Software product management

Software product management
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In custom software development, Syndicode has a huge experience of working with, most of the stages depend on a unique and dedicated person called product manager. This specialist has to be expert in tech and management, psychology and business. And moreover, the product manager will be always responsible for all the issues and all the wins no matter the conditions. Today we’d like to tell you about the tasks and responsibilities in modern software product management.

Product management principles

Product managers always face complex situations such as having to understand the environment in which the product resides, or resolving a request for a feature in an already existing environment. In any case, it’s better to have a clear understanding of the main approaches and principles you can apply to reconstruct and resolve these complex situations.

You will typically find product managers at companies that build software or products for the customer or business-to-business use. The product manager is basically the CEO of the product. They are responsible for the strategy and the development of the product, as well as the team of employees that are involved in every stage of making the product.

From our experience, we can distinguish the next principles of product management:

  • Every problem is different and you can’t use your previous solutions to the new situation: You can find a complex problem with new variables, inputs, data, that reminds you of your previous experience but don’t try to solve the new problem using the previous approach. Try to find a new instrument using all your experience and different approaches together every time you face a complex situation.
  • Gather your team together before sprints and ask questions. This will help you to accept ideas they were previously hesitant because the whole team can suggest their point of view and rationality of those ideas. Find a consensus within your team, that will improve the team’s ability to move fast and build quality products.

  • Identify the most crucial pieces of the system to start with:  When you collected all ideas and got a clearer understanding of the general picture, you can decide what feature to build first. Understanding the most crucial pieces of the system will lead to the immediate validation that you are moving in the right direction.
  • Always question everything you do. Try to ask clear questions every time you have a complex situation.  Will this solution solve all the parts? If we implement one solution over another solution, what am I gaining/losing? What are dangerous sides to each approach?
  • Remember the general picture. It isn’t enough to think about different parts and small pieces, you have to find the meaning of your whole work, create a complete picture, in the end, using all the components of your work together.  Remember that you’re creating something that will live in a complex, real-life system.

The responsibilities of a product manager

When you think of web or mobile development you imagine programmers and designers. But there are more people who play a key role but stay in the shadow. Their work is also challenging and hard. The product manager plays a key role within a company which means being pulled at in many directions at the same time. Probably, you already know the core aspects of product leadership that all product managers should feel accountable for and work hard at:

  • Strategy. The product manager is responsible for setting a product vision and strategy. He or she has to understand the business values. They own the strategy behind the product along with its roadmap and must work with engineering to build what matters.
  • Releases. PMs (product managers) must plan for what their teams will deliver and when they will deliver it. This holds true no matter which development methodologies product teams use. Their responsibilities include knowing when (and when not) to create a master release; managing features and dependencies in and across releases; and managing releases with phases and milestones.
  • Ideation. Every organization wants better ideas, but it is hard to manage and prioritize them. Product managers own ideation the creative process of developing and curating new ideas. They know which ideas should be promoted to features and which will achieve key objectives for the product line and business. They also ensure that key feedback and requests are seamlessly integrated into their product planning and development processes.
  • Features. The product manager defines the features and requirements necessary to deliver a complete product to market and lead the product team to success.
  • Go-to-market. The product manager is typically seen as the CEO of a product.  But it demands a lot of responsibility and involves stress. For the product managers, this means they are responsible for making product decisions and often is the lead resource for the rest of the organization when deep product expertise is required.

Every day the product manager faces more challenging work than it could be described in the core aspects. According to the “The unspoken challenges of being a Product Manager” article by Nathan Allsopp the main challenges are:

  1. Wielding little to no direct/actual power
    Despite this person is responsible for the product development result, in fact, he/she is ‘just a manager’ the others usually have no willing to be under the control of.
  2. Shielding developers and designers from random crap (no need to explain)
  3. Facing some resistance to change with systems or processes
    When some employees don’t want to follow or don’t understand some business decisions, a product manager needs to explain and ensure the staff understands the importance of every further step.
  4. Being the interface between technical and non-technical staff (no need to explain – just two different worlds)
  5. Having to follow a plan that doesn’t always feel right (watch the number 3 above – the same, but for a manager him-/herself)
    A product manager is not a person who says a final word, so sometimes (even when you’re not agreeing with something), you have to get used to certain things being outside your control.
  6. Not enough data, customer feedback or feature validation (despite that, the decision should be made, no matter the conditions)

It is up to a product manager to be the thought leader in terms of encouraging a company to invest in data and customer feedback programs that deliver real value. However, people, perspectives, and arrogance can often get in the way — some companies or individuals feel they can make better decisions themselves.

