Is your Product Management process Agile?

I’ve read many articles on whether product managers need to become agile as the development team embraces an Agile development methodology. Saeed wrote a great article for the March ’09 newsletter proving that, in accordance with the Agile Manifesto, product managers have been living the elements of the Manifesto for some time (but may not have known it). Having been with companies that decided to ditch non-Agile methods and embrace Agile development the biggest challenge for my PM team was not for the product managers to become agile (or more agile) but instead the timing of when they perform their activities. Long gone where the days of a 6-8 week planning cycle where product managers brought everything to the table and the horse-trading began. It now meant that the team had to on a regular, timely basis (synchronized with the iteration cycle) prioritize new requests for the backlog, analyze the current backlog, and describe the usage scenario and key requirements as quickly as possible … as well as meeting with customers, performing market research, liaising with the development team on the work items of the current iteration, etc.

It also meant that the team became engaged with the project throughout its lifecycle on a more consistent basis instead of cyclical as was the case with the non-Agile method – i.e. the PM resource loading for the project remained relatively constant. It also meant that they needed to iterate through the requirements gathering / analysis / documentation process. First was to understand the top 5 requirements that meet the request and convey that to the development team. Next was to drill a little deeper in areas where dev neede more understanding. And lastly was to stop, when dev understood what was needed (I recommend reading Lean Software Development by Poppendieck – it provides a great discipline for this type of an environment).

In order to become business-driven in an agile world, product management processes need to be tuned so that product managers can perform all the activities that are needed so that business objectives are met.