10 Step Plan to work with Software Engineers

appraisals, Product, Team

Inspired by Ken Norton

1. Absorb praise

As a PM, expect your successes to be recognized. Understand that executives will often attempt to spray accolades across the entire team. You must be vigilant: you are the one who is being celebrated, and you are the one who must take all of the glory. Credit is career currency, and you’re polishing your own LinkedIn profile, not theirs. Step up you ninja star, take the spotlight and bathe in the attention.

2. Deflect blame

Occasionally something will go wrong. In software development, the thing that goes wrong is usually software. When software fails, a software developer is to blame. That’s just logical. Make sure to redirect the accusations when they’re aimed at you, and to preemptively sow blame whenever possible. Always remember: there is no “we” in me.

3. Don’t bother with the details

Frivolous little technical details are for the engineers, and you have much better things to be doing. Like ideating. Comprehension only leads to disappointment and fosters a so-called “rational” view of what’s possible. You can’t change the world if you know what’s hard and what’s easy. Avoid minutiae at all costs. Anything you imagine can be done in ten lines of code. It hardly matters which ten.

4. Involve them late

Software engineers write code, that’s what they do. They’re always fretting about how stuff is distracting them from their hacking. So why would you waste their time involving them in a project before it’s ready for coding? You don’t see a bunch of construction workers kicking back in an architect’s office. Bring them in once all of the strategizing and synergizing is done and all that’s left is the programming.

5. Add process

The best way to demonstrate your value to the team is by introducing process. Rules grease the wheels of progress. Look for opportunities to schedule update meetings, daily briefings, and all-day reviews. Keep your engineers productive by requiring them to fill out tracking spreadsheets, status reports, and cross-functional executive update emails. If you don’t do it, nobody will. Get going: those voicemails aren’t going to “touch base” by themselves!

6. Never tell the reasons

Engineers are highly analytical, which means they take a less-sophisticated approach to decision-making that often relies on “supporting data” or “rationales” rather than vision and blue sky thinking. Maintaining an air of mystery when decisions are made will keep them on their toes. They’ll complain regardless, there’s no reason to give them specific things to gripe about.

7. Commit for them

Your job as the product manager is to make assurances on behalf of your team. Leadership means setting the bar high and challenging everyone to teleport over it. Show your ambition by committing to project schedules without consulting your team. Being held accountable to somebody else’s promises builds character and brings out the best in people. Think of JFK. He picked a totally random date to land on the moon and NASA beat it, claiming the planet’s vast mineral reserves for Standard Oil.

8. Interrupt at any time

You’re a busy knowledge worker, and the last thing you need is to wait for an engineer to finish their current task. You need it ASAP (pronounced “AY-sap”). Whatever an engineer is working on is less important than what you need right now. Feel free to interrupt them at any time. Chat windows and phone calls can be effective, but nothing beats the good old shoulder tap for impact. What if they’re working on something you asked them to do an hour ago? No problem! This will serve as a good lesson in prioritization.

9. Be ambiguous

There are few things more dangerous to your career than being proven wrong. Ensure this never happens by aiming to be as vague and imprecise as possible. Feel free to change your mind at will. If you take every position imaginable, by definition you were right.Don’t record anything in writing, or better yet make documents so wordy and tedious nobody will bother reading them.

10. They’re always lying

Engineers will sometimes say something is “impossible.” They’re lying. Nothing in engineering is impossible if you set your mind to it. The Wright Brothers never thought that flying across the Atlantic was impossible! Assume a software engineer is always deceiving you and act accordingly. So when you hear terms like “technical debt” or “working from home,” you’ll be ready to call their bluff.

There you have it. My Ten-Step Plan for Working With Engineers. Print this out and hang it in your workspace (consider keeping it hidden from view). If you follow my plan, you too can become a great product manager (if not one of the three greatest

. It’s that simple.


If it’s not blindingly obvious by now, you should do exactly none of these things. Even the most conscientious PMs are occasionally guilty of less extreme infractions in each of these categories. I certainly am. Strive for the opposite and chances are you’ll succeed as a PM. Or at the very least, you’ll have engineering co-workers who’ll want you to.

  1. Deflect praise
  2. Absorb blame
  3. Sweat the details
  4. Involve them early
  5. Streamline process
  6. Always tell the reasons
  7. Never commit without them
  8. Respect their time
  9. Be specific
  10. Trust them

The official guide for the top 50+ recommended product manager tools.

Learnings, opensource, Product, startup, Uncategorized


Confluence: Wiki tool to centralize your team’s product knowledge.

Google Sites: Launch an intranet for your company, a project site for your team or a portal for customers with our site builder.

