Product Organization Assessment
Product Team Workshop
Advisory Services
Product Vision Jumpstart

Partner: Marty Cagan

Overview

SVPG believes it is the job of the product organization to ensure a consistent stream of innovative products and services that customers love, and that deliver on the business strategy.
 
Further, we believe that most companies have very outdated notions of product management and product marketing, and indeed relatively few companies in the technology industry have demonstrated the ability to do little more than simply continue to carry forward existing products and services making very minor improvements over time.
 
Moreover, we believe that Internet services are dramatically different than other types of products and services, and that the old techniques for “product management” and “product marketing” that derived from consumer packaged good companies, and that is taught in typical MBA programs, are inadequate for today’s Internet-based companies.
 
We argue that good training and development of your staff is essential, but we also argue that the right training is a function of the needs of your product organization, how the roles and responsibilities are defined, the capabilities of the people that staff these positions, your product development process (Agile/Scrum, Conventional/Waterfall, common variations), your company culture, the markets you compete in, and the specific types of products and services you are delivering.
 
Until we know the specific situation at your company, we don’t know the precise areas we may be able to help in (the Product Organization Assessment is designed to learn exactly that), but in many Internet software organizations, we hear the following types of concerns:

  • Frustration with the lack of innovation and significant progress in improving the company’s products and services
  • The perception that many of the software releases may be technically sound, but they don’t actually make a difference, and the feeling that entire releases are often wasted or at least fail to meet their objectives
  • Frustration around how long it takes to get software releases out
  • Frustration among customers that feel like problems have existed for far too long and the company is not able to respond
  • Frustration from the members of the product team where they are unclear as to who is responsible for what, how decisions get made, and how to work together

If you believe these types of issues exist at your company, then SVPG has an unmatched record of assisting technology companies in making significant improvements to their product organization.

The purpose of all of the services described below is to help to measurably raise the performance of your product organization.   We have three types of services: Assessment, Theory and Techniques, and Practice.  Each of these services is personally provided by SVPG Partner Marty Cagan.

Assessment

This typically begins with a product organization assessment where we spend 1-2 days with members from across the product organization.   See Product Organization Assessment below for details.

Theory and Techniques

Based on the assessment findings, we assemble a custom-tailored training workshop intended to provide the members of the organization with the skills and techniques necessary to perform the role successfully.  See “How To Create Products Customers Love: A Workshop For Product Teams” below for details.

Practice

To help with the change management and to ensure that the improvements are effective and lasting, we optionally check in either monthly or quarterly for the next several months, addressing issues that arise, coaching key players in the organization, and reviewing critical projects.  See Product Advisory Services below for details on these services.  If you have a major strategic initiative that you would like help in applying these practices, we offer a Product Strategy Jumpstart designed for this.

We measure success by making a lasting and positive impact on your organization.  Our SVPG Manifesto describes the nature of the relationship we strive towards creating with each clients we work with, and we take every sentence in the Manifesto very seriously.


Product Organization Assessment

We strongly recommend beginning with a Product Organization Assessment.  This is typically a one or two-day series of in-person interviews (depending on the size of your organization) with key people from your product organization, including but not limited to:

  • Executive(s) responsible for the product organization
  • Leaders of product management, including key product managers
  • Leaders of product marketing, including key product marketing managers
  • Leaders of user experience design, including key interaction designers
  • Leaders of software development/engineering, including key engineers/architects
  • Leader of the QA organization
  • Leader of the project management organization (PMO)
  • Any other people that you consider thought leaders or those with a perspective that you want us to hear

These interviews allow us to tailor the work we do to address the very specific needs of your company.

The output from this assessment is a written set of observations and recommendations.  These observations provide management with a benchmark of your current organization against industry best practices, and the recommendations highlight the critical areas that need to be addressed.

Note that while this assessment involves discussions with engineers and QA, this is not an assessment of the Technology organization.  It is simply that you learn a great deal about how the organization is working from discussions with those that work downstream of the product organization. 

For more information, contact the Silicon Valley Product Group.

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Product Team Workshop

Product Team Workshop - How To Create Products Customers Love

Workshop Objective

To share industry best practices in terms of roles, tools and techniques for those people responsible for defining the products that your company will create.

This is a 2-day, customized workshop for your product team designed around your particular products and services, culture, product development process, roles and responsibilities.  This is an intense, interactive workshop designed to provide immediately applicable skills and methods to your product managers and to those they must work closely with to define products.
 
The workshop is designed for product teams - product managers, user experience designers, architects/lead engineers, project managers, product marketing, and members of your management team.   Products today are not defined by product managers - they are the result of collaboration between product, design and engineering, and the objective of the workshop is to get the full product team working together effectively.
 
Workshop Structure

The workshop is designed around 100 essential lessons in creating successful products.  Each lesson is a discussion about an issue, tool or technique that is proven to make a difference.  Many of the lessons will surprise you.  All are full of relevant and timely examples to illustrate the points.  Exercises throughout let you try out the skills and techniques.   Your team will leave the workshop with proven techniques that they can immediately apply in their jobs.
 
