Skip to main content

Extreme Product Management (XPM)

In the latest issue of productmarketing.com, Barbara Nelson and Stacey Mentzel wrote about extreme product management (XPM). I'm glad to see respected product management folks write about this topic.

Nelson and Mentzel spell out many of the reasons that developers have opted for agile development methods. Some of these reasons are reactions to poor product management, such as unreadable requirements documents and constantly-changing requirements. And the authors explore various ways that a product manager can work constructively with teams that practice agile development.

Nonetheless, I have a couple of issues with the article.

First, the article defines XPM as:

XPM is using the minimum process and creating the minimum artifacts to deliver products people want to buy.
I find this definition unfortunate. The choice of words "extreme product management" renders it an obvious analog to extreme programming (XP). While part of XP is to generate minimal formal artifacts, it is much more. XP involves the application of many practices, including writing tests first, small iterations instead of a waterfall approach, frequent integration, and frequent releases. Any definition of XPM that fails to incorporate these concepts is misleading.

Second, the article seems to endorse an "agile waterfall" approach:

With a solid roadmap in place and stable market requirements, we should be able to review and complete market and functional requirements at the start of a project. Then, Development can iterate through implementation and testing while Product Management is preparing for the next release cycle. Since Development reaches a point where the entire release is designed, they can set a good target date and free Product Management to focus on promotions and the next big thing.
This approach fails to engage the product manager in one of the most important lessons of agile: requirements are almost never stable or completely understood. Product managers must iterate on the requirements in the same manner as developers iterate on the implementation. The end of each iteration yields the product manager something of tremendous value - a demonstratable version of the product that can reveal gaps in the requirements.

The product manager shouldn't just hand off the market requirements to the development team and re-engage after development has finished its iterations. Instead, after eliciting and documenting an initial set of requirements, the product manager should engage, at a minimum, after each iteration. She should revisit and update the requirements to reflect new discoveries. She should also recalibrate the requirements to reflect more educated estimates of how long it will take to implement them.

Read more about how and why we at Cauvin, Inc. practice agile (though not necessarily "extreme") product management here.

UPDATE: You may read a followup on this topic here.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Stop Validating and Start Falsifying

The product management and startup worlds are buzzing about the importance of "validation". In this entry, I'll explain how this idea originated and why it's leading organizations astray. Why Validate? In lean startup circles, you constantly hear about "validated learning" and "validating" product ideas: The assumption is that you have a great product idea and seek validation from customers before expending vast resources to build and bring it to market. Indeed, it makes sense to transcend conventional approaches to making product decisions . Intuition, sales anecdotes, feature requests from customers, backward industry thinking, and spreadsheets don't form the basis for sound product decisions. Incorporating lean startup concepts , and a more scientific approach to learning markets, is undoubtedly a sounder approach. Moreover, in larger organizations, sometimes further in the product life-cycle, everyone seems to have an opinio

What Product Managers Can Learn from the Apple iPod

The Story When Apple unveiled its iPod digital music player back in October 2001, I dismissed it as a  parity product . I already owned the Cowon iAUDIO CW100 MP3 player, loaded with my favorite tunes. There was Apple, generating great hype over the iPod as if it were a breakthrough product. The idea of a portable digital music player was nothing new. The first mass-produced MP3 players came out in 1998. In late 2001, the concept may have been new to a lot of Apple customers, but it wasn't new to me. I proudly showed my MP3 player to friends when they gushed about the iPod. Thus Apple's iPod was not an innovative product in and of itself. Years later, however, I realized the significance of ecosystem of which the iPod was a part. Apple had released iTunes (with technology purchased from  SoundJam MP ) and created the iTunes Store for finding and downloading music. Unlike Napster , it was a safe and legal way of distributing and acquiring music. The prior way of playing