Sad About Evernote / Use Your Product

I have been using Evernote for a long time; since 2011 according to the little pop-up on my account page. It has been a long time since I have written about it or written in general. Today, however, I was moved to do both, and top it off with a Product Management thought to boot.

Note – If you don’t give a hoot about Evernote and you are here for the Product Management tidbit, click here!

Though I don’t write about it, I use Evernote almost every day. Now, the “almost” comment is a change for me. I still use Evernote, almost religiously, for capture of documents, receipts, and things I want to get back to later. I still have that Evernote Elephant in me about remembering everything. I used to use it to execute GTD and keep my To Do lists efficiently moving forward. (All of that needs to be another post.) However, over the past 18 months, I have watched the product deteriorate, and that is sad.

Evernote, somewhat to the frustration of many, went on an effort four years ago (I think; time blurs for me) to make the foundation strong and unify the product offering so what you saw on your desktop vs. mobile was a seamless transition. Though I longed for new features and a move back to the Elephant culture, I appreciated this move as a Product Person — though it felt like it was going on forever. Then Evernote quietly announced their sale to Bending Spoons.

I got excited about the possibility of a new owner – maybe they will finally push Evernote forward again and go back to delighting and exciting long time paying users like me. All of 2023 went by with zero changes (and bug fixes). Now, in 2024, Bending Spoons is dismantling the work Evernote did to strengthen and unify the product. The UI between platform no longer matches; when I go into my iPhone it is still the same (short of Ux which I will talk about shortly), but then I go to desktop and it’s like whhhaaattt? Colors are different. No greeting. Note experience is a little different. Not encouraging. And Evernote is not “steadfast” anymore.

On my iPhone, the app for the past couple of months / releases resets all the time. When you enter it, it “reloads” and repaints three times. I can be in a note taking meeting notes and, POOF, the app reloads – and I am out of the note. My quick and trusty capture product is not longer. #Sad

Admission – as I went searching for the sale announcement link, I stumbled across posts from over the past year about “exciting changes” they are making.  And, as I read them, I say, “sure, okay, yeah, I kind of see that.”  So, I’ll admit – apparently, they are trying to do something with Evernote.  But again I’ll use the word “sad” that I do not flat out see those improvements directly in front of me in the product.

Product Management Thinking

I am focusing on Evernote here, but I am frequently in other products where I wonder, “Does the Product Manager even USE their own product??!!” In Evernote, I would be shocked if there is a Product Manager using the iOS version, sees the bug, and does not tell the team to roll back the release. How could they use the two experiences (Mobile and Desktop) and say “ahh, yes, my job is well done here.” I totally believe that a Product Manager does not know what the customer needs even if they themselves are a customer. You, the Product Manager, must be out there talking to customers, living with the customer in the moment and seeing their individual needs.

Are you as a Product Manager using your product? Are you out there truly seeing your customer’s needs and experiences? Did you do this and just have not done it lately or stopped all together? Start! Today! Please! 

Focus on People

A little while back, I commented on LinkedIn that organizations, more and more, seem to be forgetting about focusing on people first and foremost. It’s been on my heart to talk more about that.

The Agile Forefathers wrote the Agile Manifesto back in 2001. Yes; ponder that for a minute – 22 years ago they wrote this. Software peeps and organizations have been using Agile for awhile now – all proclaiming to be proponents of “people first.” Yet, here we are in 2023 and many organizations are still running technology projects just like we did back in the 1990’s. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me give you an example where focusing on people first gives you the results you want later.

I know this isn’t “apples to apples” with your adult, professional agile career and team, but it drives this remarkable point home. Beautiful and I have had challenges with getting our sons to get their chores done. We’ve tried charts, reward systems, taking things away – all the usual parent stuff. Then, just coming out of an amazing Agile Refresher course at work, it dawned on me that “giving them ownership” had to be a part of this.

I created Kanban Board Version One. (I had to move to Version 2.0 as the first board was too small, then Version 2.1 as the sticky notes were falling off the wall.) I sat the boys down and I first shared with them a little about what I do at work. I wanted to build some “maybe he knows what he’s talking about” with them. (Maybe it helped; maybe I know what I’m talking about. LOL; they probably didn’t care about that part.) I talked with them about the Kanban board, then had THEM start creating the cards for the board. I got them to talk about how they, together, owned the board and the chores. They seemed to be excited about creating the cards. We posted the board and started using it the next morning. Was it perfect? Has it been perfect since day one? No. (Is your Kanban or Scrum team perfect? I know the answer is “no.”) But have we had more success than in the past? Yes! Many mornings the boys “Kanban through their morning.” They engage and work with each other in an excited and engaged fashion. Also, they end up having time to do what they want before school. This is all because:

– They own the system.
– They can see exactly what they have to do.
– They work together to get it done.

