XPM: eXtreme Product Management

This is something that has been festering in my head for about the last year: Agile Product Management. As I refine it more and more, and as I apply and learn, I have addapted it to eXtreme Product Management. Why eXtreme? Because I've learned that its in the spirit of eXtreme Programming (XP) that I am finding techniques that work. I interpret XP to be: if it's worth doing, it's work taking to the extreme (and if it's not worth doing, don't do at all).

So, I ended up with the very uncreative eXtreme Product Management. As I usually do before I blog, I Google to see what's out there I the topic I write, and turns out that someone has beaten me to the punch!. Good for them. But, I'm not going to read the article or any trackbacks yet. Instead, as I write this, I am going to execute the following process:

1. Get my thoughts down on XPM
2. Read articles on XPM
3. Augment my thinking with what I read
4. Update and finalize

So, let's get started!

Reagan's Postulates

So, what is XPM? Well, I don't have it all down, and, like XP or Agile, there is no clean, single definition, but rather a set of components:

Postulate 1: Customer pull

If customer-centric is good, take it to the extreme. There is a lot to this one, as it should be. Let customers define your opportunity spaces. Let them pull you to the market. Talk to them. Visit them. Don't survey them. Ask about their problems. Don't push solutions, probe for problems. Form a product advisory board. Expose your ideas to them early, before development, before definition, before.

On my current product I talked to customers before writing the Press Release and the FAQ (see postulate 3). Really changed the way we were thinking about the product and helped us solidify.

Every feature on my roadmaps have an entry for the customer(s) that requested the feature (either as a feature or a problem). All key features are specifically requested by a customer. Not that they come up with every idea, but they validate and set the priority.

Postulate 2: Delay decisions as long as possible

This, to me, is what defines agile. I'll even take it further than what you might think. Take this to the extreme, and it becomes push decisions onto your customers. Often I hear engineers ask "should we do x or y." My answer is usually "both!" Give the customer the choice.

Clearly, there are times that choices overwhelm, and choices need to be bundled into packages, or presented in wizard-like functionality, or defaulted. Nonetheless, a tenet of XPM is pushing decisions to customers.

Not everything is left up to the customer: pricing, go-to-market strategies, etc are all decisions that need to be made. Delay them to the last possible point in time.

Postulate 3: Begin with the end in mind.

A core tenet of The 7 Habits, taking this to the extreme would be writing your obit, or perhaps a history book. Maybe you want to go that far. At a minimum start with a Press Release, articles about the product release, and FAQs. I actually take it a step further and look at the career growth and write articles a year after the launch, how the product grew.

Postulate 4: Solicit ideas from everyone.

And I mean everyone. Your boss. Your peers. The CEO. Those at the "lowest levels." Customers. Non customers.

I've formed a nice little network in Seattle, and one thing I notice we do is talk about what we are doing, who we are targeting, what our business models are, etc. And what happens? Invariably, those discussions lead to fresh ideas and new contacts that can help.

Postulate 5: Let your development team define the product

As a product manager, you can define the constraints (a different perspective on requirements), but let the dev team define the product. Egads! you say. Hogwash. Developers that have the creativity and insight will emerge, and you will gain the benefit of a better product.. Plus, you still hold veto power :)

Postulate 6: Rethink Marketing

What does marketing mean in the extreme case?

1. Aligned with postulate 1, it means knowing the market intimately. The marketing function brings market requirements to the product management function.
2. Your product is your marketing. Period.

Postulate 7: Fail Faster

Get a product out the door, observe, react, innovate, release, observe, react, innovate. Fast! And then figure out ways to do it faster. While some learnings take a while to materialize, many things can be learned in the first 30 seconds a product is in someone's hands. "How do you...?", "What does this do...?", "Where is the...?" are all key insights to capture and ensure are in the product and intuitive to find.

Ok, that's all the insight I have. I'm off to check out what I found on Google earlier and see what the world says. Tomorrow I will update with what I find.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi James. your link to the Pragmatic Marketing XPM: Extreme Product Management was changed during the update to the Pragmatic Marketing web site. It is now at www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/4/4/0608bn. Thanks