Well-known frameworks for product managers

There are a lot of product management frameworks that can confuse you which one to choose. We’ll try to pick up the most important one that every product manager needs to be familiar with:

1. AARRR: Startup Metrics for Pirates

A very useful framework by Dave McClure, that helps to define success metrics for any product or feature. The product manager also can measure the funnel and optimize it for the better.

  • Acquisition — where/what channels do users come from?
  • Activation — what percent have a “happy” initial experience?
  • Retention — do they come back and re-visit over time?
  • Referral — do they like it enough to tell their friends?
  • Revenue — can you monetize any of this behavior?

2.  HEART

If you want to choose the right UX metrics for your product, think of using the HEART framework designed by Kerry Rodden, Hilary Hutchinson and Xin Fu, from Google’s research team.

  • Happiness
  • Engagement
  • Adoption
  • Retention
  • Task Success

3. 4 D’s

Before responding to any request, filter them through the 4D’s framework, a simple but effective time management method:

  • Do’s. Scan through all your emails for unwanted emails and delete unnecessary.
  • Defer. Some tasks can be done later, but no later than the last responsible moment.
  • Delegate. If someone else can perform a task, delegate it.
  • Dump. Buckle down and get the task done.

To help you succeed, read Master 4D Time Management. The second edition includes 9 advanced tips.

4. Five Why’s

How to get requirement right? What is the exact problem? Are you solving the right problem?  The 5W’s & H also help the product manager in asking the right question and gather information about the problem before jumping into a solution or some conclusion.

  • What is it?
  • Who is it for?
  • Why do they need it?
  • When is it available?
  • Where is it available?
  • How does it work?”

5. Prioritization

Once you decide the list of features or request which you plan to work, but hesitating which one to choose first, prioritization frameworks help you in that:

  • Impact vs Effort
  • Weighted scoring
  • Kano Model
  • Buy a Feature
  • Opportunity Scoring
  • Affinity Grouping
  • Story Mapping

In the end, the technique you choose isn’t as important as the conversation your team has about the priorities.

6. 4P’s of Marketing (Marketing Mix)

4P’s framework helps the product manager and marketers in putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.

  • Product
  • Pricing
  • Promotion
  • Place

7. 5 C’s of Product Pricing

What is the best price for your products or services? This 5 C’s framework helps you to determine the optimum price tag for your product.

  • Company Objective
  • Customer
  • Cost
  • Competitor
  • Channel: Distribution Channel

8. REAN

What should your digital strategy look like? How should you market your product? Are you using the right channels? The REAN model, popularised by Steve Jackson help product manager or product marketers to answers such questions.

  • Reach
  • Engagage
  • Activate
  • Nurture

9. Porter 5 Forces

Porter’s Five Forces Framework is a tool for analyzing the competition of a business. It draws from industrial organization (IO) economics to derive five forces that determine the competitive intensity and, therefore, the attractiveness (or lack of it) of an industry in terms of its profitability.

  • Threat of New Entry
  • Threat of Substitute
  • Power of Suppliers
  • Power of Buyers
  • Market Rivalry

10. STAR

Do you struggle to give concise answers to interview questions? Are you unsure how to share your accomplishments during an interview without sounding boastful? The STAR interview response technique can help.

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

By the way, the right product management framework is just a half way to success. To be really successful you have to embrace new technologies and hacks available nowadays. Do you want to know what innovations can grow your business and save money?

Software products developed in Syndicode

Syndicode provides a wide range of software development services for different business needs and other custom web or mobile purposes. We specialize in creating online marketplaces, MVPs, web apps for logistics and entertainment, mobile apps, websites and much more.

Here are some of the Ruby on rails, SaaS, UX design and Web design projects we did, and we are proud to claim that our product managers give our clients a premium level of support and are not afraid to face the challenges.

