Video: Cardinal Sins of Product Management

Thou shall not say “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

This was among the lessons we learned from Dave Wascha, Chief Product Officer at Moo.com, at ProductTank March. As Dave said, “This is the most scary, terrifying, insidious thing we face as product managers, and the older you get the more baggage you have”.

Dave talks about the tyranny of inertia and other ‘cardinal sins’ of product management, and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against them in order to build a strong product culture.

Watch the video and follow along with the slides below (yes, the first slide is plain black, just click).

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15
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Video: Culture Club – 12 Lessons in Trying

It’s not easy to build a great product culture.  At ProductTank March, we heard the truth from Tim Warren, the Head of Software Experience for Connected Products at Tesco: Their product culture isn’t perfect (whose is!), but they’re working towards it and making great progress.  Tim talked about 12 lessons learned along the way.

Some of the lessons they learned or are learning about building a great product culture included:

  • Having confidence to take feedback
  • Making the most out of retros
  • Why customers rock (and how thy help you fail)
  • And life’s better when you ‘plus’…

Be sure to watch the video to catch the others.

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03
Apr 2014
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The ProdPad-Rally Integration is Here!

Rally integrationToday we’re happy to announce our latest integration, with Rally Software. Rally is one of the biggest cloud-based solution providers for managing Agile software development, and so this new integration closes a gap for even more product management teams.

How the ProdPad/Rally integration works

The ProdPad and Rally solutions work together in harmony so that you don’t need to duplicate efforts. The integration uses custom field mapping and status syncing, and cross-references both systems to allow seamless progression from one stage to the next. An integration can be established for any project in your Rally account. When ideas that are ready for development they can be pushed through to that project with the click of a button.

We know that for teams to adopt new systems and processes, it’s essential that they can be included in existing workflows. It’s for this reason that we recommend managing your product backlog in ProdPad, and development and sprint backlogs through Rally. Product managers can continue to freely collect ideas, prioritize them and build out product specs in ProdPad, before carefully controlling what makes its way to development in their Rally workspace.

Reliable and useful integrations are central to the ProdPad’s evolution as an indispensable product management solution. And our friends at Rally are excited about this integration too. Keith Boswell, who manages Business Development, had this to say:

“We’re excited about this integration with ProdPad, which will help agile development teams using Rally’s ALM solutions to work effectively with product management to build innovative, user-centric products that are based on well-developed specs and user stories.”

How to integrate Rally with ProdPad

Users of ProdPad can find out more about how to integrate Rally projects with their accounts. And we’re here to talk with any Rally customers about how ProdPad can help you do better product management too.

If you don’t have an account already, start your 14 day free trial today!

The post The ProdPad-Rally Integration is Here! appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

03
Apr 2014
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#beautifulroadmaps. Making Product Management Sexy with Instagram Filters

“Our users have been clamoring for ways to glamorize product management, and we knew that Instagram filters would be the most exciting way to make everyone love roadmapping.”

Today we’re thrilled to announce the latest addition to ProdPad’s extensive list of integrations, which will not only make product managers’ lives easier but more fun.
Everyone knows that social platforms have revolutionized how we communicate. In the era of sharing where everything is highly visual, why should sharing with your boss and your colleagues be any different? Our new integration with Instagram‘s filter tools allows you to add beautiful and flattering effects before sharing your roadmap with your team members.

Until now, ProdPad only offered regular exports of your product roadmaps to PDF or PNG. Today, ProdPad users will be able to apply the full range of Instagram filters to these files before preparing a board meeting presentation, sharing via email or even printing out to stick on the wall. Your boss is guaranteed to be happier with your projections for the future when they’re presented with a sexy Amaro glow. And a dreamy blur effect can even distract your team from their suggestions that didn’t make the cut.

Visual Roadmap - Unfiltered Visual Roadmap - Rainbow filtered Visual Roadmap - Tiltshift filtered

“Our customers have been pretty happy with how ProdPad has already transformed the way they roadmap, but we never give up on innovating and enhancing our products to offer an even better experience. Our users have been clamoring for ways to glamorize product management, and we knew that Instagram filters would be the most exciting way to make everyone love roadmapping.”

We’re excited to have this fantastic new feature out today, so we can continue to build towards the future. Coming up next on our roadmap, we’ll be kicking off our integration with the revolutionary Oculus Rift, allowing you to ‘fly through’ your roadmap, just like they were meant to be.

To find out more about how ProdPad can help you to build the best roadmap you’ve ever built, sign up for a free trial or get in touch to find out more.

The post #beautifulroadmaps. Making Product Management Sexy with Instagram Filters appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

01
Apr 2014
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Google Apps integration for Single Sign-On

We understand the challenge of opening up product management to the rest of your organization. Many of your colleagues have a huge amount of value to offer, but with their own jobs to do it’s not always easy for them to contribute it.

