Updated: Jan 24, 2019
The Benefit of Agile in Product Management
In today's world of product development, Agile has become the go-to framework. Some project management and certifying organizations, not associated with the initial governing bodies of the Agile Framework have called it a "Non-Traditional" approach to product development and even some call it an "Iterative Approach". Product managers understand why it is perceived that way.
I worked with traditional project and product development teams for a few years before Scrum and Agile became popular as the go-to framework for software development. Working at one of America's largest companies, I saw first-hand the successful implementation of products using true traditional / predictive product management framework. The majority of the products were successful while other products just never developed. Most of the products lack momentum early and were assigned to the tools team until the next round of legacy restoration projects.
Several of these products where implemented through a phased approach and there were product details missed in the process. Unfortunately, many organizations still develop products using the predictive approach. I am referring to rotating the product dollars through various departments to ensure several products are upgraded in some form over a long term road-map period. These road-maps can span from 3 to 5 years, and are highly biased towards leadership preference at the time the road-maps were created. The purpose of trying to illustrate this is to help visualize a picture of how traditional/predictive project approach works in product development when there are multiples of products owned by different departments throughout the organization.
In an Agile organization, where delivery teams are focused on continuous iteration/continuous development, products are delivered constantly based on the organizational priority given by the product managers. Imagine the process of a conveyor belt of boxes coming down already checked, packaged, and labeled. As soon as one package is off the belt, there is another one waiting to be removed and it is as ready to go as the last box taken off the conveyor belt. Now this particular visualization is a considerably faster view than an agile sprint, but it helps explain the point.
The continuity among these efforts gives wave of benefits for Products developed in an agile environment. In the majority of the cases where I've worked, managed team or lead the product management initiatives, the products that were managed decreased their time to market. Something rarely seen in a traditional or predictive environment with few exceptions. Those other products were managed by dates and normally a comprehensive list of product features and functionality that has to be delivered.
Another benefit of using the Agile framework for product development is the critical path planning. Agile removed that urge to constrain a product's development by the critical path by showing the team how to produce value even if it's not the feature or functionality.
Another benefit is that welcomes changing requirements throughout the product development life-cycle. If certain resources are not available, there can still be some concentration around other elements of value. Agile helps to do this early by engaging all necessary stakeholders and by doing frequent product Demo’s.
Some of the benefits I have given here are not all the reasons why Product Management benefits from Agile; however, it is a good place to start the conversation. Organizations have to constantly adapt to new ways of providing value for their customers. Using frameworks like Agile for product development can help them reach that goal.