The Role of Agile Product Management in Scaling Your Business
Apr 13, 20236 min read
Chief Marketing Officer of Ideamotive. Travel addict and remote work advocate.
Agile product management is a strategy that began in the software development industry. It has since been adopted across various industries because it helps a business stay competitive in a rapidly changing market.
The importance of agile product management was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Big companies like Hertz and J.C. Penney went bankrupt due to COVID-19 because they couldn’t pivot quickly enough.
Post-pandemic, as companies rebuild or as new companies replace legacy ones, they will need to continuously adapt to succeed in an increasingly fast-paced and uncertain environment.
This article will show you how to leverage agile product management so your company can remain competitive in an unpredictable market and scale to the next level.
What is agile product management?
Agile product management is an iterative approach to managing projects. It is based on the Agile Manifesto that values speed, speed, flexibility, customer satisfaction, adaptability, and responsiveness to change.
The Agile Manifesto can be traced back to the 1990s when a group of software developers wanted to find an alternative to the linear or waterfall software development approach. The Agile Manifesto is built on four values and 12 principles for agile software development.
Although these values and principles were initially created for software development, they have a universal appeal that can be applied to any project. Below, we look at how they can be translated to agile product management for any industry.
Key values of agile product management based on the Agile Manifesto
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
While processes and tools are beneficial, they are secondary in agile product management. The primary focus is on people working together and communicating effectively to achieve project goals.
Working product over comprehensive documentation
Instead of getting bogged down over developing comprehensive documentation before developing or delivering a product, agile product management strives to deliver a working product that meets the customer's needs as soon as possible.
Supporting documentation is still considered valuable, but it is usually kept at a minimum to support the delivery of the product—not take away from it. Documentation can be further developed with ongoing customer feedback and future product iterations.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Collaborating with the customer is an integral part of agile product management. This means getting their input or feedback at every stage of the project, not just negotiating product requirements at the beginning of the project or giving feedback after a product is developed.
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile product management focuses more on how to meet their customer’s needs rather than following a plan. While planning is essential, the team expects and embraces change.
This means they are ready to adjust plans to meet their customers' needs as the project progresses or circumstances change.
Key principles of agile product management based on the Agile Manifesto
The highest priority is to satisfy the customer.
The project team expects and embraces changing requirements.
Deliver products as soon as possible.
Cross-functional teams must work together daily throughout the project.
Focuses on keeping individuals on the team motivated and supported.
Direct conversations are preferred over emails, messages, and so on.
A functional product is the most important measure of progress.
Emphasis on sustainable development at a reasonable pace to avoid burnout.
Emphasis on delivering excellence.
Emphasis on simplicity and reducing workload.
Giving autonomy to self-organising teams instead of a top-down management approach.
Teams regularly reflect on how to become more effective and adjust accordingly.
This agile approach is different to traditional project management that typically:
Involves detailed planning upfront before beginning a project.
Does not include customer collaboration and feedback throughout the project.
Involves more siloed teams with specialised roles and responsibilities.
Are less flexible and may involve more resistance to change when there is a top-down management approach.
Uses more formal processes and documentation that can become a hindrance in the face of changing circumstances.
How agile product management helps to scale a business
The values and principles of agile product management are very effective in scaling a business because it enables cross-functional teams to work collaboratively and efficiently.
Breaking down complex projects to reach goals faster
When adopting the agile approach, a product manager would break down complex projects into manageable pieces that will meet business objectives. Each chunk is assigned to cross-functional teams with different skills and expertise, such as developers, designers, and product owners.
When team members with different skill sets come together to focus on completing smaller goals, they can collectively tackle complex problems from multiple perspectives and reach goals faster.
Leveraging sprints for faster time-to-market
Sprints is an agile tool designed to facilitate collaboration and efficiency. A sprint is defined as a short period of time, typically 1-4 weeks long, where a cross-functional team is tasked to achieve specific deliverables or smaller goals defined by the project manager.
By splitting the team into groups that focus on small chunks in sprints, teams can adjust their plans and priorities as needed. With the autonomy to adapt as needed, agile teams can deliver their work in small increments, iterate their products faster, and achieve faster time-to-market.
Regular, direct communication to adapt
The agile process also encourages regular direct communication between the development team, product teams, and stakeholders, allowing for quick decision-making and improved collaboration between all parties involved.
