An MVP ‘thin slice’ allows the product team to align a key business process for clear desired outcomes and value to ones who are ultimately paying up. This thought needs a little extra when it comes to Platform MVP.
A platform (data or otherwise) supports multiple channels (desktops, mobile, voice, etc), business applications that consume data via services and data sources that pour data into the platform.
The hour-glass approach allows to establish a platform MVP: a small set of capabilities critical for the key business application, useful & usable for at least two more applications and are scalable for many more business applications.
This approach matches the metaphor of an hour-glass. It is broad on the top covering a few business processes, narrow in middle for the minimal set of capabilities and broad at the bottom covering multiple data sources.
Platform MVP to Replace a Legacy Platform
When replacing a legacy system, it is common to take the Strangler Approach. However, for a platform, this runs a risk of creating a platform that was too close to the key business process and the relevant data sources. The platform runs the risk of being tightly coupled with that key business process.
The Platform Product team should focus on providing a minimal set of capabilities that would be useful for the key business application. These minimal set of capabilities should also be sufficiently useful for at least two other. The platform capabilities should be sufficiently useful for the other two business processes so they would invest enough time with the Platform Product team so the Platform ProMa can analyse their possible needs.
Platform MVP for a Business Process
Like in eCommerce, a business process consists of multiple important steps. Again, a ‘thin slice‘ or a ‘strangler application‘ may not evolve to the right MVP. The Product Team should identify key steps in the process and define ‘thin slice‘ or ‘strangler application‘ for each step.
I have effectively used this approach for designing a Data Platform for a Private Bank. I have talked about this approach in my book on Product Management called #ProMa.
Image Credit: hourglass by Mint Shirt from the Noun Project
In Software, a Product is something that is result of a design & software process and has a business model.
Read here how I arrived at this definition: Product Thinking – UX Design + Project Management + Business Model.
Inspired by The Five Competencies of User Experience Design by Steve Psomas, ‘Five Buckets’ – Explained by Jonny Schneider and 5 Buckets of Business Analysis by Jiangmei Kang, I created a version for Product Management.
The 5 Buckets Model for Product Management
The Five Buckets is a model to describe the various capabilities of a Product Manager. This model list out important capabilities and suggests them to be competent in a subset of capabilities based on what their focus / interest is.
The 5 Capabilities of Product Managers (ProMa) identified are:
- Rallying opinions around the Product value
- Active listening
- Articulation of value
- Connect Business, Users, Techies and be their advocate in Product decisions
- Establish common language
- Fill the communication gap
- Stakeholder engagement
- Problem solving
- Decision making
- Conflicts resolution
- Jedi Mind Tricks
- Elevator pitches
- Quips, anecdotes, story telling
- Personal leadership
- CxO level conversations
- Take inputs from various sources and synthesize them into coherent vision
- Build Product Strategy
- Product Design, Innovation, User Research keeping inputs and behaviors in mind
- Work with Business Analysts, Experience Designers, Developers, stakeholders, contributors, builders, consumers, etc.
- Track and Manage the Delivery Progress
- Manage and Prioritize the Product Backlog
- Sustainability of the business based on the product
- Business case for ideas/product/innovations/incremental innovations
- Market scoping
- Market research
- Market size
- Market opportunity
- Product – Organization fit
- Product – Market fit
- Ramp up at needed pace to get sufficient Domain Knowledge
- SME or strong Design background or strong Development background
Some Key Thoughts
- As with other versions, everyone has the combination of two or more capabilities. Nobody can be expert in all five areas.
- Influencing is a basic and key competency for ProMa to be effective.
- Prioritization (roadmapping, tracking, etc) and Synthesis (gather inputs and make sense of conflicting demands) are key day to day activities of a ProMa guided by right Business Acumen (business value of anything that crosses them).
- For situations where Domain Knowledge is important, being an SME helps. Else, as a Generalist, ramping up to have sufficient knowledge of domain works.
Thanks to fellow ThoughtWorkers Sachin Sapre, Nagarjun Kandukuru, Kartik Narayanan, Vijayalakshmi K R, Kshama Tikmani and Manish Kumar for the feedbacks at various stages.
There are three streams from which Product Managers rise:
- Business and
The key to being a good ProMa (Product Manager) is to rise from one of these positions of strength, and then immediately lose it.
Here is what I mean:
If a technologist takes up a product, they forever see it as a technical product and do not realize that they have to pay equal attention to design and business. Same with folks from design and business.
This letting go, is where most smart folks fail.
If you are a technologist, do you have the willingness to give up being a technologist? If you can overcome that instinct and be cognizant of aspects of Design and Business, you will be an excellent Product Manager.
So as long as you know the business, domain or design, you have no fear of being irrelevant.