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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.

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