Workshop Topics

With the caveat that the specific topics in every custom workshop are different (and are a result of the Product Organizational Assessment) what follows are the typical major topics:

Top Product Mistakes: And How To Avoid Them

There are some product mistakes that are so common that they account for many of the failed products out there.  During this section we discuss these mistakes, with relevant examples of each, and most importantly we discuss how to avoid making them in the future.

Product Organization Overview: Roles and Responsibilities

Everything starts with the people on the team, and the roles and responsibilities.  We clearly define the key roles and discuss who is responsible for what. We discuss all of the key roles of a modern Internet product team.

Product Planning: Deciding Which Opportunities to Pursue

One of the key responsibilities of the product organization is deciding which of the many possible opportunities to pursue. This includes tools and techniques for evaluating the opportunities, as well as learning how to properly use the tools of product strategy, product principles and product roadmaps.

Product Discovery:  Discovering Successful Products

The heart of the product manager’s job is to discover products that are valuable, usable and feasible, and most importantly, have real evidence that you have discovered such a product before engineering begins building.

Product Execution: Working with Product Development

Once product management and design have defined the product, you must work closely with the product development organization to build and test the product.  In this section we describe this relationship and how product management can support the product development process.

Product Launch: Working with Product Marketing

Once the product is build and tested, the product manager must work with product marketing to launch the product and ensure the product is being used effectively and meeting its objectives. In this section we describe this relationship and how product management can support product marketing and the launch process.

Summary: The Top 10 Key Practices

We conclude with a summary of our view of the ten most critical practices for this particular organization, and a discussion and plan for implementing change in the organization.

Common Questions:

What makes this workshop special?

What makes this workshop different is that it is lead by someone that has actually done the job and built the teams at some of the leading Internet companies in the world, including Netscape, AOL, and eBay. Compare the actual work experience of our partners with anyone else.  We are proven, professional product organization leaders with a passion for building great products and developing great product leaders; we are not hired trainers.  If you're trying to come up with a product that changes the world, you'll need to think differently. This workshop will show you how.

Who else has taken this workshop?

We urge you to take a look at our clients and read what they have to say about their experience with this workshop.   They are among the most successful technology product and Internet companies in the world, and they take product as seriously as we do.

Materials and Logistics

Every attendee receives a copy of the book “Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love” and a printed binder containing a copy of the custom-tailored presentation materials, actual samples of all of the deliverables discussed in the workshop, and several actual case studies.

Workshop delivery is provided at your site, or the location of you choice. We deliver our services world-wide, including Europe, Latin America and India.

For more information, contact the Silicon Valley Product Group.

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Advisory Services

Once you have had an organizational assessment and we have helped you with a plan for transforming your product organization, you have the option of utilizing our assistance in ensuring a successful change management process.  Having access to someone with experience with these challenges can provide the support necessary to your product management leaders so that they can succeed.

We typically meet with your team monthly or quarterly, for 1-2 days each time, reviewing progress, coaching individuals, and reviewing the actual deliverables the team creates to ensure the techniques are being using effectively.

We provide these services on a month to month basis.  As soon as you decide that you are over the hump you either reduce the frequency of these checkpoints or conclude the services.

Some companies decide to make this form of assistance an ongoing arrangement, and a Board of Advisors is an option for these companies.  See the article “The Board of Advisors” for a description of what this typically looks like and when it is useful.

For more information, contact the Silicon Valley Product Group.

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Product Vision Jumpstart

The product vision analyzes the market opportunity and the technology and describes a vision of what the product can be.  The product roadmap describes the sequence of product releases to make the product strategy a reality.  We can work with you to create these key deliverables.

If you have a new initiative that’s critically important and you want to make sure you’re using the best techniques possible, applying them effectively, and the work can proceed as fast as possible, the Product Strategy Jumpstart is designed for this. 

There are two main purposes to a Project Jumpstart: 1) to condense the time required to get from early concept to solid strategy with a good and actionable product plan; and 2) to get the full project team on the same page.  Depending on the team and how well they work together, team-building may be an explicit third objective.

This workshop involves taking the product team off-site for usually two days, to significantly accelerate the process of coming up with:

  • clear understanding of the business strategy
  • the specific measures of success
  • competitive landscape discussion
  • product strategy
  • product principles
  • product roadmap
  • the personas for your target customers/users
  • key prioritized product concepts
  • guidance for the design of the first product’s user experience
  • organizational implications

In addition to dramatically speeding the process of getting a product to this stage, the other main benefit is the team-building value of getting the product team together for these intense sessions.

Location

Usually this is conducted off-site both to ensure the intense, uninterrupted time required to make real progress, and also to facilitate the team building aspects

Attendees

It is critical to get all the key players of the product team together for this effort.  Attendees typically include:

  • Leadership Team
  • Product Manager(s)
  • Interaction Designer(s)
  • Lead Engineer/Architect(s)
  • Project Manager
  • Product Marketing

For more information, contact the Silicon Valley Product Group.

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