#5Things in Product Management for September 8, 2017

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been focusing on building the MVP for my social selling tool Sharey. Particularly, I am digging into the product vision, and my strategy to get there. This week’s #5Things post focuses on product vision, strategy, roadmaps and how important it is for each of these things to be in alignment.

Product Vision

A good product strategy comes from a strong product vision. As Marty Cagan puts it in Vision vs. Strategy

The product vision describes the future we are trying to create, typically somewhere between 2 and 5 years out.  For hardware or device-centric companies it’s usually 5-10 years out.  This is not in any sense a spec; it’s really a persuasive piece.  It might be in the form of a story board, or a narrative like a white paper, or a prototype (referred to as a “visiontype”).  It’s primary purpose is to communicate this vision and inspire the teams (and investors and partners) to want to help make this vision a reality.

If you’re tasked with creating the product vision, take a look at these ten questions you can ask yourself to help draft your vision statement.

Answering these questions will help organize your vision into documented thoughts:

  1. What problem does my organization seek to solve?
  2. Why do I believe this problem needs to be addressed?
  3. Does this problem matter to other people
  4. Do I honestly believe we have the answer to that problem? (elaborate)
  5. What changes do I believe my organization can affect?
  6. What are the greatest strengths of my organization?
  7. What is my dream for this organization?
  8. How would things be different if my dream came true?
  9. Does my dream connect on a personal level with others?

Product Strategy

Having a vision is great but you need to also develop a strategy to realize it. According to Mark Andreessen, as a startup, the only thing that matters is determining “product-market fit” I read this article years ago and it was really great to revisit it. If you’ve read it before, read it again. He states that the market is more important than the team or the product.

 [The] market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure.


In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup.

The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along.

The product doesn’t need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn’t care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product.

In short, customers are knocking down your door to get the product; the main goal is to actually answer the phone and respond to all the emails from people who want to buy.

And when you have a great market, the team is remarkably easy to upgrade on the fly.

I’ve used the Lean Canvas outlined in the book “Running Lean” to help me model my startup. It was originally based on the Business Model Canvas. I’m reading a beautifully illustrated book now called “Business Model Generation” that goes pretty deep into how to create these canvases using a ton of examples.


Only after you’ve developed your product vision and strategy can you begin to lay out your product roadmap. In this next post from User Voice, Cliff Gilley of The Clever PM cautions against building feature based roadmaps. Instead, he suggests that your roadmap gets fuzzier the further out you go.

I generally advise people to use some systemic approach like the following, stated clearly within the roadmap presentation or even directly on the roadmap slide/graphic/visualization itself:

  • 0-1 month = Work in Progress = We know this will be delivered, and can use data-driven projections to provide a high level of certainty on delivery times. Rough confidence level is 90%.

  • 2-3 months = Committed Work = We know what we currently view as the priorities on the backlog, and have broad estimates that allow us to predict likely delivery, subject to future discoveries. Rough confidence level is 75%

  • 3-6 months = Tactical Plan = We have a strong idea of the themes that we want to tackle in this time frame and are actively engaged in problem definition and solution proposals that will be estimated and backlogged. Rough confidence level is 50%.

  • 6-12 months = Strategic Plan = We have a set of thematic goals that we believe are likely to be important to delivering on the stated strategies of the company, but have not moved to problem definition or solution proposals. Rough confidence level is 25%.

  • 12+ months = Vision = We are setting thematic areas that we believe will be valuable to bring our vision of the future into being, but have not engaged in full customer discovery, problem definition, or solution proposals. Rough confidence level is 10%.

That’s this weeks #5Things in Product Management. Have a great weekend.

#5Things in #ProdMgmt for November 18th, 2016

Hi everyone, it’s time for another #5Things in product management. I’ve tweeted a lot of great product management articles this week. Here are some a few of the best ones that I’ve found.

Are you working in a feature factory? This post from @JohnCutlefish helps you sort it out. My favorite test?

