Product

Commentary and insight on product management as a profession.

The Art Of Technical Documentation

Product managers love their jobs. There's nothing like powering through a project with a team of brilliant minds to come out and know you've all made a difference.

Most time spent being a PM isn't that moment. Much of our time goes in to thinking through complex problems, but the vast majority of our efforts are spent turning ideas into things that work. It's not so much our ideas that consume our time, rather the ability to explain those ideas to entire teams of people in excruciating detail.

The best way to learn is to teach, and the finest way to define a full product is by dictating it to others. Explanation is an art form.

These are some of the most common ways of putting prattle into practice:

Functional Specifications

Functional Specification

Specs are the monoliths of documentation stemming back to the waterfall days. Functional specs routinely range from 100-300 pages

How To Interview Product Managers

From the perspective of a Product Manager, it's amazing how different PM interviews can be between organizations.

While there are a fair share of rigorous hiring processes, what catches my surprise is how many startups simply do too little to vet a PM. Those who are proud of their work would much prefer a way to display this than an easy offer.

Here's my 2 cents:

Let Them Speak

Most of the intangibles that come with being a PM are often revealed when a candidate speaks to their own accomplishments. When given the steering wheel, which aspects of their products do they speak to?

Having a PM describe their own successes will reveal what they perceive goes into making a successful product:

  • Speaking to the challenges that were presented and the features they proposed to fix them are indicative of strategic thinkers.

  • Detailing the struggles of a team or organization

The Community of Product Management

Lately I've found myself pursuing something I've previously steered clear of: becoming engaged in the Product Community. Unfortunately, I'm quickly remembering why I've avoided it.

As a unit, it seems like the audible voices of product management rarely have much to say. Reddits, groups, and chat channels seem to be dominated by professionals hung up on the elementary details of product management. It's unclear if these samples accurate representation of product managers as whole, but it seems as though PMs who have already mastered the fundamental skills behind product have few places to turn for improvement.

These are some of the qualms I find myself hung up on:

Overused or Misused Lingo

Scrum

It's easy to find images just like the one above; a quick google search for images representative of product management typically depict an individual dictating to a room, whether it be explaining simple topics to a massive lecture,

Agile Development Without The Bullshit

It is a thing of human nature to kill the meaning behind valuable phrases. While there may good intent behind phrases such as "SEO Optimization" and "Social Media Marketing," these terms become insignificant in substance. Boardroom buzzwords hold little merit to those in the trenches of building products from scratch, and "Agile Development" is no exception. The term 'agile' as it is currently used may as well be synonymous with 'development.'

The other day somebody asked me if I had any advice for an aspiring product manager. Without a moment of hesitation, I said the first thing to c ome to mind...

If a PM ever speaks to you in a way you don't understand, they're probably bullshitting you.

What I'd like to achieve is a separation of fluff from reality. It doesn't take much real-world experience to understand the extent to which

Tools for Project Management

JIRA

Software Project Management

Jira for software development

This should not come as a surprise, but JIRA is my go-to project management tool. JIRA has rightfully become undisputed front runner for software development, and can easily be adopted to manage the needs of designers, business, etc. With a little imagination, the functionality of the platform can be expanded almost infinitely to accommodate any team's needs within an organization.

A number of things separate JIRA far from its competition, the most obvious of which would be the concept of tracking time. When compared to other tools, JIRA's workflow has been tailored with the focus of getting work done against a timeline, which is obviously how all companies work.

Just as important is JIRA's level of customization in issue types, schemas, workflows, etc. Regardless of what your team's work philosophy may be, JIRA is designed with customization in mind.


Trello

High-level Project Management

Trello for general purpose tracking

While I prefer