Your software development team shoulders some big responsibilities on behalf of your company. Whether maintaining a mission-critical system for internal users or developing the next release of your customer-facing app, they have a wide range of duties. If you want to help your team become more effective, there are tools and strategies that can help. Here are some ways to improve your software team’s product management capabilities.
Utilize a Product Manager Tool
Taking a project from an idea to a working prototype can be a complicated process involving many steps and many contributors. And these contributors aren’t just found on your software team itself. Customer feedback gathered by the sales team may guide the product’s conception during the ideation phase. The same goes for market research conducted by the members of your marketing team.
Suffice it to say it’s normal for a product to pass through multiple hands during the development process. To help keep everyone on the same page regarding the current state of a software development project, use a product manager tool.
The ideal product manager tool will help your team track workflows and see at a glance what comes next. Look for a tool that also allows your team to collaborate with other teams, such as sales and marketing, in real-time. With reporting capabilities, Kanban boards, and more, a well-designed workflow management tool will boost the performance of your software development team.
Create a Product Development Plan
Once you have a good workflow management tool in place, it becomes easier to create a product development plan. This plan will guide your software team through the process of developing a product from start to finish. Your plan should include realistic deadlines for every stage of the process. It should also outline specific duties required of each team member to bring the product idea to fruition. Here are some of the details you may want to include for each phase of your plan.
The Initiation Phase
The initiation phase of product development is sometimes referred to as ideation. As that term implies, this is the idea generation and refinement stage of the process. It’s where the team (or team of teams) decides what the new software product is going to be. The team will consider the research marketing has done, as well as the target personas they’ve identified. They’ll take into account the customer pain points sales reps have uncovered to shape a product likely customers will need or want.
Alternatively, ideation could involve identifying the parameters for fixing or improving an existing product. Perhaps one killer feature is all that’s needed to renew customer interest in a product whose sales have flagged. Either way, don’t give the initiation phase short shrift. Without it, your team won’t know what goal they’re working toward.
The Planning Phase
Once the initiation phase is complete, it’s time to move to the all-important planning phase. During the planning phase, the project begins to take shape. Customer wishes are translated into concrete features, and those features are further broken down into specific deliverables. Product managers should welcome feedback during this phase, encouraging team members to identify potential roadblocks — and, ideally, ways around them. This exercise will help ensure everything is primed to go as smoothly as possible.
The product manager should also make sure different facets of the project are delegated to the appropriate departments or individuals. Other elements of the planning phase include assigning tasks, establishing intermediate milestones, and identifying the order in which tasks must be completed. With the team’s input, the product manager must strive to set deadlines that are ambitious yet realistic. Bold goals are great, but they need to be achievable.
The Execution Phase
Once you’ve collaborated with your team to create a clearly defined product plan, it’s time to take action. The execution phase of product management is one of the most exciting of all the phases. It is when ideas begin to take form and become working products. This phase usually includes design, coding, testing, and quality assurance.
A workflow management tool can mean the difference between a polished execution phase and a sloppy one. Using such a tool will help your team members stay on task and schedule. If a due date is threatened, the tool will pinpoint the obstacle, enabling you to take prompt remedial action. Without a workflow management tool, it’s much easier for deliverables to get derailed and for teams to lag behind schedule.
Project Completion Phase
The project completion phase is when your team’s hard work pays off in the form of a ready-to-launch product. Ideally, the launch will go smoothly, and customers will love the completed offering. Depending on the feedback you receive from your initial launch, though, your team may need to make some product modifications. Be ready to take action based on consumer feedback once your product hits the market.
After you have successfully developed a new product, it’s time to evaluate your teamwork. Evaluate what the team did well and how you can recreate those results in future projects. Discuss any unexpected problems your team encountered, how you dealt with them, and what you might do differently next time. Evaluating your team’s performance will help you take steps to maximize their effectiveness during the next project.
If your team struggles to build the right products on time and within budget, a good product manager tool can help turn things around. Coupled with robust planning processes, it can facilitate collaboration among stakeholders and make your software team more effective.