Regardless of the name that it goes by, digitalization is revolutionizing the business world by making processes and workflows faster, easier and more efficient. Digitalization fosters improved employee efficiency, enables a better user experience, increases business revenue and enables more agility and innovation.
Digital Product Management (DPM) addresses the shifts occurring in technology management brought about by digitalization. In this second blog of a three-part series, we’re examining the business advantages that DPM provides for various stakeholders in an organization.
How DPM Impacts The PMO
The project management office (PMO) – which might have evolved over time into a few other names – houses people who help to govern IT and technology spending. As the business world increasingly moves toward digitalization, DPM provides a way for the PMO to evolve with the business.
This evolution is important as digitalization forces an expansion within the PMO to embrace both project management AND product management. Accordingly, the skillset necessary to be a product manager differs tremendously from the skillset necessary to be a project manager. Those differences can be likened to the differences between a marathon runner and a sports team manager.
Project managers are like marathon runners, which is pretty much a singular activity. While project managers have to gather information from different people involved in the race, and they have many people supporting them along the way, their ultimate goal is to accomplish a thing: getting to the end of the event. Once there, they declare victory, and they may never go back and run that race again.
In contrast, product managers are more like a sports team manager; they have an entire season to think about with many moving parts. They’re looking at what needs to be done in the offseason at the same time that they consider what to do about the game next week and what they need to do for the first game next season. Then the team might make the playoffs, so they have to figure out all the moving pieces of that contingency. It is a very different thought process when there’s no final goal line because they have to build real relationships with people that are going to be persistent over time.
As such, it’s easy to see that product managers need consistent, scalable engagement models for stakeholders, including external stakeholders like customers and internal stakeholders that provide funding. Product managers spend considerable time marketing their product, and they have to communicate what their product delivers in terms of value. This is vital because whatever the stakeholder audience is, they don't think about a product until the product manager tells them to or until they need to use it. If product managers don’t take an active role in promoting their product, they won’t have the support of the stakeholders who understand the value of the product when the next round of funding comes up.
DPM gives product managers the ability to easily communicate the features they’ve already delivered, illustrate the impact those features are having, explore upcoming features that are being worked on, and develop a reasonable timeline for delivery. Digitalization requires product managers to put on a marketing/improvisational hat and actively interact with stakeholders, and DPM provides the foundation for doing so.
How DPM Impacts Company Executives
In many ways, DPM benefits company executives more than other stakeholders because it aligns more with the way they want their businesses to operate. The only company execs that really like traditional project management are CFOs because they control the money and want to know where it’s going. Digital product management basically frees company execs from having to worry about getting money approved time and again as products evolve and timelines change.
Instead, they can work with a particular product manager to gain the functionality they need. Moreover, it enables product managers to clearly explain the tradeoffs that are necessitated by business decisions. For example, in a roadmap review, a company exec might indicate he wants a particular feature moved up the roadmap and delivered much sooner than planned. The product manager can then explain that she can deliver that functionality, but something else on the roadmap will have to be reprioritized and moved back. DPM provides execs with visibility and transparency, while also making them cognizant of the time and resource tradeoffs necessitated by changes to the roadmap.
For execs to reap the benefits of DPM, they need to be good at identifying product management talent – people who can marshal products through their lifecycle, position them so that every recognizes their value, and interface with customers in a proactive and productive way.
How DPM Impacts Software Developers
The overarching goal of most software developers is to be involved in meaningful work. They find it frustrating to be asked to create features that are never used, which happens more often than anybody wants to admit. DPM ensures software developers and others involved in the engineering process have meaningful work by tying the value of a product to what it delivers and providing transparency into the evolution of the product.
DPM also enables software developers to identify downstream functionality that product management expects so they can plan and lay architectural runway accordingly. DPM gives them a planned roadmap that enables them to quickly see the business value that’s created by the features they develop.
Likewise, DPM gives software developers an understanding of prioritization. For example, if a feature they’re working on is more complicated than expected, DPM enables them to ascertain where tradeoffs in the current development cycle can be made. Ultimately, DPM provides insight for technology workers to understand the types of tradeoffs that product managers are considering.
How DPM Impacts Customers
With DPM, the biggest advantage to customers is that they gain the opportunity for a significantly higher level of engagement with product managers and the product.
The vast majority of users for any product are passive users; they use the product because they're either told to or it is suggested to them, and they don't really think much about using it. However when customers take an active role to improve the products they use, they’re considered power users or champions.
Champions are eager to explain what they like and don’t like about a product, functionality they wish it had and insight into how it can be improved. Customer-focused stakeholders benefit tremendously from DPM when interacting with these champions because they can articulate the value of the investment they're making in the product in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise.
Meanwhile, customers gain a much simpler and more engaged conduit of communications with the people responsible for the products they’re using. DPM enables the customer engagement process to provide transparency and visibility into the status of feedback requests and puts a process in place that helps customers understand their relationship with the product.