Slack: Platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.

TinyPM: Lightweight and smart agile collaboration tool with product management, backlog, taskboard, user stories and wiki.


Product Roadmap

Aha: Web-based product strategy and roadmapping software for agile product managers.

ProdPad: Lets you capture ideas and feedback, create product specs, and build product roadmap.

ProductPlan: Lets you plan and communicate your product roadmap.

Roadmunk: Visual roadmap software for product management.


Project Management

 Asana: A web and mobile application designed to enable teamwork without email.

Basecamp: A web-based project management and collaboration tool.

Blossom: A lightweight project management tool for modern software development teams that love continuous delivery & simplicity.

CodeTree: Adds extra functionality on top of GitHub issues to help with project management.

Jira: A flexible and scalable issue tracker for software teams.

Pivotal Tracker: A lightweight, agile project management tool for software teams.

Sprint.ly: Agile project management software for your whole team.

Trello: A tool to visually organize and see your project in a single glance.

Wrike: A work management and collaboration platform used by high-performance teams everywhere.



 Evernote: Lets you take notes, track tasks, and save things you find online.

Omnifocus: A task management platform for Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

RescueTime: A personal analytics service that shows you how you spend your time and provides tools to help you be more productive.

Todoist: An online task management app and to-do list.

Wunderlist: Lets you create and collaborate on to-do lists.


E-mail Marketing

 Aweber: E-mail marketing software that allows you to quickly segment your lists by subscriber opens or clicks, location, and even what pages subscribers visited on your website.

Constant Contact: Offers effective email marketing and other online marketing campaigns to meet your business goals.

Goodbits: Build newsletters for your team or customers in minutes.

InfusionSoft: Combines CRM, email and social marketing, and e-commerce solutions. It is most known for it’s easy ability to segment subscribers by activity to help you send very targeted emails.

MailChimp: Online email marketing solution to manage contacts, send emails and track results.


User Research

 Google Forms: Lets you create a new survey on your own or with others at the same time.

SurveyMonkey: Lets you create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time.

Typeform: A form and survey builder that makes asking questions easy on any device.

UserTesting: Lets you get videos of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your product.

UXCam: Allows you to eliminate customer struggle and improve user experience by capturing and visualizing screen video and user interaction data.


Metrics & Analytics

 CrazyEgg: Visualize where your visitors click and engage with your website.

GoodData: A cloud-based business intelligence platform providing data management solutions for businesses.

Google Analytics: Provides data collection / management, data consolidation, data analytics, and reporting.

Kissmetrics: Delivers key insights and timely interactions to turn visitors into customers.

Mixpanel: An analytics platform for the mobile and web, supporting businesses to study consumer behavior.

Optimizely: An experience optimization platform enabling A/B and multivariate testing for users to enhance their websites & mobile apps.

Qualaroo: A qualitative insights SaaS solution that is triggered by web visitor behavior, providing intelligence that helps marketers better understand customer needs.

Segment: A single hub to collect, manage, and route your customer analytics data.



 Flaticon: A search engine for 16000+ glyph vector icons.

Sketch: A really easy to use design tool for designers. Currently only available on Mac.

Noun Project: Search over 100,000 icons that you can drag and drop into your favorite Mac apps.


Wireframe / Mockups

Axure: An interactive wireframe software and mockup tool.

Balsamiq: A wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability. Quickly come up with mock ups and easily share them with your clients.

Mockingbird: Helps you you create and share clickable wireframes. Use it to make mockups of your website or application in minutes.

Moqups: An HTML5 app used to create wireframes and mockups.

UXPin: Lets you wireframe any user interface quickly and easily.



Invision: A prototyping tool that lets you upload designs and add hotspots to transform your static screens into clickable, interactive prototypes complete with gestures, transitions, and animations.

Proto.io: Lets you create fully-interactive high-fidelity prototypes that look and work exactly like your app should.

Protoshare: An easy-to-use, collaborative prototyping tool that helps teams visualize requirements with website wireframes and interactive software and mobile prototypes while working together in real-time.

Google’s HEART framework for UI metrics

Customer Needs, Frontend, Learnings, Product, Uncategorized

In order to pick the proper feature-level metrics, exploring
Google’s HEART framework for UI metrics may be a good starting

H – Happiness Metrics (like user satisfaction scores)
E – Engagement Metrics (like average visits or uses per user)
A – Adoption Metrics (like new users)
R – Retention Metrics (like churn)
T – Task Success Metrics (like form error rates)

Product Management – Summary

Learnings, Product, Uncategorized



1. Agile Methodology
a. A software development philosophy that emphasizes the development of solutions through collaboration between self-organizing and crossfunctional teams.
b. Agile Manifesto

2. Bugs, defects
a. An unintended or unexpected result or behavior in software.
b. The product manager is responsible for prioritizing the severity of the bug. Sometimes bugs are “production issues” and need to be fixed immediately while others can be shelved to be fixed at a later time.
c. Usually discovered by the Quality Assurance engineer, automated tests, the product manager or users of the product.

