First, I realize it's been quiet on the Inside the System blog lately, sorry bout that. Here's why:
Becoming a Better PM
I was in training much of last week, which was really valuable for me. It was a course called Pragmatic Product Management, which covered an organized approach to the Product Management process, including marketing, documentation, support, and all of the other necessary items to make a product successful in the marketing. It really helped to provide an clear view to the swirling vortex of terror that can be my working life these days.
Stop to Watch and Listen
Among the many action items that came out of the training for me was the need for more user observation and interviews. I already do a whole lot of interaction with customers already, through the forums, this blog, and customer briefings, but I probably don't spend enough just sitting down and watching people do their jobs.
One of the things we try and avoid doing at Autodesk is to develop solutions based upon our experiences. Just like all of you out there, as people with industry experience we tend to think that the solutions that worked for us are the solutions that work for all customers, and it's those things that customers are really looking for in future versions of our software. With those blinders on you rarely end up looking at the workflows and finding the real customer problems. Rather, you end up finding the problems that need to be solved to support the workflow that you used in your experience. This is no way to produce innovative software that allows an industry to break free of inherently inefficient processes.
When you sit down and watch people do there job it allows you to remove your own personal attachment to the process, and just look at the task at hand and how people complete those tasks. In that environment you can try and find the true customer problem.
When people log requests or Wish Items, this is why I always ask that people explain the task they are trying to do and the problem that exists first; then they can go ahead and provide their proposed solution. With that sort of a request we can better understand the broad customer problem, rather that the solution to a particular user.
With this all explained, I plan to do a number of these sorts of on-site visits during the coming year. For those of you out in the audience that would be interested in participating in such an exercise, shoot me an e-mail (a Mail Link is in my Bio). If you happen to be in a locale that has a close proximity to great skiing (Tahoe, Wasatch, Cascades, Rockies), you get preferential treatment. :-D
Shoveling Out from Underneath the Mountain
All of this training is good and all, but unfortunately it doesn't stop the e-mails from flooding my inbox. As a result, and have been catching up a great deal since. With our development process coming to closure in advance of our next release things are really crazy for me.
But Wait, There's More
Add on to that the fact that I'm getting married in less than two weeks, the blog had to be put on the back burner. I'm putting my Product Management experience to good use in planning for this, treating it like a product release, to my fiancee's chagrin. Regardless, there's many balls that are being juggled right now, hopefully none of them hit the ground.
On the marriage note, I'm going to be off the grid for the first 3 weeks of January on Honeymoon in Costa Rica. Aside from maybe a picture or two, I will not be posting anything during that period. My fiancee will probably beat me to death with my BlackBerry if she sees my using it. I'm not even bringing my laptop. Hopefully I can achieve a bliss-like state where I will actually stop thinking about work and enjoy surf lessons, zip lining, and scuba diving.