Agile Product Management: Faster, Sleeker, and Stronger Products
While it may seem like every process has gained the “Agile” prefix over the last few years, there is much more to Agile Product Management.
What is Product Management?
Product management is an organizational methodology that leads every stage of a product’s lifecycle, from conception and development to market positioning and pricing. It does this by focusing on customer needs, using them as a north star to steer development.
Due to the user-centric nature of product management, product teams tend to ship more adherent and higher-quality products. This is even more crucial in tech, where new products are constantly creeping up, making competition more user experience-focused.
We have reached the age where consumers look for more than just high-quality products. What they want is a unique and tailored experience. This demand for customization makes product management even more important for developers.
What is Agile Product Management?
Agile product management isn’t entirely different from its predecessor. The idea is to set product strategies and roadmaps in an agile environment. It encourages an adaptive approach to product planning and implementation so organizations can quickly respond to feedback and build more user-centered products.
Both methodologies have the same fundamental goal: to create products that offer an excellent user experience. The Agile approach simply does it a little faster, using the Agile toolbag in order to get the most out of your teams and processes.
At its core, agile product management is a response to the widespread use of agile software development methodologies, such as scrum or kanban. These methods emphasize iterative development, early delivery, and continuous improvement.
The Benefits of Agile Product Management
Agile redefines the way product managers plan and build products. Traditionally, new customer experiences were planned, designed, implemented, and tested linearly, meaning new functionality was delivered sequentially. Once requirements were defined and handed off to the development team, it was difficult to make any changes.
The failure rate of large-scale and lengthy software development projects drove the need for a more fluid approach. Teams needed a way to adapt to customer feedback and become more flexible.
Agile provides a more flexible approach, which is especially useful when managing digital products. Agile Products are built in short increments, allowing product managers to adjust the plan along the way.
This means unforeseen landscape and context changes can be easily incorporated into the product roadmap. The design is more customizable, the development is more open to feedback, and the final product is ready sooner and with more adherence.
The Agile mindset allows Product Managers to:
- Learn from customers throughout the product life cycle;
- Continuously adjust in the short term to meet customer needs;
- Deliver value to customers incrementally;
- Respond quickly to new and changing requirements;
- And break down the barriers between Design and Development teams.
What is Agile Management’s Role Within the Product Roadmap?
When we talk about the product roadmap, we’re talking about the four basic steps that make up a product’s lifecycle until it goes to market. Usually, there will always be a fifth step where teams would insert continuous updates to the product, especially for digital products.
But let’s look at the earlier stages of the process, where Agile management has more of an impact. Those four stages are Discovery, Definition, Development, and Delivery.
It starts by identifying a high-value user pain point. This can be anything from a transportation problem to an entertainment question. The idea is to find something within your company’s scope and area of expertise.
The best way to go about the discovery is through research. Speak with existing users, and find out what your competitors are focusing on. Even simple desk research isn’t out of the question. The more information and opinions you can gather, the more opportunities you’ll be able to uncover.
Agile methodologies allow researchers to include development and design teams to be part of the process as early as day one. While you might not see much difference in this stage, having multiple teams be able to provide feedback early will make iteration much simpler in the long run.
This is the stage in the process where Design teams pitch in. We’ve arrived at the point where all the information needed has been gathered. It’s time to define the following product and how it should work.
What usually happens in traditional product management is that the design team will have a chat with various stakeholders and use the information gathered in the discovery phase to design what they believe to be the best possible solution for the problem at hand. Then it’s a simple matter of handing it off to the development team for production.
The issue with the staggered production line method is that departments don’t have a chance to share siloed information or expertise. Agile Management has a large focus on putting different departments to work together. Having your Devs sit own with your Designers can make it so that products are more desirable, viable, and feasible.
This is the stage where Agile really shines. It’s time to start development, which for most people means prototyping slowly and gradually until you’ve reached a finished product, but it’s not so straightforward in Agile Product Management.
Here, the goal is to fail fast. MVPs (minimum viable products) are used to great effect at this stage of the game. The idea is to test out ideas defined in the previous step as quickly as possible. This lets Devs know why their ideas aren’t working quickly, providing ample time for designers to simply get back to the drawing board and try something new.
This is probably the stage at which Agile Product Management differs the most from traditional Product Management.
It’s time for the final step on the product roadmap, the delivery. You might be thinking that this stage can’t be all that different from how things usually are, and for the most part, you’re right. There is no reinventing the wheel at this point, you have your product, and you’re getting ready to put it on the shelves.
The real benefits come from the previous stages, which make this portion of the roadmap a lot easier for your marketing team. Having a more adherent and customized product in hand makes developing unique value propositions much easier.
Agile Methodologies don’t just include developers and designers in the early stages of the product roadmap. Marketing is usually invited to sit in on and participate in development meetings, research sessions, and design sprints. This ensures that the marketing team is ready to sell it no matter what the design and dev teams design.
Design Thinking & Agile Product Management
Here at MJV, we make it our goal to get the most out of our processes and methodologies. We’ve found that Design Thinking and Agile have a lot more in common than you might think. For one, DT’s four-step methodology of Immersion, Analysis, Ideation, and Prototyping fits perfectly into the product roadmap.
The basic idea is to use immersion techniques in the discovery phase to ensure that the insights you’re getting from users are driven by empathy and centered around human design.
Next, we implement analysis and ideation tools into the definition phase to make sure that these mixed teams of developers, designers, and marketers are actually engaging with the process. Sometimes these groups can have varying ways of tackling a subject or even expressing themselves.
From analysis, we can get the most out of our discovered insights, and ideation ensures we get more from devs and designers throughout the definition stage.
Prototyping fits perfectly in the development phase.Back