience in the Ed-tech industry was very helpful. We went on to discuss a game plan on tackling my problem: managing and prioritizing the product backlog with these hard-set deadlines.

In order to properly prioritize the backlog, one of the lessons I learned from my mentor is to fully map out the stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who has a deep interest in the product. These are the people with direct or indirect influence in the product. It could also include the actual team creating and executing the development to finish the product.

The best way to map out the stakeholders for a product is to build a stakeholder map. A stakeholder map is the best way to document all stakeholders in every project. This map can be used to better inform the prioritization of the product backlog.  

I started my stakeholder map using the template provided by my mentor. However, this stakeholder map template should work for many product owners regardless of the product or the field they are in. The stakeholder map is a matrix that contain every stakeholders that affects the product.

We started the stakeholder map with first listing all the stakeholders we have in mind and grouped them based on whether they are internal vs. external stakeholders.

The best way to figure out whether a stakeholder is internal vs. external to your project is using the following analogy of “The Chicken and the Pig.”

Image result for chicken and pig

I first heard of “The Chicken and the Pig” analogy the very first time I went to an Agile seminar. This analogy does a great job in describing stakeholders in your product and it has to do with gauging stakeholder commitments.

Think of your product as a dish of ham and egg that you ‘cook’. The “Chicken and the Pig” analogy goes something like this: when cooking this breakfast dish of ‘ham and egg’, the chicken will provide the eggs, however the pig will provide the ham of the dish. In this analogy the pig then is the most committed while the chicken is only ‘involved’ in your product.

The chicken is then synonymous with the external stakeholders of your product. They may be the marketing and sales team, the technical supports team, or even your boss’s boss. They care about your product but they are not going to be the one burning the midnight oil to get the product to launch next week.

Internal stakeholders then are the people more directly involved in executing or creating the product. They could be the U/X team or designers and web developers that are in-charge of deliverables that must be made to complete the product.

Once we have listed out all the internal and external stakeholders, these will divide the stakeholders into external vs. internal stakeholders.

image

Figure 1.0

Mapping the stakeholder map in this matrix is very helpful. It shows a clear way of figuring out exactly who or whom we need to listen to, answer to, or work with to prioritize the product backlog. The map is organized into columns. See Figure 1.0.

The first column will of the stakeholder map lists all the stakeholders. The next column we added the ‘Initial Release Impact’. This was an important column for our project to help the team figure out the stakeholders we need to keep in mind to help with the initial release of the product, the people that will help market, support, and troubleshoot the product during launch.

Again, the columns of the stakeholder map can be fully customized based on your needs. However, this exercise is truly vital in figuring out every stakeholder that could impact the project, how the product backlog must be prioritized, or even highlight the people that we must keep in mind as we execute the project.

In our case, my mentor and I focused on fully fleshing out two stakeholder groups. The first is the direct team that will help in the execution of the project. The other is the marketing team that eventually interacts with the customer and also market product features. The next step after we have honed in on these two teams we wanted to focus was to gauge the stakeholder’s level of influence. We decided to create a proper channel for us to focus on these groups via the creation of a ‘Communication Plan’ which is the second step after creating the stakeholder map.

Communication Plan

The communication plan is simply a document we created to figure out the pathways of communication with the stakeholder. This is important in order to fully open this channel of communication with the stakeholders and to set a more consistent plan and timeframe of communication.

business-planning-653x339[1]The communication plan could essentially be a communication mission statement that we created to ensure we facilitate communication with the stakeholder.

In regards to the marketing team for example, I quickly realized that I did not have a way to fully talk to the marketing team directly. The team travels a great deal, and so I resorted to talking to my boss about this concern. My boss was indeed good and mindful about this and he has started looping me into any marketing communication and updates.

We started creating Powerpoint slides to ensure we communicate the upcoming features for the product to the marketing team. In addition, we receive feedback about customer needs as well as ‘marketed features’ that must be released to fulfill customer expectations.

In addition, we are doing our best to extend the sprint demo to the marketing team. Although they are not always available to attend these meetings, they are able to figure out exactly what features are ready to be demoed and often times requests a one-on-one demo. In addition their feedback has been valuable to help my team and I to negotiate, prioritize, and process the product backlog in order to meet the deadline with aligned expectations.

About Marc San Luis

5p9 - Marc_SanLuis-photoMarc is a technologist passionate about education, he currently works in the ed-tech industry as a product manager. He lives in Jersey City and was a former president and current member of the Board of Directors of the SJI Association, a Filipino-American association based in NY/NJ. On his weekends, he loves studying Mandarin as well as reading and writing short stories.

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy