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PRODUCT ROADMAPS: What Are They Good For?

Posted on 24 August 2015 at 8:36 by Sean Richards

Brisbane Product Talk Meetup

Summary of Product Roadmaps Discussion from Recent Product Talks Meetup in Brisbane.

This was our fourth Product Talks meetup in Brisbane, since it started late 2014. The topic this time was Product Roadmaps: what are they good for? Here is a summary of the evening’s discussion.

As host, I kicked things off with a little theory (to get it done and out of the way) as a basis for discussion. The definition of a product roadmap is:

‘Product roadmaps act as the bridge between the product vision and strategy and the actual tactical product development projects that are undertaken in the pursuit of attaining the product goals.’ ProdBok

Cutting through the detail; the key takeaways from the group of what a roadmap is, were:

  • An intent, not a promise
  • Carry much expectation — use wisely
  • A living document
  • Covers the short, medium and long term of a product vision
  • Roadmaps are commercially sensitive

When it came to what product roadmaps are good for, again there was some great discussion. Product roadmap adoption can vary greatly from organisation to organisation. It was clear there was also a bit of evolution at play. For some there was an internal roadmap, but not yet a version ready to be shared with customers or external stakeholders.

There were some first-timers in the group last week, including organisations like Foxtel, Halfbrick and ABC News. They added to the chorus of conversation around the use of roadmaps… or lack thereof, in operations today.

Here are some key points from the discussion on what roadmaps are good for:

  • Business alignment
  • Product portfolio prioritisation
  • Focus
  • Accountability
  • Communication
  • Instilling customer confidence

For me, I think it is imperative that your customer gets to see a roadmap. Of course this can vary from market to market. But, from my experience in a B2B enterprise software space, my success and that of my customer are intertwined. Our customers are people: they have objectives, goals and ambition. They need to know they have backed a winner — a provider that will help them be successful. An external roadmap, well considered and effectively communicated, can show a customer where the product is going. To confirm that our journeys are aligned.

A few other concepts were covered during the evening: BCG Matrix and Product Lifecycle.

product lifecycle

Basic Product Lifecycle

Ultimately, a documented, communicated roadmap is a line in the sand. It is an attempt to align stakeholders; get everyone on the same page; and an objective to strive for.

The product manager is responsible for a product roadmap. Their ability to perform will be judged by how well a product meets the needs of the target market. A roadmap is really the best tool a product manager has to align the business and validate an intention to deliver. But, that roadmap will only be effective if it is dynamic (but not fluid), aligned to the needs of the market and is delivered against, consistently.

Product Talks Brisbane brings together the growing community of Product Management professionals in Brisbane and those who want to learn more about this vital function. The Product Management domain touches many areas of an organisation and is misunderstood or poorly defined in many of them. You can learn more about the Product Talks Meetup here.

When I’m not launching products or mingling at Product Talks I am probably hosting a Ready, Set, Go to Market training course. You can learn more about this dedicated, face-to-face Product Marketing training course here.

Tagged in:brisbane, Product managment, Product Roadmaps

How to Create a KickAss Product Management CV?

Posted on 5 August 2015 at 5:46 by Will Reilly

At our last Product Talk, we were lucky enough to get not only a presentation, but also listen to Anthony’s first-hand advice on creating a new KickAss Product Management CV.

Anthony Sochan has spent approximately fifteen thousand hours recruiting. In those fifteen thousand hours, he’s looked at over fifty thousand CV’s. Since 2010 alone, a thousand of those CV’s belong to Product Managers. He has years of experience in Product Management teams, recruiting with and working with over thirty local businesses and international companies, and has a personal interest in start-ups. That said, Anthony’s knowledge is undoubtedly an awesome resource to use when building your next Product Management CV.

Here’s what he had to say…

• Before you begin building your CV, you must first question who your audience is. Try to understand who these potential audience members might be because once you’ve captured their attention, your CV gets noticed. Furthermore, your CV is not just going to be looked at by one single individual. It needs to have the flexibility that can capture multiple personalities.

For example, you go to Seek and find a job you like. Once you’ve applied for that job, your CV goes into a recruiting system list where it sits in purgatory and it feels like nothing happens for you. Nothing happens because your CV is among hundreds and possibly thousands of other documents just like it. Eventually, it will go through a typical order of people between the moment you’ve applied for the job and the moment you’re hopefully asked to interview. Because your CV will go through this stage, you need to build a single CV to effectively engage three different personas. In this scenario, these three personas are:

1. The Recruitment Consultant
2. Human Resources Manager
3. The Hiring Manager.

• A CV is about getting noticed, but a recruiter is likely to have hundreds of CV’s and maybe a few hours to go through them. This means that your CV will have less than 10 seconds to get noticed. The goal is to get someone engaged in your CV immediately! Think of it as marketing document and not a biography.

So how do you stand out among the rest? The answer is simple: get yourself noticed!

