0

It is all about the product roadmap

7968397210_064214638c

As organizations focus more on agile development there is an ongoing discussion of product roadmaps and their purpose. Some believe that truly agile teams developing software products don’t need roadmaps. Others have dozens of product roadmaps for the same products and on a weekly basis customize their roadmap for customers and prospects. Then of course there is the rest of the world where there are hardware and service products.

Needless to say product professionals are not happy with their roadmaps. This disappointment is for good reason since most of the time roadmaps are done poorly and done in a manner that does not have a clear purpose. They are less visionary and more instructional.

Product roadmap frustration is often attributed to the mixed purpose and expectations of roadmaps. Roadmaps are used to:

  • Drive more existing customer sales or new customer acquisition by sales;
  • Gain funding for teams and products by executives;
  • Drive cross-team communication tool by project managers;
  • Drive to calm customer frustration by customer service;
  • Gain startup funding by CEO’s and CFO’s;
  • Drive cohesive engineering by development managers.

These are all valid uses of a product roadmap. However, maintaining dozens of product roadmaps is challenging and time consuming and results in wasted effort.

There are many different theories on product roadmaps. My belief is that it is best to keep roadmaps simple and there should be: 1) a visionary roadmap that is used to tell the high level product vision and this can be used by executives, sales, and others; and 2) a detailed roadmap that is a communicative tool to provide precise detail on items being released, timing, and launch information and this can be used by sales, customer service reps, and others to help provide that detail. These roadmaps should be updated together and reviewed at least quarterly.

Some people believe in having external and internal versions of the roadmap. I am a believer in not doing this as it again complicates things. You should be of the belief that your product roadmap is something that will be seen by competitors and this should not scare you but instead scare your competitors.

Visionary Roadmap: The visionary product roadmap should provide the following insights:

  • High-level product vision and value: This is not a one-line mission statement but should concisely state the product status and vision. Think product elevator pitch here.
  • Key product differentiations: This should focus on the key places where your product is differentiated from competitors either positively or negatively. While you certainly do not show how you underperform your competitor but ideally you either take it and address as future enhancement.
  • Upcoming key product advancements: This item should focus on key product enhancements being implemented. The enhancements should flow together with the product vision and clearly align.

Detailed Roadmap: The detailed product roadmap should communicate the same information as the visionary roadmap above but also provide:

  • Product release detail: Provide detailed information of upcoming releases and how they provide value.
  • Product launch: Provide detail about upcoming product launches and information about customer rollout and support.
  • Technology detail: Provide detailed information related to technology and platform.

The creation of product roadmaps not only requires careful written language and accompanying graphics but also requires honesty and provides real expectations that you and your team should believe in delivering upon. My belief is that product roadmaps should be anywhere from 2 to 3 years in length generally. Although it is not uncommon in some industries where product investment is extremely capital intensive to require 5 year or longer roadmaps.

Take this advice to heart and update your product roadmaps today and consolidate as appropriate. Understand that a great product roadmap is like a fine painting that you get the benefit of updating. Most of all use your roadmap to be visionary and communicate between your internal stakeholders and external customers.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: New York Metro NY-NJ 1950 via photopin (license)

0

No better time than now

runner-579129_640

What would you do if you knew you only had one more year to live? What would you do if you won the lottery? Write down your answers to these questions.

Think about those answers and ask yourself is what you are doing today what you would be doing in light of those answers. If your answers leave you empty then what are you waiting for? Life is short and the right time to do that thing is now.

  • When should I write that book you always wanted? Now.
  • When should I go back to school and learn physics? Now.
  • When should I go out on my own and open my own business? Now.
  • When should I travel to Europe and visit the Eiffel tower? Now.

This does not mean that your book will be a breakaway success or that you need to quit your job and start that new matchmaking business. Rather it means you need to start doing something to change those answers so that you are happy with them. This often means hard work.

