7 Dos and Don’ts of Communication: Shared Understanding and Alignment are the Objectives of Collaborative Work

This week I made an experience again which reminded me at one of my favorite movies “Groundhog Day” – the topic is about communication. There is plenty of literature written about communication out there, and I’ve decided to add my experiences as well. This is for me a continuous learning trying to get better in communication.

Last year I’ve learned from Jeff Patton about a major principle in communication when talking or creating User Story Maps. Jeff shared a picture about square, triangle and circle where I’ve found myself discussing with my colleagues about the same subject but a different understanding and level. Communication is never easy due to different perceptions of the sender and the recipient. Often when you are talking about a specific subject it looks like this:

Communication about a specific topic

Three people are talking about the same subject, but have different ideas in their mind what the want to communicate to each other. The idea behind it is very easy, and not always easy to achieve: “I am glad we all agree then.”.

Once you’ve exchanged your ideas the picture formula should become more like this:

Shared understanding

So how do you get there? Here are some ideas and experiences I made to get there:

  1. Write down your ideas as sharp as possible. If people don’t understand what you mean re-phrase it more concrete and sharp. But write them down!
  2. Writing is only one dimension of communication. Start to add sketches about your thoughts. Pictures tell more than words. Start sketching on the whiteboard or post-its, whatever helps to make your ideas visible.
  3. Don’t interpret that much. Interpretation always relies on assumptions. If you think you understand your counterpart, rephrase and ask about your interpretation and assumptions to find the same denominator.
  4. Ask yourself: If I am going to talk now, how much value do I add to the discussion or conversation.
  5. Listen, listen, listen! Try not to talk that much.
  6. Ask if you don’t understand what your counterpart has presented.
  7. Make sure everybody has the same level of conversation. Save details for the right time and type of conversation.

Something to add? Let me know about your experiences.

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#VMware continuous momentum in End-User Computing and acquired #Immidio #EUC

Again, VMware did another acquisition in the market for End-user computing and bought Immidio. There have been rumors before on several sources like for example Gabe Knuth from BrianMadden.com in his post back in October 2014 “If VMware wants into the UEM space, should they build or buy? A look at who they might target and why.“. So we now phase a new marketing term “Workspace Environment Management”:

The interesting piece is that VMware is continuing to invest and grow their solutions for End-user computing. If you look back to the end of 2013 VMware’s footprint in the EUC market was decreasing with no real focus in this market segment.

In fact within 1.5 years VMware’s position totally changed and Immidio is a great next step to complete a End-User solution for the market. The challenges I see for VMware are the different technologies and user experiences due to different products from their acquisitions. The pace of VMware and EUC is extraordinary fast, but I believe customers expect a more unified user experience of VMware’s products. VMware is doing a great job so far in harmonizing their product portfolio, but still a way to go.

In contrast, Citrix did several acquisitions between 2010 and 2014 and now released their restructuring program for 2015:

Citrix also announced the implementation of a restructuring program designed to increase strategic focus and operational efficiency. The restructuring will affect approximately 700 full-time and 200 contractor positions, and is expected to result in annualized pre-tax savings in the range of approximately $90 million to $100 million. Citrix expects to incur pre-tax charges in the range of approximately $40 million to $45 million related to employee severance arrangements and $9 million to $10 million related to the consolidation of leased facilities during fiscal year 2015.
“We hear every day from customers about the dual pressures they face – to deliver business results, while creating an engaging work-life experience for their people,” said Mark Templeton, president and CEO, Citrix. “Our focus on enabling a software-defined workplace is putting Citrix in front of this strategic challenge through the unique integration of our delivery networking solutions, workspace services and mobility apps. I’m proud of our 2014 performance, but we’re not satisfied. We are looking ahead to 2015 with a focus on innovation that delivers a better experience, more flexibility and greater security to our customers, and a more focused organizational footprint that enables profitable growth.”

You cannot compare the different situations both companies are in, but it will be interesting to see the market evolving in 2015.

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Mindmap of Ben Horowitz post about: Good Product Managers – Bad Product Managers

I am reading now “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” from Ben Horowitz which really touches me emotionally. In the chapter about train the people he sets some expectations to guide in a special direction, I found another post here. There you will find a list about good and bad product managers here. I wanted to give it a different view, that’s why I decided to post the list into a mindmap.

Good vs bad product managers


I believe in self fulfilling prophecy, so I like to focus on the good things which was the reason to split between good and bad. I don’t want to comment or rate the expectations about being a good or a bad product manager.

