Rover CTO on Product Management (Part 2)
Before creating an implementation plan, I use a 14-question checklist to frame up the planning process. This is not to suggest that every plan will require all 14 steps. Instead, it allows your product management team to understand the level of detail that a project will require.
For example, if you don’t check anything off, then it may just be a simple conversation with a co-worker about a new idea. If you check everything off, then you’ll need to involve everyone on your team and really think through what you’re trying to accomplish.
Each of the 14 points represents a potential red flag that you’ll want to consider before drawing up a new feature. Let’s start with the first seven items.
Question 1: Are the requirements unclear or in flux?
- Projects are often derailed when you don’t have a clear picture of what is expected. So, before you get too far into planning, it’s helpful to sketch out exactly what you are trying to solve. This will save a ton of time down the road and prevent headaches that can come when unknowns appear.
Question 2: Does the change affect a number of use cases?
- While specific changes may be simple in execution, you can face many errors and issues if a number of processes are affected. For example, credit card processing pages need to support transactions from multiple providers. As a result, you’ll want to consider the impact of adding or removing a specific provider to ensure that issues are mitigated.
Question 3: Even if you only have a few use cases, are they tricky?
- Your new feature may only touch a few areas of your product, but the affected components can be difficult to manage. Back to the credit card example, a customer entering their credit card number is fairly straightforward. However, the backend process for confirming payment is much more intricate. As a result, any change to this sort of interface needs to be addressed carefully.
Question 4: Does the project involve people using terms that mean different things?
- Let’s say your project is Facebook integration. Depending on who you talk to, this can focus on several enhancements. For example, do you want to add Facebook login integration to set up accounts on your site? Or, are you looking to enable sharing of content from your site to Facebook? With this, you need to get alignment on your product management team on what you are trying to accomplish.
Question 5: Is the new feature creating a big change?
- Think about supporting new countries or territories on your company’s website. Simply put, this involves changing a lot of code and changing virtually every part of our website. For example, you have to support new languages and think about product presentation on a regional level. Furthermore, you need to look at terminology to ensure that it aligns with the countries you’re supporting.
Question 6: Will the change involve data migration or a change in database schema?
- Sometimes, introducing new code or new features will not make a big impact. However, when the change impacts a database, this introduces more risk for errors to occur. Altering the structure or location of data is always a major red flag for the product management team.
Question 7: Does the change expand your technology footprint?
- To quote my grandmother, “everything you own is a responsibility.” With this in mind, it’s important to keep your technology footprint as simple and straightforward as possible. In other words, you have to think critically about new technologies or third-party integrations. There’s nothing wrong with adding new capabilities. However, you have to weigh the positives/negatives for altering how you conduct day-to-day business.