The product world isn’t “one size fits all.” Any PM will tell you that following the right product methodologies and frameworks is critical to the product lifecycle, and generally, the overall success of the product. However, it’s important to remember that finding the right methodology depends on a few variables, like timelines and budgets, and sometimes a combination or a hybrid approach of two frameworks is needed. In this blog, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at a few of the more widely used methodologies in product management:
Among the different methodologies, agile is one of the most common approaches. An agile method is considered “adaptable” and is made up of multiple development cycles, and is typically used for products with iterative and incremental requirements. Agile methodology has a more consumer-based approach, as the feedback from the end-user helps development teams respond to consumer requirements more efficiently. While the agile method was initially designed as a way to support software development teams, according to Aha! “Many companies are implementing agile principles across the entire organization to improve collaboration, adapt to change, and produce working results faster.” For most PM’s practicing agile, there are a few subsets that also often utilized:
Like the agile approach, scrum also uses an incremental approach when completing the development process requirements. Work and tasks in the scrum approach are typically divided into time-boxed iterations called sprints. After each sprint is completed, typically in 1-2 weeks (I usually give myself a 2-week goal on average), we ideally have a potentially shippable increment of completed work that is ready for the client to review. Once the work is accepted the sprint is complete. Overall, scrum is heavily used in the agile process.
Kanban is another agile-based approach and is used for workflow management purposes. This method focuses on improving workflow by increasing collaboration, productivity and reducing the amount of work in a process. It best suits projects that require fluidity with minimal work/steps. Kanban less about getting things done before a deadline and more about making the development process efficient and straightforward–it’s like scrum on an assembly line. Product teams will often use a Kanban board and divide work based on three or more categories–generally to do, in progress, and complete; however, teams can add additional categories for improved visualization.
The lean methodology is another popular approach among PMs. The lean process was originated in the manufacturing space as a model based on the Toyota Production System (TPS). Lean focuses on reducing waste, improving processes, and fostering innovation. Its two main pillars are:
- Continuous improvement
- Respect for people
The lean methodologies development lifecycle has a close relation to the agile method in that both processes are adaptable to change and work best with projects that require more flexibility. Since its origination in the manufacturing space, the lean methodology has also been applied to other areas like management and software development.
In contrast, another commonly used method is the waterfall approach. The waterfall methodology is more linear in that it’s a sequential method that sections the development process into multiple phases. Within each phase, there are defined tasks and goals to be met before moving to the next phase. The waterfall method works well for projects with clearly defined requirements from the start, and unlike the more adaptable agile method, changes to the phases are typically uncommon.
Requirements for the waterfall method are determined in the earlier stages of the process; therefore, it doesn’t usually take end-user feedback into account. While waterfall can be great for planning, it doesn’t offer much flexibility. Project Management Institute(PMI) shares a great example of the waterfall and agile methods’ strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I don’t prefer to use the waterfall method but when it’s required, I liked to weave in scrum, lean, and agile methods as well.
Product management methodologies will vary depending on the product and its requirements. It’s important for product teams and managers to recognize which method suits their product the best.