I need a tool to help me with all the messy things I do today in random Word docs – I have to do them, but they are messy, and the tools don’t support the messiness.
Why are these messy? Some of the reasons are: There are lots of many-to-many relationships. There is a lot of decomposition, and then recomposition. There are emergent or combinatorial interactions.
For example, when I write release notes, I often need one version for internal people (the “rude” version) and one version for customers. And for some features or bug fixes I only need one of these, and for some I don’t need either. For some features or fixes, there’s another release note that already addresses them. And there’s a difference between “No release note needed” and “I haven’t written the release note yet, but it needs one.” Does your requirements management tool support any of these scenarios? Mine doesn’t. (Mine is Jira, today, but was Accept360 in the old days – neither handles this level of messiness.)
I could come up with a similar set of messiness generators for all the other items on the list above, and many more besides.
Some key points for people building tools, as a metric to see if they are handling messiness. People evaluating tools can use these points as well:
As tool builders (PM tool or otherwise), you need to take Paul Graham’s exhortation to heart – “Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way … deliberately [seek] hard problems,” (about 2/3 of the way into the article). And conversely, if a problem seems easy, especially in this domain, it may mean you don’t understand it.
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
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