Innovation by Immersion [Series 3/5]

 Experience is the Message

People have experiences about product, products don’t have experiences.  – Marcelo Marer, Chief Creative Director, Intel Media

What sells well in the U.S. many not be a benefit to anyone elsewhere. If you sell globally, it’s critical to design products for the new markets you plan to enter. Doing so requires research and an honest/thorough analysis of the information you have collected.

User Stories and User Personas

In the previous blog, the product teams hypothesized their customers and prospects need to collaborate – on demand, from anywhere – with their partners and other growers, in order to be more productive and to reduce risk. Continue reading “Innovation by Immersion [Series 3/5]”

From Iron to Cloud – Customer Driven Innovation [Series 2/5]

Customer Driven Innovation: A Global Perspective

Changing iron by using the cloud

Growers (Matt rarely called his customers “farmers”) are a uniquely tenacious and optimistic group. They have to be risk takers too, so many out-of-their-control environmental factors impact outcomes.  You might never guess that this group is well set to innovate/change how they farm.

The head of  Product Management explained that today’s growers, in order to feed the many billion of us, must find ways to limit their risk and increase their yield. They’ve already teased out most of their farming costs from fuel (which impacts feed, fertilizer and other necessary items on the farm). More was needed to be done – there are hungry people to feed.

Continue reading “From Iron to Cloud – Customer Driven Innovation [Series 2/5]”

Going Global – PDMA Georgia [Series 1/5]

Something innovative happened again at KO HQ this Thursday

The PDMA| Georgia chapter held it’s 9th annual Summit – topics were global in scope but personal in focus. Much shared learning and best practices offered. A very good reason to step away from desks/deliverables and come together with like-minded product professionals.

Innovators may already be intuitively using Agile

Top-line takeaways from the Round Table

  • Get a handle on things that bite in your planning stage, not during execution (import laws, regulations)
  • RESONATE! – don’t just BE in the chosen markets (do provide consistency, quality, awesome user experience)
  • Create RELEVANCY- use everything around your product to do this
  • LISTEN, partner with a local  –  help your prospects ARTICULATE their unique drivers Continue reading “Going Global – PDMA Georgia [Series 1/5]”

Stuckness – Getting Unstuck by Thinking Agile

I create my own sticking points …found my own fingerprints all over the crime scene. I have no clue how I’ve been so uniquely blessed with this ability to hog-tie myself without ever catching on that I’m doing the tying again. – David A Schmaltz, Pure Schmaltz


Think of it as the superglue of life, or the Georgia clay of hikers and gardeners. Whatever it is, Stuckness bonds us to what we know and experienced. Isn’t that good?

Yes and No 

Depends upon the outcome. What do you do when you are in Stuckness? Do you stop as in “deer in the headlights” – do you flail and are now going under!

Do you instead settle your adrenaline and think through the challenges, see the common elements, compare them with your former successes? (thanks Seth)

Stuckness is a good place, a teaching place. It’s a place to ponder, to look for other paths and decide which to take.Yet, Stuckness is current and also rooted in the past. To move forward and away from Stuckness, be aware of obstacles in your view, such as always taking the “logical” approach.

Sometimes that  wee voice of your intuition should be heard.


If a Customer Asks “Can You Hear Me?” Will Anyone Hear?

When we stopped doing customer development, we stopped learning. @LeanCircle

To some, I’m a Suit. The only Development I ever did included using Lotus 1-2-3’s macro language to build applications and a business. I know only a few things about building successful applications for customers; how – I totally get customer development.

These things are clear to me:

  • You don’t build stuff (applications, databases, software, apps, websites) for yourself. You build these things for your customer.
  • Get out of the building. It’s the only way to make sure you aren’t just hearing yourself/ talking to yourself.
  • Few technologies fail because they’re not good stuff. Instead, they fail because they don’t solve customers’ problems.
  • You are not your customer, so you don’t know what their problems are.
  • Get out of the building. It’s the only way to make sure you aren’t building cool stuff that only you can love.

Customer Development

These are awesome and interesting words joined together. It doesn’t mean go out and speak with as many customers as possible. That’s nuts, instead go Lean. Speak with as many customers as possible who help your teams build MVP.  If you cannot find any customers…well maybe this isn’t a problem to solve. Just saying!

Strategic MVP and Iterations

Each strategic project is a set of related user stories – Liz Rice, MindTheProduct

The lively discussion continues around exactly how strategic is Agile if you constantly run short Sprints. Doesn’t it take longer to be strategic?

