15
Dec 15

Interview With Hubert Palan, CEO of ProductBoard, Part 2 – Podcast Season 2, Episode 2

This second part of our interview with Hubert Palan is the third episode of our new podcast season of All The Responsibility, None Of The Authority, crossposted from alltheresponsibility.com. I will be crossposting the new episodes from the new site to this feed as they are published (I’m a little behind now but will catch up!).

This is part two of our interview with Hubert Palan, found and CEO of ProductBoard, and long time product management leader and executive.

Part 1 of the interview is here.

Three things you can start doing today

As always, we like to give you actionable takeaways from our podcast episodes. The three ideas below come directly from our interview with Hubert.

  1. Create a central repository, not just about the features you’re building, but about the market inputs you gather to help you find and validate the business problems you are solving. You can use a tool like Hubert’s ProductBoard, or you can try to roll your own (Nils had a podcast about this last year). This information comes from Support, Design, Product, Sales, Marketing, and your own conversations with customers and prospects. A central store of this input, and the relationships between this information and the product decisions it supports, helps mitigate some of the cognitive biases Hubert mentioned. And by gathering all this information together, you are better able to detect market signals in all the noise, and make better holistic decisions about the product.
  2. As Hubert pointed out many times in the interview, Context is King. Make sure your team, and your whole organization, knows not just what features you’re delivering, but what problems those features solve, and for whom. This not only simplifies many of the issues of prioritization, it also serves as a basis for communicating across segments of your organization.
  3. Clarity and communication are the heart of the Product Leader’s role. The better we get at clearly communicating about prioritization, context, and decisions made in the product team across the organization, the better the organization can execute on creating and selling solutions to customers.

Thanks to Hubert!

Rob and I want to reiterate our thanks to Hubert for participating in our new podcast as our first interview! If you want to learn more about ProductBoard, you can visit productboard.com. You can follow Hubert on Twitter at @hpalan, and ProductBoard tweets at @productboard.

As always, we’d love to ask two small favors from you:

  • First, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can access the podcast directly on this feed.
  • Second, please rate the podcast on iTunes or “recommend” it on your podcast app.

Finally, we really appreciate getting your opinion, so we’d love to hear from you in the comments, or via Twitter (@atrnota) and our Medium publication, All The Responsibility.


15
Dec 15

Interview With Hubert Palan, CEO of ProductBoard – Podcast Season 2, Episode 2

Here is the second episode of our new podcast season of All The Responsibility, None Of The Authority, crossposted from alltheresponsibility.com. I will be crossposting the new episodes from the new site to this feed as they are published (I’m a little behind now but will catch up!).

Introducing Hubert Palan

Nils first met Hubert Palan in November 2014 at the Product Management Summit in San Francisco. Nils was presenting some ideas on a “roll your own product management system of record,” while Hubert was there to talk about the product he was building – a real product management system of record. This product, ProductBoard, is now available, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Hubert is a serial entrepreneur, with innovative and incisive ideas about how product management as a discipline can be improved.

In this wide-ranging interview, we discuss Hubert’s background, how he moved into product management, his career at Good Data, where he was the VP of Product, and his decision to leave Good and start ProductBoard.

This post is Part 1 of our interview, Part 2 is here.

Three things you can do today

As always, we like to give you actionable takeaways from our podcast episodes. The three ideas below come directly from the first part of our interview with Hubert.

  1. Get in the problem space, not the solution space. Immerse yourself and your team in the problem that needs to be solved. Then, don’t devote so much of your time to the design and the solution – that’s a job for designers and engineers. Your advice and review is valuable, but your focus should be articulating the problem, then giving the rest of your team space to solve it.
  2. Turn your company or tribal knowledge into a system. It’s valuable even before it’s perfect. Think about team knowledge, the captured information you have, as something that deserves a system of record. Hubert described how difficult it is to simply use your memory for this, especially when it’s more than just you on the team. Of course, you can take a look at Product Board, but as Hubert pointed out: the system matters less than simply getting something in place.
  3. Finding the problem is orders of magnitude more important than how efficiently you can create a solution. Although it’s hard and not very well-defined, the process and results of focusing on the problem first will save time and frustration for many cycles to come, and often result in better product performance. So spend time distilling the problem from every angle, and share that with the entire product team. It will act as a beacon of light to follow.

Thanks to Hubert!

Rob and I want to reiterate our thanks to Hubert for participating in our new podcast as our first interview! If you want to learn more about ProductBoard, you can visit productboard.com. You can follow Hubert on Twitter at @hpalan, and ProductBoard tweets at @productboard.

As always, we’d love to ask two small favors from you:

  • First, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find the podcast directly on this feed.
  • Second, please rate the podcast on iTunes or “recommend” it on your podcast app.

