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Projects-to-Products: Product Management & Agile

By Brian Nathanson posted Dec 11, 2019 06:17 PM

Coming off my soapbox about Agile from my last post, I do believe that the concept of agility leads to better products. There's one significant enabler, however, that is required in order to make this happen:
  • Your developers (and development teams) need to be able to build things quickly and make changes quickly.
There are a number of routine impediments to this enabler that many products have:
  • Technical debt from older features/code
  • Poor documentation
  • Inflexible platform or technology
  • Lack of experience due to turnover
In an ideal world, a product manager, product owner, and development team would work iteratively day-by-day (or at most week-by-week) seeing demonstrable value each time because development proceeds so quickly -- albeit incrementally. Accomplishing this level of flexibility requires significant DevOps automation to deploy builds for use, perform regression and performance testing to insure that there are no negative impacts of changes on prior functionality, and so forth. All of the impediments mentioned above prevent this type of quick development -- and effectively prevent companies from achieving true agility. Instead, many companies practice some form iterative waterfall -- which isn't terrible -- but it's not the realization of the promise of agile development.

With all that said, any increase in development velocity -- and corresponding ability to release features more frequently -- significantly benefits a product manager when it comes to dealing with customers. When a customer perceives that there are more frequent opportunities to see their problems resolved and/or value enhanced, it gives them a level of comfort and confidence that is lacking when delivery opportunities are sparse or infrequent. If your customer thinks that they can only get a feature delivered in a release once a year, they will overload you with their list of wants since the window is so rare. This also makes prioritization much more difficult.

So net net, attempt to accelerate your development as much as you possibly can. Any improvement in ability to release features will give you more opportunities to demonstrate value to your customers (your market) and -- just as importantly -- allow you to improve your brand reputation.