Prioritising Products in a Portfolio
I thought to take a break from releasing Business Analysis materials, and write something in favour of Product Management. A caveat: Although Prioritisation is handled by a Product Manager, a Business Analyst will be needed to work their magic and provide insight into what problem the product may try to solve. So if you are a BA, read on, as this allows you to understand the role you can play in Product Management.
The aim of this article is to show you how I prioritise products in a portfolio, as a Product Manager, which I have illustrated below.
Let's begin with some definitions:
This is a method that forces a business to provide services that their consumers actually want, rather than make the consumers want services that the business provides (confused? read it again). This form of management offers the consumers a baseline service, which in turn allows the consumers to morph the baseline into what they ACTUALLY want. Think of a chameleon and it’s adaptability; that's product management.
The benefit of working this way is that you make a Product (or service) that keeps being wanted, so it "never" dies. This is different to Project Management because, projects are bound by time constraints (due to the need to calculate the cost of a project upfront) and hence, quite inflexible when it needs to meet ever changing consumer needs.
This is an item that provides a service. My Uber app allows me to book a cab at my convenience. My Krispy Creme donut comforts me yumm-ily. My walking app tells me when I've shed the weight from that donut! So a product could be as small as a pen, or as big as being the president of America-- but the focus is on the service that it is providing.
This is the placeholder for all similar products. If you sell different colours of pens and you sell coffee, all the pens will go into one portfolio, while the coffee trade will have its own portfolio. Separating products allow you to focus and measure these products equally-- apples against apples, rather than apples against oranges.
This is a method of arranging all the apples in your portfolio according to what you believe (after some research, astrological reading or voodoo-- whatever your preference) is the most needed by the consumers.
Similar to being the CEO of a company, a Product manager is the CEO of the Product. They deliberate with investors (stakeholders), think up ways to measure the success of a product, keep their eye out on what might negatively (even positively) affect the product, protect and sell the idea of the product, employ a team to build and manage the product. They are leaders.
Haha! I mean they help to realise the- sometimes overly ambitious and crazy- dreams of the Product Manager. They also negotiate with the PM to ensure that those dreams don't kill the business... I mean, it is easy for the PM to want to offer all the consumers free flight tickets, but who is going to pay for the jet fuel? It is so annoying how the PMs think they love the consumers more than BAs do-- ok, maybe they do. Unfortunately, as BAs, we have to put the Business first (the BCS states, "...align to the business needs and objectives"). Someone has to care about the business you know! Ok, rant over.
As the name implies. They are the source of truth - THE ONLY SOURCE! - unless you aren't practising Product Management. But we won't know what they actually want, until we give them something to play with (or something to hate)- this is why MVPs and quick releases are synonymous with PM.
"Nnenna, I am a PM, how do I prioritise products?"
There are loads of different ways to prioritise and no mandatory way to do so. Due to this, the focus should be WHY you need to prioritise. As a Product Manager, the goal of prioritisation is to create value; and to create value, you must think of the consumers. E.g.:
what is their pain?
why is it a pain?
does it need to be solved?
what do we gain by solving it?
when did this pain start?
does it occur often?
who exactly does it affect?
can we solve this problem?
when would they like a solution?
how would we know the solution is working?
how much resource do we need to meet their demands?
which particular pain must we solve first, to keep them happy until we solve the others? -- and viola, you have just prioritized.
I hope someone said, "wait! that's business analysis!"...
Yes, it is. It is Problem Analysis. The legwork of understanding the problem is done by the BA (and other professionals) and fed to the PM to then decide what to prioritise, using the evidence given by the BA (and other professionals)-- I mean, if the PM can do all the research, that's sublime-- but not expected. There are professionals that help the PM out, and the PM should lean on these people.
What I mean is, a PM is expected to have a team to do the legwork then compare/compile all the answers and make a decision. Depending on companies, some PMs would need to look at financial/legal information, but no-one expects the PM to speak "accounting" or "legal", what people expect is that the PM lean on these professionals for the information they need. A PM is like a swan that looks cool and graceful on the surface, but has got a manic team beneath them, doing the legwork.
Anyway, the purpose of this article was to introduce how I prioritise products in a portfolio, which I have illustrated with the flowchart below.
What does the diagram mean?
I will make subsequent articles, explaining each stage of this process, but as a summary, if I had a few products that have been handed to me in a portfolio, the first thing that I would do is:
Research: conduct a high-level research to create a forecast that would give insight into the latest trends in my industry, consumer behaviour, company policies, market needs... Basically, PESTLE!
In addition, I would create an Initial Product Document (this doesn't exist, it is a template that I created that is SO useful-- to me). Again, as a PM, I would let the Analysts and other professionals give feedback to me, because they are better skilled at doing things like this.
Others: all other parts of the flowchart are quite explanatory for now, but I will delve deeper into them in the future.
Why must a PM do all these?
Remember, a Product Manager's job is to create value, and solving a problem isn't what creates value (duh! anything can solve a problem!), what creates value is identifying the real problem. There is a viral video of a UX Designer/Developer watching their User use a Product. The user was expected to drop shapes into holes, but the Designer/Developer went crazy seeing the users put all the different shapes into the square hole, rather than put the shapes into the "corresponding" holes--- That's my point- anything CAN solve a problem. You can watch the video here. To know more about Value Creation, read this.
As usual drop your comments and leave your thoughts below- I'm hungry to hear what you think about all the gibberish above. I hope this article helps Business Analysts that work within product functions!