Finally, we really appreciate getting your opinion, so we’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or via Twitter (@atrnota) and our Medium publication, All The Responsibility.


17
Nov 14

All The Responsibility, None Of The Authority Podcast – A Roll-Your-Own Product Management System of Record

I’ve posted the latest episode from the All The Responsibility, None Of The Authority podcast on how to be an effective product manager. The topic for this episode is something I’ve written about a few times – the product management system of record.

We do a lot of stuff in the course of being product managers, but most of our output – customer interview notes, value propositions, sales support materials – has no defined place to live. This means it’s difficult to collaborate around the information, and it’s difficult to get evergreen value out of it. In this episode I outline a system of record for all this product management output that your product management organization can create out of existing tools, like a wiki. (At least until someone builds a commercial system for us.)

Episode Topics

  • Why we need a system of record
  • What to put in it
  • How doing a little extra manual work will pay off in making us much more effective
  • How to start creating a system of record for customer interactions using a wiki
  • Potential risks and disadvantages of my proposed wiki-based, “baling wire and chewing gum” system of record

Please let me know what you think in the comments on this post.

Show Notes

  • There are no special notes or links for this episode, but when I get videos and further instructions up, I’ll update this article to link to them.

The feed for the podcast is http://nilsdavis.com/feed/podcast. It should be available on iTunes in a few days, and I will update this article when that happens.

I hope you enjoy this episode! Please let me know what you think, and if you’d like me to cover any particular topics. Feedback is really motivating!


03
Nov 14

A New Product Management Lexicon Opens The Door To A Better System Of Record

Following up on my post yesterday about a new Product Management lexicon, where I said we should lose “requirement” and start saying “feature.” The next question is, what do we call what we used to call “requirements management?” “Feature management” sounds dumb. “Solution management” (referring to the fact that we’re creating solutions to customer problems) already means something else. This is an open question.

But maybe it’s for the best. Thinking about requirements has focused us too much on the solution piece anyway, ([tweetthis]Thinking about requirements focuses #prodmgmt far too much on solutions, rather than problems [/tweetthis]) and leaves out all the other important stuff we do, like:

  • Talking to customers, prospects, and competitors’ customers all the time
  • Discovering and validating market problems
  • Doing competitive analysis and win-loss reports
  • Creating go-to-market materials

If we just think of ourselves as “requirement pushers” we forget about those other things. More importantly, we let the tool vendors off the hook for our system of record. They just build requirements tools and forget about all the market information we gather, and the go-to-market materials we create. Those just get to live in Sharepoint (ughh!).


29
Sep 14

Is Your Lack of A System Of Record Leaving You In the Stone Age?

I have done a bit of guest posting lately, and this week’s entry is about a new essay on Mike Smart’s Product Management 2.0 site. As long-time readers know, I’m a proponent of getting product management into the “big leagues” with better tools, and particularly, with a good system of record for the full lifecycle of product management. “System of Record: Why You’re in the PM Stone Age Without One” puts a stake in the ground about what product management needs to insist on to become a modern business process.

Almost no company has a legitimate system for product ideas and input, or front-end customer interactions (i.e., interviews, ethnology, market discovery and research). Likewise, typically there is no system of record for product marketing (i.e., value proposition, benefit statement, go-to-market plan). Instead, all of these are stored in various spreadsheets and documents, but not tracked or managed.

The benefits of tracking all the information related to product management – from customer interviews, to market analysis, to competitive positioning, to roadmaps, to the value proposition, to the go-to-market plan – are immense. They range from the obvious, like transparency and collaboration, to the subtle, like the fact that product managers have more time and attention to spend innovating and learning about market problems to solve.

I’ll be following this essay up with a post on this site about how to build a real system of record, even if you don’t have all the tools you’d like.

In the meantime, take a look at System of Record: Why You’re in the PM Stone Age Without One.


26
Feb 14

How to Augment Your Cognitive Capacity and Intellect

Here’s another excerpt from my upcoming book on implementing a product management system. Please sign up for my mailing list to see and comment on early drafts and to keep up to date on the book’s status.

A good (product management) system can augment your capacity and your intellect.

Augmenting Yourself

Like all knowledge workers, our most precious resource is cognitive capacity, and we lose it constantly throughout the day. ([tweetthis]In #prodmgmt our most precious resource is cognitive capacity, and it’s draining constantly [/tweetthis]) If you’re like me, you end up handling 15-20 different activities and interruptions every day. Each of those requires a mental context switch, and context switches are expensive. Typically, you can’t avoid them, so anything that makes them easier will make your life easier. A good process, and the associated tooling, will do that.