In order to get yourself noticed, be reflective of who you are and all that you have accomplished. The first page needs to state: exactly who you are, what you do, and how well you do it. Your audience should have a basic understanding of the investment you have in your work. Details can be added on the following pages- where attributes like your passion, discipline, ideas and tenacity can be exemplified by the impact and measures of successes. Although you want to keep your CV short and to the point, you can still engage your audience by balancing this approach with some flavour. If you’ve kept your audience engaged for longer than 10 seconds, they’ll be able to note how driven you are. If people can see drive, they are more likely to give chances.

• It seems like there’s an endless list of factors to consider when constructing your CV. Your language needs to be precise, you font needs to be attractive, your wording needs to be appropriate, and that’s just getting your checklist started. However- and perhaps more importantly- it’s crucial to instead remember that a CV must be easy to digest, easy to extract information from, include a list of achievements and be considerable in length. You can tweak, add and delete later.

• Remember: a CV will not get you the job, just the interview.

Do your research about the position and company you are applying for.

• Have the mindset of an interview process that allows your ability and capability to shine over your years of experience.

• The discipline of a Product Manager is always changing and evolving, so be able to illustrate your professional development through this.

Anthony Sochan’s rules regarding Product CV’s:

Rule #1: PM’s make shit happen, so demonstrate that in the CV.
Rule #2: PM’s often have lots of skills, so don’t be afraid to show them off.
Rule #3: Don’t be too serious, let a bit of personality shine!

Anthony Sochan’s Ten General Rules to Get Noticed

1. Less than 10 years of experience: 2-3 pages
2. More than 10 years of experience: 3-4 pages
3. Give yourself a title
4. All personal details (name, address, LlinkedIn, etc)
5. Page one summarises who you are
6. Pages two through four expands on your experience and credentials
7. Show how you develop your craft
8. Love what you do and do what you love – passion is everything!
9. Keep it simple
10. Focus on the great things you have done

Tagged in:Product Management CV

3 Cool Things I Learned From Doing Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification

Posted on 7 July 2015 at 10:45 by Sean Richards

Inbound Marketing and Product Marketing

Inbound Marketing?

This is a fairly marketing-centric post.  But, for those Product Mangers and Product Marketers that are looking at Marketing Automation and Inbound Marketing principles, or have already begun to use it then perhaps you will find it a quick and interesting read.

Marketing Automation?

Product Marketers need to continually think through how they will connect with their target market. Research suggests that 67% of the buyers journey is now done digitally (SiriusDecisions, July 2013).

The game today is to educate and enthuse buyers online.  That requires good quality content, available through the right channels, to reach the right people.  For that to work you need a slick marketing operation.  Marketing Automation is an emerging discipline that is giving marketing operations a chance to be nimble, broad-reaching, responsive and data-driven with their engagement efforts.

Anyway, I finally got around to doing my inbound marketing certification for 2015 through the Hubspot Academy. I completed the examinations for both the Inbound Certification and the Hubspot Certification for 2015.

There were three cools things I learned about in the training. Even though I kind-of knew about them, I didn’t really appreciate the power they offered:

  • Progressive Forms
  • Custom Contact Properties
  • Smart CTA

To read the full blog go here.

Make sure you stay up to date with the latest news about our Ready, Set, Go to Market Product Marketing training course.  It contains principles and tools that help Product Marketers use Inbound Marketing principles for great go to market plans.

Tagged in:Go To Market, marketing automation, Product marketing

Increasing Product Management Productivity

Posted on 26 June 2015 at 1:56 by Adrienne

As Product Managers we’re often pulled in so many different directions and it can be difficult to decipher the “Important” from the “Urgent”.

Which should we do first? Respond to the CEO’s office about a customer complaint or spend time figuring out if our Roadmap will deliver the intended value to our customers?

The Problem

Product Managers are:

  • Time poor
  • Under resourced
  • Provide lots of tactical support
  • Trying to convert Strategy into Execution

This problem isn’t new. Any search for ways of being more productive will result in hundreds of tips and life hacks about how to stop wasting time on distractions and how to get better at email.

I’ll skip the usual productivity tips, like switch off your email, be firm, say no, go for a walk, set goals, write a to-do list, and more. They all have their place but once you have cleared away the noise, Product Managers are faced with an even scarier problem.

What do you do now?

Converting Product Strategy to Product

“Developing a strategy and implementing it are often viewed as two distinct activities – first you come up with the perfect plan and then you worry about how to make it happen. This approach, common though it is, creates a disconnect between what the company is trying to accomplish and what employees do on a day-to-day basis.”
– Simple Rules, D.Sull and K. Eisenhardt

Product Management is a business function that links Organisational Strategy to Operational Execution. Unless some aspect of the day-to-day work done by a Product Manager is inching closer to meeting the strategic goals then the day has been wasted. This is the hard problem that most Product Managers face when it comes to productivity.

