The idea is there. The end goal is clear: process efficiency, increased transparency, digital transformation, or a new product innovation to disrupt the market. But… how do you get there? IT and business leaders often have competing project priorities, limited talent resources and bandwidth, or restricted budget for new projects. Sometimes the next step is just not clear. That’s when product management steps in.
What Is Product Management?
In the simplest terms: product management is a mapped out, obtainable path from ideation to launch for any new product or service. Product management involves setting the long-term vision and strategy to create, package, and launch a new idea. This can be a tangible, physical product, an app, software or pretty much anything. If an idea is complex enough to warrant the need for multiple people to create it, it will almost definitely benefit from product management. After the vision and strategy are set and decided-upon, the plan must be communicated tactfully to all relevant stakeholders or participants, so they know what their role is, at what point in the roadmap they play their part, and how to prepare.
Why Is Product Management Important?
To put it bluntly: there are a lot of ideas, a lot of great ideas, that never see the light of day because the person (or teams) responsible for creating them just weren’t organized enough or experienced enough to see them through all the way from ideation to creation. Sometimes it’s a lack of leadership, or political will, resources, or a shortage of talent. Sometimes it just comes down to having an experienced product manager or product management team to help scope an idea and guide it to creation. Being able to look at an idea, come up with actionable steps, put those steps on a roadmap, and delegate tasks is harder than most creators assume, and this sometimes becomes the barrier between a great idea becoming a great product.
Try Not To Be Overwhelmed
That all may sound very concerning, but barriers can be surmounted with the right experience and process. Usually, a collaborative approach is key. Collaboration breaks down each step of the process, making sure the right team is engaged and has clear, measurable goals for each milestone. The client is involved in every step of the process. This allows for a well-organized, iterative process that doesn’t leave too much on any one person’s plate but allows for time-sensitive project completion with clear milestones.
What Goes Into Successful Product Management?
This answer is more complicated than just a simple, bulleted list can convey, but there is a group of key responsibilities and tactics that trend in successful product creations:
Roadmap, Hard-Set Priorities, And Transparency
Road blocks happen. There will be times where a team or person wants to circumvent the roadmap because they believe one aspect of the project holds priority over another. In successfully managed product roadmaps, the first step after setting the roadmap is presenting it to all stakeholders and producers so that everyone understands each step of the process and what priority it holds. It’s possible this will be challenged. But with full transparency a diplomatic solution can be reached, and the project can continue without a hitch. The best way to prevent various teams or departments from bickering and holding up a project is to be extremely transparent and clear about the strategy in the beginning so that everyone understands the prioritization and thought behind each piece of the strategy.
Prioritize While Balancing The Needs Of Customers And Stakeholders
Almost every company or team will have to deal with limited resources for product development at one point or another. This just means that some features or initiatives will have to work on a tighter budget for the benefit of another. This can be difficult to traverse, but a balanced product management roadmap will do its best to account for these needs in advance. When the time comes to make a difficult call that may displease a stakeholder, the product management team will be ready and able to act based on the previously-presented priorities.
An Occasional “No”
One aspect of iterative design that is both beautiful and challenging is that at any point in the design or testing phases a new idea or feature can be identified as a great addition to the product. Sometimes this is welcome and leads to an overall better product, but sometimes too many ideas or amendments can weigh down the process and cause a roadblock.
While it may be difficult, being ready to say “no” to an idea or change, even just for a short amount of time, might be what makes it possible to launch a product on time. This doesn’t mean shutting anyone down or discouraging team members. However, sometimes new ideas can wait until after a product has been launched to flourish and be implemented in the best-possible-way without holding up the product’s launch.
Any decision being made within the product management process should be made with evidence when possible. Showing facts, proof, and research to back up a design choice or prioritization is a great way to make all teams see a strategic choice as being well-thought-out and without favoritism.
A Product Is Born
Product management can be overwhelming, but with the right training and preparation it can be done. Watching an idea become a world-changing product or service, or the catalyst to digital transformation is special in a way that is hard to describe. If the next big idea never sees its way to fruition, nobody wins or benefits. Take care of ideas and make sure that product management (or lack thereof) can’t hold them back from changing the world.