Roles and Ratios
Last week I attended a truly unusual conference (www.gelconference.com). One of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a conference. Anyway, as I was walking around I met quite a few people that recognized my name from the newsletter, and soon it became apparent that there’s some common questions out there, and I thought I’d turn this article into a quick Q&A; for those of you that may be wondering about the same things.
Q: In a sentence, what is the product manager responsible for?
A: Defining the product that the engineering team will build.
Q: What about product marketing?
A: They are responsible for telling the world about that product.
Q: Where should product management live? Marketing or Engineering?
A: Neither. It should be at the same level as Marketing and Engineering.
Q: How many product managers do we need?
A: Generally, think one product manager for every 6-10 engineers.
Q: Where can I find great product managers?
A: Look to your own ranks – especially to your thought leaders across your company. Find people that are (both) very smart and passionate about creating great products, and you can teach them the skills they need to learn.
Q: What are the types of designers we need?
A: You need an information architect/interaction designer to look at the overall organization, flow and the wireframes that define the user experience of your application, and you need a visual designer to define the look-and-feel (fonts, colors, layout) of the completed pages.
Q: How many designers do we need?
A: As a general rule of thumb, think 1:4:8, where one visual designer supports 4 interaction designers, and each interaction designer supports 2 product managers.
Q: Where should design live?
A: I think it works best when product management and design are teamed up in the same organization, as product management and design need to work so closely together.
Q: Should we have dedicated project managers?
A: For significant-sized projects, yes. A dedicated and skilled project manager can make a big difference.
Q: What development process do you prefer – Agile or Waterfall?
A: For most types of software, I prefer Agile. But with necessary adjustments especially around design and product management.
Q: What are your favorite tools for product managers and designers?
A: Check out Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) from 37signals for a project-oriented Wiki; Check out Axure (www.axure.com), DreamWeaver (www.dreamweaver.com), or Microsoft's new Expression line (www.microsoft.com/Expression) for prototyping; and check out the Idea Exchange (ideas.saleforce.com) from Salesforce.com for an example of a good use of a community blog.
Q: Our organization is having trouble making decisions and sticking to them. Is this common?
A: Yes, it’s common, but it’s not good. Consider the Product Council concept described in an earlier article.
Q: Where can I find an archive of your previous articles?
A: I added a new subject index at www.svpg.com/articles.