Planning and analysis are often missing from today’s product management. We’re so caught up in product operations—answering daily questions for development, sales, and marketing—that we have little time for anything else. And planning doesn’t mean people locked in their offices, thinking deep thoughts, and creating myriad documents that no one ever reads.
I have come to believe that most organizations need a small number of living documents—fewer than 10—to manage their products and services. I believe in minimal process, brief artifacts, and living documents.
In my product leadership roles I always have a (small) collection of documents that reflect the current state of my product(s). Sometimes I have a standard price list; sometimes a financial model. Sometimes it’s a set of positioning documents by persona, or perhaps a roadmap of the next few releases. These living documents are the ones that I reference often. Once I kept them on paper in a notebook; now I keep them in a shared folder to access from my computer or tablet.
What are the templates? Here’s a list of fewer than 10:
- Portfolio roadmap
- Buyer profiles (replaces market segmentation)
- Product profile (replaces product plan)
- Financial plan (replaces a full business plan)
- Product backlog (replaces the traditional MRD)
- Promotional backlog (replaces the marketing plan)
- Launch plan (including sales enablement)
- Profitability retrospective
Are there more? Surely you can think of some. But the issue is not how many documents you can have; the issue is how few. We want to have the smallest number of living documents that balance the company’s need to mitigate risk while ensuring business agility. You need to move the the product or portfolio team toward success but too many artifacts, meetings, checkpoints result in a slow-to-market company.
The set of documents varies by company. The ownership of these varies by company too; they may be maintained by product manager, product marketing managers, product leaders, or others.
Use the Under10 product planning canvas to profile your planning process.