Whenever I am asked, “What is your biggest take-away in your journey to becoming a product manager?”, I am now able to answer, “make sure you wrap your teams’ conversation around The Trio of Product Management”, or “产品管理的三驾马车” in Chinese. The Trio are, user value, business logic and engineering viability. This blog post outlined my journey and discovery on The Trio of Product Management, how use them to drive your product teams’ collaboration, and answer the many ‘why’ that follow.
Everything I did on product management started in 2009 when I worked on my 1st product, a receipt printer with a web API.
Initially, I tried to approach product management like software engineering. I tried to adopt the Agile Methodology in managing team work, which worked well only for our software team. We’ve been struggling to get sales via online marketing and only by chance we figured out a sizable deal with Danone Waters in (Guangzhou) China, our 1st big corp client. We were then able to iterate our product and scale our sales with this client alone. By then, I realized that there is a bigger cycle above the Agile workflows within the software team, user value identification, and how to drive the product to offer such identified user value.
It’s not easy for a small team (7 people) to run sales with big corporate clients. We spent almost a year from start to finish, and get paid, by delivering product and service to our 1st corporation client. Our financial was in a dire mode as a result because of the lengthy sales cycle with big corp. This prompted me to think, “Where did we go wrong?”
It’s the business logic part in iterating a product. In our case, it was the sales channels, our market funnel (which was too small), and the pricing. We didn’t have a sales VP. CEO and I were both engineering minded folks who believed that we were able to become good sales. But we were not. We were just trying our luck in whatever resources at our disposal at the time.
Since we started out as a team of software and hardware engineers on a for-developer product, evaluating engineering viability had never been an issue, until we realized that we could have spent way too much resources in perfecting product edges or features that didn’t matter the most. This alone could have contributed to delayed releases and pro-longed time-to-market cycles.
Fast forward to late 2012, we met Wilson Wang, who owns and runs ifanr.com, a tech media covering China’s consumer trends on tech products. He came up with a new idea, a vending machine that allows mobile phone (WeChat) users to instantly print a photo from their phone. Then we decided to join force to build a startup around this idea. By the time we started this product as our main business, I, as a product manager, was able to empathize with user value, business logic, and engineering, The Trio of Product Management. I called myself Jack-of-All-Trade in my teams, and was able to put together team reporting routine that help all functions to empathize each other’s work. I was able to offer founders/top leadership the whole picture of a product and the service delivery to clients, and how to manage the iterative design, development, and delivery of the product’s value to our customers and end-users.
It so happened that I came across Andrew Chen and his essays on product management and startup growth (hacking). I felt great resonance with Andrew’s insights on managing growth, product, and were able to look at entire product cycle from the highest level possible.
Let’s assume that your product company have 3 teams, sales or user growth, product and engineering (software development). To effectively drive your teams’ daily conversations, which in turn drives your teams to make great products, make sure your agenda in the all-hands meetings are structured around The Trio of Product Management.
In EACH and EVERY all-hands meeting, you shall encourage your 3 teams to share their perspectives, around The Trio,
User Value, Business imperative/logic and Engineering Viability.
Here is how the magic happens. Your sales or user growth managers are typically good at capturing the latest on user value that your next version could offer. Your CEO or product director/manager may be able to elaborate on all of the The Trio. Your engineering lead can elaborate on the engineering viability or tech solution on design or requirements in question. Make sure all of them are listening in over what others think or say, and drive all members to empathize one another.
As face-to-face meeting is increasingly expensive nowadays, if your agenda are not urgent or has lower priority, you could share it via Slack and wiki, so that all your teams can finish the empathy exercise over the design/topics. Most important of all, make sure all members leave their comments or thoughts on the same wiki page.
Overtime, or during the typical cycle of your product’s iteration period, say every 3 months, honoring The Trio while communicating product plans among your 3 teams is absolute key to drive your team to make your NEXT BIG THING happen.
To integrate The Trio into your teams’ day-to-day product work, it’s key to have a Playbook that guides them on the how-to. Since each team operates in different corporate context, here I only outline the general thoughts and steps.
