How Product Managers Learn

Reflections from PMF 2015

Last week I participated at the Product Management Festival 2015 in Zürich Switzerland. This was a great event for product managers to get together. Besides networking opportunities it provided numerous insights into product management practices. Most of the talks were experience reports. Young product managers as well as high profile product directors shared their insights. Some of those insights were morphed nicely into pictures, like the one from Nilan Peiris (VP of growth from transferwise). He illustrated the relationship between Product Management and Product Marketing with a nice picture in the tweet: The great mexican standoff of of product management

Learn from failures

What the audience really appreciated is the fact that speakers shared their failures as well. Where else do you get such insights? Learning from failure is a theme that has become prominent with the agile movement: you are allowed to fail, but you shouldn’t fail twice with the same topic.

Learn from good practices

Sharing good practices is another good source of learning and we could listen to numerous recommendations from the speakers, like the ones from Martin Rusch – vice president Xing. He provided insights into the Xing way of launching new initiatives using “Auftragsklärung” as a key success element. However, each practice should be evaluated carefully, whether it fits into your own environment. Already 30 years ago Fred Brooks coined the famous term “there is no silver bullet”.

Learn the foundations

Several attendees came to the festival to learn how to establish product management as a discipline in their company. For them a product management framework like the one from the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA) is a good starting point. Based on that Software Product Management Body of Knowledge training providers have established curricula that teach software product management as a discipline. See our training offerings on as one example.

Learn from practice

The most important learning source for product managers however is provided from own practice. Nothing is more worthwhile than making your own experience.

That of course, wasn’t possible at the product management festival. But, why not make your own experiences and talk about them at next years festival?

What’s So Special with Atlassian?

Atlassian and its products have fascinated me since 2008. I first got in touch with their JIRA issue tracking software. Later I have helped customers introducing JIRA Agile and setting up requirements management with JIRA. It is impressive how Atlassian has evolved and how their products spread.

What are the ingredients of Atlassian’s success? Three factors stand out:

  • Products that appeal to software developers. — Should never be taken for granted. But very important, if you can’t count on a sales team …
  • Direct sales model without classical sales force. — A lean sales approach, with very low entry level for accessing and using the products
  • Very huge and active ecosystem. — They literally don’t let you alone: rich knowledge bases; super-(re)active support forums; collaborative documentation with strong quality management; (world-)wide partner network

Why is this important? Understanding the Atlassian way helps you to use their products successfully (given you are a customer or consider to become one). And it can inspire everyone interested in software business models.

The following information sources give you an overview of Atlassian and the three success factors.


Atlassian is privately held with headquarters in Sydney (Atlassian Pty Ltd, Australian Business Register: ABN 53 102 443 916) and eight offices in six countries.

Company description on Atlassian homepage:

Atlassian on Wikipedia:

Atlassian on CrunchBase (crowd-sourced information):

Atlassian Experts homepage (partner directory):

Atlassian press release with data on FY 2013/2014 results (FY from July to June):

TechCrunch article including FY 2012/2013 data:

Wallstreet Journal article with data on Atlassian and its 2014 funding round:

Business Insider company profile article from February 2014 (very comprehensive and fun-to-read overview; a pie chart shows the share distribution after the first funding round):


Product overview:

Their flagship products JIRA and Confluence have ever been very appealing to software developers. I have observed several cases where individual developers have introduced the tools to their teams. From there, the products have spread fast, often to enterprise-level.

Atlassian’s license model has very low entry levels for evaluation use and for smaller teams. For most products they offer instant set-up of cloud instances as well as direct download for on-premise installations.

Sales Model

An article in Sydney Morning Herald (August 2015) explores on Atlassian’s approach, which omits a classical sales team. A comprehensive article from February 2014 at Business Insider lays out the entire Atlassian story and adds context to their sales approach.

Of course, Atlassian does not omit sales per se. Although they publish comprehensive price models on the web, customers can contact them (i.e., their sales organization …) for quotes. And they have retail sales partners in their worldwide “Experts” ecosystem.


Their ecosystem has many facets, ranging from documentation and support resources via user groups and events to a thriving marketplace of product add-ons.

