I was walking back to my car from a client’s office this morning when I overheard the casual conversation of two coworkers. They were discussing current projects and the one asked the other if he could tell if they were actually making any progress. I knew instantly that they were talking the tough challenge inherent in agile methodology.
“Are we getting any closer to delivering a final product?” Priorities change, user research results happen, and projects shift suddenly. It can become like a fast-paced roller coaster that begs one to wonder is there a product end point in agile with a GA delivery?
I couldn’t help myself, I turned around and said—"A good product manager keeps the Story Map in play." His response was, “We don’t build products we just work on projects.” To which I confidently replied, “Your projects are your products.”
In short does agile methodology spin a never ending cycle or rework? Does agile deliver a better or faster product? Yes, it can is the answer to both questions.. Agile more than any other methodology can get derailed by minutia and scope creep. If no one has the true end point in sight a team can go on into Epic-infinitum. Typically this is evidence of poor planning.
A good product manager—gets the whole team involved with the effort at Sprint 0. Sprint 0 is when the team comes together and works with the story map. The story map is the visual display that aligns strategy, user needs, and stakeholder needs. This is the time for buy-in to get built into the work. Ideals and approaches, challenges, and resource needs are identified upfront and worked out so that they present minimal delays later.
A story map's the holistic view of the user experience throughout the whole journey. The Release Plan for sprints develops out of the story map and UX determines its pace to code build at that time as well.
Priorities shift, requirements change, and iterations happen. The product manager keeps pace and grooms the priority backlog. Without the phase 0 agile can become short sprints working on a set of ever-changing priorities. An unruly agile team is akin to riding a roller coaster that never ends.
Noreen Poli is product manager and consultant at Ready, Set, Go Social! Her projects range from award winning methodologies to end-to-end mobile gamified applications. Her background in product management is enhanced by experience in user research, analytics, human behavior, and social giving her a unique skill-set custom made for this era of realtime analytics and personalized products.