The Role of Product Manager in New Product Development

The product manager role is one of the most complex corporate roles. When you are in the market requirements phase everyone expects to bring the clearest customer expectations and when you are on the development phase everyone is expecting from you to produce an impeccable product. For that you will need a strong, productive, partnership with engineering.

At the same time that you work closely with the dev team, you should plan for the next iteration. How aligned you are with the company strategy for that?. And at the same time, you will need to manage the rest of the products in your portfolio. A lot of stuff to do in your plate. But let’s start to see how challenging working with developers is.

A lot of books have been written on how to manage developers. And this makes sense as the role of Product Manager is mostly to connect developers with Business, not many other roles can do that. You may face issues like:

  • Alienating developers
    • Don’t tell me how to do my job
    • Don’t know what to develop based on these incomplete requirements
  • Leadership
    • Market and customer knowledge incongruent requirements
  • Time management, as many are in different time zones

Find the right balance on ways of working and choose the right tools

For every new product development, there are two responsibilities for the Product Manager – the planning phase where mostly he gathers market requirements for the product to be build and plans for the successful launch and the development phase where he works with developers to realize what he planed on the first phase. It goes without asking that you should follow a methodology when you work with developers. Two methodologies are the most popular. Agile and waterfall. Let’s see how we can work with the developers with each methodology:

For a Product Manager, the weapon of choice is the agile way of working as in the waterfall he cannot work reiteratively. As we can see on the diagram When the development phase beggings the PM doesn’t participate when he chose waterfall methodology from the beginning as everything was decided and the developers know a certain way of working. Agile though, is a little bit different. In an agile plan phase, not many details are known beforehand, there is a constant refinement of requirements and the PM can participate in the development phase with new prioritized requirements at any time.

To understand why he cannot do it in Waterfal development please see the below graph:

As you can see, there are predefined gates and the work to be done to go into the next gate is predefined in the beginning. Making changes in any phase can rise costs very high and make the time to market even longer.

Agile

With agile you don’t plan in detail from the beginning of your project, but you work iteratively.  Work in smaller bits, where you can release and test your product and iterate. Instead of having a linear and sequential phase you work with iterations.

The most famous agile methodology is scrum

 In Scrum, everything beggings from the product vision. These translate to product features that are known as user stories, which are the end-user of the product’s needs and wants. All these user stories are saved on the product backlog. The goal of the Scrum team is to deliver a product increment with each sprint based on the backlog items. The development team takes an item from the product backlog and puts them on the sprint backlog. The items on the sprint backlog should be manageable in one sprint because the end product should be ship-ready. The sprint is usually 1-2 weeks but the shorter the release cycle is, the shorter the sprint. An important artifact is a daily sprint that ensures that everything is on track and possible roadblocks. At the end of the sprint, a retrospective meeting takes place on how the team can improve the process.

In the Scrum process, there are pros and cons for the Product Manager. The pros are that he can always prioritize or bring new requirements to the team. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think about their capacity as this is the most important factor to get items on scrum backlog. The cons are the extra work that the PM should do. In addition to his role to work with customers and do market research, he has to work closely with the development team and the increments of the product, but this ensures a product that is more closely to the standards of his customers.

Agile or Waterfall in the end?

How to use the best approach? You should be crystal clear for a methodology of work because this might impact your workload even more. This is typical to companies that are not in the IT sector, they usually name waterfall methods agile and in the end, the employees are losing so many resources and time to combine what they are doing which is a waterfall with agile practices.

A good practice is to define clearly your strategy as a hybrid. What the hybrid offers is that it has a long-term strategic focus with management oversight. It offers the processes that are already established with the flexibility to change some of the processes as the company develops. Take a look below to see the basic differences of the waterfall, agile, and hybrid.

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