Product Owning Wrap-Up: What I’ve learned so far

Product Owning Wrap-Up: What I’ve learned so far

This post is still under construction. It is still a MVP, so to say. Come back later for more 😉

#POwningJust 14 months ago I started working as a Product Owner for Ligatus, a leading tech company in programmatic native advertising. I came from a background of media production and design, economics and management and had nearly no IT knowledge. And I had just finished my MBA program so my professional fulltime experience had been zero. From zero to POwning I was catapulted into a vibrant company which is operating in nine different countries, consists actually of three different companies with very different cultures and has to endure in a highly volatile, innovative and challenging market. All these challenges lead to a very steep learning curve so that now, I’m at a point where it’s time to wrap it all up and figure out the next steps. Because one thing is for sure: I have found my dream job and I’ve only just begun living the dream.

This post should function as a short introduction to what I have learned to be of importance for product ownership in an agile work environment. You’ll find an overview of the process with it’s many artifacts – the product owner’s toolbox –, important people participating in it with short role descriptions and of course some product examples I was able to put my knowledge to practice with. In addition to that, I’ll give useful links to tools and sources of inspiration that help me in my day-to-day work.

1.) The Process

At my company we are allowed and encouraged to try out new things. Processes are adapted according to market and company needs. New companies joining the group bring new best practices, methodologies and learnings. So over the last months I myself learned a lot and could also put to practice what I read and studied about in the years before. Below you’ll find all the methods I work with arranged as a process that follows a tech product’s lifecycle. This visualization was done with the help of an iframe of a Trello board. Click on the cards to open them in a separate window and go the board itself. I have made it public so that anybody can copy, work with and adapt it.

The process follows two evaluation stages that concentrate on the questions:

1.) Does the product/feature fit to our strategy?
2.) Can we generate enough revenue with it to justify the development effort?

As a product owner my goal is to find the minimal marketable feature set of a product during these stages in order to start an iterative product development cycle as soon as possible. Because no matter what: Developing software products means working with high uncertainties – so estimations and predictions are very difficult. Better let the numbers, the value of a product, speak for themselves as quick as possible.

Once the decision has been made to develop a feature or product, the development process itself starts. This is were awesome developers kick in, build things and challenges, necessary changes or blockers can occur everyday. As a product owner my primary goal here is to give clarity over priorities and thus facilitate focus. And to maintain a shared understanding between every person involved – the team, techies and designers alike, the stakeholders, sales, customers, even end users. The question is:

3.) Is everybody still on the same page? Do we have to change requirements? Do we see blockers? Do we need help?

While the product is developed, the next stages need to be prepared: Go-to-Market and In-Life.

4.) Marketing a new product is key to it’s success.

My goal here is to enable Sales to do so. Help them prepare marketing material for every sales channel needed and train them in using and explaining the product itself are the actions that need to be taken here. What’s important while the product is live is obvious: Proof everybody that the estimations were correct. Measure performance and based on the numbers and feedback: iterate.

5.) Improve. Incrementally.

Do everything you can and support everybody involved doing the same. Until you have reached maximum user satisfaction and revenue.

Or freeze or even terminate bad ideas and products as soon as you can see: this was a mistake. These numbers will never hold up. It is not in line with our vision and strategy anymore. But do it with a plan.

6.) You need to be able to say Goodbye to a product and learn from the mistakes.

NOTE

I’ll add details for all these process steps to the Trello cards in the weeks to come. You’ll then find backlinks to other articles there and maybe even some resources to download and use. Stay tuned and be patient 😉

ALSO: it is very important to realize: all these tasks cannot be done by one person alone, especially if this person is responsible for a bunch of products and features, all following this process. Work is done in an interdisciplinary team and there is nearly no step in this process that needs to or should be taken alone. Collaboration is key to a product owner’s success. Which is why I want to give a brief overview of all the people involved next. Let them be your partners in crime!

2.) The People

Classic Scrum Roles

TitleDescription
Product Owner
Scrum Master
Developer
User Experience Designer

Differentiated Roles

TitleDescription
Product Manager
Technical Consultant
Architect
Backend Developer
Frontend Developer
Interaction Designer
Visual Designer

Other Roles

TitleDescription
Stakeholders
Sales
Account Manager
Partner Manager
Users

3.) The Products

Programmatic Advertising Platforms (DSP) & Online Marketing Features (Retargeting), Salesforce, Reporting Tools, Employee Management Tools

4.) The Plus

Software

Following is a list of awesome applications I came to love both at work and privately. One great example of how to use Trello you can see above, showing my example of a product development process. Others you’ll find directly on the software’s landing page with tutorials and much more. Go, try them out!

NameDescription
TrelloWeb-based project management application.
JIRAProprietary issue tracking product, developed by Atlassian. It provides bug tracking, issue tracking, and project management functions.
SlackCloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools including a company-based chat interface.
G-SuiteBrand of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products developed by Google – including Mail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides.

Sources of Inspiration

In an environment that is characterized by uncertainty and change, every great product owner needs to stay up to date and be constantly curious. Reflecting on and improving his or her own work and methods only works, if you have a broad portfolio of inspiration sources.

The following sources helped me write this article and deepen my knowledge. They also provided me with many of the above mentioned tools to tackle my day-to-day challenges with. In the course of the coming weeks I’ll summarize some articles or issues I read on my blog. For now, just go and check them out yourself:

SourceDescription
Product Management JournalJournal published by product management training course provider Product focus.
MindTheProductInternational product community with over 100,000 members and sold out events in 140 cities around the world.
produktbezogenGerman blog for Product Management and User Experience Design.
Product Manager by XING NewsNews aggregation section for product managers and project leads curated by XING, the leading German professional social network.

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