Exercises for Product Managers – Definition (2 of 2)

On the previous post Definition 1of 2 we reviewed the first exercises to start defining our product.

On this post will review how to write features and user stories and how to align them on a roadmap.

The goals of the definition phase are listed below:

  1. Create wireframes for a given product or project.
  2. Storyboarding to start user testing our product ideas.
  3. Organise the content on our product, following information architecture heuristics.
  4. Translate user needs into product features and user stories.
  5. Prioritise features and create product roadmaps aligning the team and the company.

We adequately dealt with the first three goals in the Definition 1of 2 post, we will focus on the last two goals.

Exercise 1. Product feature breakdown

As an example check the features that make useful Googles Inbox email editor:

  • Feature: Recipient text input box – User need: send email to a known email address.
  • Subject text input box – User need: to add brief summary of the content.
  • Close button – User need: to close the email window.
  • Send button, delete button, text styling, and other features.

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 22.31.37.png

Agile Alliance defines the Minimum Marketable Feature as a small, self-contained feature that can be developed quickly and that delivers significant value to the user.

The following graph explains exactly what we want to achieve by breaking a complex peace of work into Minimum Marketable Features. The aim is to release to the customer the smallest amount of code to get feedback from real users as early as possible, it is known as Lean methodology.

Image result for minimum marketable feature
irfanebrahim.com

An effective way to describe a feature is by using the following factors:

  • Problem to solve
  • High level solution
  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) measurable outcomes when the feature gets launched

An example would be:

  • Problem (or need): email users need a way to format the content of their emails.
  • High level solution: a button should contain the most common functions used when editing text such us bold, italics, underline.
  • KPIs: the rate of number of emails styled to not styled on Inbox will be similar to the rate observed in Gmail i.e. 20%.

Exercise:

  1. Think on an app that would allow you to order alcohol to your door (wine, beer, liquor).
  2. Brainstorm how to breakdown into features.
  3. Explain briefly for each feature the Problem or need they are tackling, high level solution and measurable outcomes when released to the market.

Exercise 2. User stories

  • A way to capture User Needs.
  • Shared with the development team and stakeholders.
  • A way to broken up large features into smaller user stories.

The format of the user stories is:

  • As a {type of user},
  • I want to {goal},
  • so that I can {reason}.

On the email example a user story could be:

  • As a business user,
  • I want to enter the email quickly,
  • So I send it faster

Exercise:

  1. For one of the features from the previous exercise.
  2. Identify the user needs and write out user stories for them.

Exercise 3. Acceptance criteria

Acceptance criteria is what the product needs to do to mark this user story as complete.

The format of an acceptance criteria is:

  • Given {scenario}
  • When {action or change}
  • Then {effect}

The “Given” stands for that which is provided already, the “When” is the instance a use comes up and the “Then” is the result of engaging the product.

This format is called Business Driven Development, and normally the acceptance criteria are written in close collaboration between Product Manager and the Automation Test Engineer.

All written scenarios get embed in the code on a the feature file of test frameworks such as Cucumber:

example Feature File
Srccodes.com – Cucumber Quick Start Guide
This is the way high level features gets drilled down into actual code!

Exercise:

  1. For one of the user stories from the previous exercise.
  2. Write the necessary acceptance criteria that would make you confident the user story is ready to put on user hands.

Summary

On the Agile world work gets broken down into:

  • Epics: is a large piece of work or objective which is normally given by the business, i.e. home page redesign, checkout improvement, integration with payments partner,…
  • Features: is the smallest, self-contained functionality that can be developed quickly and that delivers significant value to the user.
  • User stories (Product Backlog Item on below illustration): is a way to explain effectively user needs within a feature.
  • Acceptance Criteria: are the check points that a user story must accomplish to be released.
dzone.com

Exercise 4. Product roadmap

A product Roadmap is a communication tool that helps in understanding some vital information during the whole lifecycle of a product and feature.

