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real #productmanagement: best practices from real teams and people

For all the talk on Product Management being an ill-defined role, there is plenty of writing on it – mostly theoretical though.

Theory is great, it’s important… But I always craved something more concrete – how do real Product Managers work? How do real companies manage development of their products?

This post is my little contribution to other young PMs, especially those who want to hear stories from the trenches: how Products roll!

Product Development

  1. Uservoice – detailed look at how the team (PM + Engineering) gets their whole workflow going with free tools (Trello, Google Drive). Basically Trello is used for roadmapping and managing development, while Google Drive is used for writing detailed specifications. A good read for cash-strapped teams!
  2. Atlassian – a 3-part reading on how Product Managers work at Atlassian from managing their backlog to handing over to Engineering. The teams are big users of JIRA (no surprise) so the articles are tailored to that tool. The first post is a good general read on managing the backlog though!
  3. Amazon – an old article from CTO Werner Vogels about how Products get defined at the massive e-commerce company by “working backwards”: write out the press release, FAQs and user manual first, so every team is aligned on the final outcome. From Quora answers, it seems like this process is still very much in use as of 2012. There are some more readings from Quora that give insight into the PM function, like this one.
  4. Codeship – this 7-parter goes deep into the more technical aspects i.e. once engineering starts work on a feature. Still a good general knowledge read.
  5. Kickstarter – on how Trello now fits into their workflow. They were inspired by the Uservoice article too!
  6. Spotify – Video (13 mins for Part 1) on their Engineering culture, built on the concept of autonomous, aligned “squads”
  7. Pandora – a look at the music company’s early product prioritization process; when roadmap couldn’t go beyond 3 month and everything was moving too fast.
  8. Zappos Labs – not too in depth, but still interesting to know that they choose to work in one-week sprints instead of the more common two, and they actually have a scrum master!
  9. TripAdvisor : super comprehensive look at the travel giant’s architecture. Interesting to note that engineers own code end-to-end (design, testing included), teams are distributed and pretty autonomous, and no one should find anything “beneath them”.
  10. Intercom – I’m a big fan of the Intercom blog. This is another comprehensive look at how development rolls – from setting of strategy and weekly goals, to the different tools and philosophies used.

Product Management Skills

  1. Joel Spolsky from Stack Exchange / Fog Creek (Trello) on writing functional specs (3 parts), with an example here. A little old but still a good read.
  2. Kris Gale, VP Engineering at Yammer
  3. Inside Intercomm article on saying NO. Amusing, but also something to give you a good kick in the butt for “yes-man” days.
  4. Kris Gale, VP Engineering at Yammer on the cost of complexity and how devs should use data to weed out features that are not working. I think it applies just as much to PMs!

Roles of Product Managers

  1. Facebook
  2. The Product Manager Handbook – a collection of 60 interviews with Project Managers for the price of your e-mail address (they send compilations of good PM reads from time to time)

A Day in the Life

  1. Catherine Shyu, Sendgrid.
  2. Ellen Chisa, Kickstarter.

As mentioned in the title, this post is a work in progress. I’ll add more articles as I come across them, and maybe categorise them better, but do feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions and articles too (it will help other readers)! Just leave a comment below, or tweet @wasabigeek.


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