Writing the Press Release First: Amazon and BPM

  • December 5, 2013
  • Scott

Loved the insights from this post by Brandon Sterne about Amazon’s product management approach, and “working backwards”. (If you don’t read his blog, you should!) We’ve previously looked at Apple and BPM, but this time, we turn our attention to Amazon’s product management process… And of course everyone knows Amazon must have a lot of automation and process around logistics and customer service and fulfillment.. but, product management?  The creative part of the process?  Sure, why not:

  1. Start by writing the Press Release. Nail it. The press release describes in a simple way what the product does and why it exists – what are the features and benefits. It needs to be very clear and to the point. Writing a press release up front clarifies how the world will see the product – not just how we think about it internally.
  2. Write a Frequently Asked Questions document. Here’s where we add meat to the skeleton provided by the press release. It includes questions that came up when we wrote the press release. You would include questions that other folks asked when you shared the press release and you include questions that define what the product is good for. You put yourself in the shoes of someone using the product and consider all the questions you would have.
  3. Define the customer experience. Describe in precise detail the customer experience for the different things a customer might do with the product. […] The goal here is to tell stories of how a customer is solving their problems using the product.
  4. Write the User Manual. The user manual is what a customer will use to really find out about what the product is and how they will use it. […] For products with more than one kind of user, we write more than one user manual.

Its fascinating to get a look at someone else’s approach to product management.  I’ve seen this “working backwards” approach applied many times in process improvement circles, and project management circles, but I haven’t seen it used to describe the high level process of product management before.

And I have to admit I like the idea.  We might have to experiment with it at BP3.  Brendan compares it to Lean Startup, and with some additional ideas for melding the two approaches.

Now the question rattling around in my head is:  should we start the next BPM project by writing the press release first?



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  • I love this approach. For one of my upcoming projects, I stopped designing and started with writing all of the site copy in a google doc, and iterated on that. Once that was done, I realized I had everything I needed to start cranking out proposals sans website!

    • have you seen startups or companies you’re familiar with doing this as well?

      • Only anecdotally. Especially when you already have a stable product and are working on smaller things you want to launch. I think sometimes we can often get over enamored with pushing pixels or slinging code. Being able to write well shows clarity of thought. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to come around to that.

        • We tried this recently. It was a good exercise and helped clarify and focus. A good reminder for me from this process: writing a PR is valuable but not more valuable than finding real users long before building the product. (what Steve Blank calls CDM).

          • oh yeah, i wouldn’t expect it to be “more” valuable, but it might help shape how you talk to “real customers” before you talk to them.

  • Benjamin Okuka

    The “working backwards” approach is a simple and powerful approach. Bruce Gordon, a former CTO at Infor championed this approach, we used it to design an entire product line.

    • used it many times for planning out projects, etc. – more tactical. Will have to try it on products!