Agile Product Management: A Flexible, User-Focused Approach

Instead of boxing your teams in with linear frameworks, adapting an agile framework for product management will enable you to stay flexible and ship faster.

Why agility is key to modern product management

Agile product management helps you pursue your core objectives while allowing you to adapt to ensure success.

In product management, flexibility is paramount in ever-changing markets. The needs of your customers and stakeholders evolve well into the product development , and those changes rarely occur at the same time and rate. You may have clear-cut objectives and a solid strategy at the start, but how do you respond to customer feedback, changing interests, or a market that's moving away from what your planned product offers?

Linear waterfall frameworks offer little flexibility. They might have worked in the past, but modern product management requires agility and quick adaptation. That's why many organizations are moving away from sequential management processes to more agile alternatives.

So, what is agile product management, and how can having an agile framework benefit your organization? Here's everything you need to know about agile product management frameworks.

What is agile product management?

Agile product management is a strategic approach to product development which favors adaptive planning and implementation. There are multiple agile frameworks to adopt which allow agility in product management.

At its core, this philosophy is about setting your strategy in an agile environment. The foundations of product management still exist, but your approach to planning and implementation becomes more adaptable. It gives your organization a chance to respond to changes as they occur and build a product that meets the needs of stakeholders and customers alike.

Rather than experiencing the restrictions of a linear product management process, you can prioritize different initiatives, modify your plans based on feedback, and deliver something that meets your objectives. Agile product teams stay aligned with your goals, and your customers get something they love.

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Why adopt an agile framework

Agile product development requires a more fluid approach today than in the past. Standard product management processes involve carefully planned experiences and features from the jump. Design, implementation, and execution happen step-by-step until you have a finished product ready for release. But does that method still work?

Picture this:

A software company works for more than a year to develop a new product using a typical waterfall product management framework. Managers define requirements, hand them off to development, and work to keep teams on track throughout the process. But then, the needs of their target audience change halfway through the development cycle. Because changes are challenging to implement at that stage, they continue with the original plan. Upon release, the target customers are no longer interested, and the product fails.

That scenario happens more commonly than you might think, but it's easy to avoid with an agile framework. Here are a few benefits of agile product management processes:

Respond quickly to complex changes - Agile frameworks let you adjust plans on the fly. Instead of focusing on a clear-cut process at the start, you can develop OKRs. Objectives and key results combine long-term goals and short-term key results that focus on positive outcomes.

It's far from the typical annual review of standard product management processes. You can regroup agile teams, reassess priorities, and adapt to any change that comes your way.

Adapt to customer needs - Agile product management processes are customer-centric. The shift from linear strategies to incremental progress allows you to gather valuable customer feedback. Whether that's through product testing or market research, the insights you collect can be immediately utilized.

The result is a product that delivers high value while meeting your customer's evolving needs.

Promote collaboration - Agile product development benefits more than just your customers. It also changes how your entire team works together. Agile product teams can freely collaborate with managers, developers, designers, and customers.

Successful cross-departmental collaboration smoothes the process as you shift priorities and adapt. It fosters a healthier work environment that leans on accountability, putting your best minds together under a unified vision to create magic.

Focus on the outcome - One of the biggest perks of using an agile framework is that it sets your sights on the outcome rather than the initial set goals, which might only work for the market when you first define your requirements that might not be true after your product is ready for the masses. Standard product management frameworks can be inflexible, forcing you to ignore what your customers want in favor of the plans already set.

That's not the case with agile product management. You work toward the desired outcome instead of the defined requirements you set months ago.

Agile product management frameworks in action

Using an agile framework can be daunting, but it's easier than you think. Your core responsibilities as a product manager remain the same. But you'll carry them out differently in an agile environment.

  1. Create a clear strategy

The first thing to do in any product management process is to have a strategy that defines the vision and direction. You'll still research the market, understand customer needs, and set goals that align with company objectives.

2. Gather customer feedback

One of the tenets of agile product management is gathering feedback early. It's about staying on top of changing customer needs and ensuring that your product delivers. The data you collect will ultimately impact your priorities and roadmap.

3. Develop an agile roadmap

Agile roadmaps need more than static goals and annual meetings. With agile frameworks, it's about creating short-term goals. Treat your roadmap as more of a statement of intent. Avoid strict plans and static deadlines.

Instead, make it goal-oriented and focus on the objectives you want to achieve. Develop OKRs that are aligned with company priorities and regroup every quarter to reassess and adapt to changing priorities.

4. Prioritize features to implement now

As your roadmap evolves, prioritize the features you want to implement first and collaborate with your agile product teams to create a release plan that provides value to your customers. Decide what to build and when.

5. Measure success and adapt

Constantly measuring your success is critical in an agile environment. See how your customers interact with your product, what they like, what they want to see from future improvements, and more.

Popular frameworks for agile product management

Agile product management processes are all about flexibility and adaptation, and there are several popular frameworks to explore. You can stick to these methodologies or fine-tune them to work with your product management style and the needs of your team. Either way, they're a great jumping-off point to bring a little agility into the mix.

Scrum

Scrum is one of the most popular agile product management frameworks. It's a lightweight framework that breaks down projects into short sprints lasting two to four weeks. The incremental approach allows for frequent regrouping and adaptability.

Kanban

Kanban is similar to Scrum, but it's more visual. It leans into just-in-time agile product development, providing a quick view of what tasks need finishing now, where you are in the process, and what comes next.

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming (XP) is a framework commonly used in software development. It focuses on frequent releases, short development sprints, and continuous improvement.

Staying agile in an ever-changing market

You never know what you'll run into as a product manager. So many things outside your control will change the potential for success as your product comes to life, so it’s important to keep those changes from impacting your ability to meet objectives. With an agile framework, you can respond to anything that comes your way, giving your teams the power to create something extraordinary.

When you're ready to bring agility to your product management process, turn to Collato. Collato will help you navigate those complexities and stay on top of everything as you adapt and conquer.

Product Marketing Manager
Tennessee native Catherine is passionate about all things Future of Work: From insights on product management to navigating the world of New Work, Catherine’s got it covered.
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