Agile Churros

Recently I'm working more with scrum masters than I've been for a while, and the clash between doing the things the right way vs. the will to get stuff done (no matter how) is becoming part of my daily coffees, product review sessions, discussions with my wife.

And right at that time, Marty Cagan, the product brainpower behind SVPG, just wrote a post discussing why some disappointment in terms of Agile (and Lean) adoption doesn't mean that the values and principles behind these two practices are wrong. Actually, they are right. A different thing is how we use them, and in this sense, Marty elaborates in what's (in his opinion) beyond Agile and Lean, identifying 3 fundamental principles at work: Taking risks upfront (instead of at the end), Product definition as a collaborative practice (as opposite to a sequential one) and Focus in Problem Solving, instead of features. Short but inspiring article, worth a printout clipped in your wall.

1. Product Management

Aligned with Marty's post, a follow up by Martin Eriksson of Mind the Product on the same, where he briefly advocates for the importance of staying loyal to the principles of Agile and Lean, but avoiding follow all the standards and practices in a way that locks you into a dogmatic thought process. Short, but interesting.

Following also an agile spirit, but not so much in product development but in business planning, one of the references out there is Alex Osterwalder, the mind behind Strategyzer and a great evangelizer of the business model canvas and alternative approaches and tools to think about how to build and run a business. In his latest post about classic business plans, he goes again on how they are a cumbersome tool when innovation and new ventures are at play. While it is a — pretty obvious- sales pitch of the different tools offered in Strategyzer, it is still a good read reinforcing the idea that touching base with customers as soon as possible is far more important than spending long periods of time in working out lengthy, thorough business plans that fall as a house of cards when the product reaches the initial bunch of users. The article also pointed to me to Michael Schrage and his piece in the HBR, a business publication, on how a testable idea is better than a good idea, and his killer start (the whole article is beautiful!):

The most irritating innovation insight I’ve had seems paradoxical, but it’s true: good ideas are bad for innovators

The best of this article is the concept of 'testable hypothesis', and how they are preferable than big ideas prone to discussion and brainstorming, but with a natural tendency to be difficult to test or prove. Long story short, what both Alex and Michael are pointing here at its core is that as product managers we should test and iterate as a way to find the right value proposition and the right business model, and, in my opinion in this case, focus more in the former than in the latter.

Finally, I got the results of a Product Management survey I participated in a few weeks ago, with some interesting findings like the fact that the average product manager spends 45% of their time dealing with unplanned issues. Product Focus provide some tips in this — advertorial, promoting their trainings — article on how a Product Manager can be in control and lead his product, instead of being led by one crisis after another. Or as we say in Softonic, stop treading waters and start swimming in the right direction.

2. Agile

Following on the Agile topic, a few interesting posts around Agile practices.The first one, a presentation from Vanesa Tejada, a Program Manager for lastminute.com, on how to visualize the whole scrum apparatus (backlog management, retrospectices, etc.), moving from sprint to roadmap or roadmaps, short-mid-and-long term. 17 minutes and in Spanish, good inspiration particularly for those who need to manage complex products or programs with plenty of dependencies and don't know how to visualise the information in different boards and tools.

Then, another short video around Product Ownership for beginners — a high level summary presented on a very visual way, useful for anybody interested in starting in this practice. It presents mainly the view of the Scrum Master, more than the one of the Product Owner (too focused in the development process, while not in actual value generation), but still relevant and a good starting point if you are about to start working as a Product Owner with scrum for the first time.

3. UX

Interesting infographic about recent trends to boost conversion from UX:

  1. Age-responsive design
  2. Skeleton screens
  3. Engagement bots
  4. Shopping cart marketing
  5. Animated call-to-action buttons
  6. Cinemagraph hero images
  7. Persuader Videos
  8. Value based exit overlays
  9. Death of the homepage
  10. Scrolling trumps navigation

4. Growth Hacking

I've lately tried to get back to the routine of listening business-related podcasts, taking advantage of the 30 minutes walk between my flat and my office. One of the latest ones I've tried, on growth hacking, is Perpetual Traffic, by the guys in Digital Marketer, a growth hacking online community. The quality of the episodes vary, but it is worth a try — and this very last week I discovered by chance how Digital Marketer launched the podcast and made it a success — as usual, in just 4 steps. Interesting read, particularly in what refers to the description of the different types of podcasts and into how at launch time it is critical to create enough content to build a first solid impression — not just the first episode, but at least 3 quality ones at once in their opinion. This could apply to how to get the launch phase rigth in any other content-related initiative.

5. Content Marketing

I strongly believe that the biggest waste of effort in energy in any company comes from overthinking how to solve issues that, taking the right distance or looking at them from a different angle, really are far simpler or straightforward than they seemed in the first place. What Sujan Patel, a content marketer, enforces in this article is that we should avoid this mistake and start writing what our customers love — nothing else, nothing more.

Sujan reinforces that perfectionism is not only healthy, but also that perfection, when talking about content, is not really something that can be achieved. You need to focus on what do you want to provoke in your users, and in order to do that, the best starting point is looking first at what is working for you, and from there progressively move to do what your customers actually love. Sounds like oversimplifying, but I agree with him that tools like short surveys or driving conversation through social media with or between your users are certainly the way to touch base with your users or customers in a way that is not perfect, but that works for your business.

Also, a free event from Content Marketing Institute taking place 22/02, on content marketing technology. Relevant if you or your team are thinking about growing up your content marketing operations, but you don't know how or you feel that different tools than the ones you are currently using could help in that purpose.

And that's all. This is starting to look more like a bi-weekly update than a weekly way, blame the football Champions League being back in my agenda :)