– an interesting twist on familiar tools when viewed through the eyes of a product manager
– By Sridhar Karnam (www.linkedin.com/in/sridharkarnam)
Tools that product management use that might be interesting for project managers to use:
In continuation to our last week’s discussion about lessons that project management can learn from product management, let us examine some of the tools that product management uses that could assist in project management:
Weekly newsletter: The communication within the team and between team is critical for product management. At a simplest form product management uses email, wiki, idea management, and requirement management tools. Project management could use simple tools such as weekly newsletter to communicate the status update with the entire team, with the management, and also between other project teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Program manager is typically responsible to bring every project on the same page at high level. However, a weekly email update in the form of newsletter can give the details and granularity that everyone needs to know about the project. Smaller team could use a simple corporate email with consistent template or format to communicate with the ecosystem. A larger team could use free web 2.0 tools such as mailchimp.com to communicate.
Knowledge tools: The product management is responsible to build and manage the inventory of product knowledge. Typical tools used are MS Sharepoint, FTP servers, Dropbox.com, salesforce.com, or fancy knowledge base tools. At a simplest form use a Dropbox.com tool create a consistent folders. Every user gets an instant notification as soon as a new version/ doc is checked-in. Every member of the team has the same version of the document irrespective of the number of revisions that it has gone through. Collateral that Product Manager uses to communicate about the product to senior management and field during the initial stages are relevant for the product development team. The one-pager executive summary of the product is a great example apart from MRD, PRD, SRS, etc. to be shared in this folder.
Empowering tools: Product management uses many webinars to discuss and debate the research and diligence reports. Project teams could make use of such tools to conduct a 30-min project team refresh meetings to discuss about case studies, coding best practices, efficiency improvements, re-usability of code, and so on. Product management uses simple tools such as Google Alerts to capture information about competition and market. Use corporate collaboration tools such as webex, go-to-meeting, or even Google+ to empower your team with the latest and greatest in the domain, technology, or process.
Decision tools: Product management usually run multiple what if scenarios for the features, functionalities, revenue, volume, or users. This helps them take quick decision in the meetings. With emphasis on making decisions in every meeting these days, it is important that the project management uses its existing tools and run what if scenarios by modifying activities, resources, bugs, or release dates. This makes the project management to respond quickly during the meetings and in hall-way discussions to speak about the impact of changes rather than calculating them after the decision has been made.
Change management tools: The project management gets input from many people through support escalations, business escalations, management requests, and of course market changes. Product management uses simple tools to modify product backlogs and directs changes to the project management. As we know that execution is more challenging than idea generation, proper use of tools are required for project management to manage changes in requirements, schedule, or resources. Capturing the information from above tools of different teams may help the project management team to re-use or learn about the changes quickly and be agile. The bulky ERP tools that we mostly use which goes through approval from who’s who in the group may not be very effective. Combination of knowledge base, current version of the documents, and decision tools will help through navigate the changes rather than avoiding it.
Prioritization tools: The project management team has people management, resource management, code management, technology management, and many other challenges to manage. With constantly changing business requirements, it could get overwhelming to manage changes. Using some of the prioritization methods could be helpful to manage these changes. There are many tools that product management use based on the prioritization methods used. As a first step, the project management shall get away from a To-Do list format to prioritization way of thinking, and use any of the tools that is available in the system.
The tools are only tools, and it’s the skill and attitude that would drive the business. A tool is very critical to cut a huge log of wood. The tools has to be sharp and right. At the same time, a great club in Golf will not help you achieve great results. So a combination of right attitude and a tool will help project management move away from a tactical to-do list teams to strategic teams with vision.