Digital products are fluid, and their scope adapts based on feedback, outcomes, and analytics about what’s working throughout a product’s lifecycle.
Some of the world’s most successful software and digital services are built using a product-based approach. It helps increase the probability of success by validating and incorporating learnings throughout development. These learnings would be impossible to predict at the start of a product. This reduces failure risk and increases the likelihood of an efficient, easy-to-use experience.
Enter product management
Building valuable, equitable, and accessible digital experiences and products is hard. There are a lot of factors to consider when building or evolving complex, mission-critical services in a meaningful way.
Digital product development efforts in government often fail when they are:
- Treated as single, monolithic attempts where no user research or user testing is incorporated throughout the delivery
- Built primarily from the specifications gathered prior to the start of a project by internal agency stakeholders seeking to minimize risk
- Managed with traditional methods meant to enforce oversight instead of outcome delivery
To build stronger product thinking into technology teams and organizations, agencies will need to embrace a new function as part of their digitization efforts — product management.
What is product management?
Product management is a discipline for helping organizations build the right digital products in the right way.
Product management enables the continuous delivery of value and outcomes for both end users and the organization by focusing on user needs, performing contextual research, and then working with product teams to deliver solutions that meet those needs and achieve intended goals. It’s the role that puts product thinking into practice.
With digital products, it’s very hard to predict in advance what solution will work for end users. Given this, product managers are key to ensuring value delivery through digital products.
Product managers bridge strategy and delivery by leading stakeholders and teams in defining a shared vision and strategy for a product and prioritizing the work necessary to achieve those strategic goals.
|Tactical-based role focused on outputs and resource management ||Strategy-based role with focus on product outcomes and value delivery |
|Break down large projects into project steps and tasks ||Research and discovery on problems and organizational goals |
|Balance agreed-upon constraints of scope, timeline, and budget ||Set and manage product direction and strategy |
|Monitor and track tasks, risks, and requirements completion ||Gather and prioritize requirements, feedback, and needs against organizational goals/initiatives |
|Report status and progress of project to stakeholders ||Experimentation and measurement of product success |
|Monitor resources against set plans ||Lead cross-functional teams |
Product managers help lead teams in problem discovery and research, experimentation, and insights gathering activities for products. They also guide teams through iterative delivery throughout the lifecycle of a product while responding and adapting to customer needs, organizational goals, and market or policy changes along the way.
Product managers are responsible for ensuring the desirability, viability, and feasibility of a product — all of which create value for users and organizations. Success of a product and product manager is in achieving outcomes for users and organizations that result in added value or benefits.
Not only do good product managers understand deeply the needs and problems of a user, they also understand how a product or digital service advances the mission and goals of an organization. They do this by creating understanding and alignment for their team so that technical decisions are made with the right context.