Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Agile Product Management

A few days ago, I posted a blog on Stage-gate model that received lot of comments for suitability of the model to use in today’s world where companies are under pressure to roll-out new products in shortest possible time-frame and constrained budgets.

While Stage-gate model has proved to be successful and highly evolved model with 70%-80% companies using it for new product development, it has also been criticized for being too linear, rigid and planned as well as being non-adaptive. Product Managers are looking for more agile, flexible and dynamic processes that put something in front of the customers and involve them in early stages of new product development. The idea is to get something out to the customers in the form of “virtual product” or “crude working model” that they can feel, use and respond to providing useful insights for product under development. Thus, the product might be less than half defined while entering development stage, but it evolves by adapting to new information and moved through development and testing. This change to stage-gate model is what people know as “Agile Product Management”.

AGILE PRODUCT MANAGEMENT is a product development approach that adds to Stage-gate model and reduces development time by eliminating undesired dependencies, incorporating customer involvement in early stages of the product thereby reducing the chances of product failure at launch.  

Agile Product Management
Agile Product Management

Agile Product Management allows early kick-off for the development stage (Stage 3) of the NPD process once identification of the CVP (Customer Value Proposition) is completed in scoping stage with the intention to develop something that the customer can see and provide feedback. It does not require Product Managers to finish writing down Product Requirement Document enlisting detailed feature set or wait for other departments to finish on their tasks. Rather, it allows them to efficiently manage cross-functional teams working in parallel on tasks of their domain.

While rest of the cross-functional team works toward other activities of “scoping” and “business case” stages (market sizing, P&L projection, GTM plan and more), product manager creates the story-board and requirements for first (maybe few more) sprint cycle for the product development. While technical team completes initial sprints, the product requirements are completely identified; TG2 gate is qualified, and product comes to visible and usable form. At this juncture, QA team is involved in testing the product and analyzes the suitability with the original value proposition.

Once the product comes to a usable form after few cycles of QA testing, customers are involved for early stage testing and feedback to ensure adherence to market requirements. Please mind that these customers are not open-market customers but the internal customers from cross-functional groups, other employees in the organization, friends and family members.

It is very likely that the final product that is launched to the market is very different from what was targeted at the beginning of first sprint. It is primarily because, over the time, more features are added; more changes are done as recommendation from the work of cross-functional teams for “scoping” and “business case” stages are incorporated.

Some of the benefits of using Agile Product Development process are:

  1. Reduced time to market
  2. Reduced uncertainty and chances of launch failure
  3. Eliminate undesired dependencies among cross-functional groups
  4. Early customer feedback
  5. Deliver as fast as possible

Most efficient way to use Agile Product Development is to customize the development and testing stage to progress in concurrence with “scoping” and “business case” stage and best fit for the project goal. The sprints should be planned to achieve maximum value from the product in early stages of development. This will ensure delivering a stable and maintainable product that satisfies your customer. 

1 comment:

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