Product Management Best Practices

As virtually every nook and cranny of the economy and society are becoming digitized, software has increasingly become the lifeblood of our economic, social, and industrial infrastructure. Almost nothing happens without software. As a result, software is becoming ground zero for evolving product management best practices.

What makes software development so perfect for the evolution of product management best practices is how well it is suited to the agile business model and continuous improvement. Traditionally, product management involved siloed stages that moved a product along a defined linear path, from development to production to launch. These cloistered product development areas were breeding grounds for miscommunication, chokepoints, and harder-to-fix problems that could delay and increase the cost of new product introductions.

Fortunately, the advent of agile and its focus on the user experience changed things for the better. The agile model has fundamentally transformed product development and management, creating cross-functional teams and blending processes to enable the early and continuous delivery of products into the hands of users. Their feedback on functionality, ease-of-use, and dozens of other metrics enables developers to quickly monitor, analyze, and respond to their valuable input. Continuous improvement in small increments results in fewer, less costly delays, enhanced user experiences, and improved customer satisfaction. With more flexible and responsive product management, everybody wins.

So with faster product launches, tighter go-to-market windows, and the importance of continuous improvement, what are some of the product management best practices software developers should employ? Let’s take a look.

The importance of hands-on.
When we refer to product management best practices, what we’re really talking about in many respects is the process of continuous improvement and the importance of always having hands on the product.

It starts at the very beginning of product development. It is much more efficient, from a time and effort standpoint, to work with existing standards, development tools and techniques. For example, there’s no need to create a unique authentication mechanism when there are proven solutions already available for your product. Pick technologies with good technical community support that you know will ensure their viability for some time to come.

Going hand-in-hand with embracing proven product management best practices and capabilities solutions is using solid engineering processes. You want to know how you’re going to evolve your product and be deliberate in that process. It’s important to have repeatable procedures for your releases and be able to add product capabilities in a refined and predictable fashion.

There are three main areas of product management that warrant a closer look to ensure product success:

  1. Engineering Processes Good engineering processes and the right tools are crucial for building a solid, robust piece of software that’s scalable and can stand up to the rigorous use of hundreds or thousands of users over time. However, it’s tempting for software developers and programmers to take the easy route and create a prototype that does the job and looks good in beta but when it gets rolled out in production and achieves massive use, things start to go wrong. Time and money get wasted retooling and rebuilding a fundamentally flawed product. The importance of taking the time and making the effort to build it right the first time cannot be over-emphasized.
  2. Operations The involvement of the engineering team should extend to operations as well. Operations departments are uniquely suited to managing and maintaining platforms that supports fairly complex products. Many companies roll out complex products with little thought about how to adequately support them after launch and what to do if they break. Engineering’s role in product management puts them in a position to respond quickly to problems.It helps to build a feedback loop into the engineering process so that you’re constantly looking at what’s working, what’s not working, and integrating customer feedback into a continuous improvement process that’s responding to market conditions and not simply fixing mistakes or redesigning the product in response to past efforts.
  3. Governance Guiding the hands-on aspect of product management is something called governance, which establishes accountability and traceability. It sets guidelines for who does what, when, and why. Governance allows engineers into the production environment without compromising data, risking compliance problems, or creating regulatory issues. Good governance practices and robust engineering engagement in product management can contribute significantly to ensuring a viable, relevant product that will retain its value into the future.

“It’s the user experience, stupid.” Product management best practices places a priority on analytics and utilizing them to understand what’s happening with a product over time. One of the greatest challenges in product management is not focusing on the user experience. To take the famous Bill Clinton quote about winning elections and adapt it to successful product development: “It’s the user experience, stupid.” Concentrating on user issues and actual product usage will enable you to discover new or improved capabilities that can improve the user experience, increase customer loyalty, and extend your product’s life.

Employing the product management recommendations made here will help you overcome traditional product development barriers and resolve issues before they become problems. And that will put you well on the road to more successful product launches.