You can download the mindmap as well, it is created with Xmind.

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Business Assumption Worksheet for envisioning

This worksheet is originally created by Giff Constable to facilitate an assumptions discussion. I just wanted to add this to my blog to promote structured discussions about envisioning. There are plenty of other books and ideas out there, but I really like the easy way with this worksheet. Enjoy!

Business Assumptions

  1. I believe my customers have a need to _____.
  2. These needs can be solved with _____.
  3. My initial customers are (or will be) _____.
  4. The #1 value a customer wants to get out of my service is _____.
  5. The customer can also get these additional benefits _____.
  6. I will acquire the majority of my customers through _____.
  7. I will make money by _____.
  8. My primary competition in the market will be _____.
  9. We will beat them due to _____.
  10. My biggest product risk is _____.
  11. We will solve this through _____.
  12. What other assumptions do we have that, if proven false, will cause our business/project fail? _____.

User Assumptions:

  1. Who is the user?
  2. Where does our product fit in his work or life?
  3. What problems does our product solve?
  4. When and how is our product used?
  5. What features are important?
  6. How should our product look and behave?

Not every question apply to your project, but see how you are able to adapt. Next step is to priotitize these assumptions:

Business Prioritization Matrix

Prioritization matrix (source Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden p.22)

Create a chart like the prioritization matrix to identify project risks.

Better ideas or comments? Let me know.

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Reflections about #Microsoft and #Windows10

The press briefing on Wednesday January 21st 2015 was the start of Microsofts new chapter towards Windows 10. I was really overwhelmed after watching the Windows 10 Story regarding new devices and possibilities, which made me write a blog post about it: #Microsoft is back on innovation leadership after the Windows 10 press briefing.

Reflecting about Windows 10 this week I believe Microsoft is at the peak of inflated expectations when using Gartner Hype Cycle terminology with Windows 10.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
(Source: Gartner Hype Cycle)

So why that? Because the Microsoft share of personal computing device sale is still decreasing as you can see in mobile is eating the world by Benedict Evans.

Microsoft Share of Computing Devices Sales from A16z.com


I do believe Microsoft made a great move in positioning HoloLens as the new desktop while protecting their customer base by giving Microsoft 10 to existing customers for free, at least if you are on Windows 7, 8 or Windows Phone 8.1. HoloLens might be a disruptive game changer like the iPhone release back in 2007. This technology might be attractive again for developers which moved to mobile platforms and different business models. And without independent developers and a working ecosystem Microsoft is struggling through the “mobile tsunami“. In addition, holographic devices are not really new, there are and have been plenty of different vendors out there before the announcement of Microsoft. I always remember my first experiences with Microsoft tablets back in 2006. And looking back the road, Microsoft was not able to bring tablets successfully to the people. The same happened with mobile phones in spite of buying Nokia.

So, why should it be different this time? HoloLens is a new hardware device which is not covered nor mature by any other big software vendor today. Even Google closed their Explorer program about Google Glas on January 19th (see their post on Google+). Gaining attraction to a new innovative market combined with the idea of a unified Windows 10 might be a good strategy to win back several market segments like mobility, browser and gaming in the future. But there have been a lot of critiques since the announcement of Windows 10 about a “one size fits all” approach which means “one OS for all hardware devices” won’t work out.

What do you think?

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#Microsoft is back on innovation leadership after the #Windows10 press briefing today

What an amazing briefing today about the latest Windows 10 development. Microsoft is really back after their briefing today showing innovation leadership. The most spectacular announcement first:

This is really disruptive! Forget about Google Glas. I just want to try it right now and learn how to use the gestures and voice building 3d objects and calling colleagues or friends via Skype. WOW!

Watch Joe Belfiore presenting Windows 10 features in the video:

Headlines of the Windows 10 briefing in a short summary (source: http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2015/01/21/the-next-generation-of-windows-windows-10/):