Since the team communicates with the customer at every stage of the process, team members can also receive critical feedback to pivot and adapt to changing customer needs or market circumstances.
Executing a product strategy with the agile approach
An outstanding product manager can uphold many different responsibilities, including managing the product roadmap, facilitating coordination between teams, keeping team members aligned with business objectives, optimising conversions, etc.
When it comes to agile product management, one of the key things product managers must first do is coordinate with development teams and other stakeholders to develop the product strategy.
Once this is done, product managers are ready to adopt the agile product development approach. Here’s an overview of how product managers work with the agile approach:
Develop the product strategy
The product manager coordinates with development teams, customers, and stakeholders to define the product vision and goals and establish the product roadmap.
Create a sprint or product backlog
A sprint or product backlog essentially breaks down the product roadmap into a list of smaller, product-related tasks that must be completed.
Conduct sprint planning
The project manager and development team must coordinate to create a plan to ensure the sprint succeeds. This includes choosing tasks to be completed and setting a goal for the sprint.
Execute the sprint
Development teams then work on the tasks assigned for their sprint. The product manager is responsible for ensuring they are supported to meet their goals, such as having access to the latest information.
Hold daily stand-up meetings
Daily stand-up meetings are another important agile tool facilitating communication and feedback for faster iterations and product delivery.
By conducting daily stand-up meetings, product managers can ensure everyone is on track with their goals and priorities. Team members can also raise any issues or challenges they face.
This regular, daily communication helps the product manager to find solutions or adjust plans as and when needed so the product can be delivered on time and within budget.
Conduct sprint reviews
At the end of each sprint, the product manager and development teams review the work completed to identify areas for improvement.
At any point during these steps, the product manager must keep a pulse on market conditions and customer needs. They must then be ready to adapt the product strategy and adjust the backlog and sprint planning accordingly.
Key components of agile product management for scaling a business
The Agile Manifesto states that the highest priority is to satisfy the customer. To achieve this, it’s very important to develop a clear product vision and product roadmap that keeps the customer at the centre of the agile product development process.
Without clarity on how your product vision or product roadmap will lead to customer satisfaction, product managers can create a sprint backlog that leads the entire team down the wrong path.
So how can you achieve clarity in your product vision or product roadmap with the agile approach? This is where user stories and user experience become important elements of the agile process to ensure customer satisfaction.
User stories are an informal way of explaining a product feature from the end user's perspective. This differs from software system requirements or product feature lists because the end user is at the centre of the process.
From user stories, product managers and development teams can better understand how the product should work and how users will interact with the product. This clarifies the product vision and the steps needed to achieve it.
Based on user stories, development teams work with UX designers to gain clarity on the user experience. Regarding agile software development, the key objective is to design user flows and wireframes that fulfil the needs described in the user stories.
When adapted to industries outside of software development, user experiences can be extended to usability features of physical products, user-friendly interfaces, intuitive controls, and so on.
Throughout this process, it is important to consider the product market and business objectives.
Product managers can achieve this by using the product roadmap to outline key features and milestones that meet market needs and support that company’s overall business objectives.
Building agile product teams for long-term success
To achieve long-term success with the agile product management strategy, having a product manager skilled in agile product management and the right talent on your team is critical.
An effective, agile product team comprises members with diverse skills and backgrounds. This is important because diversity brings a range of perspectives and ideas to the table, which can lead to more creative and innovative solutions.
Team members should also be motivated lifelong learners ready to upskill to adapt to changing market and customer needs. Thanks to the iterative approach and constant feedback within the agile process, it’s easy for team members to identify the areas they need to upskill in so they always have relevant skills for the real world.
In summary, agile product management helps businesses to scale by making it easier and faster to develop products that the market needs and customers love.
The agile approach also encourages collaboration between all parties and promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement, all of which are critical for building effective teams that lead a business to long-term success.
If you want your business to quickly respond to changing market conditions and customer needs, improve based on real-world feedback, and stay relevant in a competitive business environment, then you should adopt an agile approach to product management and software development.
Michał is a digital marketing veteran with a growth hacking mindset and 10+ years of experience. His goal is building high-quality technological content, with particular emphasis on React and Ruby on Rails. Traveler, climber, remote work advocate.