Without product management, new software apps and improvements to existing solutions wouldn’t emerge. The practice is also responsible for the launches of products that are still considered groundbreaking innovations today. While product management has been around for decades as a critical business function, product managers have had to adapt over time.
This adaptation is prompted by the tools and technologies managers use and the ways they lead their teams. Changes in product life cycles, market needs, and client expectations are additional drivers of the need for flexible approaches. The software development sector, in particular, is where product management practices must remain adaptable. To help your development team produce the best possible products, embrace these four product management tips.
1. Plan for Success
Defining goals for every product development stage is critical to a product manager’s job. Otherwise, a development team won’t know where their efforts are headed and the reasons behind them. Designing an overall road map within a product manager tool is a step in the right direction.
As helpful as that road map is, software teams will likely need other measures of success to help guide them. Spelling out key performance indicators for each stage lets developers know what their individual goal posts are. You might measure cycle time during coding, say, or the bug rate during testing. Each product development stage is like playing a match in an overall game or competition. To win the game, you’ve got to know what smaller victories will get you there.
Besides development phases, product managers can set performance measures and objectives for collaboration and teamwork. Good collaboration usually involves well-defined workflows, processes, and individual roles. Discussing and outlining these before each project begins, and flexing them as needed, can ensure productive teamwork happens.
2. Encourage Information Sharing
To work together, development teams must have access to the same information about a product. This includes documents relating to customer personas, software requirements, and desired deadlines. When the project’s critical documents aren’t shared or centralized among the group, data silos can form and impede productivity.
That’s because everyone isn’t on the same page or may not have the information they need to move forward. Data silos are typical in organizations with many departments that use different data sources. However, silos can form in smaller teams because of inadequate technology and highly specialized roles.
Product management software with document-sharing capabilities can prevent data silos from forming in software teams. Managers gain the ability to upload and share personas, desired software features, essential requirements, and other critical data. Group members can also share information that will impact the entire team, regardless of their individual roles. With centralized technology, there aren’t as many opportunities for data silos to form.
3. Build for the Customer
Creating processes and software applications for customer or end-user needs sounds simple and obvious. But it’s also surprisingly easy for a company’s or team member’s perspectives and wants to take over. When internal needs and viewpoints dominate product development, it can jeopardize the outcome.
Sometimes internal perspectives take over because the customer’s needs aren’t clearly specified. Ill-defined end-user expectations are one of the reasons software development projects fail. Without a clear outline of a client’s wants and needs, the team will resort to filling in the blanks. Software developers may make assumptions based on how they see things and interpret customer conversations or interactions.
Getting a list of app or system requirements from clients often isn’t enough to spell out their desired outcomes. Showing customers initial product designs and discussing them is a way to work through mismatched expectations. Some customers won’t know how to communicate their wants until they see a design in progress. Others will want to tweak or adapt their requirements once they see them come to life. Involving clients in the early development stages can prevent disappointment later.
4. Track and Monitor Progress
Without follow-up and accountability, projects could become unorganized, and individual contributors might drop the ball. This may not happen intentionally. Instead, projects and individual assignments usually get off track because of a lack of urgency and set priorities. Other reasons include an absence of feedback, approval, and follow-up.
Tracking tools and reports give product managers the data they need to monitor the team’s progress and identify bottlenecks. Perhaps reports reveal prototypes are taking longer to develop than anticipated. Further analysis shows designers are spending more time brainstorming than they should. A lack of transparent approval processes is also responsible for delays and missed benchmarks.
Thanks to this data and analysis, a product manager can help reprioritize the team’s activities and establish clearer processes. That said, tracking tools and reports will sometimes show that development teams are working efficiently. They’re meeting productivity goals but may have further ideas about how to improve processes and workflows. Team discussions that touch on both the group’s insights and what the reports show can contribute to new, improved approaches.
Tips for Product Managers
Product management is essential to a company’s ability to innovate and serve evolving market needs. But product managers depend on the combined skills of different individual contributors to make successful launches happen. That means uniting the group with shared goals, providing centralized information, and ensuring expectations and deliverables align.
Product managers who excel at these tasks are willing to adjust processes according to changing client and business demands. Syncing a team’s efforts in ways that serve the customer is a learning process and one that requires adaptability.