Mastering Product Management Processes

During Sequent Learning’s product management training workshops, product managers often refer to “the product management process” as a unified approach to their work.  If you find yourself in this population, or if you’d like some clarity on how the business of the product gets done, read on to clarify this notion of a product management process.

We will start with the understanding that a process is different than a practice (as in a best-practice). Processes define how workflows. Therefore, they require inputs, some kind of work (activities) and result in an output.

Remember: inputactivity, and output.

A practice, on the other hand, can be thought of as a technique used to do the work. A best-practice is an activity that has been codified, endorsed, and improved over time and produces an optimal outcome.

With this, there are five “meta-level” product processes that should be used across the product lifecycle. By their names, they should be fairly easy to understand but there is a brief description of each below.

  1. Market Insight Development ProcessContinuously analyze customers, industries, and competitors to garner relevant market insights
  2. Product Strategy and Roadmap ProcessTranslate insights and product business data into goals, strategies, and roadmaps
  3. Product Development Process: The steps followed to develop and validate a product – can be agile or waterfall
  4. Go-to-Market or Launch ProcessThe steps followed to bring products to market – can be major or minor product launches or product releases
  5. Performance Management Process: The steps followed to bring products to market can be major or minor product launches or releases

When considered against the backdrop of a product management framework, it may be easier to grasp how these can and should work together. The framework is organized to reflect the life of a product (tangible or intangible) from start to finish. It’s also organized in a somewhat linear way.

However, each meta-level process can be throttled forward or back, depending on the phase of the product’s life. But more importantly, you can go back and forth through the processes to fine-tune as needed.

For example, market insights that drive strategies must also be combined with product performance information. Those indicators can be assembled into updated strategies that then drive development and product introductions.

As you consider your work, think about the implication of all the sub-processes and workflows that must be undertaken, as well as the practices that are used in those sub-processes.

For example, under the Market Insight Development Process may rest a sub-process for carrying out a customer visit or another sub-process for conducting a customer advisory panel.

While there is a lot of detail that you can uncover in each meta-level process or sub-process, consider how you might want to apply these in your own work.   And remember, any process can be improved upon and made simpler over time.   All it takes is practice.

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