  • KwikiMove is the on-demand “Movers Marketplace” based in USA (Atlanta, Georgia) where individuals needing quick moving service can price their moves and instantly connect with truck owners around town. KwikiMove turns the average guy with a truck into your personal mover. The app consists of two separate apps for client and mover. We created a competitive marketplace that eliminates circumstantial charges and hidden fees and favors both the consumer and the mover.
  • UKRAVIT Group is a Ukrainian national leader in the market for plant protection products and micro fertilizers. UKRAVIT specializes in the production and selling pesticides, drugs for killing rodents and domestic insects, and fertilizers for resource-saving agriculture. With the help of a product management system, content-manager can add or edit product cards, change photos and descriptions, set the price and date of registration, etc. We developed CRM to streamline everyday work of UKRAVIT’ managers with agro-enterprises and distributors all over Ukraine. Also, we have established system management for a product catalog that integrates with the corporate website.
  • Shipwise takes the pain out of booking freight shipments and makes it as easy as booking a trip. Shipwise streamlines the process and eliminates the numerous emails and phone calls, automating the reservations process by providing direct access to capacity and transparent billing. In 45 days our team completed an MVP development project with Ruby on Rails. We created a client interface that allows creating inquiries for multimodal container shipments. MVP included functionality for electronic document exchange. This option was needed to provide scans and certificates for shipment clearance procedures. The last but not least feature was billing and invoicing via email in XLS and PDF formats.
  • Wecam is a marketplace platform to buy and sell video production started in Berlin, Germany. It features talented videographers for potential buyers in different categories ranging from wedding video, promo video, fashion video to drone and product video. We helped with Ruby on Rails marketplace development from start to finish, from UI/UX design to managed launch and further maintenance. After liking a few videos visitor can proceed to order his or her own video production from videographers, authors of the videos. There are backend tools for clients to manage ordered projects and communicate with videographers.
  • Woobra is a two-sided marketplace platform written in Ruby on Rails to bring together suppliers to sourcing buyers all over the world. Products and special deals are classified based on Google Product Taxonomy. There is a fully featured in-app messaging system. Buyers can make public and private requests for sourcing and collect the best proposals from suppliers. Syndicode’s team started with logo design, following with web design and Ruby on Rails marketplace development. Woobra is one of the projects we have been doing from start to finish. Multilingual content is not only present on user interface but it is searchable with Solr Sunspot technology.

Choosing software development methodology

There exist many product development methodologies, some of the mainly-used are Waterfall, Spiral, Rapid Application Development (RAD), Rational Unified Process (RUP), and Agile. These development methodologies can provide as sequential and structured approach, such as the Waterfall, as well as an iterative approach, such as the RUP that results to the immediate development. There is also an entirely iterative approach and that’s the Agile.

The key differences between RUP and Agile are the time periods they work, that can end in weeks rather than months and the work performed. The important thing is that Agile is a software development methodology that is based on a set of principles, like:

  • Individuals and interactions over process and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Extreme programming (XP), Scrum, Feature Driven Development (FDD), and Dynamic System Development Model (DSDM) are examples of Agile development approaches. There are three common things that connect them: modular, time-based, and evolutionary. A product methodology can’t directly lead to the success or the failure of a project, but depending on how it is applied, can help in finding common project features.

The main reasons why projects can fail are:

  1. Lack of user involvement
  2. Failure to define the requirements
  3. Poor project management
  4. Lack of team motivation
  5. Lack of communication
  6. Inability to change management program
  7. Inadequate resourcing
  8. Poor quality coding

The product approach of the manager will influence the stakeholder relationships, as well as the communication channels.

In a Waterfall deployment the IS (information systems) project manager is central to all channels of communication, and often can directly manage the communication between the technical lead, business analysts, test manager, and suppliers as well as the business project manager. Sometimes, there is just one project manager who may also be responsible for the business and change managers.

In an Agile deployment, the Scrum master is responsible for the development of the software, removing the responsibility of the project manager, as well as for the development and delivery of the code against the business requirements of the product. The Scrum master plans the tasks and administers the issues of the product.

To remind you, Syndicode works in Agile, and our developers are in an open line communication with clients. So, here a product manager is not a ‘transmitter’, but a facilitator.

An example of a typical product development roadmap

A product roadmap is a well-organized, professional summary that maps out your product vision and product strategy. A product roadmap is a strategic document and a plan for executing your strategy. Well-composed product roadmap can improve your team’s efficiency.

If you in charge of one product, your roadmap might look like this:

Software product management. Syndicode product developmentThis product development roadmap will include different development stages that will be simultaneously run for web and mobile development.

But if you manage more than one product, you may be dealing with a multiple product roadmap. Just imagine the progress for several products on the same scale.

To explore all the stages – read our custom software development process stages guide!

