The product management process is critical if your organization wants to fulfill its product vision. For example, your organization might have a strong product vision, but a successful product is difficult to develop without a robust product strategy to match it.
The best ideas don’t always ensure a product’s success. Therefore, it is vital to deeply understand customer needs and product features and the intersection between the two.
A skilled product manager can help develop a strong product strategy to guide development teams through the development process and product lifecycle and ensure the project meets product specifications.
This post will examine the key phases of the product management process. Product management and product managers are often confused with project management and project managers, so we will also briefly explain the differences between these disciplines and roles.
Product Manager Vs. Project Manager
Before we dive into the product management process, it is helpful to understand how product managers differ from project managers. In some organizations, product managers will assume project management responsibilities, but in most cases, these are two separate positions.
A product manager is responsible for a product throughout its lifecycle, while a project manager is responsible for managing the actual product development process.
Product managers are still responsible for overseeing product development. Still, they will typically defer to a project manager unless an issue from the development team is elevated that requires their attention.
As you can see, there is a significant overlap between the two positions. As we have said, product managers will take on project management responsibilities in some organizations.
In startups where everyone is wearing multiple hats and playing multiple roles, combining these two roles makes a lot of sense. However, in larger organizations or when building a complex project, separating the project and product manager roles is more effective.
After all, a senior product manager has a lot of responsibilities outside of product development, and development is a complicated task that requires a lot of attention to detail.
A product manager’s responsibility is defining and executing a product strategy throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.
The Key Phases of the Product Management Process
There are seven main stages to the product management process. A product manager’s role is to oversee and guide the product team through this process.
Some companies and product teams might approach product development differently, but the product management process involves the following main stages:
- Market research
- Idea management
- Define the technical details
- Create product roadmap
- Deployment, feedback, and iteration
Market research is vital to the success of any product. For example, you might think you have a great app idea, but without market research, you cannot be certain. In fact, after doing research, you might find that the idea you thought was great is not viable or wouldn’t be successful with users.
Market research gives your organization a clear idea of current market conditions, insight into competitor activities and products, industry trends, and gaps that your product or service could fill. In addition, thorough research can identify potential threats and ways to avoid them.
Two types of market research will be critical for your organization’s product manager, primary research and secondary research. Primary research is obtained through organizational efforts such as focus groups, surveys, interviews, etc.
Secondary research is already available, and your organization just uses it. For example, this could be published studies, statistics, etc.
A significant part of market research is user research. This type of research is usually primary and gathered through focus groups, questionnaires, etc. Still, it could also be secondary if available statistics are relevant to your market, industry, and product.
Market research is integral to the product management process. It is the foundation of the entire process. Without quality research, it will be difficult to generate product ideas that address the needs of your customers and organization.
After you have conducted your research, the next phase of the product management process is finding a solution to the problem or market opportunity discovered. A product manager won’t have to come up with all the ideas themselves, but they will have to manage and choose the best ones.
Product managers must prioritize the ideas that will provide the most value for the organization. However, determining which ideas are the most valuable often requires testing. Therefore, the product manager will plan the most effective ways to test product ideas.
On the surface, idea management might seem simple, but it is easy to prioritize the wrong ideas. Instead, a product manager needs to methodically examine business opportunities and the potential solutions they present.
Furthermore, while this step is early in the process, idea discovery and management never truly end. Throughout the lifecycle of the product, idea discovery should be an ongoing process that a product manager utilizes to continuously improve the product and help it stay relevant.
Keep a product backlog to save ideas and return to them as your organization iterates.
Define the Technical Details
Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean it will ultimately be technically viable. Once a few ideas have been chosen, the product management team must determine the technical product specifications.
How will the product be built? What programming languages and development frameworks will be used? These are a few important technical details that must be decided before the product management process can move forward.
Every team should be represented when it comes to prioritizing solutions and ironing out the technical details. For example, in addition to backend and frontend developers, product managers should include UX designers and other team members responsible for creating the product.
