Joe Stump on How to Make Product Management Easier for Developers

In Chapter 14 of 14 in his 2012 interview, Internet entrepreneur Joe Stump answers "How Are You Learning to Improve the Product Management Process for Developers?"  Stump provides the background for what motivated him to co-found software company to make product development easier.  Joe Stump is a serial entrepreneur based in Portland, OR. He is CEO and co-founder of, a product management software company.  Previously he founded SimpleGeo, which was sold to Urban Airship in October 2011.  He advises several startups - including and, through its acquisition, ngmoco:) - as well as VC firm Freestyle Capital.  He earned a BBA in Computer Information Systems (CIS) from Eastern Michigan University.


Erik Michielsen: How are you learning to improve the product management process for developers?

Joe Stump: I talk to a ton of developers and just listen to what they're doing. I do a little bit of consulting as well mostly around product management and team management, a little bit around product as well. I think product management spans a big area. It spans strategy, what should we build, when should we build it, why are we building it, all the way to asset allocation and whatnot.

So, basically I've been working in this space. I've been leading and managing teams for almost a decade now and I've kind of taken a lot of those lessons and what I find is every team behaves slightly differently and the thing that I’ve probably – the thing that’s stuck out most to me over the last kind of decade or so is that when you assemble teams, like each team is like a little snowflake and they all behave and look and act in a slightly different manner. And in software engineering, there’s like, there are all this process paradigms, agile, scrum, waterfall, kanban.

And what I found is teams generally will embrace parts of each of those. Very, very few teams will embrace those fully. And what I’ve done is – I mean every developer at some point in their career has been frustrated with one of their tools, and said, “One day I'm going to rewrite a better mousetrap and I'm going to make a better tool.” And I'm happy to say I'm realizing that dream finally.

I recently -- The first week of December, I launched my new product. It's called And is really the manifestation of almost 15 years of frustration with the product management tool. These tools I found have generally fallen into a couple of different camps. One camp is they're built for product of business to manage resources. Developers hate those. They don’t really like using those. They don’t have a lot of things that developers want and for, to do their day to day stuff. So the features in those skew much towards really resource planning. And then you have bug trackers built by developers for developers.

So you have two completely different types of software that are trying to address the same problem for two different parties at the table, right? Really my approach with has been I think a little bit different whereas in first of all, I'm trying to build a tool that unifies those two camps. I actually found more than a handful of customers when I was talking to them that the developers were literally using one tool and the project management people were using another tool and then they would copy and paste stuff back and forth, which I think is insane.

So, we've been building in a way that I want to get everybody using the same tool. So that has forced us to decrease barriers. And we built a tool, a lot of the tools out that are in product management, certainly the bug trackers are very technical and very difficult to understand. So we've kind of done away with that. It looks a little bit more like a consumer product. And the other thing I wanted to do is I wanted to increase transparency. So I talked to – you talk to the developers and it's almost like companies in software – like software companies are two black boxes warring at each other.

You have the makers on one side and you have the business and manager people on the other side and they're like, “What are you doing?” and the other one is like, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Why are you doing that?” So really, I want to build kind of into the UN of product management software where everybody comes to the table, everybody can see what everybody else is doing. I think sometimes my software development peers make things a little too complicated.

I guess over time, I’ve just learned that when you're building products and working with teams that you need to spend more time listening than talking because that’s when you'll realize what the problem is. There's a couple good quotes around product that I like that I think emphasize that, which is “don’t give the customer what they ask for, give them what they want.” And then there's a really great Henry Ford quote, which is, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”