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Ask any product manager which tracking tools they use in a typical work week and chances are they’ll respond with a litany. JIRA. Asana. Excel. Google Docs. Pivotal. Version One. The list goes on…

At Wizeline, we don’t expect this hodgepodge of clever product management hacks to disappear. (In fact, we’re no strangers to them ourselves…) But we do want to help teams approach product decisions in a way that’s more streamlined, effective, transparent and — arguably most important — repeatable.

Put differently, many great tools exist to manage downstream PM activities: cost estimation, project tracking, scrum management, bug tracking, etc. In terms of managing the upstream activities, however — i.e., when teams gather to decide what should actually be built — there are few (if any) effective solutions available today.

We’re out to change that.

Case in point is the wizeline, the demarcation between winning product features and losing ones. Its position is determined by a range of signals and inputs, currently drawn from an organization’s most valuable asset — its team members. Once these inputs have been assembled, Wizeline algorithmically ranks each feature’s relative priority into a clear roadmap that’s easily analyzed and shared. The items that fall above the wizeline should be built; those that fall below should be abandoned or pushed to a later released.

Wizeline example roadmap

Nifty, right?

It’s important to note that we allow for wiggle room in the product management process. In most cases, each team has slightly different views on which products and features should be prioritized. Sales may want a particular feature to close a big deal. Engineering may want to reduce technology debt. Marketing may see an opportunity in an entirely new market. Since having engaged, aligned teams is key to every company’s success, Wizeline makes it easy for various groups to negotiate the final list of priorities for the upcoming release. We refer to this as the “horse-trading” stage.

So there it is: a quick look at how we’re helping organizations use data to sort the winners from the losers. At the end of the day, we envision a product development approach that uses data and science to distill vast amounts of disparate data into a short-list of top priorities. It’s then up to the humans to negotiate the final plan and execute the product roadmap. At least for now…

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Peter Moore Posted by Peter Moore on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.


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