We even do a Retro on the weekends. Beautiful, once, tried to inject new chores onto the board “mid-sprint.” I “protected the team” and said, “errrr, no. We have to wait for retro. The boys have to have a say.” I fully support my beautiful wife, but she and they saw how this is a team decision – not just one forced on them – and everyone during the retro agreed to the desired additions. They are kids, but letting them be vested in the process – focusing on them as people – has made a big difference.

Now, I’m not saying your Agile Team is like a bunch of kids. (or, hmmmm, am I? 😉 ) — but if you feel like it’s a fight to get things done, or, if you just feel there is a better way to have success with your product, I beg you to ponder – are you focusing on people first? Do! I promise you, the magic will happen.

How to be a Successful Product Owner – Love and Integrity

I have had this post ready for a long time.  Like, a really long time.  But I could not pull the trigger and publish it.  Finally, in the last few days, I figured out why – being afraid of my discipleship.  Let me explain and, I hope, provide comfort to those who are not “religious.”
Please, bear with me on this.
Before I became a Christian and a Believer, I was not.  Period.  Did not believe in God.  Thought those that did were nuts.  And, if someone wrote about, or talked about, or I read something from somewhat that was about “Religion,” frankly I was offended.  So, now, today, I figured out that I am afraid to offend someone with all the Jesus talk.  So, please, please.  I know you are primarily here for the Product Owner and Business Analyst stuff.  And, if you don’t care about “the Jesus talk,” I hope you will give me grace.  In the meantime, I’m clicking publish, I’m done with being afraid, and, it’s my blog – I can talk about Jesus if I want to!  But, also, I want this blog and entry to help you.
Previously I wrote about how you cannot and should not try to be perfect.  Only Jesus was the perfect human being; we are not!  (That’s one of the reasons why it’s so great to have Him in one’s life!)  So moving beyond trying to be perfect will free you to excel – both as being a BA, Product Owner and in life in general.  So, next up on my list is “Love.”
I bet that strikes you as being kind of odd.  “I’m here reading this to become a better Product Owner and Business Analyst – so what’s love got to do with it?”  (Thank you Tina Turner.)  Well, I actually had not intended to tie Christianity further into this post – but I guess God’s just going to make it happen.  I’m glad you ask why “love” is involved.  In case you didn’t know, Jesus said love is the ultimate commandment:
‘Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘ Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV
Back to my personal experience, and my advice for you – showing love, compassion, caring, sympathy at times when things are not going well for the department or business, will help you go far.  And by this, I mean sincerely.  I mean, you have to feel it in your heart.  I watch BA’s and PM’s in meetings.  They smile, they nod.  But, I can tell, they don’t care.  That may or may not come across in the meeting (most of the time, it does and that simply does not help anything), but after the meeting; that “love lost” translates into the BA / PM not caring and not moving the project forward.  The project quality may suffer due to not caring emotionally.  The tasks of the project simply don’t get done and the project falls behind schedule because they don’t physically want to do it.  So, search your heart.  Do you love what you do?  Do you sincerely care for the organization?  The project?  If not, this is going to greatly impact how you perform.
Several items above, including performance, relate directly to “Integrity” – so that’s why I went ahead and lumped that trait or quality into this writing.  To be successful for your stakeholders, you have to get the job done.  Back to “being imperfect,” if you don’t know the answer, you have to have integrity and follow up with the answer.  Your stakeholder is trusting you to be their guide; their hero; to help them excel / grow / get out of the jam they are in.  You cannot do this without integrity.  I’ve seen projects where it’s been attempted, and at first it looks like the project is succeeding or completed, but then holes are found and the stakeholders slowly figure out that the PO / BA / PM really didn’t do their job.  (See where the love is then! 😉)  Again, integrity is critical to success – and it has to be sincere – which goes right back to love.  See, tying the two together worked out – all thanks to Him.
I sincerely hope that after reading this, you will stop and reflect – for many minutes – about where your heart is.  Not only in your Product Owner / Business Analyst / Project Manager job.  But, in life.  Do you smile?  Do you enjoy what you do?  Do you enjoy the people you associate with?  Are they good people to be associating with?  Is your heart truly filled with love?  Find healthy ways to make sure it is.  And, yes, one more plug for Christianity.  In my MANY years of doing life and career, including reading all the best business books and “self-help” out there, I only came to Christ in the past 10-ish years and quickly found that His way is the only way I have found, and you will find, that works.