Every product manager knows that discovering and defining Epics and User Stories is not an easy task, but it’s a necessary one all the same. The act of writing down the epics and the user stories provides the PM with more clarity about the product idea. You can compare the process of a product manager starting to write his/her user stories to to an artist looking at an empty canvas. Epics and Stories come in different sizes and forms and are usually represented by Word, PowerPoint or Google Docs files. But that might change soon.
Why would you start writing epics and user stories with an empty page, if you can follow a better practice that guides you through? That question begged me to find a better way, which led me to Craft, a product management solution that provides a full set of tools for product lifecycle development from the narrative of a product manager.
I had the opportunity to meet the founder of Craft, Nir Erlich, and share a bit about his vision and why he believes in helping our community with the hard task of collecting all of the requirements and communicating them.
On a quiet side street in the Montefiore neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, you can find the offices of Craft, an Agile Product Management solution. Craft was founded in June 2015 and launched in end of February 2016. Craft currently employs 10 developers and 2 Designers and 2 Marketeers.
Erlich is not your usual Product Manager. As he simultaneously runs Craft, Erlich also manages “Execute”, a software development company with more than 100 employees. In addition to running two companies at the same time (Jack Dorsey style), Erlich is also a husband and a father of two, sleeps between 3-4 hours a night and enjoys surfing on the weekends.
Erlich shared his vision with me, and the reasons behind starting Craft. In Erlich’s eyes, the product manager role has been neglected in terms of sufficient tools, mainly because the product manager role is relatively new to the tech scene. Until a few years ago, if you had developers, you could build something without product managers. So why do we need product managers today? Products were still built before the role of the product manager was created, but the end results just weren’t good enough.
Erlich suggested that the Google culture put a spotlight on the new role of the product manager. Google created a culture in Silicon valley where everybody was an engineer – and that notion turned the PM role into somebody with a computer science degree and technical skill. This move made product managers an essential part of R&D. In the early days of product management in Google, the role was very technical. This shifted with the emergence of UX and user centered design. The role shifted again with the inclusion of data, defining a vision, and working closely with the design and sales teams.
After working with many clients and product managers around the world, Erlich saw that there were no sufficient tools for product managers. That was when Erlich realised why the world needed Craft. Craft aims to provide all of the tools for the product manager role. Craft not only integrates with systems like JIRA, but will soon include all aspects of product manager works from discovery -> definition -> roadmapping -> sprint planning and also collaborating and communicating your product to your organization and clients.
As can be seen in the post featured image, Erlich looks at the world of product management tools using the Craft model. On the Y axis you can find the core functionality vs luxury and on the X axis you can find technical vs UX oriented. Craft’s goal is to move towards the top right and become a core functionality UX oriented product management solution.
Day in a life
Erlich works simultaneously on Craft, and his first company- Execute. When working in Craft, Erlich acts as the product owner ( including sprints, participating in collaborative meetings, working with the designers, working with business). He also considers all the analytics of the product and has interviews with customers (I’m one of them!)
Erlich believes in killing features. Over the course of developing Craft, the team has killed tens of screens. Erlich mentioned that what he likes about their team is that they are really good at crushing his ideas- meaning that they’re analytical and can take a different approach when considering all the information at hand.
Craft’s analytics stack includes Segment, Mixpanel, Intercom and Google Analytics. They are currently evaluating Heap Analytics, trying to avoid the maintenance cost of setting up events. For Internal communications they work with Slack and for R&D they use JIRA.