NOTE: My friend and colleague Jeff Patton is the author of an upcoming book on the general topic of User Stories and especially the technique of Story Mapping. I was asked to write a foreword for this new book, and this article is an excerpt from the foreword. I was also a reviewer of the book and it is definitely a must-read for any product person and fills a very big gap in the current library of Agile titles. If you’d like to pre-order the book you can do so from O’Reilly.
In my last article, I discussed the power of milestones and I promised I’d talk about one of my favorite techniques for rapidly delivering on milestones. First, as a reminder, by milestone I mean delivering on some significant achievement for your business. This might mean achieving a meaningful improvement to a key KPI, or meeting the needs of a new type of customer, or getting the results of an important A/B test. Remember that the point of a milestone is the business result, and not the date.
In this article I wanted to talk about a concept that seems to be increasingly missing in product teams.
In an earlier article (Flavors of Prototypes) I heard from many people about how it helped them to see prototypes in a new and more powerful light. Even though I had written previously about each separately, putting them together can help people get the big picture.
One of the most significant changes in how we do product today is our use of analytics. Any capable product leader today is expected to be comfortable with data, and understand how to leverage analytics to learn and improve quickly.
Prototypes of various forms have been around for as long as we’ve been doing software, since the famous Fred Brooks quote: “plan to throw one away, you will anyway.” However, many things have changed. Not the least of which is that the tools and techniques we have for developing prototypes and testing them have developed dramatically. Of all the different MVP techniques, prototypes are among my favorites.
In earlier articles I’ve discussed various aspects of Minimum Viable Product (which I like to refer to as MVP Tests to avoid any confusion with an actual product). In this article I’d like to say more about the critical concept of Product Market Fit.
Much has been written about waste at startups. I started writing about this as far back as 2005 (see Startup Product Management), and this concept is at the core of the Lean Startup movement.
Much has been written about how to do product discovery in startups, by me and many other people. There are many challenges for startups, most importantly, survival. But one of the real advantages from a product point of view is that there’s no legacy to drag along, there’s no revenue to preserve, and there’s no reputation to safeguard. This allows us to move very quickly and take significant risks without much downside.
When I start working with product teams, one of the first things I try to do is to get them to stop thinking of their job as one of gathering and documenting requirements. In fact, I try to get them to stop thinking in terms of requirements at all. Most requirements are not actually requirements, and the rest are better thought of as constraints.