Beware of the naked man

I forgot to cross-post "Beware of the naked man" last night. Since people kindly left comments to the post, I have to rectify that oversight.

The post is about the role of social media in product requirements. Is it a supplement or replacement for other requirements sources? How hard is it to get good information out of social media?

Please spread the word about the requirements survey

We're trying to make our requirements survey as successful as possible, which depends in large part on getting as many people to take the survey as possible. Here's where we humbly beg for your help.

Please distribute this link to the survey to anyone you think has experience with, and opinions about, requirements documents and the requirements process:

Again, all responses remain confidential, and participants get both our thanks and a copy of the final research.

[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]

Google Wave makes smart design decisions early

Which business problems will Google Wave address?
A few weeks ago, I watched the Google Wave launch video with a mix of interest and nervousness. A big part of my reaction was shaped (warped?) by my experience doing product management and product marketing for collaboration and content management products. While I didn't launch myself at the screen yelling "Noooooooo!" (in slow motion), I did worry that Google might walk straight into an all-too-familiar minefield of competing solution areas.

Collaboration and content management pose a classic problem in requirements and design: Which solution do you want to target? If you build a product without prioritizing among all the different business problems that it might address, you'll build a very "horizontal" product that satisfies no one. Or, worse, it makes perfect sense to you, but everyone else struggles to see how it will best work for them.

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The Heretech, episode 15: Cindy Alvarez on market development

Cindy Alvarez, ace product manager and fellow blogger, tells us why it's hard for tech companies to build a products that are easy to use. We also discuss product manager's responsibilities for identifying new markets. 

Plus, a review of a fascinating book about a highly successful tech company, and the requirements survey is underway!  Copyright (c) 2009 Tom Grant.

Best practices for requirements

We're doing a major research project on the state of product requirements in the technology industry.  To make this project as successful as possible, we need your participation in either or both aspects of it, the survey and the examples. (Whichever works for you.)

What's in it for you? When the final research document is done, we'll give you a copy. We also promise to keep any information you provide confidential.

The survey
We just launched the survey at the following link:

If you have approximately 20 minutes to spare, we're interested in hearing how you collect, write, review, and circulate requirements in your organization. Also, please feel free to forward this link to anyone you think would be interested in participating in this survey.

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Ask me anything

 As a Forrester analyst, I talk directly to product managers, product marketers, product VPs, development managers, CEOs, you name it. Sometimes, I discover that people in these roles don't know the full range of research, data, and other services that Forrester provides to them as our clients. Therefore, I thought it would be worth a quick post about one of these services, inquiries.

Have a question? Set up a 30 minute inquiry and we'll do our best to answer it for you. Since my research covers a bundle of related topics--product management, product marketing, requirements, Agile, social media, product strategy, etc.--the questions sent my way usually fit into these categories. I also get no small number of questions that fall naturally into the penumbra of these topics, such as market development, innovation, standards, and tools. Here are some recent examples:

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Playtesting is much more than usability testing

I have boardgames on the mind lately, since game development has some interesting parallels to product development in the technology industry. Today's twist: Boardgame designers put a lot of effort into creating a particular experience. There are lots of ways to make bad design decisions, but the really good ones don't reveal themselves unless you "playtest" them. Unfortunately, the "user experience" testing for a $100,000 piece of technology often isn't nearly as rigorous as the playtesting for a $30 boardgame.

For the full discussion, follow this link to The Heretech blog.

Market development: horizon or mirage?

The recession has sharpened the points of a dilemma that technology vendors were already facing: Do cleave closely to our existing customers, or try to expand outwards? Do we try to sell more into existing account in familiar markets, or do we look for new markets where people are struggling with business problems that look congruent with the ones we're solving for our existing customers?

With no obviously correct choices, vendors experiment, to the point where they see real opportunity, or decide that the exercise is going nowhere. But how do you know if you've invested enough into the experiment to get a reliable result?

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The Heretech, episode 14: Israel Gat on Agile adoption

In this episode, Israel Gat illuminates the ways in which Agile adoption depends on organizational and cultural factors. We also muse about Helmut von Moltke, 19th century military Agilist. (Go look it up!)

Plus, a brief review of an even briefer document about innovation in “knowledge-creating” companies, and a heads-up about some upcoming survey research about product requirements and Agile adoption. Copyright (c) 2009 Tom Grant


The misuse of social media

The "inbound social media" research grew to massive proportions, then underwent mitosis to become three separate documents, because it's difficult to encapsulate the discipline of using social media. Like any new field, social media are fraught with both opportunity and risk.

In the particular application that I was investigating, social media as a new source of requirements data, people can commit the same mistakes with this new source of information as they have with the old ones. For example, important players in the product development process often make decisions based on the customer with whom they last spoke. An equally common temptation is to listen to customers who echo what you want to hear, and disregard the rest.

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