The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog


by Jim Holland

 

In the Agile world, the key to product success and a driving cadence is the product backlog.  If managed well, the backlog balances strategic initiatives and tactical features. What would happen if product management and product marketing professionals adopted and used backlogs?
 

Will a backlog drive strategic thinking and provide clarity?

It’s my hypothesis that product management and product marketing teams can be more effective, increase strategic actions and build cadence when they identify, prioritize and build a backlog focused on their roles.

From a Historical Perspective
Whether you work in an organization where Agile or Lean principles (SCRUM, Kanban, etc.) have been adopted, I’d bet most of your product management and product marketing thinking is still list or task-driven or formulated on-the-fly.

And forget about priorities. They change with the whim of the organization or the latest Flying Monkey.

Most product management practices, training and tools are focused on non-iterative actions. While their tenants and intentions are good, it’s been my experience that product management and product marketing mask their organizations engineering process and it cascades into their thoughts, actions and focus.

The Hypothesis
My hypothesis was to test this with a diverse group of product professionals (preferably ones I didn’t know) and together surface where we’re spending our time and build a backlog of new thinking.

I attended the DFW Product Camp and led a session of 26 people. The session was represented by the following categories:

  • Product Management (8)
  • Product Marketing (4)
  • Marketing (8)
  • Those leading Product Management and/or Product Marketing (3)
  • Other (Included a CEO and consultants) (3)

The Exercise
With limited time, we decided to choose Product Management to test the hypothesis. In a PowerPoint-free zone, (thanks Seth Godin) we began by identifying four themes that included:

  • Planning and Strategy
  • The Now Product
  • Communications
  • Tools and Process

In each of these areas, I asked the group to identify and write down topics where they spent most of their time and post them under the themes.

It’s no surprise that topics such as; Crisis Management, Tools Implementation, Sales Demos, Customer Issues and Product Features surfaced most often. The picture below represents the number of items that appeared.

I then asked the group to think about and prioritize the areas they would (and should) spend more time. From the image to above, it’s evident that more strategic areas focused on Strategy and Planning, as well as The Now Product were desired.

The highest number of votes included:

  • Strategy development and alignment
  • Market definition
  • Clarify strategic vision
  • The Compelling Why
  • Market Research
Creating a Balanced Backlog
In his article Product Backlog Rules of Thumb, Chris Sterling describes several rules for successful backlogs. For product professionals, I would recommend the following:
  • Keep your backlog simple
  • Define both strategic and tactical areas
  • Prioritize your backlog (The most important is where you start)
  • Select one to three items to focus and work on
  • Infuse these in your daily schedule (If you have to block time, do it)
  • Look to peers for knowledge and help
  • Infuse your strategic actions into your culture

The Results
While the hypothesis is yet to be validated in a live organization (I’d like to hear from the attendees in the future), it shared consistent ideas and challenges. Product Camps are a great place to gather input and test ideas like this. Have you committed to attend a PCamp in 2011?

As a product professional, would a prioritized backlog improve your thinking and execution?

I welcome any experiences as well as comments. If you’d like to post this on Twitter or LinkedIn, please share:

Tweet or Link this: The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK

 

 

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17 Responses to The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog

  1. The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog http://t.co/4kkTALQN

  2. jon gatrell says:

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  5. Lane Heckler says:

    http://bit.ly/ifGjS8 The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog — On Product …

  6. Lane Heckler says:

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  7. The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership http://t.co/Bdr1Yx6


  8. The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK @Jim_Holland


  9. The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK @Jim_Holland

  10. Noa Adamsky says:

    New post by @Jim_Holland on The value of managing a #prodmgmt & #prodmktg backlog http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK #leadership

  11. Barry Doctor says:

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  12. Aravind S says:

    New post by @Jim_Holland on The value of managing a backlog for #prodmgmt & #prodmktg ! http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK -interesting thought.


  13. New post by @Jim_Holland on The value of managing a #prodmgmt & #prodmktg backlog http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK #leadership

  14. Paul Philp says:

    Saeed,

    I did not quite understand your comment that PM ‘masks’ their organizations engineering organization. Can you say a bit more?

    Thanks,
    Paul

    • Jim Holland says:

      Paul, Perhaps mask wasn’t a good choice. I meant they copy or align themselves. More like adopt the attributes of the methods in place.

      Thanks for asking.

      Jim

  15. SQA World says:

    The Product Backlog, if managed well does the backlog balance strategic initiatives & features? #prodmgmt #agile http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK

  16. Live Aloha says:

    The Product Backlog, if managed well does the backlog balance strategic initiatives & features? #prodmgmt #agile http://wp.me/pXBON-2yK

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