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Monday, October 10, 2016

The "New PM" Test

As a product management consultant, I've spent a fair amount of time trying to get myself up to speed on what an organization's goals and plans are, not to mention understanding what their products do and how they build them. When teaching or consulting on product manager, I encourage individuals and organizations to document their offerings and intent in a way that a new person to the team could get a nice overview in half a day. It's what I call the "New PM Test". In my experience, a new person joining the team exposes all kinds of organizational "weaknesses" in terms of sufficiently documenting their offerings and practices. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Create a strategy document with a 10 page/slide summary that explains where you are, where you want to go and how you'll measure success. You should document insights about the markets you serve and alternatives available to your customers, especially competitors. It's also important to give some insight into financial measures.
  • You should have a functional description of your product, including whom it serves, what it does and what the key moving pieces are (marketecture). It should describe important stakeholders, including the people who buy and those who use it (who, in the B2B space, are often different). This document isn't a user manual; it doesn't have to describe every feature and function, just the most important ones. A few screenshots can really help the reader picture how your product works.
  • For complex products, you should have internal training available. Sometimes you can leverage training that's been developed for customers or sales people. New people in your organization should take the training as quickly as possible so they deepen their understanding of your products function, strengths and weaknesses. Too often we "hit the beach" at a new job and put of these seemingly time-consuming activities.
  • You should have a release plan document (word processing or presentation) that describes the planned scope, resources involved and the schedule. It should identify key roles and provide their contact information. I'm not talking about a huge Project file here; I'm recommending a document that in less than 15 pages provides someone like a new PM a solid overview of the current release.
  • You should create and maintain a SWOT analysis of your product. It helps keep you honest about areas for improvement and can remind you to invest in the opportunities you've identified. SWOTs for your strongest competitors can also be invaluable.
If you already have these artifacts and a functioning practice for keeping them current, congratulations! If not, get busy. A practice I've used successfully in the past is to put new people in charge of updating the material and finding gaps in "coverage" (information that would help them ascend the learning curve quickly and get productive).

Please visit my site for more information on my product management consulting and training offerings (including an online course with certification).

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