SCRUM is probably the most practical Agile framework, and it’s the one I’m promoting among teams at ifanr.com. I took below steps to get them started with SCRUM,
- Identify key business domains towards which I can apply SCRUM and The Trio, for example, corporate clients project(s) that have been lasting at least for 1 year and repeating.
- Identify key members, PO (Product Owner), SM (Scrum Master, myself in ifanr.com’s case), and Dev Team (all members involved in actually building the products for customers).
- Get to know each and every key member and her expertise domain, personal traits, and current job roles.
- Identify the over-lapping areas for growth shared by both the company and a given member, to ensure enough personal buy-in over the SCRUM practices I’d like her to adopt.
- Get things rolling. Act, observe, adjust my action, observe…keep adjusting.
I started practicing Chinese Martial Arts (or Chinese Kong Fu) as a kid. One can never become a Kong Fu master without enough practicing. It’s not just the Muscle Memory, it’s about connecting your action, results and output, with your learning on all above.
Wish you a great time in learning and practicing The Trio of Product Management.
本文改写自 The Trio of Product Management。
我的产品管理职业生涯的一切都始于2009年。当时，我开始做我的第一个产品：一款带有开放接口/ API 的小票打印机的联网产品。
快进到2012年年底，我们遇到 Wilson，爱范儿的老板，一家报道中国消费科技产品和趋势的科技媒体。Wilson 提出了一个新的产品想法：一个可以让手机（微信）用户即时打印手机照片的自动售货机。于是我们决定组建一家初创公司来实现这个想法。此时，当我们这个产品作为主营业务的时候，作为产品经理我已意识到团队的沟通必须围绕用户价值、商业逻辑、工程可行性这「三驾马车」。在团队面前，我自称「万金油」工程师，能够结合团队情况梳理出合适的汇报套路，帮助所有职能团队同感彼此的工作和思维方式。同时，我也能够为创始人/公司高层总结产品迭代的整体进度、并推动工程团队持续发布和交付，最终持续交付用户价值。
也正是这个期间，我开始阅读 Andrew Chen 关于产品管理和「增长黑客」系列博文。我对Andrew在用户增长、产品迭代等方面的话题很有共鸣，并最终帮助我们构建产品管理和团队沟通的基本框架。
为了有效推动 3 个团队之间的日常沟通，推动团队做出优秀的产品，我们需要确保 3 个团队能围绕产品管理的「三驾马车」展开：
那是因为：你的销售或用户增长经理更擅长捕捉最新的用户价值，你的 CEO或产品总监/经理则必须充分把握关于某个新版本的「三驾马车」，你的软件工程负责人/ CTO 则擅长分析新版本的工程可行性和技术方案。大家各司其职、充分融合不同角色的专长，并加入当前资源限制条件等因素，确保团队的共识和决定是平衡的。围绕「三驾马车」，不同团队的负责人都能同感其它团队的上下文、现状和对未来的看法，并带动所有人主动同感彼此。
如今，组织面对面的全员会议越来越昂贵。如果你的产品新版/新计划的沟通不紧急或者优先级较低，你也可以通过 Slack 或 wiki 分享某个新版本的看法，这样，所有团队都能够围绕新版本和新设计彼此同感。最重要的是，确保所有成员在新设计的同一个wiki页面留下他们的评论或想法。
在产品迭代周期内，例如 3 个月一次，推动团队全员围绕「三驾马车」形成沟通习惯，将帮助我们更有效、更快地构建和发布产品。
由于每个团队都处于不同的企业背景，这里我只概述一下大致的思路和步骤。SCRUM 可能是最实用的敏捷框架，也是我在 ifanr.com 团队中推广的敏捷框架。我使用以下步骤让团队开始使用SCRUM，
- 确定我可以应用 SCRUM 和「三驾马车」思想的关键业务领域，例如，企业客户的项目，这些项目已经持续了至少一年，并且在重复进行；
- 确定关键成员，PO（产品所有者），SM（Scrum Master，在 ifanr.com 的案例中就是我自己），以及 Dev Team（所有参与为客户实际构建产品的成员）；了解每一个关键成员和她的专业领域、个人特质和当前的工作角色；
- 了解和识别公司和某位成员共同成长的重叠领域，以确保个人对我希望她采用的 SCRUM 实践有足够的认同；