You’ve identified your epics. You’ve created some informative mockups. You’ve decomposed the first epic into user stories and loaded them up with highly useful acceptance criteria.
And through it all you’ve been bothered by this disturbing sense that the thing you’re building is not the solution you’re looking for.
It’s that darn stakeholder. She’s so invested in her solution that she’s been able to convince you that you have to build it, without really being able to express how it solves the biggest problem she faces.
You aren’t certain you’re building the right thing, but there are a variety of ways to get back on the right track and build the right thing. Getting customer feedback, using the information you uncover from that in your priority decisions, and communicating your decisions in a roadmap are some of the things you can do.
In this issue of Inside Product Management, I share five resources that explore customer feedback, prioritization techniques, and ways to build and maintain a roadmap.
Beef Up Your Business Analysis Skills
One key to building the right thing is having a shared understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Sometimes that means making sure your team understands the problem. Sometimes that means helping your stakeholder realize they’re trying to solve a problem.
I recently had the opportunity to help a team remind a stakeholder about the problem they were trying to solve – without abruptly asking “what problem are you trying to solve?” We started walking through the solution talking about different scenarios, looking at wireframes, mapping out the process and talking about the different pieces of data we needed.
In other words we used business analysis techniques to discuss the solution and raise points of concern surrounding customer experience. We used that conversation to circle back to the problem the team was trying to solve and discuss different solutions.
If you would like to beef up your business analysis skills so that you can be more effective in discussions with your stakeholders, check out the offerings from Bridging the Gap, a leading provider of virtual training to help people in the midst of their career learn or improve their business analysis skills. We’ve established an affiliate relationship with Bridging the Gap to offer their collection of classes and other resources to help you apply business analysis skills and techniques.
A Followup To Customer Feedback
Last week’s Inside Product Management was full of resources to help you improve how you collected and used customer feedback. Ironically, I forgot to include the thing that inspired that topic. I now rectify that oversight.
Daniel Zacarias of Folding Burritos reached out to 14 leading Product Managers to find out how they use customer feedback in their own companies and teams. He shared the the full audio recordings, along with transcripts and highlights on his site.
He also summarized the key takeaways from those discussions and listed them in one place. Properly using customer feedback will help you focus on solving their problems – which will move you a long way toward building the right thing.
When you’re in a triple-constrained situation (fixed time, fixed cost, fixed scope) you may think that your options for delivering the right amount of the right thing are limited. Gojko Adzic suggested one power tool you always have in your tool box to deal with a constrained situation – sequence.
Sequence is an essential tool for survival in triple-fixed situations because it relieves the pressure on discussing whether some feature should be in scope or not. That game is already over anyway. Instead, figure out the right order of getting things out.
Where does the name come from? Gojko originally got the idea from Chris Matts about 10 years ago, and since then he’s been calling it Chris Matts Prioritisation. Earlier this year, a participant in one his PO workshops misheard it and wrote it down as Christmas Prioritisation. It turns out to be a fitting metaphor. Why wait until the end of a project to get your present, when you can make Christmas come early and often?
Roadmap Prioritization – A Case Study
If your roadmap discussions feel like herding cats, Ian Threadgold, Head of Product Management at Kallidus, may have found a way to help your herding.
He established a transparent process to involve all the key stakeholders to arrive at priority decisions that everyone can support. You can read more about the approach on Product Focus.
How To Gain Alignment from Your Team on the Roadmap
In addition to getting agreement on your product roadmap from your key stakeholders, you also need to get your team aligned with delivering the contents of that roadmap. C. Todd Lombardo described in Mind the Product how he went about getting alignment from his team on their roadmap. He started by listening and asking a lot of questions.
How Asana Builds their Product Roadmap
If you’re looking for a way to get an effective mix between a clear strategy where everyone can connect the dots from their daily work to the company mission, and a collaborative process where the people closest to the work can influence our direction, take a look at how Asana builds their product roadmap.
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Talk to you next week,
Kent J. McDonald