As we inch closer to the time of year where you give gifts and reflect on what you may want to change in the upcoming year, it seemed like a good time to suggest some ways to accomplish both at the same time.
If you want to find something for that product person on your list (even if that product person is you) I thought I’d give you some ideas for inexpensive, but extremely handy, gifts that help product people.
Whether you need to remember what you wrote on a whiteboard, or you need to learn more about being a product person, these resources will be good gifts to give (even to yourself).
A handy resource for all product people
Do you use whiteboards a lot to work things out or collaborate with your team to build shared understanding?
Do you wish you had a good, crystal clear way to save those whiteboard sketches after the fact?
I’ve found a great tool to help you save your whiteboard drawings in easy to read, crystal clear focused pictures.
The tool is called Rocketbook beacons (affiliate link). When you get a set, you get four orange triangles to put in the corners of your whiteboard. When you’re ready to save your whiteboard sketches, download the Rocketbook app, take a picture and then send the picture to the repository of your choice.
The pictures are extremely clear, and you can move the beacons from one whiteboard to another very easily. My time found the beacons so helpful we bought a set for each whiteboard.
A book about business analysis
I wrote Beyond Requirements: Analysis with an Agile Mindset (affiliate link) to teach you how to understand stakeholders’ needs, identify the best solution for satisfying those needs, and build a shared understanding of your solution that persists throughout the product lifecycle.
Beyond Requirements starts by sharing the philosophy I follow when I approach working with teams. The middle portion shares some case studies with how I have applied those principles in practice. The final portion describes techniques I frequently use when I work with software teams.
A book about product ownership
Most books that claim to be for product owners tend to focus primarily on describing Scrum to product people, which tends to lead people to believe that being a product owner is nothing more than managing the backlog. There’s more to the role than that, so I always find it refreshing when someone takes a different approach to writing about product ownership.
Reading Product Mastery: From Good to Great Product Ownership by Geoff Watts was definitely refreshing. Geoff added a much-needed perspective to the activity of product ownership by focusing on what traits it takes to go from a good product owner to a great product owner.
A book about product management
Marty Cagan’s book Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (affiliate link) was one of the first books I read when I wanted to learn more about product management. One of the main things I got out of reading the first edition of the book was the opportunity assessment. This technique inspired (pun intended) a set of questions I use when working with teams to evaluate new products and projects. Marty has reflected on his vast experience in the tech world to provide suggestions on assembling the right people and skillsets, discovering the right product, embracing an effective yet lightweight process, and creating a strong product culture.
A book about portfolio management
If your organization is like most, you have too many projects, and firefighting and multitasking are keeping you from finishing any of them. Johanna Rothman’s book Manage your project portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects provides you with pragmatic ways to collect all your work and decide which projects you should do first, second, and never. See how to tie your work to your organization’s mission and show your managers, your board, and your staff what you can accomplish and when. Picture the work you have, and make those difficult decisions, ensuring that all your strength is focused where it needs to be.
The one big idea I got from this book is that you need to frequently evaluate your projects in order to determine whether to commit to, kill, or transform a project based on how it’s performing and helping you meet your organization’s outcomes.