Product Management

Disciplined Agile Product Management

The Product Management process blade includes the acts of identifying and evolving your organization’s business vision; of identifying and prioritizing potential products/solutions to support that vision; of identifying, prioritizing, and allocating features to products under development; of managing functional dependencies between products; and of marketing those products to their potential customers.  Disciplined agile product management is product management performed in a collaborative and evolutionary manner that reflects the context of your organization.

This article addresses several topics:

Why Product Management

You need an effective approach to product management because you want:

  1. To build the right product(s).  You will always have many more ideas for products than you can possibly fund.  Your product management team will need to prioritize the ideas for potential products so that they can focus on the ones that will provide the most value to your organization.
  2. To stop building the wrong product(s).  Product managers will monitor the work of development teams, ongoing experiments, and even existing solutions running in production to determine their effectiveness.  Products that aren’t effective must either be evolved or cancelled to enable you to focus on high-value products.
  3. The right product features at the right time.  When there are many delivery teams working in parallel there will be functional dependencies between the solutions/products being worked on.  These functional dependencies need to be taken into account when the work is being prioritized so that the right functionality is available when it is needed.
  4. To ensure that people use the product.  Part of product management is marketing to potential end users/customers.  If people don’t know that functionality is available to them then they are unlikely to use/buy it.



The following process goal diagram overviews the potential activities associated with disciplined agile product management.

Disciplined Agile Product Management
The process factors that you need to consider for product management are:

  1. Evolve business vision.  Product managers will work closely with stakeholders, and in the case of new products/solutions potential stakeholders, to understand their needs.  The goal is to develop roadmaps for individual products, product lines, and for the business itself.  These roadmaps describe the current vision for the near term, intermediate term (3-12 months), and long term (one year or more) with less detail the further out in time the roadmap goes.  These roadmaps help the product managers to guide their prioritization decisions and provides input into the planning activities of other efforts (such as the Enterprise Architecture and Portfolio Management activities).
  2. Explore potential products.  Product managers want to identify potential products that will provide significant value to your organization.  They may do this via a variety of means, including the more traditional approaches of building a business case to more agile/lean strategies such running a small experiment.
  3. Prioritize potential products.  There will be many potential products that your organization would like to invest in, but a limited budget to do so.  The implication is that only the highest priority products will be developed, and therefore need to be prioritized appropriately.
  4. Evolve business roadmap.  The business and/or product roadmap is developed and evolved by your product management activities.  Traditional strategies tend to take either an annual or ad-hoc approach whereas more disciplined agile strategies take more of a rolling wave approach.
  5. Allocate features.  Features – which could be captured in the form of epics, stories, feature statements, or other forms – will need to be allocated to delivery teams so that they may be implemented.  These features will need to be prioritized by the product managers (who are often in the role of Product Owner on the delivery teams) so that the teams know the order in which to implement the functionality.
  6. Manage functional dependencies.  Functional dependencies often exist between products, due to the usage of common platforms and the need for integrated solutions, and these functional dependencies need to be managed.  The product managers will want to manage these dependencies so as to optimize when functionality is implemented and released into production.  For more information on dependency management strategies, please see Managing Dependencies Between Agile TeamsManaging Dependencies Between Agile and Lean Teams, and Managing Dependencies Between Agile/Lean Teams and Traditional Teams.
  7. Market products.  Product managers will market their products to their potential customer base to increase the usage of the products.  The need for such marketing is clear in the case of commercial products and other types of solutions intended for public use.  Marketing is also needed for solutions developed for internal usage to increase the chance that the potential user base knows about the existence of the (upcoming) release of the product.
  8. Govern products.  Product managers will want to monitor how successful their products are (e.g. monitor actual ROI, market adoption rates, end user satisfaction) as well as how well the products are being evolved (e.g. are you continuing to invest in successful products).  Product governance is one aspect of your overall IT governance efforts.


