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Recap: Managing Backlog During Initial Development in B2B ISVs w/John Peltier

posted Sep 22, 2011, 8:09 PM by Cindy Solomon   [ updated Sep 23, 2011, 9:52 PM by CindyF Solomon ]
John Peltier, Agile Product Manager

Please retweet: 9/19 Recap: Managing the Backlog During Initial Development in B2B ISVs  w/@JohnPeltier http://bit.ly/ow3uYr #prodmgmttalk @prodmgmttalk

At our most recent, Sept 19, 2011 Global Product Management Talk on Twitter, John Peltier @johnpeltier  led us in a discussion of Managing the Backlog during  initial product development in business to business independent software vendors.  Following is an edited recap of the tweets. Host Cindy F. Solomon @cindyfsolomon was joined by Roger Cauvin @rcauvin as co-host. Use this as a jumping off point to blog your insights and responses.



John says, "I find Roger’s blog to be one of the best-written on the topic of product management, with particular emphasis on agile approaches to the subject, and I look forward to his participation in the talk.  Cindy and I have spoken about focusing the topic of our talk around backlog management during development of the initial release of a product, as that is an area I’ve uncovered (and..caused!) some controversy.." 

SUGGESTED PRE-TALK READING:

MENTIONED DURING TALK: 
BLOG POSTINGS AFTER TALK  

INTRO

  • rcauvin In the old days, #agile dev teams were co-located w/ customers & could more easily manage the product backlog.
  • johnpeltier The challenge: Product managers must represent a market segment, not just a single customer. How to do while in the dev room? 
  • rcauvin Now we have B2B and B2C software product teams doing #agile & experiencing challenges representing the customer effectively. 
  • johnpeltier If the product management and product owner roles are split, will the same product quality result? 
  • rcauvin And if the #prodmgmt & product owner roles are NOT split, will product quality suffer? 
  • gander2112 I think that it might be part of the level of skills in the product owner role, at my company, the PO is a very junior role.  (Of course I am both PO and PM), so I get the full picture. I mean, so junior that they pretty much have to ask permission to go to the loo 
  • johnpeltier Geoffrey, I am both also - One element is if the PO has exposure to customer research... 
  • saeedwkhan Need to distinguish between Prod. Mgr (role),Prod Owner (role) & #prodmgmt function & goals. Then it's not an issue. :-) 
  • gander2112 @saeedwkhan Agreed, but often not done.
  • jbrett  Is it even practical for a PO to effectively serve the needs of the team AND the market on their own? 
  • gander2112 Yes, if they have enuf skills
  • liz_blink Not sure. I do both and isn't easy! 
  • johnpeltier @liz_blink I didn't say it was easy!  I've done both at once. The challenge is keeping a PM / PO on one product. 
  • jbrett @gander2112  I'm not sure its a question of skills as much as one of capacity. Thoughts? 
  • saeedwkhan @jbrett is correct.... but it's a question of skills, capacity & overall scalability. That's why roles need to be separate.
  • gander2112 Actually, If the product owner role is pigeonholed into a dev interface role only, they will never learn mkt and other skills. I believe that the PO needs to be at some level of participation in the outbound market research 
  • johnpeltier Isn't backlog management intended to meet market needs? If so, that person must get great deal of user input 
  • jbrett @saeedwkhan We've done it both ways at my company. Separating roles seems to be yielding dividends. 
  • saeedwkhan PO should be part of the #prodmgmt team, but with a focus on working with Eng. They don't need to live there though. I call it friends with benefits, and not marriage. :-) daily interaction yes. hourly interaction. Not a requirement. 
  • jbrett @saeedwkhan #prodmgmttalk but isn't that the function of the PO? To sit with the team as a customer proxy? 
  • gander2112 There has to be more than just drive by pushing of priorities and requirements from PM to PO. Can be separate, but close 
  • gander2112 Don't get me wrong, I would love to get away from the Backlog, but it is hard to get the right balance. And right person too… I just fear that the temptation to take @saeedwkhan's input from daily to once per sprint would be too great.
  • saeedwkhan @gander2112 Hi, I didn't say once per sprint. Where did you see that? :-) 
  • gander2112 @saeedwkhan YOu didn't, but once a day, to, "I'm busy, bug me in three weeks" is a slippery slope, and one that is tempting 
  • johnpeltier @gander2112 @saeedwkhan Team / PO will move on if PM doesn't reply fast enough. 