However, in day-to-day Product Management, there aren’t established processes and practices to guide us in our everyday efforts. When we don’t have a project to anchor our work efforts and activities to, the “Urgent” becomes the “Important” very easily, and when the “Important” becomes “Urgent” it is too late to be effective.

Productivity Through Cadence

So here’s my secret… In order to be productive on a day-to-day basis, we need a work cadence and a work flow.

Cadence is the rhythm of work and flow as the output of work. When operating with cadence, the question of “What do I do next?” is answered by the workflow process, a process that incrementally creates value towards a strategic goal.

This idea of Cadence can be observed in Agile development methods, where fixed time boxes (e.g. sprints) provide a team the timing structure to keep a product/project moving closer to completion, and constant planning cycles break larger tasks into smaller ones. Yet when the product is launched, this cadence comes to a crashing end as the product moves into day-to-day lifecycle management. We have to ruthlessly create the cadence and flow when we are managing and growing our products, not only when we’re designing and delivering new products.

Developing Product Management Cadence

You can create your own structure and schedule for working but we’ve developed a cycle of linked activities, where a little bit is done at a time and then actioned in the next activity. You need to dedicate time to these activities each day.

1. Learn

Spend this time to learn about your customers, your market, the products financial and lifecycle performance. Document what you learn and use it to help develop and refine longer term Planning.

Different ‘Learning’ activities can be performed at different times of the month depending on the depth of information required.

2. Plan

Review and synthesize our learnings, reflect and plan for the future of our product. This may take the form of a Product Vision and a Roadmap which is regularly reviewed, updated and communicated to stakeholders. The Plan will provide direction on what to do next and outline the activities required to stimulate Innovation.

3. Innovate

A static product in this market place is a dead product. Schedule time to bring your insights and plans to bear. For example you may want to create and validate a problem hypothesis or product canvas and begin conceiving innovative solutions for valuable customer problems.

These activities will represent the seeds of new product or marketing ideas. Once these ideas bear fruit and we have identified a feature or product worth pursuing, then the existing Product Delivery process can kick in ensuring that the project has a cadence of its own.

4. Lead

We need to actively lead our product to success either in big or small organisations. This may translate to scheduling regular meetups with internal and external stakeholders to share the product’s long term vision or provide an update on the growth metrics.

Getting Started

It’s usually difficult to change mindset and adopt a new practice. To get you started, consider spending a minimum of 2 hours per day on these activities or about 20% of your week and book them into your calendar at the same time each day.

Tagged in:product management, productivity

Buyer Persona – Don’t go to market without it

Posted on 28 May 2015 at 9:34 by Sean Richards

Buyer Persona

Addressing the top five questions about one of the most important go to market resources ever – Buyer Personas.

1. What is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are examples of real buyers who influence decisions about the products, services or solutions you take to market. At the same time they are a powerful tool that builds confidence to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor.

2. Where do Buyer Personas Come From?

Buyer personas are created by Product Marketers who perform primary, qualitative research – also known as talking to your customers. If you are responsible for go to market activities and do not talk to customers and prospects then shame on you. There is every chance your market messages and value propositions are internally driven, assumption-laden, feature-centric bin-liner. Just sayin’.

A buyer persona is the manifestation of good quality market research. It is evidence that you KNOW who you are selling to, what they need, what engages them, how they buy, what their priorities are and who they trust. Product Marketers are typically responsible for creating and maintaining buyer personas.

3. Why Do I Need a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are an essential ingredient for a great go to market plan. When buyer personas are combined with value propositions and buyers journey, your go to market plan has every chance of success — because it is well grounded in the needs of the buyer.

You need to know your buyer before you can connect with them. Every piece of marketing material created to attract, qualify and convert prospects into customers needs to connect with what the buy needs, when they need it. Knowing the buyer is the first step on that buyer journey.

4. Is a Buyer Persona the Same as a User Persona?

Not necessarily. A user persona, typically owned by Product Managers is a representation of those that USE a product or service. A buyer persona is a representation of those that BUY a product or service. Sometimes a user may be the same as a buyer. But, that should be proved/disproved through research. The use of these personas is different. Read more about user personas here.

5. Where to From Here?

To learn how to make buyer personas, along with other essential ingredients for a fantastic go to market plan then I invite you to join the other beautiful people attending the Brainmates Ready, Set, Go to Market product marketing training course in Australia.

“Buyer personas are freakin’ awesome!” An enlightened professional who recently completed the Ready, Set, Go to Market training course.

I may be biased about the course, because I run it. Hope to see you there for the next scheduled session.

When not creating new buyer persona friends, Sean is espousing the virtues of great go to market practice through the Brainmates Ready, Set Go to Market product marketing training course in Australia and launching compelling solutions to tackle the worlds biggest environmental challenges at Mandalay and naus.

This post was originally published on Medium.

Tagged in:buyer persona, buyers journey, Go To Market, product management, Product Marketer, Product marketing