Actually no…The two concepts (Agile & Strategic) are not mutually exclusive! I read a very interesting article this weekend by Liz Rice who outlines exactly HOW to do this. She’s keen on being realistic and keeping on track.

Liz advocates using a roadmap and planning to prioritize User Stories needed to build the MVP, keeping in mind that it is best to not bog down in details. Plan for the predictable things and get buy-in from your development teams. We all know priorties can and will change, that’s what Agile does so well. Don’t sweat the small stuff but remember if you don’t consciously integrate critical MVP “must have” features into the Quarterly Plan you’ll be forever dealing only with short-term and “urgent” requests.

And that’s no way to develop world class software.

More Value Agile Affect

Agile management overall is based on the simple fact that projects, marketing, business, life, etc., are dynamic, not static. You make plans, but things change. The best teams and organizations are able to respond quickly to such change and capitalize on it. – Scott Brinker, Co-founder & CTO ion interactive, inc.

Sharing my scribbled notes from audience participation and panel leadership – Atlanta TAG Product Management Society event, The Agile Affect: Continue reading “More Value Agile Affect”

Great Scott – We’re Agile but Where’s the Rest of the Company?

Marketing, sales, accounting, support – how do the rest of us handle the cadence of releases from fast, efficient Agile development teams?

I captured a high level summary of product professionals’ discussions at a recent event in Atlanta, called the Agile Affect. The panel of four and moderator all had significant experience in both waterfall and Agile. The audience was no different. Bottomline, if your product organization builds to MVP, so should your stakeholders.

  • You don’t have to be a developer or a product manager to use Agile methods in your craft. That being said, it’s not one-size fits all.
  • If you are in marketing, sales, support or operations in a company the embraces Agile in product development, it’s best practice to modify Agile methods to build your own cadence.
  • There should be a balance between major and minor releases to product. It’s fine to deploy every month yet hold a marketing launch every quarter or to the time-frame which best fits your market.
  • Whatever you do, do not overwhelm sales or your markets with over communication. Here’s that word again – balance the need for iterative product development with the need for clear product benefit messages.
  • Every stakeholder department can create repeatable processes for sharing market context and messaging. All can prioritize demands based on the most urgent needs.
  • Operations and support really, really need to be engaged, at the hip, with the Agile development teams.

ProductCamp Atlanta 2012 is next Saturday 18 August. I would bet this discussion continues there as well.

Would like very much to hear your stories about creating the Agile Affect in your company.



I Thought Love Was Only True in Fairy Tales

It’s early afternoon and blasting hot in ATL – even “hotter” in the big conf room. I’ve joined a combined-teams Sprint Review complete with “where-we-are” demos.  The audience is stakeholders and product: QA, development, prod mgt, sales support, marketing and the Exec.  Major apologies if I missed anyone.

Way Cool Different

The two development teams were the rock stars. They presented their work and planning brilliantly.  Top managers were in the room and participated. Continue reading “I Thought Love Was Only True in Fairy Tales”

Speedy Doesn’t Have to Mean Sloppy – Agile Marketing

MIT's Solar Car

The need for marketing speed is obvious and not just because customers are global and they buy 24/7/365. Factor in market segment fragmentation – how many ways there are to reach customers (channels, multiple devices) and don’t forget the usual product tweaks/frequent updates, along with new world-market dynamics. Speed? no kidding.

How’s a marketing professional supposed to meet the customer/prospects’ expectations of first-rate, quality, relevant and dynamic product messaging in this will-o-wisp environment?

Try a little Agile with your marketing.

  • Forget “big batch” Market Plans for the year and instead chunk the campaign or market planning into small marketing projects. OK, you really can’t do this YET!   So >>> start by limiting the number of pages in the plan. Fill in the details the further along you go. Now you get the picture!
  • Define the success measurements – decide upfront how you’ll know if the campaign, new web page or video you posted is meeting/exceeding expectations. Use tools like Google AdWords or ROI calculators to do this and do this often.  Be flexible, adjust or fix as necessary, maybe even “can” the project. The sooner you know the results, the better you can allocate your scare resources (people, time, money) to the best performing projects. Congratulations, you now have results based marketing.
  • Failure is an option – learn from it…
…just don’t fail the same way twice. – Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO Mindjet


User Stories Help Build Sales’ Stuff

I’ve been thinking how  product development, product marketing and sales teams should be joined at the hip.