Q1 Is it easier to involve customers during construction of custom software products than it is for B2B or Enterprise products?

  • gander2112 A1: Naturally. You are building it for one customer, so that makes it easier to involve them deeply 

  • johnpeltier @saeedwkhan Well, that *sounds* easy!

  • Ycnt_ibdonlyjen A1: am curious... how many people are building custom sftw for one client instead of mkt? 

  • johnpeltier @saeedwkhan @jbrett If PM is out visiting clients / being in the market, PM on multiple products, r they available enough? 
  • gander2112 FOr me balancing different customers in different segments for input is hard. 

  • johnpeltier Clarification: "available enough?" in prior Tweet = "available enough to the Product Owner"? 

  • liz_blink @gander2112 PO needs to be participate in the outbound mrkt research #prodmgmttalk agreed otherwise it just propagates inside out approach. 

  • liz_blink @johnpeltier @jbrett If PM is out visiting clients market, r they available enough?  #prodmgmttalk  good Q. What is enough? To get job done?

  • gander2112 @liz_blink I like to call that "Breathing our own exhaust" 

  • saeedwkhan @gander2112 If a PO goes the once per sprint route, they are not doing their job. Communication  shd be as needed.

  • liz_blink Or is the team lacking some proactiveness to call out to you? 

  • gander2112 @saeedwkhan Not the PO, but the PM becoming less accessible. I have plenty on my plate to keep me away from the daily PO mtg 

  • saeedwkhan @gander2112 In every PM job I've had, the MINIMUM comm interval was weekly. With email/phone etc, it is many times/wk. 

  • johnpeltier @saeedwkhan @gander2112 Can't imagine 1 per week being adequate in any context

  • liz_blink @saeedwkhan must be mine that need a lot of love! Or the combo of no PO that increases the need. 

Q2 Which role is most suited to getting customer input on a sprint-by-sprint basis: product owner, user experience, or product manager?

  • rcauvin Key related question here is the granularity of the backlog. Does it truly contain stories, or are tasks? 
  • johnpeltier A2: Strong UX team member can help bridge the gap, IMO. 
  • ProdMgmtTalk @rcauvin describing the "granularity" of the backlog as a distinction for how much communication is required
  • saeedwkhan @rcauvin Good point. Stories take time to implement. This is different than tasks. 
  • ErikaLAndersen Tasks = features? Stories = ??? Stories = how user interacts with products, reducing amount PM must do?  Still trying to figure this out. Stories come with personas. Developers understand stories, goals, make better decisions 
  • rcauvin User story stands for a relatively end-to-end user interaction that achieves a goal. Nice when dev team can run with these
  • johnpeltier Design personas help
  • ErikaLAndersen If developers understand stories, don't need as much input from PM (or is it PO?) 
  • jbrett @johnpeltier @gander2112 @saeedwkhan If the PM is also a customer seems like a pretty scary idea. (moving on without response) 
  • rcauvin @ErikaLAndersen If the backlog contains user stories instead of tasks, it is generally easier to manage. 
  • saeedwkhan @liz_blink One of my team is in India. They're not crying and they do great work. 
  • Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk I would think that the right role depends on the type of project and the level of uncertainty 
  • johnpeltier If the stories are well written and capture intent fully, PO job is easier  @jbrett  @ErikaLAndersen  
Q3 What are the benefits and risks of letting customers see unfinished work vs. using vaporware mock-up to gather current-state feedback?
  • Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk I am a big proponent of quickly creating prototypes. But prototypes can also be non functional screens
  • ProdMgmtTalk @johnpeltier A3: unfinish is front end prototype – mockup to me is clickable wireframes / Flash / static HTML 
  • Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk IDEO has a wonderful example of VOC where they gathered info on an airplane cockpit design using Post-It Notes 
  • ProdMgmtTalk Correction: "Unfinished work" is actual product in progress vs. vaporware has not been developed on back-end
  • rcauvin A3: I've found clickable wireframes can be very helpful, but they require careful expectation setting. 
  • ErikaLAndersen A3: If lots of work already completed, more psych/financially difficult to make changes based on cust feedback
  • saeedwkhan Vaporware is product that is claimed to exist that doesn't really exist. i.e. it's a false statement. 
  • johnpeltier @saeedwkhan Perhaps "vaporware" wasn't the right word for the question :) 
  • ProdMgmtTalk @rcauvin says to tie all major user stories into 1 end-end epic & demo epic which is incrementally fleshed  out
  • Brioneja @saeedwkhan I think there is another difference. Vaporware is not even an ongoing project.  
  • ErikaLAndersen Should we use "prototype" instead?  RT@saeedwkhan: Vaporware is product that is claimed to exist that doesnt really 
  • saeedwkhan @Brioneja True. It's a question of intent IMHO. If the intent is to deceive, it's definitely vaporware. 
  • johnpeltier @ErikaLAndersen @saeedwkhan Yes, that's a better word. People, focus! Get over that word! :)  
Q4 How can product managers balance ambiguity of frequent customer input with stable product vision and meeting tight deadlines?

