Reflections from PMF 2015
On November 18 and 19 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 product management
Learn from failures of other practitioners
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 of other practitioners
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. The German word “Auftragsklärung” is explaining the situation so excellent, that Martin and his colleagues at Xing didn’t find an equivalent English word for it; “project clarification” would be a rough translation.
“Auftragsklärung” may work for Xing, however, each practice should be evaluated carefully, whether it fits to other environments as well. 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 swpm.de/spm as one example.
Learn from references
There is also a growing body of knowledge available in text format. Books, blogs, online presentations and research articles about the field of software product management. Watch out for upcoming information about this topic in this blog.
Learn from your own 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 will be done every day at work. May be we can hear about your experiences at next year’s festival?
Have you ever wondered how your product management practices stack up against others in the software industry?
Well, here’s an opportunity to find out: the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA, http://ispma.org ) is for the first time conducting a survey to find out about software product management practices in the real world – and you are invited to participate.
To complete the survey, please go to the URL http://bit.ly/spm-survey and answer the questions about your organization, your product, and your product management practices. Filling out the survey will require about 20 – 25 minutes of your time and you’ll receive the following benefits:
- Immediately after filling out the survey, you will get access to an overview document on state-of-the-art software product management. This document is a compilation of the most frequently cited scientific publications in the field of software product management.
- Once the survey has been closed and evaluated, you’ll receive a personalized evaluation that shows your results in comparison with results of the entire survey panel. This way, you can compare yourself with the state-of-practice and you get insights into how practice varies from one organization to another. This will help you to further evolve your own approach to software product management.
The survey is conducted by Andrey Maglyas from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT, http://www.lut.fi/ ), Finland and Dr. Samuel Fricker from Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH, http://www.bth.se/ ), Sweden with support from the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA, http://ispma.org ).
The survey will close on 25.12.2012 and we plan to complete the survey evaluation in early 2013.
When it comes to the question of who owns the requirements the answer is sometimes surprising.
Depending on the titles used in an organization we may hear requirements analyst, business analyst or product manager. Others might name development manager, solution manager or system analyst. While all these people have to say a lot about requirements the product manager should have overall responsibility for the requirements.
Why that? Well, it is the product manager who is ultimately responsible for the business success of the product. He provides product direction and sets the goals for product releases. Through his direct connection to customers and the market he knows best what customer problems are and understands current offerings of competitors. Therefore he is optimally equipped to guide the business team.
Unfortunately, in most organizations the product manager is a poorly defined role. Often product managers get many things to work on, typically too many to be effective. A recent study clearly indicates that product managers work too often on tactical tasks, like customer escalations and supporting sales inquiries.
Successful organizations understand that product management must be balanced between tactical and strategic tasks. However due to the lack of a common understanding of all these tasks it is often a time consuming ineffective effort. Tools that provide an overview of all product management activities accelerate this work substantially.
In October 2010 I gave a presentation at the German “Requirements days” in Munich where I presented some of the fundamental activities in software product management.
Interestingly I got quite some feedback from people, who see a need for clarification specifically in organizations who move towards agile. The simple approach that a product manager equates to a product owner in Scrum doesn’t work out well. On the other extreme product managers might position agile product development to effect only the development organization. They continue to work as before not realizing the full potential of agile development.
Independent whether a software organization works agile or traditional a framework of software product management activities will enable them to improve its effectiveness. That’s why the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA) pushes towards a certification of software product management.
If this topic is of interest to you, then get in contact with me and/or download the presentation.