Is your transition plan in place? Are you thinking ahead to that inevitable moment? Summer holidays are starting to happen. I can, with almost 100% certainty, state that a product manager in some company will return from holidays to hear that familiar refrain – ” we have switched to agile … oh by the way where’s the backlog”.
So before that happens when you, Mr. Product Manager, return from your fabulously relaxing holiday and you get even further behind, here are some important ideas to ponder and some key items to have at the ready before you head out on your holidays.
- Make sure that you have a system and process in place to easily and quickly manage your list of enhancements (the requests from customers and what you need to do to your product to help increase sales in current and potential markets). In the old methodology you were able to assemble and debate the features on the list early in the project and that’s what development agreed to build over an agreed upon timeframe. Now however the cadence of your development team (e.g. the sprint or iteration length) is short and so you need to be able to re-prioritize your list very quickly; you need to add and prioritize new items easily and quickly; and you need to be able to handle changes in business priorities very quickly. Before every sprint your list needs to be up-to-date.
- Make sure you reset the expectations of your executive team. In the old methodology the executive either fully participated in creating the list of features or they were peripheral to the process but kept their finger on the status of the meetings. In any event, the result was a list of features that development agreed to build within the agreed timeframe. Now with an agile methodology your executive has visibility at the sprint level. In other words, the horizon of agreement is far shorter with this new methodology; they do not have the full list of features that will be in the release – it is revealed sprint by sprint. The upside for your executive team is that the ability to embrace and react to change is far easier than with the old methodology.
- Make sure that you have a system in place that gives as much visibility of the project status as possible to as many stakeholders as possible. Your system should be easy to update from one sprint to the next. Executives like the high level picture – what enhancements are done, which ones are underway and which ones are ‘on deck’. Make this information available to them in real-time and make sure that the status is updated as soon as the state changes.
- Make sure that you have the ability and a process to assess when you have developed enough value for the release. Early in the project define the objectives of the release. Then later in the project, evaluate what has been completed against the objectives at the end of every sprint. At some point you will need to decide that you have enough value to go to market with. Everyone needs to be in agreement as to how this will be evaluated.
- Make sure that you gain an understanding with development on the product manager vs. product owner roles. Understand the product owner role and the differences / similarities with your role as a product manager. If you take on the product owner role then make sure that development understands that you still need to leave the office and visit customers – maybe at the most inopportune time.
If you think through these points and come up with an action plan, your transition will be relatively smooth.