External Workflow With Other IT Teams

The following diagram overviews the major workflows that your disciplined agile product management activities are associated with.  Note that feedback is implied in the diagram.  For example, where you see the Business Roadmap and Priorities flow from Product Management to Portfolio Management there is an implied feedback loop from the portfolio managers to the product managers.  Also note that the workflows do not necessarily imply that artifacts exist.  For example, some of the work items provided to solution teams may be via discussions with their product owners.

Product Management Workflow

The following table summarizes the workflows depicted in the diagram.

Process Blade Process Blade Overview Workflow with Product Management
Solution Delivery Addresses how to develop solutions in a disciplined agile or lean manner. This includes the four lifecycles – basis/agile, advanced/lean, continuous delivery, and exploratory – supported but the DAD framework plus the program management blade (effectively a large team following one or more of the lifecycles). Product management will provide a business roadmap and priorities that will guide prioritization decisions by the team.  Product managers will also provide requirements to the team, working closely with your product owner to do so.
Continuous Improvement Addresses how to support process and organizational structure improvement across teams in a lightweight, collaborative manner; how to support improvement experiments within teams; and how to govern process improvement with your IT department. The continuous improvement activities will provide potential improvement suggestions for improving enterprise architecture efforts. Similarly, the Product Management team may have insights to share with the rest of the organization.
Data Management Addresses how to improve data quality, evolve data assets such as master data and test data, and govern data activities within your organization. Product Management will provide business -oriented guidance to the data management activities.
Enteprise Architecture Addresses strategies for supporting stakeholders; supporting delivery teams; evolving the enterprise architecture; capturing the enterprise architecture; and governing the enterprise architecture efforts. Enterprise architecture will provide the technology roadmap to product management which is an input into evolving the vision for a product and identifying new potential features for products. Product management provides the business roadmap and stakeholder priorities to enterprise architecture which is used as input into evolve the enterprise architecture.
IT Governance Addresses strategies for consolidating various governance views, defining metrics, taking measurements, monitoring and reporting on measurements, developing and capturing guidance, defining roles and responsibilities, sharing knowledge within your organization, managing IT risk, and coordinating the various governance efforts (including EA governance). The IT governance efforts will provide guidance to the Product Management team.
Operations Addresses how to run systems, evolve the IT infrastructure, manage change within the operational ecosystem, mitigate disasters, and govern IT operations. Operational intelligence will be used by the Project Management team to provide insights into the effective of various marketing strategies.
Portfolio Management Addresses how to identify potential business value that could be supported by IT endeavors, explore those potential endeavors to understand them in greater detail, prioritize those potential endeavours, initiate the endeavours, manage vendors, and govern the IT portfolio. Product Management provides the business roadmap to portfolio management. The roadmap is used as input into identifying potential business value that could be supported by IT and into prioritization decisions.
Program Management Addresses strategies for managing large product/project teams, allocating requirements between sub teams, managing dependencies between sub teams, coordinating the sub teams, and governing a program. Product Management will provide a business roadmap and priorities that will guide prioritization decisions by the program.  Product managers will also provide requirements to the program, working closely with your product owner team to do so.
Release Management Addresses strategies for planning the IT release schedule, coordinating releases of solutions, managing the release infrastructure, supporting delivery teams, and governing the release management efforts. Product Management will provide the business roadmap and priorities to the release management efforts so that their planning efforts reflect the direction of the overall organization.
Support Addresses how to adopt an IT support strategy, to escalate incidents, to effectively address the incidents, and govern the IT support effort. Product Management will provide the business roadmap and priorities to the support team so that they can better understand the overall direction of the company.

The activities associated with these process blades are often very highly related. For example, in some organizations the activities associated with product management and portfolio management are fulfilled by a single group. In other organizations some product management activities are performed by the portfolio management team and some by the enterprise architecture team. Some organizations may be large enough that it makes sense to choose to have a separate group for product management. And of course the organizational structure will evolve over time as your various teams learn how to work with one another.


Internal Workflow

This section is a work in progress.

For now, see The Product Owner Team which overviews how a product owner team works within a program.  A product management team works in a very similar manner, albeit with a larger scope.