Infrequent (acknowledged) failures and scrapped work. No removed features. Primary measure of success is delivered features, not delivered outcomes. Work is rarely discarded in light of data and learning. Often the team lacks the prerequisite safety to admit misfires

read more at hackernoon.com

If you think that the Agile framework will manage risks for you, you’re headed for a big wake up call…

Agile is Not a Risk Management Approach

Some people believe agile approaches with their short cycles and regular feedback have a risk management approach naturally built into the process. It is easy to see why, the building blocks and attachment points for plugging in an effective risk management process are certainly present, but unfortunately just building something iteratively or incrementally does not ensure risks are managed.

read more at leadinganswers.typepad.com

@TheCleverPM thinks that the hardest part of product management is dealing with humans…

A big part of our jobs as Product Managers is to lead through influence, and this means that we have to convince others of the direction that we want to take.  And this can be really hard.  Everyone in our organization has a different spin on the product, the strategy, the company, the culture — and often these only truly “mesh” at their core, with the radiating effects or impacts of these goals pushing us in a wide variety of directions.  Add to this the fact that different people learn, think, and decide through different paths makes it even harder.  We need to take time as Product Managers to understand how it is that the influencers in our company do these things, and when, where, and how we should approach them in order to move things forward.  Some people respond to data, others to emotional appeals, and still others strictly on financial motivations — we must know who is swayed by what appeals, and use those to our advantage on a daily basis.

read more at cleverpm.com

@CayenneApps offers seven reasons to use SWOT analysis when developing your strategy…

Did you know that SWOT analysis is more than fifty years old? New methods come and go, but hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world still trust SWOT. Why is it that the framework developed in the 60′ still stands bravely, invariably finding new supporters in such a volatile business world, where the landscape is constantly changing?

There are of course many reasons — some of them more abstract, and some more specific to certain types of ventures. Here you can find our Golden Seven — an opinionated list of the SWOT features, which make it so useful for every business.

read more at blog.cayenneapps.com

Something to think about…

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

– Peter Drucker

If you like these product management nuggets then please share it with your product management friends.

Have any suggestions for how I can improve this? Just send a tweet to @JoeCotellese and put #5Things in the message so I can find it.

#5Things in #Prodmgmt for November 4th, 2016

Happy Friday everyone. It’s nothing like November here in Bucks County PA, more like early spring. Here’s what I’ve been reading in product management this week.

I started my career play testing video games so this article really resonated with me…

Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Product Managers – Startup Grind – Medium

There is a canard rampant in Startup Land that you need to have a computer science or engineering degree to be a great startup product manager. As a computer science major whose first job in tech was as a product manager, and as someone who has worked with (as both an entrepreneur and venture capitalist) and taught (as a professor at Harvard Business School) hundreds of product managers, I can tell you that this line of thinking is simply bull. Let me explain by first focusing on what the product manager job requires.

read more at medium.com

Brainmate asks “If Mary Poppins was alive today, would she be a product manager?”

Product managers are expected to be like Mary Poppins – absolutely perfect in every way. We need to rely on our skills, experience and sheer doggedness to deliver products which delight our customers and stakeholders. The gradual expansion in the product manager role has meant that it’s moved from being a process-oriented role to much more strategy-led.

read more at brainmates.com.au

 Tesla is such a great case study on business strategy and product development. This article focuses how Tesla PMs should deal with customers trying to break their product.

The smart product managers at Tesla realize that making the jump from today’s people controlled cars to tomorrow’s computer controlled cars is going to be quite jarring for those of us who grew up taking driver’s ed. By releasing this feature now, even though it’s still in beta, they are starting to introduce their customer base to the idea that a car can someday drive itself. No, it can’t do it today, but with the technology that is available today, everyone can start to see what tomorrow is going to look like.

However, now that it’s out their customers are trying to break it. Not only did they do this, but they also fully used social media to show people how they were trying to break it?

read more at theaccidentalpm.com

Customer on boarding is a critical part of your application. Check out this deck with patterns to apply and anti-patterns to avoid when building your onboarding.

read more at shermanux.com

Something to think about…

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

– Bill Gates

That’s it for this weeks #5Things. Subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss an issue.


#5Things in #Prodmgmt for October 28, 2016

Happy Friday! Welcome to another installment of #5Things.

Dr. Jim asks “What can product managers learn about pricing from Disney?”

Can you tell me where “… the most magical place on earth…” is? If you said “Disney”, then good news – roughly a billion dollars of advertising over the years has done its job in creating a solid product development definition. Going to a Disney theme park is the dream of many families. They may save for a long time, pack the family up, travel to the park, and then hope that the weather behaves itself so that they can create lasting family memories. However, Disney is thinking about making changes to how much creating these lasting family memories will cost. Is this a good idea?

read more at theaccidentalpm.com

Zurb Chief instigator Bryan Zmijewski talks about how Steve Jobs harnessed the Rule of Thirds

Last week, I shared a story about an encounter I had with Steve Jobs and broke down some of the tactics of Steve the ‘showman’ used to dazzle us at each new Apple event. The ‘design leader’ is the Steve I’m most interested in, the man that could effectively drive innovation and move his organization forward. People often poke fun of what they saw as Steve ‘the dictator.’ This comic by Manu Cornet does a great job of representing the different styles of leadership practiced by the tech giants.

read more at zurb.com

Poorly designed input fields makes me cranky…

Many designers put the responsibility on the user to format their data input. This causes major user experience problems when users fill out formatted data fields.