By the end of this phase of the product management process, your organization should have a deep understanding and detailed list of the project’s technical requirements.
Create Product Roadmap
Now that you clearly understand the technical requirements, it is time to create a roadmap that will guide the product team through development. A roadmap should not be overly detailed but should describe the organization’s goals and objectives.
A roadmap is critical to product management because it gives internal stakeholders and customers a view of what is to come. Many businesses create two roadmaps. One for internal purposes and another for external customers.
An internal roadmap will have more sensitive details that your organization doesn’t want to share with the public, such as development priorities, work backlogs, etc.
Releasing a roadmap for your customers to see can help boost interest and keep existing customers engaged with your product since they know your business is actively working to improve the product. In addition, a roadmap can give customers a sense of new features to come and tentative release dates.
The prioritization phase of the product management process is used to decide which goals and objectives are most important to the organization and which solutions will be built first.
Several prioritization tools and techniques can be used in an effective product management process, such as opportunity scoring, MoSCoW, and priority poker.
Not all product management processes are the same. For example, the opportunity scoring and priority poker prioritization techniques align more with Agile and iterative development approaches.
It will be up to the product manager to decide which tools and techniques are most appropriate for the current stage of the product management life cycle and the organization’s objectives.
One organization will vary greatly from another. Therefore, it is important in the product management process to keep business goals and the product’s vision at the forefront when prioritizing potential solutions.
During this phase, the core product is developed by the engineering team. The other teams involved in the project continue working on their tasks and can do so with more clarity as the product gets closer to completion.
For example, the sales team can begin to target customer groups during this time. It is never too early to start reaching out to potential customers, but when the development phase is underway, sales teams should start to ramp up their efforts.
In addition, product marketing needs to be active before development is completed. Your organization shouldn’t be starting product marketing after development. To effectively reach target user segments, start marketing to them before deployment.
Product management professionals should not be caught flat-footed leading up to product launch. By staying active during development, your organization can hit the ground running as its product is deployed.
Deployment, Feedback, and Iteration
After development, it is time for deployment. However, deployment isn’t the final stage, and there is still a lot of work to be done. After your organization launches its product, it is vital to collect customer feedback to prioritize new features and iterate.
A product is never complete until it is decommissioned. User feedback will help your organization measure success of the initial product, and it will help it prioritize new feature release priorities.
Organizations that fail to iterate will soon be irrelevant. Any successful app you have experience using has gone through multiple iterations to achieve the success you perceive. The most valuable data for iteration is customer feedback.
With direct feedback from users in the form of user interviews or customer surveys, your business can collect feature requests and generate new ideas. Successful companies collaborate closely internally and with their customers.
The best way to please users is to give them what they want, and there is no easier way to figure out what they want than from customer feedback.
Your organization should have a feedback collection mechanism. Remember that ex-customer feedback is just as valuable as current customer feedback.
Product Management Tips
Product managers must possess soft skills that separate them from a regular team member. If you are looking for tips on being a more effective product manager, here are some thoughts that can help you.
- Always know why – Never lose sight of your objectives and goals. How will this decision or additional feature support your ultimate goal?
- Weigh the risk – Not all ideas are risk-free. Is this idea technically feasible? Do your customers want it? Will it generate revenue? These are important questions to ask yourself when weighing risk.
- Imagine the scenarios – What is the best and worst case scenario? By imagining the best and worst outcomes, you can decide if the potential best outcomes outweigh the potential worst outcomes.
- Try to help everyone win – Managing people and projects can be difficult. Your decisions could upset people. When possible, look for win-win solutions. It is not always possible, but more often than not, a binary decision is not the only one you can make.
The product management process is critical to the success of your organization’s products. Always try to take a measured approach to product management and development to achieve the best outcomes.
If you want to learn more about the product management process, reach out to a skilled app development partner for more insight and tips.