  • Delivering Windows as a Service and a Free Upgrade to Windows 10: Great opportunity for existing customer to get the latest and greatest for free. It is also a great idea of Microsoft to protect their existing customer base and move them faster to a new version. The OS is becoming a freemium for existing customers, even if you have Windows Phone 8.1.
  • New Windows 10 Experiences
    • Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant, comes to PC and tablet, for the first time with Windows 10: Cortana is the new Siri. Again a clever move to reinvent mobile approaches to a different platform. Copy Siri from iOS to Windows 10 and you get Cortana.
    • Windows 10 for phones and tablets: Unifying the OS for all platforms is a smart move even Microsoft is not strong in phone or tablet market.
    • A new web experience for Windows 10 – Code-named “Project Spartan”: This is the latest web browser experience of Microsoft. There has been plenty of articles about this project, if a new browser is really needed if you have a look at competitors and versions in place. As the browser still is major gatekeeper for the internet, this is a strategic decision and approach to gain back lost territory.
    • Office universal apps on Windows 10: The cash cow of Microsoft now as universal app via store.
    • New universal applications will ship with Windows 10: Consistent user experience for applications on various devices is critical. Good learning from Apple iPhone and iPad spread now to a unified OS approach for all devices.
    • Xbox Live and the new Xbox App bring new game experiences to Windows 10: I don’t own a Xbox neither a Playstation, but I think this might be the right time to think about it after all announcements. It would be great to learn how to leverage gamification for myself. This in combination with the new 84-inch Smart TV :D!
    • Continuum Mode for 2 in 1 devices: Seamlessly switch between touch and hardware.
  • New Windows 10 Devices
  • Microsoft Surface Hub Unlocks the Power of Group Computing: Collaboration becomes the center for connected devices designed for the way teams in the workplaces naturally interact and come together. Digital white boarding, instant remote conferencing, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content on the screen from any device is possible with Surface Hub.

I am very excited and enthusiastic after watching the briefing. Can’t wait to try the new hardware, especially HoloLens flashed my mind. This is a dream coming true having the opportunity to work and play in a virtual environment available for the mass.

I want to end this post with the statement of Sadya Nadella:

Rewatch the briefing again? More pictures and short movies here: http://news.microsoft.com/windows10story/

What do you think? Please share your thoughts!

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#BusinessValuePoker for building a Product #Roadmap

Product Roadmap with Business Value Poker

At the end of last year I’ve made the great experience to built “yet another product roadmap” for our product line. This is nothing really new, except this was the first time overall for the whole product line while living agile. The sources where similar to past:

  • Customer feedback
  • Competitive
  • Analyst
  • Innovation
  • External/ internal factors

The good thing, we created very fast a product backlog of things we wanted to build in the future. Once this list was created we’ve estimated the t-shirt sizes of each feature in the list.

Then we were going for something new: Business Value Poker! And that was really the fun part :D. You will get a set of cards from the Business Value points in the sequence: 100, 200, 300, 500, 800, 1200, 2000, 3000. Then you are going to estimate each category of the feature:

  1. New Business: every feature that will potentially bring new customers or new markets, will also bring a fresh flow of money
  2. Up Sell: every feature that will potentially bring money from existing customers and could be sold as add-on, upgrade or plug-in
  3. Retainment: every feature that will avoid losing customers and will avoid the company losing money as well
  4. Operational Efficiency: every feature that will allow the company to save money (costs) given a potential increase in any operation (installation, configuration, customisation…)

You will repeat the estimation process until a consensus is reached. I can’t wait playing the game with different stakeholders and customer to get their feedback :D.

If you are interested in this methodology, you can order a set of cards here: http://www.agile42.com/en/agile-coaching-company/agile-scrum-tools/business-value-game

Once you have the business value of each feature, you are able to build release containers or building blocks not only based the business value, but also covering long term initiatives and similar things that make sense. The business value itself really helps you organise the roadmap then.

I only can recommend the Business Value Poker game and give it a try.

Different experience or way to prioritise Let me know.

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Patrick Sauerwein

Patrick Sauerwein

Senior Product Manager | Certified Scrum Product Owner

My passion is building software to help people in their daily life. Currently I am working for an ISV as a Senior Product Manager and Product Owner of an agile team. Working as a Product Manager, I am also experienced in areas like Product Marketing, Sales Engineering, Customer Support & Business Development. From a professional view I am experienced in End-User Computing, ITSM & Client Management, Infrastructure Operations, Client Management, ITSM, Virtualization solutions, Enterprise Mobility Management and Cloud Computing. I had the chance to work in different industries like ISVs, Financial, SMB, Enterprise & B2B trade. I am grown up in an entrepreneur family environment with a Diploma in Business Administration.My personal strenghts based on the Gallup Institute are Ideation, Learner, Achiever, Intellection & Empathy. In my blog I write about building products, end-user computing, mobility, virtualization and cloud computing solutions. Please have a look at my Twitter profile and blog. I love to exchange thoughts, keen to learn more new "abstract" things - very analytical thinking.

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