Seems only natural since we build stuff (tools, live product demos, APPS, websites, etc) to support sales’ efforts converting leads to customers. One thing I have noticed is that not everyone in this triad is on the same page regarding “done” or what is to “be done” when it comes to creating sales tools. That’s a problem. Continue reading “User Stories Help Build Sales’ Stuff”

It’s Not Small Change (Series 4 of 4)

Part 4 of Agile Product Marketing Series:

  1. Product Marketing Becomes Agile
  2. What’s a Product Marketer Doing with a Roadmap?
  3. The Launch Queen Speaks
  4. It’s Not Small Change

This is the last of a series written to help Agile and B2B Marketing teams understand each other’s conversations and methods.  Previously, we discussed how Agile practices can integrate within traditional product launch management and commercialization.


It’s the people- the human element– that we’re talking about.   Continue reading “It’s Not Small Change (Series 4 of 4)”

The Launch Queen Speaks (Series 3 of 4)

Part 3 of Agile Product Marketing Series:

  1. Product Marketing Becomes Agile
  2. What’s a Product Marketer Doing with a Roadmap?
  3. The Launch Queen Speaks
  4. It’s Not Small Change

A series written to help Agile and B2B Marketing teams understand each other’s conversations and methods. Previously we discussed how real-time dialog between Agile and Marketing teams drive Business Value by creating need-to-have features. This time we’re in a product launch.

Like adventure?

Try running a global product launch. I’ve described it as building a rope bridge while crossing a raging river filled with hungry alligators and sharp rocks.  Don’t look down and failure is not an option.  Not much time to recover from a botched job.

“Product commercialization and product launch requires a rigorous program strategy and execution.” – Found scribbled in my study notes, author is unknown.

Sounds Like We Need to Get Agile

No matter how you dice it, product launches are complex.  It’s all about teams, communication and performance… and successful transition. A launch isn’t a success until the product steps out into the cold, new world of Life Cycle.

Let’s back up to launch. Do all the teams:

  • Know the goals
  • Know the roles
  • Know the priorities
  • Commit and collaborate

In a traditional launch, stakeholders proceed within their own swim lanes. When done with their piece, over the wall! #FAIL

I Feel a Strong Need for Agile Advice

Marketing will take care of setting the market’s/analysts’/customers’ expectations of the product. Seeking Agile advice on continuous delivery, keeping teams collaborating and with how to integrate all the moving parts.

Keep on keeping on!

On the Tee:  It’s Not Small Change (Series 4 of 4)



What’s a Product Marketer Doing with the Roadmap? (Series 2 of 4)

Part 2 of Agile Product Marketing Series:

  1. Product Marketing Becomes Agile
  2. What’s a Product Marketer Doing with a Roadmap?
  3. The Launch Queen Speaks
  4. It’s Not Small Change

A series designed to help Agile and B2B Marketing teams understand each other’s conversations and methods.  Previously, we discussed how marketing teams gain insight about current product features before release by being part of the “Agile dialog.” Marketers generate user benefits from these features and need time to do this well.

“Incremental Improvement” Impacts Marketing Process

Agile development produces new product features often and incrementally, which is important in a changing marketplace. Marketers don’t want Agile Teams to slow down, lose the rhythm, or delay incremental improvements but we urgently need to know where you’re heading.

Being included real-time in Agile planning and reviews is pretty critical for us. A great deal of what marketing does is communicating the product strategy to different audiences, both internal and external. We are always being asked, “When’s the new XYZ being launched?”  and “What’s in it?” We’ve have to see the bigger picture, the roadmap, or BIG #Fail.

Agile Teams Can Provide Real-Time GPS

Share the Product Backlog with the Marketing Team. Show us in which Sprints features will release; offer timelines, priorities and updates.  We will use this information for product messaging/positioning and to update our marketing plan. We also need to build our own “roadmap” for marketing. We could use your help in designing this. Continue reading “What’s a Product Marketer Doing with the Roadmap? (Series 2 of 4)”

Product Marketing Becomes Agile (Series 1 of 4)

Part 1 of Agile Product Marketing Series:

  1. Product Marketing Becomes Agile
  2. What’s a Product Marketer Doing with a Roadmap?
  3. The Launch Queen Speaks
  4. It’s Not Small Change

This post is the first in a series designed to help Agile and B2B Marketing teams understand each other’s conversations and methods.

Attention Scrum Master or Product Owner!

Are you working with a Marketing Team and hoping they don’t think Agile practices mean another form for Yoga? Actually, we marketers know about Agile and are cautiously curious and optimistic.

You can be absolutely sure that marketers working with Agile development teams wonder how they’ll be able to Sprint faster, while shaping, communicating and testing the product’s market message, value prop – in time for successful commercialization.

