Technologies and trends changes fast, making old style product management slow and clumsy. To be competitive and maximize your product success you must be able to adjust your product development according to customers, trends and business situations. This is possible with Agile Product Management and if you use it correct way, you’ll never miss product deadline again. In this article I’m going to explain some the most important Agile Product Management principles.
Planning for Agile Product
When you plan your product, feature prioritization is the most important difference compared to traditional approaches. You have to prioritize every feature considering the value of each feature for the customers and then you have to split the whole feature list in three categories – Minimum Viable Product, Minimum Marketable Product and the rest.
Minimum Viable Product contains the most essential and minimal set of features to make your product run. Just enough to have the first demonstrations running and possibility to share it to your trusted customers for testing. Minimum Marketable Product is a product version that could be potentially useful to customers. Good idea to define Minimum Marketable Product is to go through every feature asking yourself “could my customer use the product without this feature?” – If yes, then that feature is not part of the Minimum Marketable Product. For money oriented person the question can be “Could I make revenue without this feature?” 🙂
Forget the details in your planning, since your plan is going to change anyway. High priority should have more details, because those are going to be the first ones to develop. Lowest priority items are very likely to change and planning details to those can be waste of time.
The essence of Agile development is to develop incrementally. You develop something, get feedback and adjust your plans – constantly! Your goal is to create Minimum Viable Product to the customer, get the feedback and adjust your plans according to it. Then create the next increment and deliver it again to the customer for more feedback. Repeat until you have a product to sell.
There are a lot of reasons to adjust your plan after each step – for example:
- Customer really wants something else than they thought in the beginning
- New emerging technology changes the situation
- Competitor or competitive product changes the business
- You learn new opportunities to enhance your product
Every lesson learned is important to your product, so take them seriously and react quickly to get the most out of your product. If you are lucky, your customer wants to buy your product even before you considered it to be ready to market. This gives you great possibility to start getting early revenue while still developing the product. Incremental development gives you also a great opportunity to have good product demonstrations available. Especially if you have a startup company and need investors, this is extremely important.
Remember that adjusting the plan means small changes and details, not randomizing new direction after every increment. You must have a basic vision that you want to achieve and if that turns out to be bad vision, you really should consider to cancel the product. Rather fail fast than spend even more resources for a bad idea. The main point is that you want to have the best possible product at the time it is ready, not something that sounded great year ago, but is now worthless.
If a professional sports team is losing the game with their game plan, their coach must change it during the game. Coach can use intermissions or timeouts to gather the team together and adjusts the game plan. As a product manager, you have to do similar thing and adjust your plans if it is not working as well as planned. In product management it is not so easy to notice that you are losing, so take every feedback and information nugget seriously.
Meeting the Deadline
In traditional Product Management your product has fixed set of features, fixed resources and a target deadline. When something goes wrong, typically the deadline is missed – causing raised development costs and revenue loss of getting product out late. If the deadline cannot be changed, the next common place to compromise is product quality.
In Agile Product Management you have fixed resources and fixed deadline, but you adjust your set of features. Your Minimum Marketable Product should always be minimal enough to be reached before the deadline. Then incrementally add as many features possible without compromising quality and when the deadline is finally reached you deliver what you got. Your product might not have all possible fancy features you planned, but enough that it benefits your customers. Maybe you can add those extra features after product launch, as product updates, making customers even more happy.
- Plan product with flexible set of features
- Incremental development keeps product ready for testing, demonstrations and releasing
- Gather a lot of feedback regularly
- Adjust your plan constantly
- Missing product launch deadline is worse than missing few low priority features
- Forget old-fashioned product management and welcome to the 21st century