In recent years, Agile software development has become the standard by which IT and business teams more rapidly develop and innovate new software platforms and services. Organizations that have made this transition have seen significant improvements in terms of software development speed, project transparency, improved product quality, reliability of customer/marketplace commitments, and greater business influence over outcomes.
While these improved execution and collaboration benefits are compelling, they are not guaranteed. If a more mature end-to- end Product Management framework is not fully implemented, Agile execution outcomes can be disappointing. However, with the clear guiding vision that mature Product Management discipline provides, the benefits of an Agile product and service development lifecycle can be more fully realized.
There are six levels of planning, decision-making, and governance essential to establishing a Product Management process that is designed to leverage the benefits of an Agile software development lifecycle. Moving from strategic, long-term planning to short-term execution, my next series of posts will lay out the six Agile Product Management Responsibilities. These are:
- Portfolio Management
- Roadmaps and Release Plans
- Managing Scope and Communication
- Customer Input and Collaboration
- Agile Product Teams
- Communicating to All Stakeholders, All the Time
In practice and in the field, the Agile Product Manager aims to work on all six levels at the same time, rather than one by one. A typical business day for a Product Manager could see them meeting with customers, fine-tuning release date predictions, going over backlog work with developers, and even producing new financial forecasts to present to executive teams. Product managers must take a wide view: they need to have the perspective to envision both the tiny details and the bigger picture at once. For now, however, we will address each level as it comes.
The diagram to the right illustrates the core planning and coordination activities of an Agile Product Manager in relationship to focus and time. Stand-up meetings and daily development will obviously occur frequently during a sprint, several of which take place in the course of a release. In turn, a collection of sprints helps in the creation of a product roadmap, contributing to the company’s product portfolio which in turn ultimately factors into company strategy.
An Agile Product Manager takes care of all of these levels with respect to the product. When their work schedule dictates, they liaise with different parts of an organization to highlight the areas that need support. Agile product management means that development can create observable, incremental improvements to products, finances, and customer satisfaction. These kinds of improvements affect the whole organization, including senior business and operations executives, meaning that Agile decisions are not limited to just IT or R&D.