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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
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This document is part of a series of posts which I started in December 2020 to remind myself of experiences and best practices as agile cloud software product owner and manager. I’ll be extending and updating it over time so I would be keen to get your feedback. What are the questions puzzling you?

  1. Why is balancing desirable, feasible and viable key?

  2. What is the difference between custom- and standard-software development?

  3. Why does simplicity take more time?

  4. Why are organizational debts even worse than requirements gaps or technical debts?

  5. What are the skills for an enterprise software product manager?

  6. How to find the right perspective and how to focus on the right requirements?

  7. How to define & manage a roadmap and convert it into a backlog?

It’s just software – everything is possible: Sure, but don’t think everything is viable at a reasonable cost.

  • Is it worth assigning teams for multiple releases to it?

  • Will it make your boat go faster?

  • What do you have to drop if you are doing it?

  • What do you lose if you are not doing it?

  • Do you have the capacity to keep it running? You build it, you run it!

Nothing comes without a price and for some reasons some people think this is not the case for software. You always find someone to confirm that a feature is desirable. For the decision to leave out a certain feature you will be pretty alone. If you don’t manage to distinguish the must-have from the nice to-have you will never reach your target and end-up in a niche with your software. This is the opposite of what your current and your future customers need. Often software development organizations invest a lot of time to find out if something is technically feasible and on the way lose the focus for desirability from customer and user perspective. At the same time just looking on what is desirable is also not meaningful because your resources are always limited. Viability in terms of development resources, timelines and basic quality standards is not rarely the end point of many good concepts. A good product manager or product owner doesn’t give up – put the idea into the virtual fridge and wait. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can be implemented when the time has come – nothing is more powerful than an idea for which the time has come.

The challenge for product management, product owners and development teams is to keep the balance between desirable, feasible and viable with the given organizational constraints, timelines and quality standards. There is no single person or leader which can alone assess all three dimensions at a time. You need a team to get all perspectives into a common picture. Try to teeter-totter with a team and try to achieve a balance then you know how hard it is to counterbalance desirability, feasibility and viability.

After you have found this delicate balance the next challenge is to execute within the given constraints of your organization, unpredictable changes and surprises regarding complexity. Changing timelines, compromising quality standards or reducing your scope are the three potential options you have to deal with the unforeseen.

But in reality there is only one option: REDUCE THE SCOPE!

  • If you extend the timeline of your current release you will have less time in your next release -> REDUCE THE SCOPE in the next release.

  • If you change the quality standards to get more time you will have to pay the price in your next release to fix the issues you did not find ->REDUCE THE SCOPE in the next release.

So the bottom line is: TIME & QUALITY ARE FIXED by reducing scope you can deal with the unforeseen. As good product manager you need to plan for a scope reduction right at the start. Prepare a target scope but also think about your minimal viable scope and discuss it with your product owners.

…to be continued

While you are are giving me feedback and propose topics, questions and links to be added here are a couple of links which inspired me. Looking forward to hearing from you either if you like my thoughts or not – as Lenny Leonard said “Everybody makes mistakes. That’s why they put erasers on pencils” ;o)

Message from Christian Klein

The life of a product manager in GIFs

Not having a plan is not agile

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.

We seek, not to know the answers…but to understand the questions