Our latest integration with Google Apps will make it even more practical to involve your entire team in idea management. With the ProdPad app now available in the Google Apps Chrome Store, any member of your Google Apps organization has easy Single Sign-On (SSO) access to ProdPad.

Adding ProdPad to your Google Apps domain offers a simple and familiar way to share your ProdPad account with everyone in your team, whether they’re already using it or not. We create an account for any new user who clicks through to ProdPad via the Google Apps link, and existing users will automatically be mapped to their accounts based on their email address.

It’ll create a simple link to your ProdPad account, so anyone in your organization can join or sign in with just one click:

google-apps-signin Google-Apps-Link google-apps-prodpad

New users created in ProdPad via the Google Apps integration will automatically be assigned the most basic ‘Reviewer’ access, so that you can be sure your product backlog is opened as widely as possible without losing control. But of course, Admins can use account settings to manage roles and permissions for all users no matter how they are added.

Integrate with Google Apps SSO

It’s easy to get your ProdPad account hooked up with the Google Apps integration, whether you already have an existing account that you want to use Google Apps SSO with, or whether you’re just getting started with a new account.

Hook up Google Apps SSO to your Existing Account

To set up your account with a Google Apps integration, log in and head to your Settings, from the link in the top bar. Then, in the Google Apps Domain section, click “Integrate with Google Apps” to get started. From there, you’ll be taken to the Google Apps Marketplace listing for ProdPad, where you can authenticate your account. Once done, you’ll be taken back to your ProdPad account, and you’ll find that your colleagues with the same domain name as you can now access the ProdPad account as well. We do all the work on the ProdPad end for you.

Start a new ProdPad account with Google Apps SSO

To sign up to ProdPad with the Google Apps integration activated from the start, just head to the registration page and select “Register with Google Apps”. You’ll then be asked to sign in with your Google account (if you’re not already), and then simple add ProdPad by clicking the “Add it now” button in the Google Apps Marketplace listing.

The Google Apps SSO comes as the latest of several different ways in which you can integrate ProdPad more easily into your day-to-day work, including a Google Chrome extension and email dropbox for sharing ideas. And we’ve already got plenty more in the pipeline to make this Google Apps integration even tighter.

This new feature is available now for our Premium and Enterprise customers who can connect up their accounts from Google Settings.

If you’d like to try out ProdPad to improve your product management processes, you can sign up today and start exchanging ideas across your entire team.

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31
Mar 2014
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Why Your Roadmap Should Be Flexible

Flexible Product RoadmapI talk to a shocking number of Product Managers on a regular basis who are exasperated at their company’s approach to roadmapping.

Some companies refuse outright to have a roadmap, instead opting to put to paper only what they can commit to in the next few sprints – ie. a release plan or project plan. These poor product managers spend most of their time either firefighting or building whatever tickles the fancy of their CEO/noisy sales team/eager developers, etc. They constantly struggle to make the case for building anything with long term value.

Others take the opposite approach, and insist on having a structured, committed roadmap glorified Gantt chart to guide the team across every obstacle and iteration in the next few quarters (or years!). In these cases, the Product Manager ends up acting as a project manager. Realistically, it means adding all sorts of buffer and hoping for the best as each month crunches by, all while constantly having to make excuses for the roadmap’s inevitable changes in scope and time.

Why bother with a roadmap?

Many companies do realize the importance of creating a product roadmap. An effective roadmap is a carefully designed document that communicates the product vision and the areas of focus that’ll be tackled to get there. Its purpose is to show the development, sales, marketing, and other internal teams in the company the vision for the future of a specific product or product line. It will set broad goals and provide the steps necessary to achieve them.

According to an article in Pragmatic Marketing Magazine, “As your company grows, different departments will be involved in executing different elements of product delivery (e.g., marketing, distribution, development). A product roadmap keeps everyone aligned by defining a common vision for the company’s direction.”

The many benefits associated with a product roadmap are what make them essential. With a good roadmapping process in place, and a well-designed product roadmap, every company department, from sales to development, will work better. It provides the product team with a valuable artifact for constructive conversation, both at the inception of the roadmap and in follow on conversations as each month passes and the roadmap is reviewed. The very nature of the roadmap should outline the product vision effectively enough to allow teams to work with relative autonomy, and ensures that a cohesive, valuable product is being built.

Importance of flexible roadmapping

Finding the balance of detail on your roadmap is a bit of an art, but is absolutely essential. Over time, your roadmap format will certainly change, accounting for changes in the team, the market, the available technology, and more.

Flexible Roadmap Attributes

Flexibility in Time

Product release dates can change, and those ‘set’ months or quarters in advance certainly will. Instead of setting exact dates as releases, set a series of ‘time horizons’ such as ‘Current’, ‘Near Term’, and ‘Future’, or at the most granular, quarters for the upcoming half year, half years for the following couple of years, and if your roadmap extends that far, granularity at the year level.

