Skip to main content

Pearls of Wisdom from Stacey Weber

Are you an executive who has recently adopted Scrum or another agile approach to product management and development?

If so, Pragmatic Marketing's Stacey Weber has some important observations that will help you understand the roles and skills you'll need on your team. (See my concise description of Scrum first.)

First, your product manager (often equated, unfortunately, with the product owner in Scrum) should focus on the problems to be solved, not features:
How often have you already envisioned the solution before you’ve stated the problem? Begin with the problem-oriented requirement: “Every [frequency], [persona] has [problem] with [result].” Then work with a user interaction designer or business analyst to define the solution.
and
Take a look at your team’s backlog. Is it features? Or, even finer-grained tasks than that?

A Product Manager’s primary responsibility is to know the market – to discover urgent, pervasive problems that people are willing to pay to have solved.

We are generally not trained or necessarily skilled in the area of design.
Second, you need an interaction designer on your team:
The designer should be in charge of the translation of market requirements into features. In an agile environment, that means that the designer must work with the Product Manager to understand the market requirements and their priority –and then lead the team to turning the problems into features and sprints that make sense. This must be done in close conjunction with the project manager, to ensure that the product that comes out the back-end makes sense, and provides maximum impact in the target market segment.
Third, be careful with your product backlog. If the backlog contains requirements (i.e. problems to be solved), the product manager prioritizes them. If the backlog contains features, a designer works with the product manager to prioritize them. If it contains development tasks, then perhaps the project manager should help prioritize them.
In an agile environment, that means that the designer must work with the Product Manager to understand the market requirements and their priority –and then lead the team to turning the problems into features and sprints that make sense. This must be done in close conjunction with the project manager.
Bottom line: don't let process obscure the focus on delivering real user benefit, and make sure you have the right skill sets on your team.

Comments

Stacey Weber said…
Thanks for the kind words, Roger, and I agree that executives should pay attention to your tips. If we "go agile" without considering the skills that are truly required to build great products, we are heading down a rocky road.

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