Blurred out view of the top half of our blueprint

Service Blueprints: A Tool for Mapping out Complex Problems

As a product manager, I recently had a new team added to my responsibilities. One of my new priorities was to help improve a complex flow that was taking a lot of our team’s time, and was the source of some pain points for our customers.

While there was a pre-existing idea of what we needed to do, I wasn’t sure it was the right first step to take. Instead, I wanted to take a look at the process more holistically, come up with ideas, and prioritize.
This flow involves our customers, people at our company in contact with the customers, and people at our company doing more work behind the scenes. It also involves our public website, our app, and multiple back-end systems.

Given the complexity, a service blueprint seemed like an obvious choice to help me understand what the flow is today, and how we could improve it in the future.

Example blueprint from Miro, with physical evidence, customer actions, onstage contact actions, backstage contact actions, and support processes
Example from Miro
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Showing PM at the intersection of technology, data, business, and UX

From UX Director to Product Manager

I recently gave a talk for UX Akron on the similarities and differences between being a UX director at an agency vs a client-side product manager. I made that switch mid-year 2020, after more than 6 years as a UX director.

I covered:

  • A brief definition of what a digital product manager is
  • The differences in terms of where I spend my time as a UX director vs a product manager within a given project
  • The skills needed for a product manager vs a UX director
  • Resources to learn more about becoming a product manager

You can watch a video of the presentation, look at the presentation itself, or check out my summary below.

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Example graph

Intro to SQL for Product Managers, Part 3

Please check out part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t already.

In this section, I’ll talk about a few ways to look at time when it comes to SQL queries.

Time is often an important piece of the puzzle for a product manager.

How many people have done x in the last 30 days? How many people did x within 7 days of signing up? How has our cancellation rate changed over time? How many people did x before we made a change vs after? etc.

Queries to figure out any of that require a good understanding of how to make the appropriate queries in SQL.

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Product Management One-Pagers

Once I’ve determined what problems to tackle in the near term, I find it useful to create a “one-pager” to synthesize my thoughts around a problem/project. This is after the point where discovery research has been done, and I’ve talked with the team (including tech leads, designers, and another product manager) about the idea. 

I’ve listed the sections I found most useful to include, both for myself to confirm it’s a project worth tackling, as well as for the designer to read before they start designing. (Keep in mind, I’m only a few months into being a product manager! But this is what I’ve done so far)

For me, these are to help guide the team as they begin thinking through details; it’s not meant as a functional requirements document, nor should it be overly prescriptive. 

Several resources are included at the end of this article; I highly encourage you to check out John Cutler’s article and/or video for some great insights and frameworks around this idea.

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Screenshot of the landing page of People & AI Guidebook from Google

AI resources (for non-developers)

I was lucky enough to start my job as a product manager just as a machine learning project was underway! I was able to jump on board and get involved.

I’m glad I have built up a basic knowledge of machine learning over the past few years, as it was very helpful in being able to ask the right questions and have quality conversations with the lead developer.

I want to share some machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) resources for non-developers interested in learning more.

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Product Manager roles vs. UX Director roles

I’m in the process of moving from being a UX Director to being a Product Manager.

Along the way, I found it quite interesting just how similar the two roles often are, at least based on the job description. Others considering switching between the two roles might find this useful – in fact, as soon as I posted that I was making that move, someone messaged me to ask about the difference!

I may write more about the overlap once I actually start as a product manager, but for now, here’s a quick look at some of the similarities and differences in job descriptions between the two, taken from a few different job postings (listed at the end).

Note: both roles are defined fairly differently from company to company, so always read descriptions carefully. And take this with a grain of salt, as these are based on just a handful of examples.

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Design document best practices for easier handoffs and reduced maintenance

This post is about four (almost) tool-agnostic best practices to follow when you do any kind of formal design deliverable.

I recommend these best practices for two reasons:

1. Easier handoffs – improve your ability to share your file across team members / with clients. This is especially important these days, when you’re not sitting next to someone who is using your files
2. Reduced maintenance – make it easier to maintain files over time, so small updates don’t require lots of rework

Aligning on these ‘rules’ as a team will help improve efficiencies.

My four ‘best practices’ are:

1. Set up your grid/layout
2. Use symbols/components/masters
3. Use styles (text/layer/effects, etc.)
4. Organize your file, including naming things as needed, changing the order of layers, etc.

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UX Portfolios & Resumes: Curated Link Recs

I recently offered to review resumes or portfolios for up-and-coming UX grads, or those impacted by COVID (offer’s still open!). 

Rather than explain my rationale for a recommendation in detail, I often include a link to an in-depth article – and I’ve found myself going back to the same ones over and over.

This is my curated list of relevant best practice articles, as well as how-to’s and examples.

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Communicating information architecture

Jackie talking and walking with a microphone, with a slide behind her that indicates do's and don't's for presenting information architecture

On Saturday, February 22, during the World IA day event at Kent state, I presented on “Communicating IA: Making the Intangible more Understandable.”

Just having great IA isn’t enough – you need to make sure everyone is aligned around your IA so you don’t run into problems down the line (“why are we writing content for that? I didn’t say we should have that on our site!”).

In the deliverable meeting where you’re presenting your IA deliverable, here’s a rough framework to consider:

  • Establish a purpose for the meeting
  • Set the context
  • Introduce the deliverable
  • Present the deliverable
  • (post meeting) Share the deliverable
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Design team career guide sources

One of the challenges that I undertook in 2019 was to come up with a more detailed career guide for our team.
While I did a lot of work on this, it was iterating on what I had with the rest of the experience leadership team that truly brought the work to a level where it could be shared. 

We just shared it with the team, so no feedback on it yet, but I’m hopeful that the team will find it useful.

The biggest thing I learned – don’t start from scratch! There’s a lot out there that’s worth leveraging.

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