  • saeedwkhan @liz_blink Mature teams know how to communicate effectively. Immature ones need constant feeding. :-)
  • liz_blink Agree.@Brioneja@ProdMgmtTalk I would think that the right role depends on the type of project and the level of uncertainty 
  • Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk One approach is to talk to the customer's customers and to other suppliers to the industry 
  • ErikaLAndersen A5: Are customers commenting/designing specific elements, or whether product meets goals/ needs?  Not new question; just a clarification 
  • johnpeltier @ErikaLAndersen They'd comment on both, I'm assuming, but what's important is whether root problems are being addressed 
  • johnpeltier @liz_blink @Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk "Level of uncertainty" is an important element. 
  • Brioneja @ProdMgmtTalk The more you move downstream on the value chain, the more "stable" the signal/ noise ratio
  • rcauvin A4: to address the challenges of ambiguous customer input, ask "why" & "what problem does it solve". 
  • Brioneja @johnpeltier @liz_blink @ProdMgmtTalk I am a proponent of classifying projects by level of uncertainty. Need dif mgmt approach 
  • saeedwkhan A4 That's why #prodmgmt is tough. Need 2 B a good info aggregator & make decisions based on clear goals for product/bizness 
  • rcauvin A4: Focus customer input on the problems they face; group problems & customers into segments.  Choose your problem and customer segments on which to focus.  Grouping ultimately coalesces around a chosen position
  • johnpeltier @rcauvin For rev1 of a product, aim at a small number of segments 
  • Brioneja @rcauvin The Kano model is a somewhat rigorous way to do that  http://bit.ly/qZDmtq 
  • saeedwkhan @rcauvin "Nail it, then Scale it" is my motto on this topic. start small & focused, get it right, then expand
  • ProdMgmtTalk @cindyfsolomon asked @rcauvin about what tool he used to identify grouping of data - he created visual diagram of grouping 
  • Artifacture Communication & facilitation are key. Try to steer strategic at begin of process edging toward details at end 
  • johnpeltier Root cause analysis is the answer to the old Bud Dry ad: "Why ask why?" 
  • johnpeltier RT @ProdMgmtTalk@rcauvin says always focus on 1 segment: intersection of people w/ problems youre addressing= main segment... 
Today's stats: 210 tweets generated 223,214 impressions, reaching audience of 22,677 followers 

Thank you John Peltier @johnpeltier for speaking and Roger Cauvin @rcauvin for co-hosting today! Everyone's participation appreciated! 

  • Join us next week: Sept 26: Everything you need to know about Web Privacy, but were afraid to ask w/ @ShaunDakin


Please retweet: 9/19 Recap: Managing the Backlog During Initial Development in B2B ISVs  w/@JohnPeltier http://bit.ly/ow3uYr #prodmgmttalk @prodmgmttalk

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Global Product Management TalkTM is a weekly mini-product camp Socratic discussion (on Twitter) of pre-posted questions (on Facebook) with live audio of thought leader and co-hosts commenting (on Blogtalkradio). 

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