Ok, I know you are saying come back to reality because I have a family and commitments and it is nice to say but I simply cannot live my dream. Certainly we all have commitments but don’t let those commitments eliminate your chance to achieve your dream. Committing a fraction of each day to pursue your dream will ensure that you are the best spouse, parent, employee, etc. Here are some tips to start living your dream:

  1. What would you do? Do an assessment and ask yourself “if you won the lottery today or only had one year to live what would you do?” Most people will answer something that they are not doing today. Assuming you are like most people that are not living their dream fully — write down a list of things that you would do or change. Take that list and identify the top three things that you would do.
  2. What would it take? Identify what it would take to achieve those top three things. It might be you need more money because it’s expensive to travel the world. Or, you might need more time with your family because you are busy and travel a lot. Or, you might need to run more to finish your first marathon.
  3. What can you do now? Often times whatever you are looking to do will require time or money or something else. It is now time to identify what you can do now for you to start moving towards your dreams. For example, say you are looking to write the great American novel and you write but not consistently and just can’t find the time. Look at your day and find 30 minutes every day to pursue your dream. If you cannot find 30 minutes then it is likely not truly something worth sacrificing. In this case you might want to wake up 30 minutes early every day and write. You will get the benefit of a fresh and spirited mind and when people get up they have the most self-discipline so you are most likely to do it.

For me this has certainly meant a change of pace in the last few years. It is not because of some near-death situation but rather a concerted effort to be more strategic with my life and how I spend my most valuable assets…time and effort. With that being said I often times work too much and don’t do as much as possible to live my dreams. Everyday I wake up and have a chance to start living my dream and many days I do this by getting involved in my community, writing, learning, and spending time with friends and family. By doing this I know I lead a more fulfilling life now and setting myself up for more success in the future.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

Image: CC0 Public Domain via pixabay.com

0

Intellectual property primer

5977609373_ee7f95af5b

Intellectual property is something all information workers should have a basic understanding about. It does not matter if you work in software, food, medicine, financial services, or any other industry there are intellectual property implications if you are in marketing, R&D, and even sales. Understanding intellectual property will help you know when to get the advice from others and some key things to avoid or beware about.

Intellectual property goes back a long way and is even mentioned in the United States Constitution. There is also a long history of intellectual property protection in other areas of the world. Over the years the United States and much of the world have aligned their views on intellectual property protection and the process to obtain and the duration to maintain intellectual property rights.

There are four main types of intellectual property:

Patents: There are three types of patents. The primary type of patent and the one most people seek and obtain is a “utility” patent. When you think of any invention whether it is a new silicon wafer, drug, software program, or food then you want a utility patent. However, there are also “design” and “plant” patents and you can “Google” these patents to find more detail about the differences.

A patent gives you the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using or selling the patented invention. In return for these exclusive rights the inventor must disclose the invention so that a skilled person in the art of the invention is able to recreate the invention. The idea here being you will get this exclusive right and get rewarded but you will benefit society with not only creating a new invention but also disclosing that invention. The term of a utility patent is 20 years.

In order to patent something the invention must be novel, useful, and non-obvious. Being novel just means your invention is new. Being useful means there is some type of utility of the invention. Being novel and useful is a very low threshold to overcome. The key is whether an invention is non-obvious meaning that the invention must not be obvious to someone in the field of the invention at the time the invention occurred.

A patent can be received in one country or many countries but the key is that if you want to patent something that you don’t go about making it public or selling it first and then seek to patent it. If you are getting feedback on an invention then use confidentiality agreements with people providing feedback to protect the disclosure from not being considered public.

There is the option to file what is called a provisional patent and these are less expensive and act as a placeholder for the more expensive full utility patent. This gives a person one year to then file a full utility patent. If a fully utility patent is sought and granted then it will give the inventor or her assignee an exclusive 20-year term based on when filed.

Patents are not cheap both because of government fees and because of legal fees. However, if you or your company does have an invention that is really patentable and provides a significant differentiation then patent obtainment costs are certainly worth it.

Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are oftentimes an alternative to patents. Trade secrets are just what it sounds like – keeping an invention secret. This is proper if you think the invention cannot be reverse engineered easily or if you think the importance is first mover advantage and not worth the legal fees.

When you think of trade secrets think of the things like KFC’s 11 herbs and spices or Coke’s formula. Companies will not give any one person the trade secret information and will ensure proper non-disclosure agreements are in place to protect the trade secret.

Trademarks: Trademarks provide protection for brands, services, designs and products in order to ensure that people are not confused. This protection includes things like words and images like the Nike swoosh and the saying “Just do it.”

Trademarks can be continuously renewed and can last perpetually. They are there to represent the brand but also are there to protect the public from confusion. Idea being that someone buying a brand has a certain expectation of quality and product type.

Another important part of obtaining a trademark is the quality of the mark and a mark is analyzed to determine if it is arbitrary, fanciful, suggestive, merely descriptive, or generic. A generic mark is something that cannot be trademarked. The other types of marks can receive protection.

