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Product Competence

How do we help product managers/owners identify competency models for their users?

A product manager should understand 2 things:  the need that their product is trying to fulfill, and the requirements it must include.  From those 2, ask the product manager what need achievement looks like at various proficiency levels, and what requirements each level can take advantage of.

Here’s a simple example.  Yesterday I spoke to a friend whose company just switched them from Lotus Notes to Outlook.  Needless to say, it was a pretty big change.  If I were the Outlook rollout manager for this company, I would say that the need the product must fulfill is the ability to easily communicate and share availability.  The requirements have to do with being able to use it for emails, calendars, tasks, and managing groups.

Prior to the rollout, the Outlook rollout manager should have identified a list of things they want someone to be ABLE TO DO at various levels of proficiency.

(1) Limited – Send emails, accept calendar invites

(2) Basic – Create calendar invites, check availability, create and file emails, manage tasks

(3) Skilled – Create and use email lists to ensure consistent recipients, schedule recurring tasks and meetings, use shared folders, automatically extract junk email

(4) Advanced – Auto format email and tasks so they stand out, customize layout to optimize productivity, create email rules to highlight visibility, assign tasks to others

(5) Expert – Modify templates, make it easy to create consistent folder structures (projects, customers), automate email organization, automate replies, maximize productivity

Now, a product manager can (1) share this model with users, so users become aware of capabilities, and drive themselves to higher level of proficiency (“I want to be able to do that!”), and (2) they can identify what activities or tools they can create to help users move from level to level.

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