Chief Technology Officer of ConnectWise.
Determining a product’s success begins the minute it transitions from the idea stage into the product management process. But without a vision and clearly defined end goals, how can we expect teams to align the goals of an initial idea with the final results that support the company’s overall vision?
While companies will debate the number of stages in a new product development process, one of the most important steps is developing a companywide priority scheme of what is to be done to allow the organization to allocate resources and drive execution. This also helps prevent deviation from a company’s overall goals, which can get lost in the process as companies innovate beyond their core products, move through acquisitions and continue to grow.
To avoid confusion and remain on track, businesses need clear leadership to consistently implement and execute priority schemes across the company. Detailed below is advice for leaders on avoiding mistakes, maintaining order and ensuring teams realize their company’s short- and long-term goals through prioritization across the product management process.
Make A List And Stick To It
Before projects begin, businesses should determine who be responsible for prioritizing each project and creating a conceptual timeline for completion. While the list is dynamic and can change as projects are completed and new ones are added or priorities change, it also serves as a reminder to each team that there are business goals and timelines that are important to the company. This also makes it easier for leaders to have difficult conversations and emphasizes the importance of allocating resources where they’re needed, rather than dividing them across different silos.
When clear deadlines and expectations aren’t communicated, confusion takes over, and it becomes more difficult for leaders to shift resources where needed. Single-priority schemes are also necessary to prevent a diffusion of energy and a lack of focus. Successful leaders will recognize that a product’s health, security, supportability and ability to meet the basic requirements to continue operating at their current level is potentially more valuable than enhancing the product when it’s not being maintained properly. Therefore, the priority scheme needs to be inclusive of technical requirements — not just features and new capabilities.
Don’t Deviate From Your Tech Road Map
One of the most important points to consider when it comes to effectively planning your company’s goals is understanding the relative priorities of the projects you have on the road map and dealing with the dependencies between them. If you have a project that ranks high on the priority list and its dependencies are low, you don’t have it right. There should be alignment across short- and long-term goals with dependencies called out and a clear path to achievement.
In most businesses, you have a starting line and an end goal, with various steps in between. Without a prioritization scheme, it’s almost impossible to get those steps done and reach the end goal in a timely manner, devoid of issues. Rather than prioritizing projects based on how quickly you can start them, organize your teams to coincide with the company’s actual needs to prevent focusing on short-term items only. Make sure the priority scheme is clearly defined and visible to everybody; otherwise, you risk sub-optimizing your resources based on the individual product missions, derailing your overall road map in the process.
Establish Boundaries Between Teams To Avoid Conflict
By virtue of design, product creation opens up opportunities for multiple teams to work on various projects at once. While this may seem efficient, it actually creates different silos within the company, causing issues in the prioritization process. When relative priorities of projects are not clearly outlined for each team, one team will elevate their own needs over another team’s needs, leading to endless debates about division of resources and level of importance.
The existence of various teams and departments is a necessary part of the product creation process, but there must be room for review and accountability. Generally, the product management team sets the expectations for the final idea and creates the definition of the deliverables and the decomposition of what needs to be done. Engineers build the product, and the architecture team sets the foundation and guard rails for the developers. Development/quality engineers design, build and test the product to meet the product management requirements. The customer experience team designs and mocks up the product’s aesthetics and focuses on consistency, while the developers find a way to ensure the product meets the requirements of each team.
Product management requires multiple moving parts and teams, and each one must function individually to cement success for the business as a whole. Make sure the boundaries are clearly established so that each team sticks to the parameters of their assignment and can be held accountable to produce the best possible product that fits the specifications and market requirements. Ultimately, success depends on forming trust with your partners to complete their tasks and collaborate only when necessary.
When developing products, it’s up to leadership to look at a company’s big picture and transparently slot new projects in where they make the most sense. As timelines are developed, leaders must also consider which projects will have the greatest impact on the business and prioritize accordingly. Once a prioritization scheme is established, clarity, persistence and focus will ensure teams avoid confusion, yielding positive results for the product management process.
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