This approach allows you to have flexibility to switch around projects in projected time horizons, without having to rejig your entire roadmap. Each time you have to realign and re-communicate a new roadmap, you need to instill understanding and buy-in for the latest changes – this will often kick off drawn-out discussions about, for example, the order of Project X and Project Y, even though both are realistically not going to get touched until the following year anyway (by which time, a lot could have changed, so the conversation was for nothing!). Over the course of months, the team can change, technology can change, and development can have unanticipated challenges. Setting dates based on time horizons rather than actual release dates helps keep the focus on the wider picture, delivering towards the product vision.

Flexibility in Scope

The reality is, some companies have to deliver to dates. There’s a signed off project, or an important conference coming up, or a seasonal marker – whatever it is, it shouldn’t prevent your company from being able to work to a flexible roadmap.

As the old adage goes: “Quality. Speed. Price. Pick two.”

In the case of signed off projects, with a set scope and a set time, there’s not much you can do besides hunker down and deliver it. For this, you will need a project plan and a detailed understanding of what needs to happen at each stage to ensure nothing slips. But this isn’t a product roadmap, or even part of the product management process – this is project management and requires a project manager hat (I speak to a lot of product managers who find themselves stuck in this situation, simply delivering on projects instead of building and iterating based on the product vision). As the old adage goes: “Quality. Speed. Price. Pick two.” If time, scope or quality starts to slip, be prepared to pull in extra resources, even if it means taking them off other areas of the roadmap… another reason to build in flexibility in that roadmap.

For projects with a set time, the only way to even estimate a future delivery date, without spending tons of effort in sizing, scoping, and planning a detailed project plan for it, is to remain flexible in scope. Your roadmap shouldn’t be made up of detailed features outlining exactly what should be delivered. By the time you get to the point of starting on that feature, the entire product or market may have changed around it, meaning all that spec’ing effort was for nothing. Instead, outline ‘areas of focus’ and provide details of the problem you intend to solve as part of that deliverable. For example, instead of promising Facebook Connect in Q4, outline it as ‘Social Connect’ – by Q4, it might turn out that LinkedIn is more important to the business, or MySpace made a comeback. You’re still solving the same problem, allowing people to connect via the social networks they use the most, but you’re not stuck breaking old promises.

Reviewing your Product Roadmap

The roadmap view in ProdPad

Share your roadmap with other stakeholders to get constructive feedback

Naturally, the further out a potential area of focus or deliverable is on the roadmap, the more flexible on time and scope you’ll need to be.

If you review your roadmap on a monthly basis, you can add extra granularity to the areas that are more impending, shift around deliverables based on what you’ve learned about your team, the technology and the market in the last month or so, and deliver a roadmap that’s subtly different, but not a massive change from what the team was already bought into. With a flexible roadmap, you’ll stop that trend of simply shifting all of the items to the right by 1 month in order to adjust for whatever new projects or slowdowns cropped up in the last month. You’ll have a clean, concise, and useful roadmap as an artifact for discussions on what really matters – delivering on the product vision.

The post Why Your Roadmap Should Be Flexible appeared first on MindTheProduct.

24
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Where do great ideas really come from? Idea Management explained

Hatching Ideas - Idea ManagementEven the most creative CEOs and Product Managers can’t reach viable new product ideas in one eureka moment. Brainstorming sessions, snapping up good customer suggestions, and waves of inspiration in the shower are only the first step. Idea Management is about not only having a great idea, but taking the truly innovative ideas through to fruition. It’s about bringing organisation and measurement to the creative process to make sure you’re always and only delivering real value to your users and your business.

Effective Idea Management

Here are three key steps to effective idea management:

  1. Capturing a promising ideaIt’s very difficult to work with disparate post-it notes, sketches, emails or half-forgotten conversations. It’s not enough for you or your team to have great ideas if they aren’t captured effectively. The first challenge of Idea Management is to create a structured repository of your many ideas; the second is to make it as easy as possible for everyone in your team to submit theirs. We log our ideas to ProdPad easily while we’re on the go, and keep them all organised with a structured system of tags and filters.
  2. Exploring the value of an idea
    Once you’ve identified what seems to be a great idea, you need to validate that hypothesis. Before you get to what you’ll build, it’s important to ensure that you’re tackling a real problem. User stories, built on relevant user personas for your customer base, should be able to explain what your users want to be able to do in order to solve a specific problem they have. This value to the user must then be set against the business case for solving it for them; what will you get from the change? If you can happily answer these questions, you can move on to the details of what and how.
  3. Implementing an idea in practiceEvery good idea is in competition with another. To decide which ones are great enough to build, it’s important to understand the resources required to bring value to customers. Weighing up effort involved is not just about technical requirements or development hours, but the resources demanded from your entire team. Impact set against effort is the basic equation for deciding if and when an idea is viable to make it to development. We use ProdPad’s priority visualization tools to make those decisions a little easier.

