This post is a part of a series discussing Agile Product Management responsibilities. Click here to start from the beginning.
Product managers need to continuously keep an organization up-to-date about how their releases are developing. This means that they have to deal with a company’s most urgent and challenging questions: “When will our product (or release) ship?” and “What features will it contain?” The experienced Agile product manager, as part of an effective Agile team, can provide confident and informative answers to these questions.
Before any work even commences, Agile teams begin with estimates covering the entire project and detailed staffing plans. The release planning process means that these estimates or plans are at least 85% completed. In actual development, the team can apply time-boxing and daily and end-of-sprint retrospectives to fine-tune their estimations and the processes that produce them.
An Agile team works with its Agile Product Manager to make certain that every backlog item can be accomplished within a single sprint. This makes status reporting remarkably straightforward because each work product on the backlog can be categorically assigned only one of three statuses: “done,” “in progress,” or “not started.” This is an important change in management, as the successful completion of a task is not dependent individual judgment. Work can only be “done” or not, determined by acceptance criteria that has been communally agreed on at the start of the sprint.
This secondary benefit, realized by repeatedly estimating relatively smaller work items, means that the Product Manager and executive teams are more capable of predicting larger deliverables. Eventually, an Agile Product Manager should be able to determine each team’s velocity in dealing with work items and current backlog items and then use this information to adjust their current roadmap.
Since Agile concentrates on fully completed, sprint-sized items of work, this removes most of the
uncertainties in project reporting. This, in addition to a team’s own improvement in estimation from sprint to sprint, means that Agile status reports become clearer and more actionable, and that the team can uncover problems earlier in a project’s development process.
Product managers also need to provide sections of this information throughout the organization as a whole, often having to report on a high-level status update or reiteration of product objectives. This might require a full set of communication artifacts including, but not limited to, wireframes or prototypes, financial summaries, detailed user stories, roadmaps, market segmentation data, etc. Every product needs its own determined representative, a dauntless backer who can fanatically remind the entire company of the importance of this product’s approval and its contribution to organizational strategy. Agile product managers already have an advantage when it comes to this challenge as their projects remain more tightly on-schedule and their status reporting is clear-cut and accurate. I’ll continue to explore this idea in my next post.