The goals of a product roadmap are:

  • Internal communication of what and when will be delivered
  • Team alignment
  • Resource planning
  • Highlight dependencies and risks
  • Stakeholder buy-in
  • Future vision

The following picture illustrates the way to plan a roadmap following Lean methodology:

blog.crisp.se

On every release there is user feedback and measurable outcome that can be used to learn and improve the following release.

Example of a roadmap for an eCommerce website planed following Lean methodology:

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 21.49.29.png
Example roadmap

Exercise:

Create a roadmap for an eCommerce company.

  1. Think of which main epics and features will be needed to build an blockchain wallet.
  2. Group the features in releases.
  3. Draft a roadmap which communicates the rough timelines and what will be the measurable outcome on each release.

Tools:

  • Aha.io worlds number one roadmap software
  • Powerpoint and Excel (templates here Daykem.org)

* Copy of the roadmap on the above image:

  • Landing page (using third party tool i.e. launchrock.com)
    • Goal: to get early leads and make sure there is enough interest.
    • KPI: 10% of visitors join the waiting list.
    • Effort: Small
    • Development Starts: September
    • Release: September
    • Status: Done
  • Basic Catalogue web page, submit order and pay by link through email using i.e. Paypal.
    • Goal: start offering services to our leads, converting them into actual customers.
    • KPI: 20% of our leads submit an order within the first 30 days.
    • Effort: medium
    • Development Starts: October
    • Release: November
    • Status: In progress
  •  Adding checkout functionality including card payments.
    • Goal: improve customer experience. Increase conversions.
    • KPI: 30% more conversions compare to pay by link.
    • Effort: Medium
    • Development starts: December
    • Release: January
    • Status: Not started
  • Fulfilment third party integration
    • Goal: Automate the shipping process saving costs
    • KPI: To be confirmed
    • Effort: To be confirmed
    • Development starts: To be confirmed
    • Release: To be confirmed
    • Status: Under consideration

Exercises for Product Managers – Definition (1 of 2)

After the research is completed, it is time to define the features that will be developed.

The goals of the definition phase are:

  1. Create wireframes for a given product or project.
  2. Storyboarding to start user testing our product ideas.
  3. Organise the content on our product, following information architecture heuristics.
  4. Translate user needs into product features and user stories.
  5. Prioritise features and create product roadmaps aligning the team and the company.

On this post, we will list the first three exercises that will help to define a feature or product effectively.

Exercise 1. Wireframing: Sketching

The goal of wireframing is (1) to communicate with stakeholders, (2) test your product with users, (3) team collaboration and iteration.

Sketches are great for brainstorming with customers and teams, as they enable rapid exploration, and are intentionally ambiguous.

Tips – Do focus on:

  • Content layout
  • Information hierarchy
  • Relationships
  • Interface functionality
  • User interaction

Tips – Do not focus on:

  • Branding
  • Colour schemes
  • Actual copy
  • Polish

Example of sketch:

idea013.png
75 UX patterns on goodui.org

Exercise:

  1. Individually sketch the wireframes for a mobile app, i.e. dog-walking app with pen and paper.
  2. Share it with a colleague and get quick feedback.
  3. Create quick sketches in the group.

Tools:

Resources:

Exercise 2. Wireframing: Storyboard

A storyboard is a series of sketches or wireframes outlining the sequence of events that a customer will experience while using your product during a specific activity.

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 16.25.01.png

What you can communicate is (1) Layout “what it looks like when I…” (2) Flow “what comes next when I…” (3) Behaviour “what happens when…”.

Exercise:

Turn the wireframes from exercise 1 into a storyboard for an app:

  1. Think about the user flow for the app i.e. a dog walking app.
  2. Arrange the wireframes into a storyboard.
  3. Add new wireframes to fill in the gaps of the flow.

Resources:

Exercise 3. Information architecture: Ontology maps

IA is the art and science of organising and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability.

An ontology map is a way to visualise the IA of a system/product. Ontology maps help to:

  • Find meaning
  • Establish structured knowledge
  • Map understanding
  • Surface relationships
Image result for ontology map
Ontology map example.

Exercise:

Create an ontology map for the Olympics.

