Over decades of IT transformation Agile methodologies have become prevalent and empowered the software industry to handle changing demands on software. Agile has empowered IT to master software delivery. So why with the most accomplished agile engineers do projects fail?
One perspective is delivery is the output from the IT department, it is not the outcome for the business. Every Agile project intersects IT with the business through one head - the product owner. Here lies a weak point.
Agile addresses process from an IT perspective and drives feature development. The expectation is the product owner will fill up and prioritise the backlog. There are loads of books, training courses and coaches to help product owners speak agile and manage the backlog. The product owner duties are only part of the bigger function, which is too frequently forgotten, called product management.
In too many organisations there is no investment into meaningful product management. In too many cases the product owner has another role that demands their attention allowing only a small number of hours a week to focus on the product. Frequently the product owner has no product management experience or know how.
Millions of dollars are invested in the deliver of software projects yet little effort is placed on reducing the risk of building the wrong thing. Over the years providing product consultancy I have witnessed thousands of man hours invested into the wrong features resulting in a total waste. This needs to change! Product management capabilities discover opportunity, define strategy and collaborate to deliver meaningful business outcomes from software deliver teams.
Here are a few top line areas a product manager should be able to answer "Hell YES" to the following questions:
- Do you fully understand the business model?
- Is your roadmap aligned with strategic bets to deliver the vision?
- Do you have outcome measurements more insightful than how much revenue is created?
- Do you seek validation and learnings from lean experiments contributing to the direction of the product?
- Do you have empathy with your user and customer?
- Do you talk regularly to customers and users?
- Do you encourage and facilitate collaboration between business, design and tech -from day one?
If you only get one take away from reading this post then make sure it is to start asking about outcomes instead of outputs.