Documentation homepage:

Knowledge base:

Support forums:

User groups & events pages:

Marketplace homepage:

Experts partner ecosystem homepage:

Looking for Experience Sharing

What are your impressions and experiences? I am interested to discuss with you what’s so special with Atlassian, and what their approach means to organizations that use their products. Contact me via

On our list of requirements management tools and on our blog, we track Atlassian’s activities in the requirements areas, monitoring their JIRA, JIRA Agile, and Confluence products. While none of their products is a full-fledged RM tool, they provide interesting entry paths to RM tool support. Add-on products like RMsis and Requirements for JIRA extend JIRA with more advanced RM functionality.

Requirements for JIRA Added to RM Tools List

Are there any requirements management add-ons for Atlassian JIRA? Yes, there are. This article introduces one of them: Requirements for JIRA by ease solutions Pte Ltd. We added Requirements for JIRA together with another JIRA add-on, RMsis from Optimizory Technologies Pvt. Ltd (view brief tool overview), to our list of requirements management (RM) tools during our latest May 2015 update.

Availability and Vendor

Requirements for JIRA is an add-on product to Atlassian JIRA on-premise installations. It extends JIRA concepts and UI elements by specific requirements management features.

Requirements for JIRA is quite fresh on the market with its initial release 2.2.0 from March 2015 and two updates since then. The current version is 2.3.0. Its vendor ease solutions is a Singapore-based IT service provider with a track record as Atlassian partner including JIRA customization and development, and with a history of requirements-related service offerings. Requirements for JIRA has been their first JIRA add-on product made available on Atlassian Marketplace. Recently, they launched a second product there, a JIRA add-on for supporting JIRA administration.

Features and Characteristics

Notable features of Requirements for JIRA are:

  • Rich and flexible requirements structures
  • Various requirements-specific views and diagrams
  • Requirements revisions and baselines
  • Requirements reuse
  • Round-trip export/import of Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files

Information model: Requirements for JIRA plugs into the basic JIRA information model and extends it by additional concepts useful for requirements management. The central concept and basic information structure is a user-defined folder hierarchy (aka “requirements tree”). Any existing JIRA issue can be assigned to a folder and new issues can be created within folders. All issues that belong to this folder structure can use the features of Requirements for JIRA. Other important concepts of the information model are suspect flags on JIRA links, indicating potential impact of a requirements change on other dependent requirements, and baselines on the requirements hierarchy or on parts of it.

User interface: The Requirements for JIRA user interface adds a “Requirements” entry to the main JIRA menu line that provides access to several requirements-specific views. The main requirements view shows the requirements folder hierarchy and a reading view similar to a specification document. Additional views include requirements coverage, trace diagram, baseline comparison, and others.

Tool Assessment

Requirements for JIRA brings a wide spectrum of important and useful requirements management features to Atlassian JIRA and integrates them quite smoothly into the existing JIRA functionality. This is my impression after having studied the documentation and from a brief trial usage.

User documentation appears suitable for making a first acquaintance with the tool. Advanced features are not explained in much detail, which calls for exploring the lean and relatively intuitive user interface during trial usage. However, it is remarkable that such a young tool does include so many advanced features like coverage view, roundtrip export/import, and requirements reuse.

Overall, when looking for specific requirements management support in Atlassian JIRA, Requirements for JIRA can be an interesting candidate. It might be particularly attractive for organizations that want to extend JIRA usage across the development lifecycle starting with solid requirements practices, and that are prepared to act as early adopters.

Information Resources

Product Homepage at Atlassian Marketplace:

Product Homepage at Vendor Site:

Product Documentation:;?pageId=5406725

RMsis New on RM Tools List

With the latest May 2015 update of our list of requirements management (RM) tools we newly included two requirements solutions that are add-on products to Atlassian JIRA: RMsis by Optimizory Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and Requirements for JIRA by ease solutions Pte Ltd. This blog article introduces RMsis. Requirements for JIRA will follow in a separate article.

RMsis Availability and Vendor

RMsis is an add-on product to Atlassian JIRA on-premise installations. It plugs into JIRA as a separate sub-product coming with its own user interface, data structures, user roles, and access rights. JIRA issues can be linked from RMsis items (e.g., requirements), and RMsis items can be exported into JIRA issues. Besides RM functionality, RMsis provides support for testing.

The initial release 0.2 of RMsis was made available in October 2010. The current major release 1.8.0 dates from March 2015 with two additional updates since. RMsis vendor Optimizory is located in New Delhi, with consulting partners in Singapore, India, Germany, the Benelux countries, and Turkey.

