Book summary: “ Inspired: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love” — Part 3

Note: If you are truly looking for some valuable resources to learn and understand about product management, then I strongly recommend you to read this book twice. Buy link — here.

Part 3 : The Right Product

In this read, let’s talk more on “how to determine what the product team should be working on”

Product roadmap

Product roadmap is a prioritized list of features and projects that your teams have been asked to work for. Typically, the product roadmap should be aligned with the overall product vision.

Usually, Product roadmaps come from the management (Stakeholder driven) and sometimes from product managers. This usually doesn't include tech debts, bugs, and code optimization.

At times, product roadmaps come down from the management (Stakeholder driven) and sometimes from the product managers. They don’t usually include tech debts, bugs and they normally include new features, projects, initiatives, and product enhancement. And all these come with the tag of the due date to deliver.

Stakeholder driven roadmaps are quite common in the industry. Two reasons

  1. Wants to ensure that you’re working on the highest-value things first.
  2. They want to know when key capabilities will launch so they can coordinate marketing programs, sales force hiring, dependencies with partners, and so on.

These are reasonable desires. Yet, typical roadmaps are the root cause of most waste and failed efforts in product organizations.

Problems with the product roadmap:

Even with the best of intentions, product roadmaps typically lead to very poor business results because of two inconvenient truths about the product.

  1. At Least Half of our product ideas are not to work.
  • Some customers are not as excited as we are. Some do want to use it and find it complicated!

2. With the idea that does prove the market potential, it typically takes several iterations to deliver the necessary business value (Time to money)

  • When it’s just an idea, there’s no harm in that. But when you put the idea in the roadmap, no matter what people will start considering that as a commitment.

Alternatives to the roadmap:

  • For the strong product teams — the teams are themselves equipped to figure out the best ways to solve the particular business problems assigned to them. But for this to happen, it’s not enough to have strong people equipped with modern tools and techniques. The product teams need to have the necessary business context.
  • A clear understanding of where the company is heading and teams need to know how their particular team is supposed to contribute to the larger picture.
  • For technology companies, there are two main components that provide this business context:
  1. Product vision and strategy — This describes the big picture of what the organization is trying to accomplish and what are the strategies for achieving the goal.
  2. Business objective — This describes the specific, prioritized business objectives for each product team.

High integrity commitments:

  • “It’s always the struggle between the stakeholders and the executives who are trying to run the business and the product team that is understandably reluctant to commit dates and deliverables”

Product Vision:

  • Product vision is the future we are trying to create in the next two to five years
  • Its primary purpose is to communicate this vision and inspire the teams (and stakeholders, investors, partners — and, in many cases, prospective customers) to want to help make this vision a reality.

Product Strategy:

  • The product strategy is our sequence of products or releases we plan to deliver on the path to realizing the product vision.

The difference between vision and strategy is analogous to the difference between good leadership and management. Leadership inspires and sets the direction where management helps us to get there.

Most important, the product vision should be inspiring, and the product strategy should be focused on.

Prioritizing Markets:

  • In terms of prioritizing markets, all I said above was to prioritize your markets and focus on them one at a time.

-There are three critical inputs to your decision:

  1. Total addressable market (Market Sizing)
  2. Go to Market
  3. Time to market — Estimation on how long it will take to build.

Principles of product vision and Product strategy:

Product principles:

  • Where the product vision describes the future you want to create, and the product strategy describes your path to achieving that vision, the product principles speak to the nature of the products you want to create.

OKY Techniques:

  • The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) technique is a tool for management, focus, and alignment.

Here are the critical points for you to keep in mind when using the tool for product teams in product organizations.

  1. Objectives should be qualitative; key results need to be quantitative/measurable.
  2. Key results should be a measure of business results, not output or tasks.
  3. The rest of the company will use OKRs a bit differently, but for the product management, design, and technology organization, focus on the organization’s objectives and the objectives for each product team, which are designed to roll up and achieve the organization’s objectives.
  4. Find a good cadence for your organization.
  5. Keep the number of objectives and key results for the organization and for each team small (one to three objectives, with one to three key results each is typical).
  6. It’s critical that every product team track their active progress against their objectives (which is typically weekly).
  7. The objectives do not need to cover every little thing the team does, but they should cover what the team needs to accomplish.
  8. It’s important that one way or another, teams feel accountable for achieving their objectives. If they fail substantially, it’s worth having a post-mortem/retrospective with some of their peers or management.
  9. Agree as an organization on how you will be evaluating or scoring your key results. There are different approaches to this, and it’s in large part a reflection of your particular company culture. What’s important here is consistency across the organization, so that teams know when they can depend on one another. It’s common to define a score of 0 (on a scale from 0 to 1.0) if you essentially make no progress, 0.3 if you just did the bare minimum — what you know you can achieve, 0.7 if you’ve accomplished more than the minimum and have really done what you’d hoped you would achieve, and 1.0 if you’ve really surprised yourselves and others with a truly exceptional result, beyond what people were even hoping for.
  10. Establish very clear and consistent ways to indicate when a key result is, in reality, a high-integrity commitment (described earlier) rather than a normal objective.
  11. Be very transparent (across the product and technology organization) on what objectives each product team is working on and their current progress.
  12. Senior management (CEO and executive team) is responsible for the organization’s objectives and key results. The heads of product and technology are responsible for the product team objectives (and ensuring they deliver on the organization’s objectives). The individual product teams are responsible for proposing the key results for each objective they’ve been assigned. It is normal to have a give-and-take process each quarter as the OKRs are finalized for each team and for the organization.

Product evangelize:

  • Role of the Product Evangelist remains the same across the globe. I am not sure whether anyone does product evangelism alone. Product evangelism is an additional responsibility of the Product Manager. PM should evangelize the product both internally and externally. Product evangelism is all about communicating why the product does what it does and how does it add value to customers. Evangelism is more about communicating ‘WHY it does’ and less about ‘WHAT it does’ and ‘HOW it does’.
  • Evangelism is not actually sales, you will not persuade anyone to buy the product but you will make others realize the value of the product and believe in what the product does. Product evangelism is also about understanding customers’ environment and their problems or needs, so the product can be positioned exactly at the intersection of the problem and solution by clearly and unambiguously articulating how the product will help customers.

Disclaimer: At many places, I’ve used the exact phrases from the book to capture the 100% nuances of the information.

If you enjoyed 👌 this story, please click the 👏 button and share it to help others find it! Feel free to leave a comment below ✋.

In the next blog, — let’s talk in detail about the techniques, activities, and the best practices used to repeatedly discover and deliver successful products. Stay tuned ❗️⭐️




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Santhosh Kumar

Santhosh Kumar

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