Exercise 4. Information architecture: 10 heuristics

The Understanding Group developed a checklist to critique the content of any product or website based on 10 usability and IA principles:

IA heuristics checklist by the understandinggroup.com

Exercise:

Perform a card sort activity for a supermarket.

  1. Write your content list on index cards
  2. Organise the cards into groups and name the groups

Evaluate the sorting against the 10 heuristic checklists.

6 Product Management Lessons learned deprecating legacy UIs

It is a frequent story: some startup grows very fast and keeps adding features to satisfy commercial requests on top of technology stack that was not planned to scale. The product was just an MVP to proof product market fit. The MVP has to grow and nobody finds the right time to start to build it properly from scratch. How it is possible to transition from an MVP to a MSP, Minimum Scalable Product.

Last October I shared with the rest of the Product Management team of Ve the 6 lessons I learned deprecating legacy UIs and replacing them with a UX driven and scalable CMS web application. Here are the slides of the presentation:

 

Bootstrapping your Product Management Career

We all know that the best way to learn Product Management is hands on experience. But it is also truth that is possible to avoid the same mistakes others made, especially when they’ve written books or recorded podcasts to tell you how to avoid them. These are the courses, books, blogs, videos and podcasts that helped me bring my Product Management career to the next level:

A) Part-time courses. The following courses are the ones that made the most impact on my PM performance:

  • Product Management, General Assembly gives a good overview of the typical product manager’s tasks throughout the product lifecycle. It includes a lot of practical exercises and there’s a final course project. If you I was located in USA, I would have probably attended Productschool.com which is the first school I am aware of focused on Product Management trainning.
  • User Experience Design, General Assembly helped me understand how important UX is and what it’s made of. Also made me able to handle the information architecture and wireframing of complex web platforms.
  • Backend Engineering, The Iron Yard.  The course to take if you want to understand the MVC framework, to practice with Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration and Git. Recently a good colleague, JS developer, recommended the book Javascript and jQuery which I found easy to follow and in turn recommend it to you, if you don´t have the chance to do that part time course.

I really enjoy attending these 10 week part time courses. Although they are quite pricy, it is a really good way to spend time with likeminded peers in your city and learn the best practices from top professionals.

B) Product related books.If you’re not up for taking a course right now, or you are and want to make the best of it, go with any or all of the books below.

C) Entrepreneurship related books. Product Managers must be very self-driven and goal oriented, which means they are mostly entrepreneurs at heart. The following books inspired me as an entrepreneur and helped me take charge and better handle the daily challenges in my PM role:

Next books to read: How Google Works and more on this other Amazon list.

D) Online courses. The following courses reinforced and built on the knowledge gained on the part time courses I listed above.

E) Other Videos and audios:

F) Blogs and forums to keep an eye on:

G) Networking with peers:

When there is no official Product Management degree, nor a clear career path for someone interested in becoming on, you have to take the initiative and learn by yourself. I hope the above resources give you good ideas to keep learning.

 

 

Time Design for Product Managers

I work as Product Manager in a large company. It is usual to get trapped in the business of being busy without knowing where the time goes and wasting most of it.

In order to not fall in the busy-ness trap I followed the 4 quadrant strategy explained on this article: This Googler Explains How To Design Your Time Rather Than Manage

Here is the summary on how to build your quadrant:

You can label your quadrants however you like, but remember: you only get four of them. To figure out what they are, start by making a list of your normal tasks and responsibilities. Take a look at your calendar and review the meetings you attended in the last couple of weeks. Review your recent to-do lists and big projects from the past three months.

I have divided my time as Product Manager at Ve Interactive in the following 4 categories:

  1. Product Design (User research, technical research, stakeholder interview, wireframing, writing documentation,…).
  2. Product Management (Dev team communication, user communication, business communication,…).
  3. People Development (Mentoring other Product Managers, coaching Development team, advising business on product strategy,…).
  4. Transactional Tasks (answering emails, setting up new tool,…)

They are ordered by priority. Being the two that I more enjoy Product Design and People Management.

