Product Management at Early Stage

Putting together a new project is both easy and hard, at the exact same time, especially from an engineering perspective.

I know that there are 1,000 things that I need to be doing, many of them at the same time, to get things moving in the right direction and yet I am also confident that I have the experience to move things forward and that if anything falls through the so-called cracks that they will be picked up over time.

This is because early stage product development is more of an experience than a process, more of an art than it is a science, and maintaining a certain level of joy in the work is just as important as building something that people (i.e. customers) actually, eventually, want.

And if you don’t like what you’re working on then there’s no point in building it in the first place, full stop.

But there can always be a little method in the madness of building an early stage product and even capturing high-level ideas and details can be very useful. My favorite tool of choice is Trello  and has been for quite some time.

In fact, I’ve built most (if not all) of my smaller indie projects using it as a full-cycle product management and product engineering tool. I’ve used it also for other scaling organizations as well with positive results and very little waste.

But what I think is most important is not what I necessarily put in the boards and cards, at least at the early stages, but rather that I have some sort of organization of information, a categorization that helps put similar patterns of thoughts together in a way that can be better and more easily understood.

These things change over time, of course, and most typically the ebbs and flows of a product (and sometimes a company) is directly tied to sales. And, if I put on my Product Management hat on for a second I am reminded of how the cycle changes and how my use of simple product management tools change as well:

Product Lifecycle
Product Lifecycle

One of the reasons that I love startups so much is that the time component is so compressed that you’re able to see the curve of growth (e.g. sales) quickly as opposed to working in a larger, fully-scaled out enterprise with existing product lines.

The Product Lifecycle, of course, goes through 4 main phases:

  • Introduction
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Decline

And the sales go up and down based on the season. At all points, though, keeping a catalogue of ideas, categorizing them by theme and by type, is immensely useful for even the most experienced of software and product development teams.

Which is why I’m heading back to Trello, once again, to capture and expand on these ideas as well as sort and to simply manage.

Trello is so useful.
Trello is so useful

At some point I’ll share more in-depth my workflow perhaps but at least at this point I’m trying to get things setup and stable so that a growing team can stay heads-down and focused on building great product.

Product management has its place and most early stage teams might voluntarily shirk and shy away from it (with very decent justification) but even the smallest amount of organization can go a very, very long way.

Also published on Medium.

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