By Arpit GautamAug 2021
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How have Agile Technologies changed Product Management?

Traditional product management was a boon until organizations realized the efficiency and the many benefits of Agile product management methodologies, tools & frameworks like scrum.

In traditional product management, initially, a product manager had to do the following:

  • Do extensive market research
  • Compile a list of market requirements
  • Create a relevant business use case
  • Create a product roadmap
  • Discuss with the team and write a requirements specification
  • The specifications will then get implemented by the development teams

Once this is done, the development phase kickstarts wherein a product manager expects teams to implement requirements as specified. The manager occasionally gets involved in team meetings, for issuing change requests or to steer the project in the right direction if it gets off-track.

This traditional method is known as a water-fall based approach which doesn’t facilitate a whole lot of innovation, collaboration and change (if required during the development phase).

This is where Agile Product Development & Management come into the picture!

What is Product Management ?

To put it simply, Product Management refers to a function within the organization that guides the entire lifecycle of a product which includes:

  • Product Development
  • Product Positioning
  • Product Pricing
  • Building products that are customer-centric

Challenges Faced with Traditional Product Management

  • Understanding the Target Customer

Traditional product management tools and methods are inflexible. This hinders organizations from making any new & necessary changes after the product development process starts.

So, for example – Organizations collected data from a set of target customers which sometimes doesn’t include a variety of elements. Product teams start working on developing a product based on the data collected. In-between teams come to realize that there are a few customer expectations that were missed. However, since it is traditional product management, teams will need to come back to the drawing board and start all over again!

  • Creating an Execution Roadmap instead of a Product Roadmap

Product management teams and managers often create a roadmap that is based on features and solutions. But this roadmap is actually an execution roadmap, not a product roadmap.

Then what should an ideal product roadmap be all about?

An effective product roadmap should be driven by coordinated & strategic efforts which ultimately deliver specific business outcomes for organizations. This can be easily achieved with Agile practices, not traditional ones!

  • Time Constraints

Many product managers (new & existing) come across a variety of demands being placed by different departments. This not only eats valuable time but results in lower productivity.

In addition to that, product managers are expected to learn a lot of stuff in a short amount of time to effectively meet teams & management’s demands. Why?

The primary expectation of business leaders is that you will become a definitive expert on the product as well as the market. This results in a supply-demand mismatch, delays and lower organizational efficiency.

  • Lack of Control

Both the project manager and the team have minimal control over the profit & loss responsibilities of the product. This has been the norm for a long time.

And even if the enterprise gives you the P&L responsibility you will still need to take approvals and work through others to meet the required goals. Without building a consensus & support from others you will not be able to meet the organizational goals for a particular product.

  • The temptation to be a Reactive Product Manager

Collaboration takes a hit as multiple team members approach the product manager and vice versa. This leads to hampered communication, sub-par productivity and last-minute fixes which won’t do you any good.

And if the product doesn’t get developed according to the plan & schedule then it can result in unnecessary delays & unhappy teams.

How can Agile Technologies Help Enterprises?

Agile practices are increasingly being embraced by organizations which in turn are redefining the entire product development strategies. In addition to that, teams are able to collaborate much more effectively whereas development teams have become cross-functional which includes, programmers, UX designers, testers, architects & other personnel.

Agile technologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Software Development, Crystal & Extreme Programming are being leveraged to streamline and accelerate the entire product management process.

Agile frameworks are helping organizations move from project-centered to flexible product-lead approaches.

  • Facilitates frequent solution validation & early user feedback

Agile frameworks facilitate early and frequent customer & user feedback. This help teams to validate ideas and update development plans according to existing & new business requirements.

The result – Creating a product that has the right features and the right UI/UX!

  • Reduce the time-to-market

One of the biggest advantages of agile methodologies is that teams can push new features &products at a faster rate as compared to traditional methods.

This is achieved due to cross-functional development teams as well as close & continuous collaboration which enables organizations to

  • Switch from written documentation to meaningful conversations
  • Facilitate techniques like user stores which help in eliminating unnecessary overheads.
  • Improvedproduct quality

Agile development practices have helped companies improve the quality of products via test-driven development, emergent designs & continuous integration.

  • Better adaptability

Agile practices have also helped organizations to quickly adapt to the product and respond to user feedback easily.

  • Facilitates a transparent development progress

Early user feedback & frequent solution validation enable teams and managers to not only check the development progress but also make early corrections if required.

The progress that teams see isn’t from a traditional Gantt-chart project plan. Instead, the development progress relies on working software & applications that mitigate the risk of delay in shipping, delay in discovering errors in a product and incorrect implementation of features.

  • Improves alignment

Agile frameworks and tools come with innovative & collaborative workshops like reviews which effectively alight both stakeholders and development teams. This encourages greater commitment and a shared understanding of the product being developed.

  • Improved productivity

Agile methods lead to self-organizing product development & management teams that are highly motivated and productive as compared to teams dependent on traditional methods.

These are a few ways through which Agile frameworks are transforming product management. Agile technologies possess huge potential when it comes to redefining product development & management in startups, SMEs and large enterprises. This empowers organizations to seamlessly eliminate bottlenecks, reduce dependencies, maximize business outcomes and drive growth!

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