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Agile product management – what it is and how to get it


Katarzyna Dorosz-Zurkowska - 27 August 2018 - 0 comments

The agile methodology isn’t going anywhere. We often talk about agile in the context of project management. But what about developing products and features? Does agile offer us anything here too?

One thing is certain:

In an agile setting, products are meant to be dynamic. They’re supposed to evolve continuously. However, a software product requires a different strategy than a regular product. And that’s where the essence of a product manager’s job lies.

In this article, I wanted to talk about what agile product management is and show you tactics that help to make product development agile.

But first, what is agile product development all about?

The agile methodology laid out in the now classic Agile Manifesto, introduces a different approach to developing products, be it software or a vehicle.  

The idea is that instead of working in isolation for an extended period and then releasing a complete product, the development team delivers work in small, measurable iterations. These can be confronted with external factors ranging from user expectations to market changes.

That way, product managers can be sure that what they’re building is in line with industry standards, current trends on the market and customer preferences. As a product manager, you are responsible for addressing the changing dynamics of the market to make sure that your product is relevant and valuable to your target audience.

Here are some things product managers can do to ensure this, following the agile principles.

1. Define customer problems

As a product manager, you don’t have to go about defining customer problems traditionally. In fact, the Agile Manifesto reminds us that there are alternatives to that. Instead, try following different methods and tactics to get customer insights. Don’t be afraid to experiment and look for these insights where no one else does. Once you find them, you can be sure that your product will get a well-deserved boost. So how do you start? See the next point.

2. Offer customers an easy way to get in touch with you

Setting up an intuitive service that environment is essential to getting valuable feedback from customers. Jira Service Desk is my tool of choice because it allows setting up a customer portal that looks inviting and helps customers get in touch with agents.

The customer portal can be customized in many different ways to reflect the actual needs of customers, but also help them deliver feedback. For example, you can set up the customer portal in a way that it asks customers to categorize their request or fill out a multilevel form where particular fields are only revealed depending on previous choices. You can do that with a special app called Extension for Jira Service Desk.  

3. Create a space for employees as well

Offering your customers a standardized way to share their opinion is only the first step. What about internal resources at your company? Surely people from different teams such as design or support might have some precious feedback to share with you too.

By setting a publicly available page where they can freely express their opinion about the product, you’ll get heaps of valuable feedback from your organization. For example, consider creating a public page in Confluence, a tool used for creating internal wiki and documentation.

You can use it to create an individual page and then grant access to this page to select groups of internal users – for example, those belonging to a particular department. You can ask them to test your product or take a closer look at it and write down their thoughts. That way, you’ll keep all the valuable feedback in a single place, ensuring that your product development team can access it easily.

4. Organize regular stand-up meetings

 

Another thing you can do is establishing the habit of regular stand-up meetings where you meet the lead engineer and designer to catch up, discuss key points in your progress, and make some quick decisions about the product on the spot.

Having a daily catch up like that will allow you to quickly respond to changes and pinpoint moments where your product development should change direction – without wasting time on a time-consuming email exchange.

5. Run a workshop

If you need to explore more potential directions your product can take, why not gather all the key stakeholders in a workshop? A workshop offers an excellent occasion for presenting the product, prototyping alternative versions, and discussing the problems you’re trying to solve in detail. All that brainpower put together will help you come up with some innovative solutions.

Key takeaway

In the past, a product manager would usually spend most of h or her time writing requirements documentation. I’m not saying that this is going to change. In fact, writing documentation is unavoidable.

However, in the agile world, you shouldn’t stick to your product requirements documentation. Instead, consider it as part of a larger process where it figures as one of the many elements that help to identify and solve customer problems.

Have you got any questions about tools that enable agile product management? Reach out to me at katarzyna.dorosz@deviniti.com; I help companies choose the best tools for their teams to ensure top productivity and drive innovation.

 

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