Agile product management has been en vogue for quite some time. But a clear definition of the term is lacking. Different people associate different meanings with it – from simply using the product backlog to extending Scrum by employing complex new frameworks. I view agile product management as fundamentally different from traditional approaches. To better understand the differences, let’s see how agile and old-school product management compare. The following table – taken from my book Agile Product Management with Scrum – summarizes five key changes.
|Old School||New School|
|Several roles, such as product marketer, product manager, and project manager, share the responsibility for bringing the product to life.||One person—the product owner—is in charge of the product and leads the project.|
|Product managers are detached from the development teams, separated by process, department, and facility boundaries.||The product owner is a member of the Scrum team and works closely with the ScrumMaster and team on an ongoing basis.|
|Extensive market research, product planning, and business analysis are carried out up front.||Minimum up-front work is expended to create a vision that describes what the product will roughly look like and do.|
|Up-front product discovery and definition: requirements are detailed and frozen early on.||Product discovery is an ongoing process; requirements emerge. There is no definition phase and no market or product requirements specification. The product backlog evolves based on customer and user feedback.|
|Customer feedback is received late, in market testing and after product launch.||Early and frequent releases together with sprint review meetings generate valuable customer and user feedback that helps create a product customers love.|
Agile methods embrace an age-old truth: They see change as the only constant. If flux and unpredictability are dominant forces, then our ability to accurately forecast markets and predict customer behavior is limited. Instead of employing a primarily analytical approach with big upfront market research and business analysis and detailed, frozen requirements, agile product management follows an empirical approach: Gathering customer and user feedback on prototypes and early product increments facilitates inspecting the work results and adapting the product accordingly. The product evolves based on customer and user feedback. This not only saves time and money but it increases the likelihood of developing a great product.