Legend has it that there exists organizations where product roadmaps are carved into stone and instantaneously distributed, consumed, and passionately embraced by all who have the good fortune of coming into contact with them. The legend also states the product managers are revered on high with a level of respect usually reserved for the Dalia Lama or Nick Saban.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t work there.
For many of us, our product roadmaps are written on the equivalent of tissue paper and as product managers we have to fend off an army of challengers who are wearing rose-colored glasses and armed to the teeth with erasers and sharpies.
The key in being able to defend your product roadmaps and the features that lie within is to be able to show how, and with whom, key decisions were made. The challenge lies in that the data, the conversations, and the findings usually lie in a thousand different places spread randomly across your calendar.
In this article, we are going to discuss how to use Evernote along with a few other low-cost/free tools to help manage the avalanche of conversations, data, and other revelations that go into creating your product roadmaps. If you are not familiar with Evernote, I strongly encourage you to go to their website www.evernote.com, download a free version and invest some time learning it. For you big spenders, invest the $2.99 and go buy “Evernote for your Life” it is a good, quick read.
When you first open Evernote, you are presented with a clean, prestine, blank canvas on which the possibilities are limitless. If you are like me, this scares the living heck out of you. But don’t worry, we are going to show you how you can bring some structure and sweet OCD-grade process to your notes.
Oh, the sweet comfort of structure
So, let’s start with your meeting notes. Productive meetings are where the magic begins, unproductive meetings are where your hopes, dreams, and ambitions go to die. In fact, if it hadn’t been for an poorly planned HR benefits meeting back in 97, I would probably be a dancer today. But I digress.
At our company, every meeting of the Product Team has a documented agenda with set objectives. The lead for the meeting sets the agenda in advance and distributes via an Evernote shared link.
There are few ways we add some structure to this process. First, we have a meeting note template that we all share that has fields for Meeting Time, Location, Date, etc. but also Agenda, Meeting Notes, Action Items, and Associated Materials like the Powerpoint for the meeting, word docs, web links, etc.
If you like a little more formatting and color in your notes, create the template in a word processor and then copy it over into Evernote. Name the template something cool like “A. Template – Meeting Notes” and make a copy each time you need to use.
Using a Third-Party App
Another way to add structure to your meeting notes is to use an app. A popular app for this task is PowerBot (http://www.powerbotapps.com/) and it hooks directly into your google calendar. When you schedule a meeting, it will ask you to create a Powerbot Meeting Summary and give you the opportunity to insert existing Evernote notes/notebooks (ex. Here are the specs we discussed from last meeting) into the meeting invitation. You will notice that it will show you any related notes.
The result is that all of the information from the meeting invite will be created in an Evernote note that you use to build you meeting agenda and objectives. You capture your conversations from the meeting on the note, and then after the meeting, you can then share it with the meeting attendees.
Check out our video on Using Evernote to manage your meetings.
In Part II of our discussion, we talk about using Evernote to handle new product requests.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.