This post is a part of a series discussing Agile Product Management responsibilities. Click here to start from the beginning.
In my last post, I started talking about how customer input and collaboration supports the goals of Agile Product Managers. By working directly with customers, Agile product managers get clear feedback that helps them to be certain they are working to the best ends. Agile product managers must also consider even more in-depth conversations with smaller groups of customers to gather reactions throughout the project.
This is the basis for end-of-sprint feature showcases, explicitly detailed backlog prioritization, and the presentation of incremental progress. This frequent and organized customer participation gives development teams the chance for direct end-user access, which allows the entire team to further their understanding for use cases and requirements. A development team can use these customer- driven discussions to pitch unique technical ideas that would normally slip under the radar, since they can feel more secure proposing their ideas in person to specific, technical-minded customers.
Due to the inherent flexibility that Agile provides for product managers, they are able to prioritize on a more regular basis, paying close attention to customer input and collaboration techniques to produce fast, qualitative, and directionally correct information that aids rapid decision making. Agile product managers can, for example, raise key points on narrower mid-sprint problems in their regularly scheduled customer meetings. Then, using rapid qualitative techniques, Agile product managers deliver precise just in time input with better, more up-to-date information.
Further, since they know they can use many different release vehicles to provide incremental value to customers as the project progresses, Agile product managers have a greater range of choices for how and when to meet a customer’s precise requirements. As a part of more traditional planning methods, a Product Manager would typically reject feature requests, no matter how minor, from large customers due to the fact that overtaxed release trains would almost definitely ship late.
The Agile product manager, on the other hand, can now price out one enhancement by deferring other features and can negotiate terms more precisely and tactfully with sales teams or customers. Roadmaps with a series of releases give Agile project managers the capacity to slot and re-slot any different customer feature demands into upcoming releases according to how and when their effectiveness will be the greatest.
Agile product managers must weigh these customer input sessions against their singular grasp of longer term, strategic information and knowledge of the market in order to prevent massive and unwieldy changes of priority and release goals. They must readily observe any pattern of bigger ideas that these customer interactions may bring to light.