Most of my writing is aimed at the product organization, and in helping that organization evolve to where it needs to be to truly serve the needs of the company. I have also written about how the leaders of the company can help facilitate this. This article, however, is aimed at those leaders that are not actually helping, even though their intentions are typically good.
In the early 1980’s, I was a very young software developer working at HP Labs, and this was when personal computers had been out just a few years. The computers were getting faster and more powerful every few months, yet users really struggled to interact with them. The head of our research lab, Joel Birnbaum, posed the question: “Why do most people not like their computers?”
There’s a debate that’s been going on in the design and user research community because the legendary Don Norman wrote an essay in which he did an about-face and decided that doing user research to start a project was mostly a waste of time.
Article: Product Discovery for Non-Technology Products
I’m often asked whether or not the concepts that I advocate and write about are applicable to non-software products as well as the consumer and business internet services that I almost exclusively focus on. My answer has always been that I really didn’t know because in my career I have only built software technology products.
In my last article I talked about the importance of knocking down walls, especially the wall between product management and engineering. In this article, I want to describe a technique that helps achieve this, along with several other significant benefits.
One of the great things about startups is that they are so small that there’s almost no organizational structure to speak of. Basically everyone there is just trying to create something people want.
In my last article, I talked about the problem where your product organization has been relegated to the role of a service organization, largely documenting the decisions and desires of others. I must have struck a chord because I received a record number of comments, mostly from people that felt trapped in this very situation and were anxious to see if there’s hope for change.
Probably one of the most common complaints I get from CEO's of mid- to large-sized companies is the lack of innovation and thought leadership from their product organization. They see the money they spend on product managers, designers, engineers and QA, yet they often see only marginal improvements to the business. Yet in most of these organizations, when I look at their roadmaps (these organizations rarely have product strategies), they’re littered with literally hundreds of specific features and incremental enhancements.
I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a product person than right now. In fact, I’m fully expecting the decade about to begin to be far and away the most productive in terms of innovation.
More than 20 years ago Fred Brooks published a seminal essay on the nature of software, called “No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering”. If you’ve never read it I’d highly encourage it, as even though it’s ancient by the standards of our industry, it’s still amazingly relevant and gets to the heart of why creating great software is so hard.