Product Managers write epics, not stories….

As I slide back into industry from a decade at Pragmatic Institute, I encountered the similar issues which many of the customers had who I worked with a Pragmatic – Where are the lines between product and development?  What should the Product Owner do?  The age old challenges of accountability and hand offs.

With SAFe implementation and generic Scrum deployments in my past, this consistently comes up.   So the product owner “represents the customer” is the phrase I most commonly hear which creates friction in the product teams and the larger organization.   The product owner role is a tactical role than a strategic role.  Don’t get mad at me, not my words but the word of many experts in the field, including this from industry leaders Product Board:


The product manager discovers what users need, prioritizes what to build next, and rallies the team around a product roadmap. The product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product by creating and managing the product backlog.

So if the role of driving strategy and roadmap is the domain of product management, that’s business function.  Investment, risk and return.  The product manage should be focused on what the team should be doing next.  What is needed next to hit the business expectations and drive improved product market fit as the product and markets evolve.

Product owners focus on what what should be built now. To build the right thing now, these folks needed to be embedded a daily basis with engineers and designers.  That tense based view can help clarify areas of ownership.

To that end, if the product manager drives the strategy, then ownership of the roadmap themes – then the context and focus of the strategic deliverables needs documentation.  Writing epics is the typical way that context and alignment to strategy is provided to provide clarity is delivery for their partner, the product owner.  Frequent and ongoing collaboration is critical for product teams to work – the relationship with the product owner is no different.

With consistent resetting of priorities and ongoing communication with the product owner is critical to ensure the value is ultimately delivered for the market/customer.  So to deliver such value, someone needs to unpack epics and create workable stories for delivery.

Product managers run businesses, not backlogs.

The Content Dilemma

Every time I find myself in a new role or with a new product, I always start with engaging the market. Working with customers and prospects will provide insights into what your users value and the problems that they want to solve. This will help you determine what content to focus on.

You should also engage with your sales team to see who the typical buyers are and then perform win/loss calls. Once you have identified the buyer and user personas through these methods, spend time with the team to do a positioning exercise for those personas. Now you will have a core message established and an understanding of your buyers’ criteria for solving their problems. This is in essence the DNA you need to start creating content for the web. And content that focuses on the buyers’ needs is significantly more engaging than product-focused content.

You may have heard that nearly 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete before they even reach out to sales. That means when buyers find your content, it’s because they have a particular challenge to solve and are evaluating the options. So make sure your content explains how you can help your customers.

Your online presence should also extend to other places your personas congregate online. This is another place a buyer persona is helpful, because when you interview buyers you can find out what they read (blogs, journals), whether they use social media, and if so, which networks. This will help you prioritize your content channels, mirror the language they use and understand how your content resonates with readers and drives engagement.

Originally posted @

The Unicorn Business Plan (Remix) [feat. Dilbert] – Kanye West

1. I’m gonna do stuff!



2. People will want to buy the stuff.


3. We’ll make a whole lot of money, so invest.



Win/Loss Questions for Software, Hardware and SaaS offerings

A great way to better understand the buying and using criteria around your current solutions is to talk with new customers. You can ask them open end questions like:

  • What first led you to buy our product?
  • What other products were considered in your evaluation?
  • What problems does our product solve for you?
  • What do you like most about our product?
  • What do you like least about our product?
  • How can we improve our product?

But you can also broaden your focus to try and find new opportunities—whether it’s new products, incremental offerings or solution bundles—with questions like:

  • How did your organization prioritize solving this problem over other problems in your business?
    • The responses will help you better understand buying drivers, the budget process, total elapsed timelines and buyer personas.
  • What do you think about our company?
    • The answers will help you identify the positive perceptions that exist—which you may want to amplify—and unearth less positive sentiments, which you may need to address.
  • What are some of the best products you’ve seen lately?
    • These answers will help you identify emerging competitors, potential acquisition options and potential partners.
  • As you think about the company as a whole—not just our current offering—what additional problems can we solve for you?
    • This question helps move the discussion beyond the constraints of current implementations or services to identify potential products you could develop or extend in your current portfolio.

In my experience, once you start getting feedback on the questions you ask, more questions easily pop up. Here’s hoping these questions will encourage other ideas and new areas to explore.