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

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the