managing product development

the initial reaction of many managers to the suggestion that product development could benefit from a process management approach is, “product development is not manufacturing. as a result, critical people in the development organization were unable to juggle the many demands despite 60-hour workweeks, and most projects ran late. we have seen instances in which managers thought they were being prudent when the number of projects that they had assigned to the development organization required it to operate at about 90% of its capacity. the development organization had instituted cross-functional teams and implemented a planning process to achieve a balance between the types and numbers of projects it undertook and the available staff. (see the exhibit “congestion in operations and product development.”) epstein and gilles then set up a cross-functional process-improvement task force to build a model of the development process like the one created for manufacturing. epstein challenged the task force to build a quantitative simulation model that would help the company identify and assess various improvement options.

adapting the approach that the company had taken in the manufacturing study, the task force used the data from the questionnaire to quantify the variation across projects in the sequence of tasks, the number of iterations, and the rate of new project starts. managers could set a limit on the number of projects allowed in the system at any one time. although some variance in a development process is inevitable because of each project’s idiosyncrasies, everyone on the task force had been shocked to discover the degree to which the number of iterations and the time required to carry out a given task varied from project to project. during the early days of the task force, some managers and staff in connectco’s development organization had worried that process management would undermine the autonomy they needed. now that management had a better grasp of the development organization’s capabilities, epstein decided that in the coming year connectco should take on 11 or so new projects and push for a goal of 16 ongoing projects. the senior managers decided that a refinement was in order: the rule against expediting projects was too rigid. the company discovered, for example, that some projects were held up for weeks until the plant found time to conduct trial runs.

it starts with an idea of a product that a customer will interact with and ends with the evaluation of the product’s success. this person is also responsible for the outcome of a product launch. outbound activities are oriented toward the marketing of a product and its sales. when developing the vision, a product manager sets the goals for the product and defines specifications. a roadmap is a tool that provides a framework for a team with a timeline and specific actions, illustrates the vision, goals, and the current state of product development. a product manager has to be focused on customers and stakeholders at the same time. results of these activities allow a product manager to prioritize the necessary and unnecessary features.

a product manager defines testing scenarios in cooperation with a ux specialist, tracks results, and communicates the changes to the project manager and/or development team. after the product launch, the product manager monitors its progression and analyzes data to understand the success of a product. a project manager organizes the internal process of product development making sure that the project follows a timeline and fits a budget. in product management, stakeholders can be clients, investors, even developers and users of a product, or all of them combined. here are our recommendations for people of different backgrounds that will help you close the gap and transition to a product manager role. the big part of a product manager’s responsibilities are related to communication, i.e., coordinating the development team, interviewing customers, informing executives, connecting with stakeholders, etc. neglecting one aspect of product development and focusing excessively on the other usually leads to financial losses.

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