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Course Introduction: Product Critiques

Course Introduction
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
3:30 - 5:00

Welcome to PM101!!

For our first session, we'll do three things. First, we'll use an example to consider the attributes of great and flawed software products. Next, we will discuss PM101’s learning objectives, structure, and requirements - this is probably going to be the most unique, high action, course you take at HBS, prepare for lots of details! We will have several course alumni as guests to share tips and do Q&A. Finally, students will briefly describe their projects for everyone get acquainted and to wrap up any joiner matching (if necessary).​

Read the below very carefully - this is more information than a typical assignment for PM101.

Required Reading

  1. (HBR) What Does It Take To Be A Great Product Manager - Julia Austin

  2. (book) The Mom Test - Rob Fitzpatrick - Must complete by September 23

  3. (book) Escaping The Build Trap - Melissa Perri - Must complete by October 28
    [Both books will be handed out to students on September 11]

Recommended Reading


We require the G-Docs suite for all deliverables for consistent sharing, peer review and instructor commenting/grading. A shared Google-Sheets workbook, the PM101 Assignment Master, tracks all key deliverables for the course. Please familiarize yourselves with this workbook. It has three important elements:

  1. Teams tab with all projects and team members, with student emails & a link to my self-service office hours sign up sheet.

  2. Syllabus tab with high-level dates and deliverable information.

  3. A dated tab for each deliverable. 

You will use this sheet a LOT throughout the course; this document is for PM101 students only. As a warm up for the course (and using the Assignment Master), you will do a simple exercise for our first session on September 4.

For each individual (not as a team):

  • Brainstorm a short list of what you think are the attributes of excellent software products. Then, evaluate that list against one of the following products; try to pick a product you have not used before:

  • In a Google Doc, list great attributes of excellent software products and write two short paragraphs explaining:

  1. How the product you chose to evaluate maps to these attributes (use a grading system, pro-con list or similar method to articulate)
    1. What suggestions you’d make to the product’s PM for improving the product you chose to evaluate.

  • Optional: try sketching your improvement ideas. Include photos of any sketches -- however rough

  • Find the “Sep 4 - Prod Crits” assignment tab in the Assignment Master and post a link to your Google Doc (and optional sketches) by 5 pm on Tuesday, September 3. Please remember to set View Access ON for Prof. Austin. You do not need to post this assignment in Canvas.


Note: PM101 will regularly require the submission of small assignments like this in advance of our class sessions. These submissions count toward your course grade.


Session Prep

  1. Each student should be prepared to discuss the attributes of excellent products and their evaluation of the product they selected, along with suggested improvements.

  2. Each team should have one team member prepared to deliver a two minute spiel (no slides necessary) describing the problem you are trying to solve and for whom.


Schedule full team office hours with Julia. ALL team members must attend this first meeting of the semester.

9/13 Deliverables:

  • Each student (not team) must sign the Student Participation Agreement. Please read, sign and digitally return to Jacey by 9/13. You may print, sign and scan or use a tool like DocuSign. Prof. Austin will review and answer questions about SPAs in class on 9/4.

  • Your team will be developing a first draft of your Customer Research Plan the week of 9/9. Be sure to set aside team time outside of class and lab sessions to develop this deliverable. More info on the details of the deliverable in class on 9/4.

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