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Product Management: Rational Product Management

What is Rational Product Management?

Rational product management is a unifying process for product development. Based on the rational development process used by the software industry, this approach offers a framework to strategically plan, iteratively develop, continuously verify quality, and control changes.

Why the Rational Product Management Approach Works

The software-industry experts who developed the rational approach identified two distinct but integrated tracks for an organization to oversee the development of any project or product:

1. The management perspective

This involves strategic planning, market research, identifying business opportunities, and determining budgetary implications.

2. The technical perspective

This involves selecting engineering methods, overseeing quality control, and managing technical resources.

Using the rational approach, an organization focuses on both perspectives simultaneously. Each track progresses incrementally and informs the other track’s progress and priorities.

This approach allows a business to move through development with equal attention at every stage to both market considerations and technical constraints. Because product teams can benefit from a holistic approach like this, the rational framework can also work in product management.

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The Management Perspective of Rational Product Management

Rational product management divides the management perspective into four phases:

Phase 1: Inception

This is early-stage brainstorming to identify a viable product idea and then define the scope of the project.

Phase 2: Elaboration

After a product idea passes the brainstorming test, the team begins planning development.

Phase 3: Construction

This stage involves the actual development of the product to the point that it is ready for a market release.

Phase 4: Transition

In this phase, the company transfers its completed product to the public. The company must now be able to distribute, maintain, and support the product on the market.

With rational product management, the team will begin amassing user suggestions and other feedback immediately after transitioning the product to the market. This feedback will then trigger a new round of this four-phase cycle. In an agile context, rational product management uses continuous delivery and continuous deployment.

The Technical Perspective of Rational Product Management

While the management perspective focuses on advancing the product’s development through these four phases, the company will also be monitoring progress from a technical angle.

The unit of incremental progress tracked here is the iteration: all activities, planning, implementation, and testing required to move the product incrementally to the next phase in development.

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