There are three main ways process and tools help product managers out with the cognitive load problem (and help you seem smarter – thereby achieving a personal goal!):

  • Offloading memory
  • Enabling deeper analysis and investigation
  • Offloading process steps/status

Offloading memory

The less I have to remember – why a particular feature (“chunk of value”) is important, who suggested it to me, who made the most recent comment about it, even the reason we’re scheduling the next release – the more cognitive capacity I have left for doing the more interesting parts of the job, like creating more value, defining market positioning, or talking to customers.

As Amy Hoy (http://unicornfree.com) says:

  • Almost all productive people are far too busy to remember everything they do each day because they’re Getting Shit Done.
  • Almost all people are numb to their own pain.
  • Their most dangerous problems aren’t the minor irritations that sting, but the dark shadows that lurk below the surface, unsaid, unnoticed, unmanaged

Enabling deeper analysis and investigation – making you smarter

And it’s not just your memory that benefits, but your intellect as well. Even a simple and obviously valuable query like “what features were requested by both customer X and customer Y?” is typically beyond the capacity of a normal person’s – even a PM’s – memory.

But if that information is in the system, and it’s easy to retrieve, I don’t have to remember it. And, as a bonus I can use it for analysis and investigation that I couldn’t do if the information were all in my head. That means I’m smarter.

Offloading process steps/status

Tools also help you with processes, per se. For example, if you’re developing your product in a traditional manner, you spend months building it, and then a few weeks launching it. Every few months you have to remember how to do a launch, remember what went wrong (or well) in the last launch, and decide how you’re going to do it differently this time.

A system that not only keeps a list of the steps required for launch, along with who is responsible for each, and a history of what happened last time, means you don’t have to invent this every time, and you can learn from history. Again, you’ve offloaded the process into the tool, leaving more room in your brain for the good stuff.

(Stay tuned to the mailing list for more information on the book. As a mailing list subscriber you get to see early drafts and provide feedback to me, giving you a lot of influence over the direction I take and the topics I cover.)


10
Feb 14

Prevent Product Management Fraud!

I claimed last week that one way to modernize a business process is to establish a system of record. And so I was thinking about systems of record, and why they are important. One big reason is that they help prevent fraud. At least that’s true of the system of record for accounting. Does that hold up when we start thinking about the system of record for product management? I think it does.

What does “fraud” mean in the context of product planning and decision-making? I think it means making decisions that either go against the data and information you have, or that are guesses because you haven’t done your customer development and all the other product management good practices. If you’re just making guesses, then you’re committing fraud on the investors. ([tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#prodmgmt”]If you’re just making guesses, then you’re committing fraud on the investors.[/tweetthis])

Falling down building

Falling down building (CC 2.0 licensed, photo by Horia Varlan)

The problem with the product world is that even if you do everything right, there’s still a high chance of failure. But if you don’t do things right, you’re more likely to fail. It’s like when you’re building a building – if you ignore the laws of physics in your design, you might have a beautiful building, and you might even be able to build it (depending on how far off you are from the laws of physics) but eventually the building is going to fall down, catastrophically.

How does the system of record fit into this? In two ways:

  1. It captures the results of your good practices – conversations with customers and prospects, insights from the markets, etc.
  2. It allows you to use those explicitly to support your decision-making.

Coming back to the baseball metaphor I used when talking about “chunks of value,” the system of record is a bit like the box score for the product management game. You can always go back and see what actually happened, and make sure your decisions are aligned with what’s going on in reality.

 


05
Feb 14

Making Product Management a Modern Business Process

Central System of Record

Having a central record of truth – a system of record – has propelled the modernization of business processes over centuries, from the notion of “the ledger” in accounting, through ERP, to CRM, to the code repository for a software company. Product management is one of the last business organizations to work with ad hoc records – emails, Office documents, Post-it Notes, and wiki pages.

Not quite – this is a system of tape. We’re looking for a system of record. (CC 2.0 licensed by Dean Terry)

All the inputs to product management are ad hoc and random:

  • Emails
  • Documents
  • Tweets
  • Ideas from the idea management system
  • Phone calls
  • Defects from the defect tracking system
  • Enhancements from the defect tracking system
  • Support requests
  • Executive “suggestions”
  • And so on

These all need to brought into a single repository, and organized so they can be of use.

Simply making the step up to having a “source of truth” for all PM artifacts creates incredible advantages for product managers and their companies. And if the product management system of record actually understands product management processes, and how the different pieces of information interact, then so much the better.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming new book, a template that product management organizations can use to automate the PM process. Look for it soon from an e-book distributor near you. To be notified when it’s available, please sign up for my mailing list over in the right sidebar.