Really great ideas may start in an unimaginable number of different ways. But managing them through to workable product specs needs sound repeatable processes that you can be sure will take your business to success.

If you’d like to learn more about product management best practices, explore the ProdPad product management course here.

Or, sign up for a completely free trial of our product management software.

The post Where do great ideas really come from? Idea Management explained appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

21
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Product Management at SXSW

ProductTank at Little Woodrow's

A couple weeks ago, the MTP team headed out to Austin for the SXSW festival.  This was our third year running, and held a great ProductTank Drinks @ SXSW event, taking over the patio bar of Little Woodrow’s on the popular 6th street downtown.

Once again, the sun (just barely) came out for ProductTank, and we had a great gathering of some of the most interesting and best connected product people from around the world.

A huge shoutout and thanks to Gild for sponsoring the event, meaning we could all enjoy a fantastic lineup of great beers and ciders on a Sunday afternoon.

Among the attendees, we had folks representing great communities of product people from all over the place.  We heard a little about each of them and what they got up to at SXSW:

Alicia Dixon (Mobile Product Manager at The Sheridan Group but also a ProductCamp DC organizer) spoke on the Your Founder is Your Product Manager panel, and shared the following:

We had a full room – to the point where they made a few people wait outside until others left before letting them in. Also, almost the entire session was from audience questions; so they were pretty engaged which made the discussion lively. When we surveyed the room most of the audience was composed of product people as opposed to startup founders or engineers.

Teresa Torres (Product Consultant and Coach, ProductTalk) echoed a lot of our own thoughts about the fringe (the outside events and parties) being more interesting than most of the official sessions themselves:

I spoke on a panel (Your Founder is Your Product Manager), but aside from that, I mostly went to meetups and parties. I was more interested in meeting folks than attending the conference itself. It was a great week and I expect to go again next year. 

Neal Cabage (Founder of ProductCamp LA and author of The Smarter Startup) had the following to say about his SXSW experience:

SXSW is the center of the Internet universe for a week every year. Every famous entrepreneur, blogger, and speaker is there, and often just walking the same lobby or having a drink at the same bar. The Film festival is happening at the same time as Interactive so you’ll also find you’re mingling with a number of film makers and actors.  It’s not only a lot of fun, I particularly like how the event brings together art and technology in a way that reminds me of why I got into technology to begin with.

Despite all of the excitement and activity that is SXSW, I attend primarily for the Startup Village. I’ve had the opportunity to present material from my book the past couple years.   This year I presented on Startup Opportunity Ideation and Evaluation with my book’s co-author, which is basically product strategy for startups.  Aside from my own work, I enjoy seeing all of the innovation and new approaches to solving problems here; its a great way to stimulate one’s product mind and instigate new ideas and realizations.

With the brilliant combination of interesting people, the blend of tech and the arts, and a plethora of fantastic gatherings, sessions and parties (and of course, Texas sun and barbecue!), SXSW is definitely a destination for any product manager.

We’ll be back next year, no doubt.  This time, though, we’d love to make something bigger of it – we’re considering planning a large trip and invite out dozens of fellow product people from the UK and elsewhere to join us on an organised group trip.

If you’d like to hear more about this, sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know the details, or send us a message at team@mindtheproduct.com to get involved.



The post Product Management at SXSW appeared first on MindTheProduct.

21
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Video: Lean, Fast Feedback and Leopard Print

Challenging your assumptions can pay off. This is what UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) discovered when they created a digital lab and started applying Lean Startup techniques to their products.

At ProductTank FebruaryHemal Kuntawala (@hemalkuntawala) talked us through some of the specific insights and assumptions they wanted to challenge.  Each assumption is met with a challenge, and in turn, with a solution, and tested again.  After 4 weeks, they had created the M&S Style Board, and increased conversion.

In this talk, Hemal shows us how Lean Startup techniques allowed them to kick-start products and services that their customers would expect to see from M&S, and why he thinks that vision, instinct and obsession drive lean product management.

His full slides can be found here:

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17
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Video: Easy A/B Testing F**k-Ups

Your tests suck.  There, we said it.  Or at least Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) expert Craig Sullivan (@OptimiseOrDie) thinks so.  He’s made just about every mistake in the book with his own tests, and has seen others fall in the same traps over and over.

At ProductTank February, Craig gave us a detailed and practical look at how to run effective A/B tests and how to avoid some of the most common testing pitfalls. Some are cunning, others are blatantly obvious – so much so that you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it earlier.

In this talk, Craig blasts through 13 common blunders when A/B testing your site.  The slides are fast and heavy, so follow along:

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14
Mar 2014
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