Notes from Treyce Meredith

Product Management Resources for Designers

By on in Design, Product Management

Product Managers are awesome! They keep goals in mind and priorities at the forefront –
and when designers get to work with them, it’s a real treat. Clearly, there is a lot of overlap in skill sets, but sometimes you’ll find yourself on a team without a dedicated PM. So if you’re a designer in a position where you need to do a little PM’ing – you’ll want to have these skills.

For a primer on what a Product Manager is and does on an Agile team, check out this great resource. The role is a bit tricky – and as a designer, the work can feel uncomfortable at first because PM deliverables can seem much less concrete than design’s. But, if you can master the secret art of Product Management, you will be a much better designer for it.

Ok, let’s get started.

Facilitation

A cornerstone of any great “Product Person” is an effective, engaging, and personalized facilitation style that can get you through any sticky situation. Here are some of the go-to activities that require expert facilitation. We incorporate all of these into each project we do:

Retros

IPM/Sprint Planning

Workshops

Presentations

Product Vision

At most companies, it is the job of the Product Manager to create and communicate the vision for the product. That doesn’t mean they go sit in a room and imagine something, then make other people build it.

The vision is built on a deep understanding of underlying user problems, business needs and (unless the PM is also the founder) the vision of the leadership team. For that vision to get anywhere near implementation, the PM has to get buy-in from all kinds of stakeholders. Once that’s done, they have to communicate the (revised, tweaked, improved) vision to the team that will help them execute.

There are no shortcuts for this work, and the techniques used come from general management rather than product specifically. Some tools that might come in handy if you’re selling a vision include:

Stakeholder Mapping

A Comms Plan

A Good Story

Product Strategy

Helping shape product strategy is a key skill, and also one of those “what the F@$# does that mean?” terms. There’s a lot of confusion about this, and if you want to know more I suggest you read this book. For our purposes, I think it can be broken down into:

Lean Canvas

Competitive and Market Research

Analytics

Launch Strategy

Product Definition

Product Definition is probably what you are most familiar with. As designers, we are usually deeply involved with what sort of features are in the product, and how those features relate to a user need. While Product Managers think about those things too, they also have a few things in the definition process that are not a part of the the typical design process. The list below reflects both of these.

Brainstorming and Iteration

Prioritization

Product Road Maps

Experience Mapping

Story Mapping

User Testing and Research

Feature Definition

Working with Developers

Product Managers are always faced with tough questions from Developers like “Why are we building this?”, “Do we really need this feature now?”, or “Are you sure we need to rebuild Google calendar?”. Being able to communicate product and business needs to the people who are on the ground creating the product is super important. But, if you want to talk the talk you also have to walk the walk. You should be informed about:

Story Writing

Technical Research

Experimentation

Working with Teams

Product Managers are always thinking about how their team is feeling and how effective it is being. Team responsibility and its productivity has fallen on them, and they are often called upon to motivate and support designers, developers and any other disciplines that touch the product. At Carbon Five, we have learned a lot about working with teams. As consultants, we are not only working with new clients every few months, but also different teams inside Carbon Fiv. Here are a few things we have found helpful.

The Product Dartboard

Psychological Safety

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

Conclusion

To sum up: when faced with a challenge, designers are used to getting scrappy and solving problems, much like Product Managers. Understanding the tools PMs use to solve problems can not only help you work with Product Managers better, but can also help you find solutions to your own design problems. Every designer has their own tool box – these are simply tools you can add to it.


Lean Canvas as a Prioritization Tool

By on in Product Management

We <3 Prioritizing

In modern software processes, prioritization is at the core of what we do.

We prioritize because we don’t like waste. Waste:

  • Of human effort, which is disrespectful.
  • Of money.
  • Of time.

If you’re wasting one of them, you’re probably wasting all of them.

Prioritizing is variously simple, complicated, demanding, exhausting, and strangely emotional.

In this series, we introduce some tools and strategies that can help you successfully navigate prioritization on your product, at every level and every phase of product definition and development. Continue reading …


“We don’t need a designer for this.” (Yes, you do.)

By on in Design

Design is an important part of the development process and we don’t want you to take it away without considering the risks.

Carbon Five has been practicing design for 10 years and in that time we have had the privilege of working with many design-driven companies. However, even the most design-focused companies get cold feet. Here are some things we have learned over the years on the (thankfully rare) occasion the value of design is called into question. Continue reading …


The Carbon Five Guide to User Research: The What’s, How’s, and Why’s of Prototyping

By on in Design, User Research

If you’ve been following along with our guide to user research, great! By now you’ve defined your feature set and are ready to try out your ideas. You know your product will be validated by user research and match user needs. You know that you need a version of the product to test your solutions and before writing any production code.

Now, we are going to walk through some of the best ways to get the feature set you have in mind into a useful prototype. Some rules of the road to follow before you begin creating prototypes:

  • The more the merrier: Come up with as many ideas to prototype as you can; this will help you evaluate your product with both your team and with your users.
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate: Once you have the ideas make sure you evolve them through multiple rounds before you throw them out. This is your time to try stuff out and have fun. If you don’t explore broadly at this stage, when will you?
  • Use these prototypes to learn: Prototyping is most powerful when it is used to test a hypothesis and to learn about your users and what they want. Don’t think of the prototypes as a final design but as a way of learning what your final design might be.

Without further ado, here are our six favorite prototyping techniques.

Continue reading …


The Carbon Five Guide to User Research: Recruiting Participants

By on in Design, User Research

If you have ever tried to recruit folks for a focus group or usability test, you know it can be really hard, super frustrating, and downright discouraging. But have no fear, Carbon Five is here! Before you start reaching out, you’ve got to get into the right headspace. You will probably be interacting with people that come from diverse backgrounds, and there are some unusual places you can find ready willing and able participants for your research study. A few rules of thumb will help you successfully recruit:

Continue reading …


C5 Labs: YouCaring + Carbon Five

By on in C5 Labs

Empathy is at the core of Carbon Five’s design process. We use it every day to design and develop software that can help solve real problems that affect real people. We are always looking to partner with companies and organizations who also value empathy. That is why we were excited to collaborate with YouCaring, a free fundraising and crowdfunding website.

Continue reading …