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You’re in charge of the program!

14 Nov

ProductCamp is an unconference, which means the participants create the program. You all determine the content of the sessions, which is a great way to address topics that are relevant to you, and share knowledge with one another. We know that good sessions are the main reason people attend ProductCamp, so this year, we’d really like to help everyone get ready for the sessions.

First of all, what format should a session be? It’s up to you. If you want to prepare a formal presentation, that’s great. If you want to have a group discussion, that’s also a very good option. We will provide you with some tips on how to facilitate such a discussion.

Second, what topics can/will be covered? To allow some pre-event discussion about topics, we have set up a uservoice forum (follow the link). We noticed that attendees are often eager to learn about new topics, but are more shy about sharing their knowledge. So, we often get a lot of ideas for topics people would like to hear someone with experience speak about. This is not a problem. Seeing that a lot of people want to learn about a certain topic, it might motivate an attendee with some experience in that specific topic to host a session. Or, this could turn into a group discussion, which can also be very fruitful.

To give you some inspiration, here are some of the topics that were mentioned by the PMs that we spoke to during the interviews discussed earlier: marketing; API’s; pricesetting; customer development; scrum: maintaining backlogs, how to go from large epics, to smaller stories and to details; how to get the best work out of your team; the best way to collaborate with business development; and how to get sales on board.

We ‘re eager to find out what you would like to learn more about, so head over to our UserVoice forum now and start adding.

On the day itself, we will give everyone a moment to pitch their session ideas and then we will vote and plan the session schedule.

Challenges of the product manager

22 Oct

Last week we saw that the product manager acts like a spider in the web. Understandably his challenges are alike. Every product manager is balancing between the different worlds he acts in.

This second article will give you an idea of the challenges your fellow product managers are dealing with.

We got limited recourses, but *everything* we do is high-prio

“We have limited resources to balance a lot of different areas of responsibilities, all of which seem to be high priority.”

“Another way of saying: what should we build, what shouldn’t we build?”

“How can we be as comprehensive as possible, without increasing complexity.”

These are just three quotes from our interviews. The problem of course is choice, but where are these choices based on?

“Most of the strategy and vision of where we need and want to go is unclear. Like that it’s difficult to create a coherent, strong plan for the product.”

A lacking strategy limits this product manager to do his job properly. He strongly feels that to judge a certain feature to be more important than another, he needs to know why it is needed and how the user benefits from it.

But once you do know, you’ll be able to apply the 80-20 regel effectively, which helps to prioritize ideas before they become features.

“To do that, we stay close to the business development department: we learn from them what’s important in the long run, we give them insight in the complexity of solutions.”

Looking far ahead, acting today

So to make a sensible choice you’ll need a bigger idea of the company and the product. A strategy or a vision tells you something about where the product is going on the long run. Sure, this is nice, but what happens if not everyone is convinced for the need of a long term vision? Effects of a vision are only noticeable on the long term. Results are much easier to measure on the short term. So short term results are much easier to achieve. But to build a better product, you need these long term results.

A great tool to help the organization keeping track of the long term vision is the product roadmap.

“We make a long term planning and communicate it internally. This roadmap keeps every stakeholder on the same page.”

Looking forward for about half a year to a year gives everyone in the company an idea where the product is going. It gives people a guideline for discussion about feature- and sprint planning.

Considering the product as a whole, but acting on a small part

Larger companies have multiple teams working on the same product, launching new features every two weeks for instance. How does it all combine into one coherent product? In a way it is comparable to the previous challenge: having an idea where the product is going helps making decisions on smaller parts of a product. One company uses visual tools to communicatie its products values throughout the company trough design principles and design guidelines:

“We try to be as comprehensive as possible, so every team is able to see the requirements they must meet. Our guidelines are still work in progress, but they help us the make choices considering a small part, because we really understand the bigger story.”

Communication is key

To create a rock solid product everyone needs to be on the same page. A product manager is constantly questioning: why are we doing this? What do our users need from us to excel at their job? What’s the best way to help them? Most product managers deal with this by constantly creating understanding about the product with everyone inside the company. A products experience involves the dev teams, as well as executive managers and customer support.

“Dispite knowing you’re talking to ‘deaf ears’, keep evangelizing.”

“My colleagues know what our job is. We give presentations throughout the company, show them results of our work. Slowly but surely people are beginning to see what we do.”

… and then there’s the sales department

And to complicate it a little more, the sales department doesn’t always like where the product is going. Or probably isn’t going.

“Our Sales people want to deliver very fast, within 2-3 months to deliver all custom work. My job is to ‘teach’ the sales-department about saying ‘No’.”

Current users, future users and the product roadmap

Getting the people inside the company on the same page is one thing, involving people outside of the company, their users, is another. Yes, users can be a challenge from time to time. Not to solve this directly, but to involve users one product manager even gives insight into the product roadmap. Not exact dates, but themes they are working on.

“Sometimes there’s a big difference between existing users wishes, what the market wants and what we want to build ourselves.”

Long story short

“I deal with it one sprint at a time.”

Recognize any of these challenges? Or know how to deal with them? Join the discussion at ProductCamp Amsterdam on November 24th. Register now at http://productcampamsterdam.eventbrite.com.

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This was the second in a series of three. Previously we talked about our Interview with the productmanager. The next and last part: Reasons to come to ProductCamp Amsterdam 2013.

Interview with the Product Manager

14 Oct

So far, ProductCamp Amsterdam has been organized five times in a row, since it started in 2009. And although we ourselves enjoyed every minute of every edition, we didn’t really know how other visitors experienced and valued them and why they were joining.

We felt it would be a good idea to change that, drink our own champagne, and start working on ProductCamp customer development. And since it was such a learning experience, we would like to share the results with you in a small series of three articles.

Who did we talk to?

First off, we talked to 18 people at both large multinationals and small startups, all of which offer of course a digital software product of some kind. There were four consumer products (including a large fashion community), eight business products (e.g. wholesale and accounting), and six companies offer other kinds of platforms (e.g. technology for large travel sites).

Differences and similarities

The differences between these product managers are big. Some people are responsible for the product as a whole, others for a tiny but important part of the product. It changes the dynamic of their role as a product manager dramatically.

But the similarities are big as well. These product managers are capable of bridging the gap between business and development. What all of them seem to have in common is the responsibility for these products’ near and midterm future: every product manager is capable of translating business and strategic requirements into a working product that meets users’ needs, and managing the process from a first sketch on the back of a napkin to launching the actual product.

We were very curious to talk about their challenges, and how similar or different they are. We will discuss them next week. Stay tuned.

This was the first in a series of three. Next week: more about the challenges of the product manager and how to deal with them. Part three: Reasons to come to ProductCamp Amsterdam 2013.

Save the Date: November 24th

27 Aug

We’re very happy to announce that the organization of ProductCamp Amsterdam 2013 has begun!

Save The Date

We’ve decided to hold this fifth edition of the ProductCamp on Sunday November 24th, 2013! More information will become available in the coming weeks and we’ll keep you posted through the website, our newsletter and Twitter. For now, please mark the date in your agenda.

Looking for a location & sponsors

We’re currently looking for a location to hold the event, and for sponsors who would like to help us make it all possible.

Please contact us at productcampamsterdam@gmail.com if you have any tips. We’re open to any feedback and suggestions.

The Team

Six people have volunteered to help with the organisation this year:

  • Jasper Wognum
  • Kevin Vlaanderen
  • Ivar Pruijn
  • Iris van de Kieft
  • Thijs Weenk
  • Daniël Crompton

We hope to see you November 24th!