Comments on Product Management for the Web

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  1. Kristofer, great article, although I’m surprised you managed to avoid the word “Agile” in there anywhere. My team practices Scrum-based development, and having product owners that can write consistently solid user stories makes our lives much simpler. We can actually focus on building and maintaining great products without having to spend a ridiculous amount of time figuring out requirements. It’s especially nice when a product owner can stay a few steps ahead of the development team, because everyone wins.

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  2. Hi James, interesting observation! And to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember consciously deciding to avoid the term Agile. Our company’s mobile team also practices Agile, and I would agree that having a product management discipline is a strong philosophical compliment to Agile development. In hindsight, though, I also wasn’t necessarily trying to strongly advocate for Agile, Scrum, or other flavors of leaner development. But I’m still very much in favor of “small-a” agile and leaner processes to maintain a pace of smaller improvements more frequently, and agree that good product management should be ahead of, and light the way for, the team.

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  3. Hi Kristofer,

    Great article and I’ve been waiting for Product Management to show up on ALA. I think another article might expand on the business side of product management.

    While not mutually exclusive here is a vector/spectrum of skills that we often see in web development.**

    Creative (Visual Design) <=> User Experience <=> Product Management <=> Business Strategy

    While you covered the (User Experience <=> Product Management) segment, the (Product Management <=> Business Strategy) activities are foundational. Depending on the organization, the product manager’s responsibility is to ensure that the right experience ‘connects the dots’ with defined business goals. To meet those objectives she develops tactics and action plans (which end up in roadmaps and release plans) to acquire and convert users. Ultimately the happy and satisfied users get what they want and do what the business needs. It makes the world go round and keep the lights on.

    Great article and thanks for your time and efforts!

    **Please note that there are many vectors and this is just one example. Obviously development is missing.

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  4. Hi Rob, thanks for your comments and I’m glad you like the article!

    I agree that I tackle the vector that ties product management into design and development a bit more, primarily because of the ALA audience. Colloquially, in our company we call this ‘managing inward’, though I think it might be more accurate to say it’s ‘managing downward’. As in managing the product in a way that affects design and development internally and downstream.

    But I also agree that there is more that can be said about ‘managing outward’ or ‘upward’ (i.e. upstream of what we design and build). I touch on this when I describe people who do product management being in close contact with the leadership of an organization. And I think what you’re suggesting is that this isn’t just a one-way street; product management doesn’t stay in touch with leadership only in order to inform web products, but product management also circles back and has product design and development inform business strategy and leadership.

    In a nutshell, product management should be the lively vortex where business, design, and development are intimately intertwined and informing each other of goals and outcomes.

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  5. Great insights Kristofer, and very relevant.  I think good product management is the secret sauce to most successful products and sites these days.  I’d be curious to hear more thoughts on how this works in a consultancy model instead of as an internal model.  Working as a consultant I believe that our clients need the same role in their projects, but being on the outside of the organization impacts that to some degree.

    Oh also, I think you mean minimum (not minimal) viable product towards the end.  It’s the “minimum” necessary for launch, and NOT a minimal product - :)

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