3. Customer Interviews
a. Also known as Customer Discovery Interviews
b. The goal is to gather the voice of the customer or user of the product.
c. This is also an opportunity to test assumptions you have about the end user and your proposed solutions for their problems.
d. Customer Development Interviews How-to: What You Should Be Learning
e. 12 Tips for Customer Development Interviews

4. Designers
a. Product Managers work with designers to create everything from the overall feel of the product to the minute details about the look and placement of buttons.

5. Developers
a. Product Managers work with developers to turn the product and designs into actual products that are usable by customers. b. Product Managers also help answer developer questions about priority of certain features or bugs and for clarity on certain product requirements as they arise throughout the development stage

6. Executive stakeholders
a. Executives at a company that have a vested interest in the success of the product that you are working on.
b. It’s important to get buy-in from executives because they often help with resource allocation and if you have an executive invested in your product then you can get things done much easier and faster.

7. Issue Tracking / Issue Tracker
a. A tool used by product managers, project managers, developers and quality assurance engineers to track the work they are making on a particular feature or bug

8. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
a. The most important metric used to gauge the success of a product
b. Example KPIs: Revenue, User Signups, Churn Rate, Profit, Cost Savings

9. Mockups
a. Very early drafts to show the general look and some functionality of a product
b. Product managers put together mockups either themselves or work with a designer.
c. The mockups are living documents that change as the product requirements change.
d. Once the product is more fleshed out and there are much less changes to the mockups, the designer will invest time to create a high-fidelity mockup (for example, using Adobe Photoshop) which the developers use when building the product.
e. The most popular mockup tool is Balsamiq.

10. Product managers
a. Product managers lead cross-functional teams from departments like marketing, development, design and sales.
b. Product Managers are the CEO of the product.
c. Product Managers create the vision and direction for the products that they manage and then create much more detailed plans on how to turn the vision into actual product features.
d. Quora answer on: What is Product Management.

11. Product Roadmap
a. A plan put together by the product manager that prioritize and estimates release dates for the product’s features

12. Project managers
a. Product Managers work with project managers to get development work scheduled.
b. The Project Manager runs most of the meetings that the product manager and developers are in together and also helps move projects along by coordinating with the product management and development teams and removing blockers for developers.
c. Often called the Scrum Master in the Scrum Methodology.

13. Quality Assurance Engineers (QA engineers)
a. Product Managers work with QA engineers to help QA engineers test the code and features that the developers build.
b. Products are not allowed to be released if the quality assurance engineers do not sign off.

14. Scrum
a. The most popular implementation of the Agile Methodology. b. What is Scrum?

15. Stories
a. Also known as User Stories
b. A requirement document in Agile Methodology.
c. Different than the typical “requirements document” in that rather than talking about specific technical requirements, user stories are conversational sentences around the desired functionality.

16. Story Points
a. Story Points are assigned to User Stories.
b. Story Points are assigned by the developers working on the project and convey the level of effort they think is required to complete the particular user story.

17. Usability Testing
a. Usually performed by a User Experience Researcher or a combination of the Product Manager and Designer.
b. The goal is to evaluate a product by putting it in the hands of real users and observing the way they interact with the product.
c. Often times usability tests will give a user a specific task and then observe how the user completes the task, where they get confused and need help.
d. The output of a usability test is to uncover missing features, unused features, and points of confusion

18. User Experience
a. The overall experience that a user has with a product.
b. UX includes UI.

19. User Interface
a. The way the user interacts with the product.
b. The simplest case are the buttons and forms on a website.
c. User Interface is a combination of the ‘look and feel’ of the product and ‘how it works’.
d. The User Interface is heavily informed and guided by the User Experience research.

20. User Persona
a. A type of person that will use the product.
b. It’s an imaginary user that has a specific behavior, attitude and goal.
c. User stories should be created with user personas in mind.

Product Manager – Tools

Learnings, Product, startup, Uncategorized


The most successful product managers are organized so that your thoughts can be organized. If you have an organized mind you can communicate more clearly and being a great communicator is the key to success as a product manager.

If you aren’t naturally talented at communicating, you can go very far by focusing on being organized.

The best way to stay organized is to rely on tools to help you do the job.

Here are all the types of tools that most product managers have in their toolbelt and suggestions for apps and websites for each type of tool.