When users type their input they will notice that it isn’t formatted. This will make them wonder whether they should type the symbols in or not. This uncertainty can make some users uncomfortable and lead them to abandon the form.

read more at uxmovement.com

If you’re a product owner, check out this mind map from Hans Brattberg…

read more at blog.crisp.se

Something to think about…

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.

– Steve Jobs

If you like these product management nuggets then please share it with your product management friends.
Have any suggestions for how I can improve this? Just send a tweet to @JoeCotellese and put #5Things in the message so I can find it.

#5Things in #Prodmgmt for October 14th 2016

Happy Friday! Welcome to another installment of #5Things.

How are you managing your technical debt?

Tech debt accrues in various ways, you build products fast and make short term decisions that hurt your product’s long term stability and maintainability. Sometimes a conscious decision to take on debt is made in order to hit an important deadline or reach a market position.

read more at nothingventured.rocks

Does your UX team know how to measure their success? Ty Magnin from AppCues breaks down the Google HEART framework.

The framework was devised from Google user experience research after internal teams realized that UX wasn’t being measured effectively. At the time, there were plenty of effective ways to measure user experience on a micro level—such as time-on-task and task completion rate—but UX designers weren’t being held to the macro business metrics that they directly influence. So Google came up with HEART as a new framework for measuring user experience.

In the HEART framework each letter stands for a different user experience metric:  Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success.

read more at appcues.com

Some thoughts from Jana Bastow of ProdPad on Roadmaps…

She focuses on a couple of key areas including – What is a roadmap? How do I build one? What will it look like and who should see it?

read more at joecotellese.com

James Archer wants to finally put the Hamburger menu to bed.

This is a hamburger menu: It’s called a “hamburger” because it it looks roughly like a bun-meat-bun sandwich. The hamburger menu was so rapidly adopted and remains so beloved by digital designers that it may be too late to change course anytime soon. Other designers often look at me like I’m crazy when I try to explain why the hamburger menu is often a bad idea.

read more at jamesarcher.me

Something to think about…

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.

– Jeff Bezos

Have a great weekend!

If you like these product management nuggets then please share it with your product management friends.

Have any suggestions for how I can improve this? Just send a tweet to @JoeCotellese and put #5Things in the message so I can find it.

#5Things for Friday October 7th


Hi everyone! Welcome to another installment of #FiveThings. Yes, it’s a few days early. I want to get into a rhythm of getting this out on a Friday.

UX and Product Management is a big fuzzy Venn diagram…

If you’re a UX person aspiring to get into Product Management take heart, it’s a viable career option.

Product manager’ is one of those roles that draws in people from numerous trades and industries. Regardless of qualifications and experience, excellent product managers share common traits like customer empathy, curiosity, great communication, good listening and a philosophy of continuous improvement.

read more at uxmastery.com

Behind every great product…

When I first decided to start The Silicon Valley Product Group, I had just left eBay and had some very strong opinions about what makes great product teams, and great product cultures, and while there were more than a few important thinkers and leaders on these topics, one area that I felt was under-represented was the role of product management.  So one of the very first things I did was to sit down and write an essay about what I believed about this role.  I titled the paper, “Behind Every Great Product” and it was inspired by the classic Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager by Ben Horowitz.  The paper proved popular and helped many teams to get a better understanding of just what product was all about.

read more at svpg.com

Learn from Instacart VP of Product Elliot Shmukler the benefits of A/B testing…

In this interview, Shmukler shows why he uses A/B testing as a management framework, illustrating how it works to not only accelerate decisions, but also empower the teams making them. He outlines the framework’s benefits and challenges, as well as how to implement and scale it a startup. Any product or growth leader will learn from his data-driven approach to product and team management.

read more at firstround.com

How Spotify approaches MVPs…

Many companies face the paradox of wanting to build a delightful product without knowing if people actually want the product until it’s released. Spotify’s vision was to give people the right music at the right time while incentivizing artists by paying them based on number of shares their music received. Yet Spotify defied the odds and grew from zero to over 1 million paying subscribers in the US — a market foreign to Spotify’s native Swedish team and one already teeming with competitors.

read more at speckyboy.com

Something to think about…

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.

Michael Porter

If you like these product management nuggets then please share it with your product management friends.

Have any suggestions for how I can improve this? Just send a tweet to @JoeCotellese and put #5Things in the message so I can find it.