On my to-do list I group the tasks on those 4 categories. And try to focus on one type of task depending on time of the day, amount of time without interruptions, availability of relevant colleagues,…

I hope this example can help other Product Managers to design their time.

 

Exercises for Product Managers – Research

The research is the first phase in the lifecycle of a new feature or product.

After the research it is time for definition, implementation, launch and evaluation.

The goals of the research phase are:

  1. Discover the customer/user problems
  2. Understanding users needs, behaviors and current ways of working

Next, I will list five research exercises that will help to plan a better feature or product:

Exercise 1. Customer development plan

Find answers to the questions on the following table:

Customer_Development_Plan.png

What are customer segments? An example will illustrate well what customer segments are. On an app like Facebook, users could be segmented into groups like consumers, group administrators, page administrators, advertisers and app developers. It can be divided into more granularity, such as female user and male users, users over 18 and over 30, etc.

Exercise 2. Interview script

Write an interview script for each of the customer segments identified in exercise 1 using the following example and guidance: Running Lean, interview script guide

interview script.jpg
Image from the book: Running Lean 

Exercise 3. Interview

Interview 7 to 10 customers/users using the script in exercise 2 with at least 3 users per segment. Customers/users can’t be anyone you know, and they must fit into a customer segment. Record these interactions however you can: video, audio or notes (in that order).

Exercise 4. Convert the interviews into useful documentation

Map out the current user flow to solve the problem; use a flow diagram with images of the app screens if needed.

sample user flow diagram.png
User flow diagram example
user-flow-screens.png
Flow Diagram with images

Write the findings and recommendations on a matrix. Add another two columns to the severity and effort estimations.

user research findings matrix.png

 

Extra exercise. Competitor’s analysis matrix

List the features your customers perceive as the most important on the left column.
Outline the competitors and your product in the top row.
Identify the key points of differentiations and gaps in the market.
Compare your businesses against these key points.

Screenshot 2016-07-25 22.05.04.png
Example Dropbox competitors matrix back in 2007

Tools used

Lucidchart.com and draw.io are tools that can be used to draw the flow diagrams.

What next

After the research is done, the next phase includes presenting the findings to the business and development team in order to come up with a plan. That will be part of the following phase: Definition.

The Lean Startup Conference 2015 – Highlights

 leans-startup-image1
Aditya Agarwal, Dropbox VP of Engineering, remembered how important it is to hire unicorn employees at the very beginning, so that they can wear multiple hats and fulfill many roles. However as the organization grows it is essential to hire competent managers and build a management team to coordinate effort.
lean-startup-image2
Ryan Hoover, is the founder of Product Hunt, a company that curates a daily feed of the best new apps and games. He recommends that you share mockups of new features or products with your community. He also explained how he built the community through an email list before creating a product around it.

This encourages community engagement, gets potential users involved with design, and increases the profile of your projects before they are even released.

Bennett Blank, innovation leader at Intuit, talked about the difference between the Leader and Scientific types of employees an organization requires. Balancing this ratio is important to all businesses in order to make things happen.

lean-startup-image4
General Electric and other large corporations are applying nowadays Lean Startup, reducing shipping time from 12 to 6 months.
Dan Olsen, author of The Lean Product Playbook, comments on the importance of early testing to prioritize Minimum Viable Product (MVP) features using data driven decisions. Some of Dan’s most relevant slides follow:
lean-startup-image7

Chris Luomanen talked about prototyping not only products but experiences using creative workarounds to test ideas.

Chris Dixon, partner at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, said: “focus on Founder/Market-fit first and later on Product/Market-fit”. He also advises raising the right amount of financing for your investment stage.

lean startup image1

Gagan Biyani, founder of Spring says: “Do not validate your ideas, focus on the problem and come up with a technical solution”.

Amy Jo Kim, on Game thinking: “think about what kind of game your users are on. To cross the chasm between innovators and adopters you need to find early adopters.”

lean startup image1

Alexander Osterwalder, co-founder at Strategyzer, talked about Lean Startup Culture. Alex presented a new tool called Culture Map, a canvas to improve management and organisation culture.

lean startup image1

The focus of Alexandre’s talk on culture was to increase the proportion of engaged to not-engaged employees. This is the typical ratio in an average company:

lean startup image1

Alexander recommended an employee survey tool Tinypulse, which can be used to determine the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees.

