In my last article, I discussed how we manage public commitments in an Agile, Dual-Track environment. In that article I talked about those public commitments that are needed to run a business, such as when a customer can count on getting some capability, or when a development partner can plan on testing, or determine what will be available for the upcoming holiday season.
The past several articles have discussed the nature of Continuous Discovery and Dual-Track Agile. In this article I'd like to discuss another dimension of working effectively in an Agile environment, which is how we manage commitments.
In my last article I wrote about the trends of continuous discovery and continuous delivery. At the end of the article I pointed out that while I love these techniques because overall they are much better for our customers, and for our ability to rapidly improve our products, there were a few important consequences that had to be dealt with. In this article I want to take about the impact of continuous delivery on product marketing and our marketing, sales, and service organizations.
I have written recently about how product teams do product discovery in parallel with product delivery. I have also written about how teams sometimes like to time-box their product discovery work.
Recently I wrote about Apprentice Product Manager programs, where companies recruit and groom high-potential product managers. Quite a few people asked me about this program and the type of curriculum that I have provided for my own teams in the past. In this article, I thought I would talk about one of the most basic forms of training I have provided these people, "Product Manager Charm School."
When I first start working with an Agile product team, one of the most common situations I find is where the teams have long and frustrating Sprint planning meetings because backlog items are poorly defined and not well understood; they have slow velocity as well as poor design because details are still being worked out during the Sprint; and the amount of waste and rework is very high because backlog items have not been validated.
I find that most tech product companies out there are struggling to find enough very strong product managers. I have written many times in various ways about how critical it is to put very strong people in this role, and I meet execs every week that tell me that they need more. Great products are the result of a strong product team, and the anchor of that strong product team is a very strong product manager.
In my last article I talked about one technique for applying Scrum concepts to product discovery – the opportunity backlog. In this article, I wanted to talk about another, which is to time-box product discovery.
Recently I was with my friend Jeff Patton, one of the pioneers in applying Agile to product organizations, and he told that he has been advocating the term "Opportunity Backlog" as an alternative to the product roadmap.
Many companies I meet are confused about roles and responsibilities. They're not sure the difference between product managers and project managers, or between product managers and product marketing, or between product managers and interaction designers, as just a few common examples.