RMsis Features, Information Model, and User Interface

Important features of RMsis according to the product page at Atlassian Marketplace are:

  • Flexible information model
  • Requirement versions, baselines, and branches
  • Cross project dependencies between requirements
  • Traceability between RMsis artifacts with JIRA artifacts and RMsis test cases

Information model: RMsis’s information model is based on a general type of requirement, which comes with a set of default attributes. Attribute values of these default attributes can be customized, and additional attribute types can be added. Requirements hierarchy can be expressed using parent/child relationships and via assignment of hierarchical tags. Child requirements are the actual items that contain detailed requirements information.

User interface: The main requirements view of the user interface is a tabular presentation similar to a spreadsheet table. There is one view for each of the two predefined requirements categories of unplanned and planned requirements. Within these table views, table columns correspond with requirements attribute types.

Tool Assessment

I could not run a trial-use of RMsis, yet. So the information provided in this article is based on the vendor’s sources available in the public domain, which are relatively rich and detailed.

While the list of RMsis product features is long, I am not always convinced of their implementation: Overall, RMsis makes some strong assumptions on requirements structure and process that cannot be changed. So, interested customers should carefully check whether the tool meets their way of working. One should also be aware that RMsis is a separate system running within JIRA, adding its own configuration needs and usage concepts. On the plus side are that RMsis has quite a long track record and a relatively large user base, and that it includes basic support for testing and test management.

Information Resources

Product homepage at Atlassian Marketplace:

Product homepage at vendor site:

Product documentation of latest release:

agosense.requirements Added to RM list

In the recent May 2015 update of our list of requirements management (RM) tools, we added – among other tools – agonsense.requirements. This article briefly introduces the tool, which comes with some interesting new concepts. Over the next few weeks, we will publish similar articles for other tools that we have added to the RM tools list.

The company agosense is relatively young. It was established in 2009. Their initial product agosense.symphony is a process integration platform for software engineering tools across the application lifecycle. So, agosense have collected a lot of experience in connecting requirements management tools with other application lifecycle tools.

Based on their multi-year integration experience with many existing requirements management tools, they decided to create their own RM solution. In November 2014, they announced the first release of agosense.requirements. I had a chance to get some impressions about the tool in January 2015 where I participated at the company event agosense.CONNECT 2015.

agosense.requirements is a web based requirements management solution which is available on premise. It offers typical requirements management capabilities like requirement types, tracing of items, reporting, and rich text support for requirements to name a few. agosense summarizes the key features under the terms of: usability, processes and infrastructure advantages.

So, what are specific characteristics of agosense.requirements that make it special compared to other RM tools? I will highlight some tool capabilities under the topics of:

  • Change and Version Management
  • Tool Integrations
  • Cost of Ownership
  • Performance and Scalability

Change Management: By servicing many companies in their requirements integration approaches agosense came to the conclusion that an RM tool shall support strong change management capabilities. That’s why they focus on change management from the very beginning. Every requirement must be associated to a previously defined change request or task. Requirements are tracked in so-called sheets. Within those sheets requirements can be associated to change sets. Change sets can be versioned, and even branched. Changes between versions are tracked at the detail level and made available to users via various display options.

Tool Integrations: Tool integrations are a long-standing core competency of agosense. Using agosense.symphony a large collection of tools can be connected to agosense.requirements, too. Specifically for interchanging requirements between tools, agosense supports established interchange formats like OSLC or ReqIF.

Cost of Ownership: According to agosense, several features of agosense.requirements contribute to an overall small footprint. In particular, there is no separate purchase of a database required. The tool is delivered with an embedded NoSQL DB. agosense claims, that there were no extensive DB administration necessary using this technology. In addition, the user interface is purely based on web technology. It does not require client-based installations and can be used through all modern web browsers.

Performance and Scalability: Based on the chosen server technology and data model agosense claims to have the fastest RM solution on the market. The selected NoSQL technology allowed for scaling-up the RM solution with almost no administration effort by simply adding new nodes to the environment.

We find these capabilities impressive for such a young product. However, up to now, we could not yet evaluate how agosense delivers on these claims. We might well follow-up with running a detailed evaluation and trial usage sometime in the next months.
Look forward for more exciting news to come on

agosense.requirements Information Resources on the Web:

Product web page:

Video about change management with agosense.requirements: