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Persona to Project Webinar Q&A

From the Product Ownership Blog
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This blog on product ownership will specifically look at how projects create products—and products deliver strategy. Topics will include delivery of value to customers, strategy execution and more!

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Peter Monkhouse
Joanna Tivig

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Welcome to the Product Ownership blog!



On September 30th, Joanna and I held a Webinar on projectmanagement.com Persona to Product. If you want to listen to the webinar, click here.

Thank you to all those who asked questions on the live webinar. We were able to answer many of the questions, but unfortunately, we run out of time to answer all the questions. In this post, we are providing written responses to those questions that we did not answer during the webinar. If you have any further questions, please contact us. Thank you for your support and great questions and comments.

Q: Aren't there some projects for social wellbeing? not necessarily for money.

A: Yes, I believe this question was from slide 6 where we talked about Products and Customers and Value Delivery. In general, we try to be careful not to say the value is money, but the value is what the customer believes it is. You are correct in pointing out that value can be delivered to customers in many ways and does not have to involve money

Q: Can you share the names of these resources to help develop personas and story maps in the chat?

A: The resources we used in this presentation came from newgenp.com and Strategyzer.com

Q: Isn't satisfaction also related to the level of performance the persona desires, not just more performance?

A: Yes, there are many elements involved in satisfaction, including the performance of the product, combined with the overall experience.

Q: I've been using this for years and didn't know it had a name. I thought I had invented it because I hadn't seen it anywhere else. Must, Should, Could for deliverables. Now I can add Would.

A: Great!

Q: How do you choose which prioritization model to use shown in slide 16? For example, stacked ranking was for small number of items in backlog. How about the others?

A: This was discussed a bit in the presentation. There are several factors involved including the size of the backlog and the size of the team doing the prioritization, as well as the desired outcome of the product being developed. For example, Stack Ranking is best for a small number of items in the backlog and a small team. The Kano Model is for the features of the product that have the most impact on customers vs the amount of investment the organization is willing to put in.

Q: How do we define the iteration cycle for determining whether we categorize something as a story? Are there any industry standards for this?

A: There are two concepts here. The duration of an iteration cycle depends on many factors, including the project, the team, the product, the organization. The only standard we are aware of is the scrum agile approach the defines a sprint (iteration) to be 1 to 4 weeks. A user story needs to be sized so it can be completed in one iteration. If it is too big to fit into one iteration, then it should be split into small user stories.

Q: Why is it so important to deliver a story within an iteration?

A: The idea with an iteration is that you have a functional, working product at the end of the iteration that can be used by the customer. If a user story cannot be completed in one iteration, then you do not have a working product at the end of the iteration. The second concept to mention with iteration product development is to simplify. Breaking the user stories into small stories makes them simpler and thus easier to deliver and to accept, removing dependencies as much as possible.

Q: Is user story can be written before start of Project?

A: In general, user stories are added to the backlog as early as possible. User stories continue to be refined before each iteration planning session, so the team can accurately estimate them. In most cases, user stories are finalized during iteration planning and tasks are added to each user story.

Q: Do ALL epics and user stories have to be written before team starts?

A: Yes, but not as an exhaustive list. Epics and user stories continue to be refined, added or deleted from the backlog continuously. The backlog represents a placeholder for priority and non-priority items and does not represent a commitment that these items will be delivered.

Q: Will the acceptance criteria be covered in this webinar?

A: Sorry, we did not have time on this webinar. This is a good idea for a future webinar

Q: "Priority" should be a separate concept than "rank" which is used to order the backlog.

A: Prioritization is the process of defining high and lower-value items. The ranking is a technique that is used to determine the sequence of when an item will be pulled into the queue and considered for delivery, depending on the different additional factors.

Q: Are personas a moment in time or are they updated?

AL Personas should be updated as you learn more about them during the product life cycle.

Q: What are your thoughts on Personas vs "Jobs to be Done"?

A: We think Personas and Jobs to be Done complement each other. In the value proposition canvas, one of the key items is to identify the jobs to be done by the persona. The product cannot deliver value to the customer unless it addresses the job to be done. As an organization you cannot be success with your product unless you are able to identify the job your product is doing and for who.

Q: When cost of delay is chosen as a prioritization tool. Can you state some examples?

A: Yes, the cost of delay should be used when there is a financial advantage. For example, your products are T-shirts for your favorite sports team. Your sports team is in the championship. Think about the impact in revenue between having T-shirts ready to sell right after they win the championship and having the T-shirts ready a month later. Right after the championship, the T-shirts will sell quickly and at a premium, a month later, they will not sell. This is the cost of delay.

Q: Would you recommend creating a persona for each stakeholder?

A: In general no. Personas should represent typical groups/ archetypes of people using your product. In general, a product should have up to 5 personas, but 3 personas make the optimal number.

Q: Is Epic analogous to Work Breakdown Structure?

A: In some ways, there is a similarity in the way epics are created by decomposing features into user stories. Decomposition is a technique used for epics and WBS. However, an epic is not a deliverable, it is a large user story.

Q: How do we manage delays after they happen?

A: There are several techniques that can be used to manage delays, such as schedule compression and re-prioritization of scope.

Q: What about a product with multiple personas, say 5 major types clients? Thanks!

A: This is very typical to have a product with multiple personas. You should do a Product Value Proposition Canvas for each persona.

Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to adjust the approach if you are in a resourced constrained non-profit organization that does not have "product owners" and limited project management resources

A: Although the organization is small, we recommend that someone in the organization takes on the product owner role. It is so important that organizations ask if their products are delivering value to their customers. Happy to discuss further if you wish.

Q: In that example on the slide ... in an order of priorities ... number 7 is more important than priority 1 or 2?

A: On slide 23, Start your project, we have two columns with numbers. The first Id is just an identifier of the user story, it is not a priority. The priority column is on the right which is based on value. So user story number 8 is prioritized second.

Q: So, I am wondering when you should decide to use this approach vs. the normal business/functional requirements approach

A: In general, the approach should be determined at the start of a project. However, if the approach is not working, you should not be afraid to change the approach during the project. After all, your objective is to deliver a product that adds value to your customer.

Q: When an organization is unwilling to use prioritizations models, what suggestions for a PM to encourage use and overcome objections?

A: Explain or educate the organization on the prioritization models as early as possible. Adding the benefits of having a model that other similar organizations use will give more confidence to your organization that these models work.

Q: How can we as PM's best help the marketing team start prioritizing product requirements?  I struggle over and over with them when it comes to giving up some features over others.  They always want everything!

A: That’s where prioritization helps to identify only the necessary items. Using the iterative approach will give the business teams the confidence that things are being delivered, and that some items are no longer needed or pertinent.

Q: Value created with regard to the data in your hand. In some countries I have lived we have not got any data. Then how can we create and achieve the project done?

A: Getting feedback can be a challenge. We did an earlier webinar on December 8, 2020 Customer Feedback – Nuggets of Gold talking about the value of feedback and how to get customer feedback. The key is to start collecting feedback. You do not have feedback now, if you do not start collecting feedback, you will not have it tomorrow either.

Q: If your project is not justified by a Product, for example Regulatory conditions, (e.g. SOX compliance, Security Compliance) then User Story, Epic will have less value?

A: Interesting question, all projects create a product or service. Compliance to regulation is a product. The value of compliance may not be measured in profit but in the organization’s reputation.

Q: With the exception of non-discretionary features which must be developed, what do you think about using a scorecard to prioritize product ideas?

A: I think scorecards are good. We mentioned four techniques to priority, there are many more. You should use the approach that works for your organization and team.

Q: How do you manage new requirements from changes from Persona, market, etc. How do you reprioritize

A: One of the advantages of an iterative approach is when there are changes. The change can be added to the backlog and then prioritized in the same way as all the other items in the backlog.

Q: Do you find it useful to link a requirement in a release back to the product backlog and the user story where it originated as part of your requirements management process.

A: Yes, we find this is the best way to show your customers that their requirements have been met.

Q: What are some tactics you recommend to determine customer pain or gains to identify product or service solutions?

A: There are several techniques you can use to identify customer pains and gains. It all depends on the customers, the project team, and the budget. Some of the techniques are brainstorming, interviews, focus groups, observations, feedback surveys, etc.

Q: In your slides about story mapping you have Features >> Epics >> User Stories >> Tasks.  Do you see times where well defined epics / business cases lead to features? It feels like starting with features is the tail wagging the dog.

A: Unfortunately, at times the English language is not precise. In our case, we are using features, to describe an item that delivers significant value to a persona (customer). That feature should be decomposed into small pieces such as epics and user stories. We realize that sometimes a user story could define what some people call a feature (the tail in your question), but for us, the feature is the dog.

Q: Can you provide links to your other webinars for journey maps.

A: There a several webinars on Journey Maps on projectmanagement.com that you can check out.

Q: What type of techniques would you recommend to draft the persona information and who will participate, the entire project team, only some, stakeholders?

A: To draft personas you can use many techniques including surveys, focus groups, research, feedback, expert judgment. In general, to work on personas you want a diverse team that deals with customers so they can share their perspective: product teams, sales teams, marketing teams, customer relations teams, etc.

Q: How do we manage delays during iterations?

A: In general, if there are delays during an iteration, you need to decide with the Product Owner whether the remaining work in a user story is still applicable. If it is, a new user story will be documented and included in subsequent sprints following the prioritization exercise.

Q: WBS is focusing on the deliverables from the solution perspective – User Story Map is focusing on the deliverables from the User/Problems (solvables?) perspective?

A: WBS deliverables focus on outputs. User stories focus on outcomes, including the value for which they are created.

Q: You might rank something higher than a higher priority item

A: Yes, in that sense, you may select a lower priority item to do in an iteration, because the higher priority items are too big to fit in the remaining capacity for the iteration. For example, I have a capacity for 100 story points. I pick the 5 top items that require 95 story points. The next priority item requires 15 story points, which would put me over my capacity of 100 story points. I would go down the list until I find an item that is 5 story points and select it to reach the capacity. Now, it is not that easy, I may drop a higher priority item in the top 5 to get items 6 and 7 in.

Q: How do you chose which prioritization model to use shown in slide 16? For example, stacked ranking was for small number of items in backlog. How about the others?

A: The selection of the approach depends on the organization, the project team, product and the available data. For example, if you have features that are time-sensitive and you can quantify the time impact, then you can use the cost of delay. If you have features that are more focused on customer satisfaction than revenue, the Kano model may be better. If you are trying to do a basic sorting of a large number of items, then use MoSCoW.

Posted by Peter Monkhouse on: January 10, 2022 05:34 PM | Permalink

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Thank you for sharing with us the questions that came up during your webinar and the answers.

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