Product management tools

Product managers are often responsible for the strategy, roadmap, features, and tasks that bring a lot of responsibility. But don’t worry. For these purposes, humanity invented product management tools to help managers with this tough life:

  • Trello is one of the most popular product management tools because it’s visual and ensures easy collaboration between different members of the team. Organization of boards, lists, and cards enables you to prioritize your projects in a very flexible way. You can add comments, attachments, share links to cards in Trello, which makes it easy to follow one card from start to finish.
  • Jira is also very well-known agile product management tool that can be used by any sized businessIt allows teams to plan and keep track of the entire product creation process together. You can use scrum boards and Kanban boards, depending on how you prefer to organize your workflow. The service can produce real-time agile reports to get you started with tracking the right metrics and they also have an agile portfolio management tool Portfolio.

  • Aha! is a software for creating roadmaps and is designed to be used by small startups and big enterprise. It allows to plan your products in detail and check features over the lifecycle of the product.  It lets your product team create workflow boards for agile or scrum development methodologies, status controls by feature and requirement, and cross-functional release Gantt charts.
  • Asana is a well-known agile product management tool that includes most of the features of road mapping software, showing the status a project is in over a set period of time. It also allows teams to collaborate together and has the ability to turn your conversations into actionable tasks.
  • Axure is an example of a combination of wireframing and prototyping product management tool. It allows product and design teams to create powerful prototypes without coding. You can write diagrams that include dynamic content, conditional logic, animations, math functions, and other interactions, put together several different types of diagrams in Axure, including flowcharts, wireframes, mockups, customer personas, and idea boards.
  • Balsamiq Mockups is a product management tool that is used by small companies mostly. It reminds of sketching on a whiteboard, but from your computer. It helps product managers to quickly create mockups and easily produce multiple versions if necessary for testing and user feedback.
  • Creately is one of the diagramming product management tools and it is great for product teams of any size. It comes in a number of different versions, depending on your team’s needs , from the online version to desktop and mobile . With its help, you can publish living diagrams on wiki pages, easy import of Visio files and export them in a variety of formats.
  • Justinmind is capable to prototype any web or mobile app, which you can define using a drag and drop interface. This product management tool allows you to produce diagrams of different range. You can quickly publish your prototypes and receive feedback, it also has integrations with a number of other types of product management tools, including Jira.

  • MindMeister is a cloud-based way to capture, develop and share ideas visually. Being completely web-based, it’s usable on Windows, MaxOS, Linux and mobile devices. You can choose from a variety of mindmap styles, it also acts as presentation software, allowing you to turn your mindmaps into slideshows that can be shared with other stakeholders in your company.

  • Pencil is a free open-source prototyping software, for anyone who’s just getting started and wants to test how it works. This product management tool enables easy GUI prototyping and gives a selection of built-in shapes for drawing prototypes of any type of system.

Some of them were also mentioned in our list of UI prototyping tools. And other tools you can find in our material about 6 tools to boost your development workflow.

Why you should respect the work of a product manager

You should respect everyone’s work but today we’ll give you the main reasons why you should be more attentive to the product managers and how it can influence your work too:

  1. They have to keep all tasks at once (Google Docs, status reports, the inertia of the organization, meetings, calls, appointments, goals, teamwork, etc).
  2. Everyone in the team has his or her idea about what the product manager’s role.
  3. They are always in the center of chaos.
  4. They are often thrown into the deep end.
  5. They are expected always to be certain.
  6. They have different roles depending on the company.
  7. They can’t make most decisions independently.
  8. They struggle with the pressure.
  9. They often have to be simultaneously project manager and facilitator.
  10. They come from many different backgrounds.
  11. They are under a lot of pressure from their team.
  12. They always need to find a gold middle between how they think it should work and real-world practice.
  13. They are always under great expectations.

Yes, it’s hard, and the overall success of the collaboration work results and developers/clients mood depend on a project manager.

That’s why we advise you to rely on some trusted guys who can provide you with quality product management services! Rely on Syndicode! No more searching and comparisons, we can build you a modern, secure and reliable product!p.s. If you want to work with exceptional professionals to deliver world-class software – Syndicode is looking for a Middle Project Manager! Use your opportunity to become a valuable part of our growing team at Kyiv!

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Syndicode Inc. 340 S Lemon Ave #3299, Walnut CA, 91789, USA

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Dnipro Hlinky 2, of. 1003, 49000, Dnipro, Ukraine
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Phone (+1) 9035021111