Being associated with a product or product line is more than just being assigned to a project. To stay in sync with your product team, you must understand the process being used to develop and support your product. This understanding starts by gaining clarity on your role and the deliverables you’re responsible for, and then striving to understand the entire product process. Understanding the cross-functional product activities — information, people, and processes — increases execution efficiency and your effectiveness
A well-defined product production process clearly lays out what needs to be managed, when it needs to be managed, and by whom. In addition, it establishes a common vocabulary and set of expectations from start to finish. Project managers need to partner closely with product management to define the process and gain deeper insight into the business drivers of the project and how they relate back to the product.
A product production process typically has defined stages and phases that apply to all goods and services. There are also core artifacts that are directly linked to these phases (product vision, decision matrix, and product roadmaps). When these deliverables are mapped to the appropriate phases, you create the operational roadmap for delivering your products that looks something like this:
This process is put together much like a project manager would put together their work breakdown structure (WBS). Fundamentally, the process is meant to show who does what and when it needs to be done. Start by breaking each part of the process down phase by phase. Identify the key components that make up each phase.
- Activity Name
- Owner of the phase
- Contributors who help support the owner in completion of this phase
- A narrative description of what is expected at this phase
- The actual deliverables are also shown
- And some sort of identification of who is responsible for creating each individual deliverable. A color coding system based on function works well.
Being able to create this process on one page allows you to print it out and post it on the walls of your entire team – enabling all parties to remain on the proverbial “same page” at all times throughout the entire product development process. In addition, it allows you to create standardized deliverables that other parties count on to do their jobs. The end result shows everyone involved in the entire process (roles, linkages, and deliverables) – clarifying the hand-offs and increasing overall efficiency. Such rigor ensures nothing is done unnecessarily and everything that is necessary is accomplished.
This type of process identification is extremely important as we embark in the world of Agile development. Agile introduces new roles (product owner, scrum master, etc), new processes, and a new way of thinking. This new way, can cause confusion and anxiety as a team tries to execute and deliver. Mapping the process out, will remove that uncertainty and provide you and the team that path forward to success.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.