Day 654

Reflections for the day:

  • I think too much. Analysis paralysis. Sure thinking I’d great, but if you stop yourself before you even start, or if you fry your brain before you manage to ask the important questions, that can’t be good.
  • Maybe I’m not as comfortable with uncertainty as I thought I was. Golly, some features look very simple on the outside, but have a lot more going on behind the scenes. Much to consider, much to align.

Product Manager Day 590: When interest wanes

I’m having a battle in my mind.

It’s tempting to say “it’s not my fault they’re not interested in the project anymore” – one could easily hide behind that. Being a PM, you’re somewhat detached from these considerations. You don’t manage them directly, after all. Your main priority is, well, prioritisation.

And yet, at the same time – if someone isn’t interested anymore, is it really something a PM is not responsible for?

I was reading this – Evernote, The First Dead Unicorn. Despite the sensational title, I feel the author makes some good observations. But the main chunk that struck out to me today was this:

“Attracting and retaining talent is a core responsibility of the CEO, and if Libin is seriously disinterested in the latter, he should have departed long ago.”

I leave judgement to the staff of Evernote, but it is a sobering statement.

They sometimes call PMs the “CEOs” of the product – you’re not just just responsible for the specs, you’re responsible for the outcome. Whether a project is completed on time is part of the outcome. And retaining and motivating key personnel is a part of that.

After all, if I really want to venture on my own in the future, I’ve got to learn how to keep people motivated and directed.

Day 576 – Minimum complexity?

Been struggling through requirements for a new feature for a bit now. Thought – it seems like a thin line between fighting for simplicity and “lazy avoidance”. Is the simple solution really the result of deep understanding the real issues? It can be very easy to hide behind ” let’s keep it simple” as a way to avoid digging deep into the problem.

College VS Corporate: Marketing

This is a repost from a blog that I’ve shut down!

My exposure to marketing in college was very broad – one could say it was comprehensive, covering functional aspects from advertising and packaging, to pricing and distribution. Yet it lacked coverage of the day-to-day skills required – from industry knowledge to project management.

Consequently, I had glitzy, glamourous associations with a marketing job. In my mind, it was all about creative advertising, great brands and sell-out products. Turns out, that deviated a little from the truth:
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Whales in Albany

Road Trippin’ in Western Australia: South of Perth

The last time I was in Perth, we took a road trip up North to Kalbarri. This time, South was the obvious way to go. It happened to be whale season, so seeing one of the huge mammals became a “must-do” on our checklist. The season lasts a whooping 7 months from May to November, though where exactly you can catch the mammals does vary over the months.

This was our itinerary, along with some of our highlights:

  • Perth to Busselton (220km) – mostly spent traveling, we didn’t stop at Swan Valley as wineries weren’t top on our to-dos
  • Busselton to Augusta to Pemberton (205km) – from Cape Naturaliste, we stopped by Ngilgi and Lake caves, then at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse for sunset
  • Pemberton to Walpole (120km) – Tree climbing, Beedulup National Park, more sea views at Salmon Beach
  • Walpole to Albany (120km) – Giant Tingle Trees, Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, Elephant Rocks and more.
  • Albany back to Perth (417km) – Whale-watching, catching some nice views near the National Anzac Centre

Some other quick facts about our trip:

  • It was winter (June – August) with temperatures in Perth around 5 – 18 degrees Celsius. A nice thick jacket helps, wish we also had beanies and maybe gloves.
  • The sun rises at 7.15am and starts setting around 5.30pm, so you’d have to take that into consideration. It gets really dark around 6 plus, and driving in the darkness can be intimidating – you’ll have to rely on the road reflectors, and be wary of Kangaroos.

I’ll post more about each day soon!

Review: PowerMockup – Wireframing with PowerPoint

In the absence of design / UX folk, Product Managers are sometimes called upon to create mockups. The tools I’ve seen fall in a spectrum from quick ‘n’ dirty to glorious but laborious:

  • POP + pen and paper: the flexibility, speed and feel of pen and paper
  • moqups, Balsamiq: speed and decent looks, but you’re basically stuck with their library of components
  • Photoshop, Sketch: Maximum fidelity, but time-consuming and has higher learning curve

What I’ve been using of late falls somewhere in between the second and third bucket: PowerPoint + Powermockup. If you’ve read about Google’s Design Sprint, the concept of using PowerPoint / Keynote should be familiar to you.


The Workspace: Powermockups in PowerPoint

Powermockup is a library of shapes for PowerPoint. They’re pretty up-to-speed – you’ll find Bootstrap components, as well as high-fidelity iPhone and Android UI components. moqups/Balsamiq is much simpler, but these are a 100x more customisable – they’re PowerPoint shapes after all.


Powermockup’s Library of Shapes

That’s not to downplay the work the Powermockup team has put into these shapes. They’ve done some work to make sure most resize nicely; when I resize a dialog box, for example, the title bar remains the same height – it doesn’t just expand like how a regular shape would. There were some exceptions to this (the Bootstrap modal), but for the most part resizing was pleasant.


Notice that the title bar of these shapes remains the same, even after I resized them!

Where possible, they’ve also used SmartArt-styled shapes. Take the alert dialog, for example – when I click on the shape, a list of options appears, allowing me to easier change the icon or number of buttons:smartart1.png

Most of the components are actually groups of shapes – meaning you can tweak individual shapes as you please. For example, I can change the date in this iPhone calendar component:


Suggestions to the team – make icons out of filled shapes rather than outlines, so we can color them; I’d love to have some ready-made page setups to mimic common resolutions and aspect-ratios (especially for mobile). The resizing of some components are a little tricky.

Overall, I do like this tool! You do have to pay for it, but it’s worth considering. Check out their free trial – it has a limited library of shapes and components, but you’ll get a good idea whether it’s a fit for your workflow. I highly recommend it.

Two birds with one stone features…

… Would probably work if the birds were already dead (the problem isn’t worth solving). Or if the birds were trapped in a really small space (they’re actually the same problem). Or maybe, you’d have to kill one bird with a stone first, then you pick up the same stone, give it a little polish, and kill the other (tackle one problem at a time).

Observation: it’s easy to think that one feature is the solution to multiple problems, or to latch onto a planned development and add on requirements so it can hopefully solve another.

It might help, but it might also mean your feature ends up being half-baked.