Lauren Braun from Gravity Tank, explained her experience running micropilots for service startups.

lean startup image1

Gareth Dunham, founder of two startup accelerators, talked about leveraging the strength of Startups and Corporations. An example is Sphero the toy co-developed between a Startup and Disney which just raised $40M. Gareth stresses the importance of co-development between Startup and Corporations as opposed to consulting, getting both sides actively involved in product and market development.

lean startup image1

Wrap Up

My trip to San Francisco did not end on the Lean Startup conference. I will share soon other experiences, events, highlights, tips and tricks from my first 10 days in the Tech Capital of the world.

lean startup image1

This post is also published on the Ve Interactive Tech Blog

London needs software developers. How to find a tech job?

In the last years I helped spanish colleagues to get jobs in London.

I learned that the main challenge to get a job in London it is not the language. In england the two things that matter the most are (1)experience and (2)references. Unfortunately the long engineering degrees in Spain do not give you either of the two.

So, I recommend if you consider moving to London, (1)have a good proof of your work done and (2)explore your network to find relevant people already working in the city that could introduce you to employers.

This is the slide deck of a presentation I gave in the Polytechnic University of Valencia with detail information for software developers who want to find a tech job in London.

Moving to London 11 points checklist

How to prepare before you move to London and also what to do during the first days.

Before getting to London:

  • Booking your flight: look on Skyscanner or Kayak for the best offers. London has mainly 5 airports: City Airport, Heathrow (55 min tube 4GBP ticket), Gatwick(30 min train “Gatwick Express”, 20GBP), Luton(40 min train, 15 GBP), Stansted (1h 10min bus “National Express”, 10GBP).
  • Book accommodation for the first week: Book a hostel or a room on a private flat/house on AirBnB (use this Airbnb referral link to get 25GBP discount on your first booking www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jsenent1 ). Price 17 GBP/night shared room in a hostel, 25 GBP/night private room on AirBnB. Which area to stay? definitely zones 1 and 2. Best areas; look around Shoreditch if you are willing to work in the Tech City. Another recommended areas are the south of the river London Bridge, Angel, Southwark and Lambeth, it is close to the City and good value.
  • Get a Revolut Mastercard. Exchange Euros/Dollars to Pounds instantly at almost no fee. When using your regular bank card there is actually a hidden 3% exchange rate. Regarding cash best way to get a good rate is to place a “Fast Track Branch Collection service order from the website Thomas Exchange Global.
  • Get Data Roaming on your foreign phone, you will need internet on your first day to move around, check the next point. Download Citymapper, Uber and Airbnb.

First days in London:

  • Public Transport within London: get the Oyster card on any tube station (refundable 5GBP per card) top up weekly 30GBP/week approx.
  • Private transport: Use Minicabit to get from/to the airport and use Uber within London. Use this referral link to get free ridehttps://www.uber.com/invite/uber_london_flatmates
  • Phone number: get a pay as you go sim card on a Three store. About 13GBP for 1Gb data and 200 voice minutes. Look for Three and EE stores. Remember to bring an unlocked smartphone. Download then CityMapper to get around in London.

First week in London:

  • Look for permanent accommodation: best option is to share a flat, look in the following sites: spareroom.co.uk, gumtree.com, London Flatmatesfacebook group.
  • Apply for a National Insurance Number here (NIN). Most employers will require your NIN or at least the temporary one. It takes about 3 weeks to get an appointment from the day you call them.
  • Open a Bank Account: you will need first a proof of address, a postal card will be enough. Some Banks might be difficult if you do not have yet a job, we recommend Barclays, Santander, Nationwide, .
  • Networking, find interesting people on Meetup groups. If you like spanish food join Spanish Food and Drink London, if you like to wine tasting check Tastour meetup,…

Hope you find this checkpoints useful and help you to have a smooth transition to this capital.