What is a Product Management System?
As a product manager, you’ll want to answer a series of questions before you start work. Answering these questions should lead to a standardized process. And at least one dedicated software application to help you take your products from concept to launch.
- As we look for a solution to create, what should our initial research phase include? Customer interviews? Surveys? Studying competitive products? Other methods?
- Who will we want to include in our cross-functional product team?
- How should we arrange the strategy, brainstorming, and planning meetings for this team?
- Where will we capture, maintain, and communicate our product strategy?
- What mechanism will we use to review and weigh priorities on what to build?
- How will we connect our strategic product blueprint to other task-management tools to keep everyone across the team up to date?
Though this is not a complete list, of course, you’ll have to answer other questions unique to your company, industry, corporate culture, and other factors. But the questions here should give you at least the basic outlines of developing a product management system that works for you.
So, what do we mean by a product management system? We suggest two things:
1. Your product management system is your process to go from product concept to launch.
The steps include the following:
- Building your cross-functional team.
- Researching the market and your user persona’s needs for potential product ideas.
- Planning a schedule of strategic brainstorming and prioritization meetings with your team.
- Finding the proper prioritization framework to determine what to build, in what order, for your new product.
- Presenting your proposed product strategy to relevant stakeholders, including your executive staff.
- Building your product’s strategic schedule, including timelines for development milestones, marketing campaigns, sales training, etc.
- Coordinating with your product owner and development team to make sure they understand the strategic reasoning behind each user story and feature.
- Identifying and gaining consensus around the metrics your team will use to gauge product success.
- Keeping your executive staff and other relevant stakeholders up to date on your product’s progress.
2. Your product management system is your product tech stack.
Here we mean the tools you’ll use throughout the process of bringing your product to market and beyond. For example, tools for:
- Data analytics
- Market surveys
- Task management
- Team messaging and collaboration
- UX testing
- Training and onboarding
- Product roadmapping
Note: As you develop your product management system, a critical best practice is to use the best tools for each job.
For example, suppose your development department uses Slack for their internal messaging. In that case, you will make your communications with them more efficient and reliable if you adopt Slack for your product team. You will find your developers more responsive to your questions and more likely to view your roadmap updates coming through on their Slack channels.
Additionally, you will want to use a purpose-built roadmapping app to maintain your product roadmap—not a static slideshow file or a spreadsheet. You will find it much easier to update and share a web-based roadmap than constantly creating and sending out new versions of those static files.
How the Right Product Management System Creates a Single Source of Truth
When you build products without a step-by-step process and the right tools, the chances increase that your cross-functional team will not all be working from the same strategic playbook. Your developers might understand your product’s role differently than you do. In contrast, the marketing team could develop product messages that may miss the mark. Your executives could miss a notification about a strategic change of direction in your product’s plan—and be furious about it.
These are some of the reasons to create and stick to a reliable product management system. Doing so will help you keep everyone across your company on the same page about your product’s plans and strategy and the value it will bring to the market. In other words, the right product management system can help you create a single source of truth for your product.
Here are just a few examples.
1. You’ll always invite the right people to your product brainstorming and planning sessions.
When you don’t have a step-by-step process to begin creating a new product, you’ll find it easy to skip this step. It can be challenging to persuade an executive and someone in your sales department, for example, to commit to an hour in a product brainstorming meeting. But skipping this step could come back to haunt your product development or even kill it entirely later in the process.
When you follow a product management system, though, you’ll always know that part of your early-stage checklist requires getting the right people in the room to discuss product ideas.
This way, you get a broad cross-section of perspectives to help narrow down the long list of concepts and arrive at a shortlist of the most viable.
You also receive early buy-in from the right stakeholders, so their teams can’t come back later and say they didn’t have input.
2. Your cross-functional team will always have one-click access to the current strategic roadmap and your backlog of other ideas.
On your team’s journey from concept to launch (and even after launch), your product’s strategy, plans, and priorities will change. If you maintain your roadmap as a spreadsheet or slideshow, you’ll have to create new versions of those files every time you make an update.
Even if you are diligent about sending out a new version of this file for every update, your developers have gone into their email to find it. How will they know if finalFINAL-v3 is the most recent? If they miss that message and instead find finalFINAL-v2 in their inbox, could you blame them for assuming that was the newest?
With an online app explicitly built for roadmapping, you will always have a single current version to share with your company. And when they login to the roadmap site you’ve given them access to, your coworkers will always know they’re viewing the most up-to-date version of the roadmap.
3. You can easily keep your cross-functional team updated on roadmap changes—even if they don’t log in to view the roadmap.
Finally, with the proper roadmap app, you can automatically alert the people who need to know anytime you update your product roadmap.
For example, with ProductPlan’s integration library, you can trigger the app to send update notifications to the communication tools your coworkers use every day: Slack, Trello, MS Teams, GitHub, etc.
ProductPlan’s roadmap app even integrates with Zapier, which lets you connect your roadmap data to just about any workflow app.
Suppose your cross-functional teammates aren’t proactively logging in to your roadmap. By doing this, you may not know if they’re executing according to the current strategic plan. In that case, you can keep them updated—through whatever communication channels they prefer—anytime your product strategy changes.
And that’s yet another way having the right product management system helps you maintain a single source of product truth across your company.