The level of protection a trademark gets is based on a number of things. There is federal registration similar to copyrights and it is important that companies do this to ensure they get appropriate protection. This includes the ability to claim statutory damages instead of proving damages. One important note is that trademarks must be protected by a trademark holder or deemed to have rights forfeited.

In addition to trademarks there are service marks but the laws and implication about these are nearly identical. The difference between trademarks and service marks is just that a trademark applies to delivery of goods application while a service mark applies to the delivery of services. Often times you will see the discussion of these just together referenced under trademarks.

Copyrights: Copyrights cover creative works like music, books, plays, movies, artwork, photos, software code, etc. Copyrights must have some degree of originality but this threshold is low. Further, copyrights exist immediately when the work is fixed to a tangible medium. Tangible mediums include things like paper, film, or hard drives.

Once the person fixes the work to a tangible medium the copyright exists but the rights of a copyright holder become greater if they file a federal copyright registration. This federal registration will give additional rights like receiving statutory damages instead of having to prove damages if you have copyright infringed.

A copyright lasts the life of the author plus 75 years. The idea being that the author should receive the benefit of his work his entire life and plus be able to pass down rights. There is a lot of controversy around this timeframe with some arguing that this is simply there to make companies like Disney and Marvel wealthy.

Copyrights give the author or his assignee the exclusive right to reproduce works, prepare derivative works, and the right to perform and display works in public. However, there is a key item called the “Fair Use Doctrine” however that provides an exception to copyright exclusive rights. The Fair Use Doctrine applies to limited use of copyrighted material in instances such as parody, news reporting, search engines, research, testing, criticism, etc.

As an information worker intellectual property can be an extremely important asset or foe so knowing the basics and when to get professional help is important. This should not be considered legal advice and simply for educational value and make sure to contact a licensed attorney if you need professional advice.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: Copyright, Patent, Trademark via photopin (license)

0

Make all meetings scrum meetings

1987009683_3a0b4e0367

It is amazing anything gets done in today’s workplace where people seem to spend most of their time in meetings, on conference calls, and responding to emails. Today I am going to cover meetings since this is one area that I think all of us can commiserate that we meet too much and get done too little. Instead I think we can take a lesson from the agile daily scrum meeting as the type of meeting to emulate.

For those of you not familiar with agile and the daily scrum meeting here is the 411. Agile meetings are stand-up meetings – yes literally people stand with the intent that the meeting should be short and people don’t have time to sit. Further, agile meetings are time boxed where the meeting lasts 15 min. and is geared at the key agile participants answering three key questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you doing today?
  3. Are there any obstacles you are facing?

All these questions are geared at focusing the team and ensuring maximum progress while supporting a strongly collaborative team.

This does not mean that every meeting has to be 15 minutes and there are three questions that everyone needs to answer. But, I do think when designing a meeting you should ask yourself the following:

  • What is the meeting purpose? You absolutely should never schedule a meeting without a clear meeting purpose. Avoid “touchbase” meetings as generally they have too many people and provide too little value.
  • Who are the necessary meeting participants? Only invite people that are necessary to the discussion. People like to be inclusive and this means meeting size becomes overwhelming and further too many people want to be part of too many “decisions”. Meetings should have 6 or less people to ensure maximum productivity. There are of course situations where larger groups of executives and other “marketing” meetings need to take place but don’t expect that those meetings will derive much value other than marketing.
  • How long should the meeting take? Avoid marathon meetings. Often times calendar default meetings are 1 hour but you can switch this. Try bringing that default meeting time to 30 min. or even 15 min. and it will force you to more consciously create longer meetings. I think most meetings should be 30 minutes or less. There are certainly situations where brainstorming or idea sessions take longer than 30 minutes but take at least one break every hour.
  • What is the meeting format and agenda? Meetings have many types of dynamics and formats. My preference is that a meeting be driven to be less professorial by the meeting host and more discussion driven to get input and results. The meeting organizer must be prepared though and have any data or information put together ahead of the meeting. Further, sharing this information and agenda of meeting ahead of time is optimal. The expectation that every invitee should come to the meeting prepared and if they had the agenda beforehand and supporting data, graphics, or information then the meeting itself will be much more beneficial for all.

These are some key tips to keep a meeting short and productive similar to the intent of an agile daily scrum meeting. While it is not easy to follow all the items above, it is certainly beneficial when you do and you will feel better after each meeting.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: Priorização de assuntos para o jogo Mob Mind Map. via photopin (license)