Provide a Bridge

Invite your PMM to join in the Stand-up. Share your Backlogs. Collaborate.  Marketers must be plugged into product information as real-time as possible in order to understand the product as it is now defined. With your help, we’ll do a much better job working our magic. Continue reading “Product Marketing Becomes Agile (Series 1 of 4)”

Forensics of a Technical Project with Agile Solutions

Great blog post from Knowledge BLOG:  “What’s wrong with the project approach to software development?” It got me thinking and comparing project management vs. Agile practices.


Projects are work defined as activities and tasks. There’s a start and an identified end.

OK – but factor in complexity, time to do it, size of the team and available (estimated) budget and the wheels come off.

  • Project stalls or overruns.
  • Agile methods fix this (Strategy Meeting).

ProjMgt Best Practice

Do not begin a project until all goals are well defined and agreed upon. Seriously, who has a crystal ball to share? Let’s break this thing up.

  • Success measures, length of time for “agreed upon?”  – further out, the less agreement.
  • Agile methods fix this (Release Planning, Iteration Planning, Iteration Review).

Scope Creep

In a recent straw poll, 40% of product professionals selected “Managing scope /requirements change” as the most important topic for their career. Seems serious…

  • Agile methods fix this (Iteration Review, Daily Stand-up, Continuous Adaptive Planning).

Managing Expectations Both Sides of the Aisle

Clear communication between development teams and the business suits (I’m a suit), big #FAIL!

  • Mention: Culture clash between “stakeholders’ involvement” and “productive collaboration to build product.”
  • Agile methods fix this (Product Owner, Scrum Team).

Continuity, Lessons Learned

Projects are temporary in nature. Teams who work projects are assigned and then reassigned as the projects live/die.

  • What about continuity, flow, innovation? I think missing.  You lose what you’ve learned.
  • Agile methods fix this (Scrum Team, Retrospective Meeting).

Knock It Out

Why are the honest endeavours of software developers often so disconnected from the delivery of customer and stakeholder value?” –  pg_rule, Knowledge BLOG, January 11, 2011.

I think it’s about covered – using any Agile method provides the foundation for collaboration between product visionaries (sometimes suits), development teams and stakeholders to build products that customers want and buy.

San Francisco Agile 2012 (SFAgile2012)




As a consumer, there are good things and bad things.

Good: there are lots of products, services in today’s world to choose from. So many that we may not be even aware of.

Bad: WE have to make the choice.
Being a typical Libran, it’s a difficult one for me.

Since my introduction to agile, there have been multiple conferences that I have been hearing about. I’ve been fortunate to attend some large conferences and some small ones. One such conference that caught my eye was SFAgile Conference. This is the 2nd year SFAgile will be held and got great reviews from 2011 attendees.

SFAgile 2012 is a 3-day “unconference” that brings together practitioners from Lean software development, the LeanStartup movement, and Agile software development. 

It’s a refreshingly different conference format: a mix of crowd-sourced content that include workshops, talks, dojos, and open-space-inspired spontaneous sessions. There will be many ways to learn new things, share your ideas, and get your questions answered. Continue reading “San Francisco Agile 2012 (SFAgile2012)”

Multitasking = Time Sink? – Take an Agile Approach

I came across a favorite blogger’s post previously.  Tony Schwartz’s “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time” offers so many good points, I suggest the read.  BTW: He sounds pretty “Agile” to me.

I admit it. I was a dyed in the wool multitasking manager. “Was” until I figured out that rather than make me more productive, it did the opposite. I was not paying close attention to my team, nor could I incorporate all those distractions and keep forward momentum.  Being mindful is now my manner.

Maintain Focus 

Tony writes we need more focus and be more engaged to be productive. Let’s deal with meetings.  He suggests scheduling shorter meetings, to start them on time with a defined end and no distractions of the digital kind.

Sounds pretty Agile to me:

  • Do the most important thing, first thing every day – Daily Scrum?
  • Carve out enough time in the day to “reflect” on the discussions. A Sprint Review?
  • We need time to “recover” and maintain Rhythm?

Ignore the Tyranny of Urgent

Big lesson, still learning (note to me). Tony stresses planning regular and scheduled times to think long term. Prioritization, assigning Business Value – Agile teams do these naturally, it’s what we do.

Got me thinking about  innovation….best practices suggest unplugging is the best way to be more creative. It has something to do with how our brains are hardwired. I know we work in busy places and competition is tough, but “not right now” can be the appropriate answer.

Disconnect and Renew

Take a vacation day, eat lunch away from your desk, join with colleagues at the favorite watering hole…take time to do something different, or nothing at all. It’s important. Even my computer and phone tell me it’s time to turn them off.  Interesting…our devices are reminding US to be in the present.