Feature and Bug Tracking

Sometimes also referred to as “issue tracker” or “issue tracking” tools. These are software applications that are used to keep a backlog of features that the product management team wants to create, the developers are in the middle of creating, or are created.

Usually a feature tracking tool integrates functionality to track bugs that are reported either internally or externally by users.

Roadmap Planning

Roadmapping helps you plan out your product’s features over the course of months and even years. It’s important to keep an organized roadmap using a roadmap planner so you can get a high level view of what features need to be implemented and when they can be implemented.

As a product manager you’ll be referring to the roadmap frequently when internal stakeholders (like executives and sales people) and clients want an idea of what’s to come.


Wireframing is essentially a draft or a sketch of the feature or product that you’re building. You can use these wireframes to validate the feature or product before it get’s built and also to communicate how you want the product or feature to work and look to your developers.

Multi-Purpose Product Management Tools

Kano Model

Customer Needs, Learnings, Product, Uncategorized


It classifies customer preferences into five categories.

1. Must-be Quality 
These attributes are taken for granted when fulfilled but result in dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. An example of this would be a package of milk that leaks. Customers are dissatisfied when the package leaks, but when it does not leak the result is not increased customer satisfaction. Since customers expect these attributes and view them as basic, it is unlikely that they are going to tell the company about them when asked about quality attributes.
2. One-dimensional Quality 
These attributes result in satisfaction when fulfilled and dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. These are attributes that are spoken and the ones in which companies compete. An example of this would be a milk package that is said to have ten percent more milk for the same price will result in customer satisfaction, but if it only contains six percent then the customer will feel misled and it will lead to dissatisfaction.
3. Attractive Quality 
These attributes provide satisfaction when achieved fully, but do not cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled. These are attributes that are not normally expected, For example, a thermometer on a package of milk showing the temperature of the milk. Since these types of attributes of quality unexpectedly delight customers, they are often unspoken.
4. Indifferent Quality 
These attributes refer to aspects that are neither good nor bad, and they do not result in either customer satisfaction or customer dissatisfaction. For example, thickness of the wax coating on a milk carton. This might be key to the design and manufacturing of the carton, but consumers are not even aware of the distinction.
5. Reverse Quality 
These attributes refer to a high degree of achievement resulting in dissatisfaction and to the fact that not all customers are alike. For example, some customers prefer high-tech products, while others prefer the basic model of a product and will be dissatisfied if a product has too many extra features.

What does it do?


  • To communicate 5 universal categories of customer requirements that all product and service developers need to be aware of in order to remain competitive.
  • To show how each of these 5 universal categories can influence satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
  • To show how 2 of the categories add value and 2 of the categories detract from value, and 1 of the categories creates new value.
  • To help organizations understand their customer needs better than their customers understand their own needs.
  • To provide a mechanism to help organizations understand and classify all potential customer requirements or features into these 5 categories so they can prioritize development efforts on the things that most influence satisfaction and loyalty. This is done by the Kano Survey, or sometimes called a Kano Analysis.

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kano_model, Google Images, http://www.kanomodel.com/

Hambrick and Fredrickson’s five strategy elements

Learnings, Product, Strategy, Uncategorized
  1. Arenas. Where will we be active?
  2. Differentiators. How will we get there?
  3. Vehicles. How will we win in the marketplace?
  4. Staging. What will be our speed and sequence of moves?
  5. Economic logic. How will we obtain our returns?



Source: Adapted from Donald C. Hambrick and James W. Fredrickson, “Are You Sure You Have a Strategy?,”Academy of Management Executive 19, no. 4 (2005): 51–62.

More to read at

  1. http://turbo.kean.edu/~jmcgill/havestrategy.pdf

The k-factor or viral coefficient measures how many new, secondary users an individual new user you acquire brings in over their lifetime.

For example, if every new user you acquire brings in, on average, 2 new users your viral coefficient would be 2.  The mechanism for bringing in new users can be anything: refer-a-friend, send an email, send a text message, send a Facebook request, etc.

If your viral coefficient is greater than 1 you will see logistic growth[1] and effectively reduce your cost of customer acquisition to zero.  This is why “viral growth” is so coveted in the consumer internet world.

In compartmental models of epidemiology[2], this is called the basic reproduction number.[3]

Note that the viral coefficient only tells you how large the next generation is as a function of the previous generation’s size, but not how much time there is between generations.

For example, imagine if you implemented a successful viral loop over email but waited 10 days before sending out emails to the addresses you collected.

It is hence inappropriate to compare viral coefficients, as typically measured, between applications.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Log…
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Com…
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bas…


Learnings, Product, Uncategorized