Product Management the JDK Way

In a recent post, we outlined some of the components that make up product management. To briefly recap, product management is the process of guiding a vision from an idea to a product. When done effectively, product management translates the product vision into a clear, concise plan with measurable milestones and actionable tasks for all stakeholders. It sets a product up for success.

However, there are challenges that impact the effectiveness of product management and hamper the completion of a project. Often, the challenges stem from competing views between traditional ways of doing things, or following the business status quo, and a more modern way of thinking and operating.

The Challenges of Traditional Product Management

Competing interests, internal disagreement about what a solution should look like, budget prioritization, limited resources, and, at times, a general lack of digital strategy, will negatively impact outcomes when building a product. A simple idea can quickly get complicated by any one of these things and, become something altogether different than originally envisioned. Let’s take a closer look at each of these challenges.

Competing Interests

In an enterprise there may be varying perspectives on what projects to focus on first and where to allocate budget, talent, and time. It is not unusual for business leaders to question the imperative for digital transformation. The aspiration of IT or technology leaders is to help their organizations become more secure, more digitally innovative, and improve overall efficiency to compete in the future. They have their own views about what that looks like, and they can be in sharp contrast to others in the C-suite. Often there is internal friction within the leadership to agree on what projects to prioritize and invest in.

Established companies that have enjoyed a leading stand in their market can be especially reticent to adopt newer technologies that might activate digital transformation. There is a general skepticism about the results and might view emergent technologies as overhyped. CIOs are generally more inclined to see the potential in modernizing their company’s technology infrastructure as a way to preserve stand in the market, disrupt, or simply stay alive.

Internal Disagreement About What a Solution Should Look Like
Businesses full of stakeholders with very granular expertise will find the potential for disagreement … a lot of it. Everyone will be looking at the solution through their own lens, and this can often bog down a project and make decision making difficult for the CIO (or leader) responsible for the product’s creation.

Bringing in an unbiased, third-party team of experts eliminates a lot of potential conflict between stakeholders and can swiftly put a project back on track for a successful, on-time launch.

Budget Priorities
In the same vane of issue, stakeholders will also contribute to a much larger issue for CIOs: budget priorities. It can be overwhelming to know what should take priority, but it’s a much bigger issue when various teams and talent are trying to make their initiative or portion of the product take priority over another.

Limited Resources
Resources are generally one of the biggest headaches for CIOs undertaking a product’s development. There’s always a feature or initiative that needs more people, or more money, or more time. This can be tough, but it’s up to the CIO to make the call when one team needs to pull from another, and this can be challenging and lead to conflict.

Lack of Digital Strategy
Change in business and technology is happening at a break-neck pace. Unless your company is a natively digital-first organization, established businesses that have been around for decades find themselves struggling on where to begin. Technology trends emerge and go away as quick as night become day. But there are other trends such as artificial intelligence and connected commerce, that are proving they have staying power and are changing the business landscape forever. Leaders are taking notice and want to adapt. But not sure how. The lack of a digital strategy or a poorly designed one can prove detrimental a business. Starting projects in silos will likely yield limited results and cost more in time and money, if they are not part of a broader orchestrated digital plan. Developing a well-thought out digital strategy can result in better product management, efficient time and budget management, and leaner operations.

Lack of Digital Strategy

Challenges are difficult but not impossible to overcome. More and more companies are learning that they need to hire 3rd party vendors to help execute their vision. And choosing the right partner is an important part of their overall digital strategy.

Introducing the JDK Way: Simple Effective Solutions for Complex Problems

The power of effective product management lays in the practice of outlining a precise timeline with the exact steps it takes to reach an end goal. As we illustrate above, this simple practice can quickly get bogged down with complexities generally stemming from people’s mindset and traditional practices. JDK’s approach to product management is to be simple, innovative, and effective.

Keep it Simple

Occam’s Razor states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle, conceived by the medieval philosopher Occam, is one of the pillars of JDK’s product development practice. Complex problems don’t require complex answers. In most cases, a simple solution is best. And simple does not mean stripped down. A simple solution is lean, well-thought out in design and functionality, and meets the needs of all of its users.

In practice, our simple approach looks like this:

  • Analysis of the business challenge and goal
  • Conduct surveys and reviews for a deep assessment of the client’s line of business, technology ecosystem and requirements, and user needs discovery
  • Identification of IT and business stakeholders and all user types (business users, customers, partners)
  • Establishment of a strong collaborative relationship with 1-2 main points of contact, typically an IT role, that serve as liaisons between JDK and business stakeholders

This approach enables JDK to streamline operations and the product development process. This results in fewer non-essential meetings that eat up precious production time and budget. Essential meetings are optimized with appropriate participants, increasing productivity that move the project forward. Ultimately, the outcome is a faster time to market, cost savings, or staying on budget.

Drive with innovation

Innovation drives our thinking, strategies, and development practices. We like to step outside of our comfort zone and take smart risks. And we don’t do this haphazardly because we understand that the stakes are high. With years of experience and expertise in product management and information systems, we guide clients with strategic advice and direction on the best possible solution to solve their challenge. Furthermore, our solutions are not cookie cutter solutions. We tailor them to fit into each client’s diverse technology ecosystem.

After conducting a project intake, we use the collected data to design a solution that will effectively meet the needs of all users and security protocols.

In practice, our innovative approach looks like this:

  • Assign our best talent with the most relevant experience and expertise to build the solution
  • Our solutions architect assesses the existing infrastructure and technology requirements
  • In partnership with the client and JDK’s product manager, the architect recommends modern leading technologies to build the solution with finite customizations to help the client get the most out of integrated platform(s)
  • Our UI/UX designer will create an interactive prototype of the application for a near real-life example of the solution in action and the user experience

At the completion of this stage of the project, we take our innovative approach to an even higher level. We call it True Systems, our methodology for product development.

True Systems: Complex Solutions Made Simple and Effective

During the development phase of a project, we use True Systems, the methodology we use to develop software. True Systems is based on the theory of  Systems Thinking, which is a way of viewing, analyzing, and solving challenges.

Systems Thinking argues that everything is a system that is made up of interrelated and interdependent components. A “problem” within that system is simply a reciprocal causal effect that happens in the relationship between elements. By themselves, elements exhibit expected behaviors. When a new element is introduced to the system, or elements interact with each other, there are “emergent properties” that occur, which may or may not have been expected. As a result, the emergent properties positively or negatively impact the system. Systems Thinking, as the framework for True Systems, enables JDK to take an integrative approach for the solutions that we build for clients.

We view solutions we build for clients as an added element to their ecosystem. In the early stages of a project, we analyze and track emergent properties, and address and manage them as part of the development lifecycle of the product. When we build the product, we use an Agile development approach, taking into account the impact of the solution on the whole business. This practice is unique to JDK Technologies. Because we account for the emergent properties of our solution when introduced into a client’s environment, our solutions are guaranteed to be effective.

Simple Solutions to Complex Problems that are Effective

For JDK, an effective solution is measured not just by uptime metrics, but also how it performs against business KPIs like conversions and engagement. In the age of intense competition to be digital-first and customer-obsessed, we understand that software can mean the difference between being left behind by the competition or outperforming them. That’s why we measure our solutions performance against what matters, to demonstrate to our clients that we are a trusted technology partner that is mutually invested in their long-term success.

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