The product management process is something that many people find confusing and utterly alien. Still others will jump to the conclusion that product management involves the production, distribution or retail sale of products or services directly to customers.
Well, the product management process does indeed involve these things, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, it’s a closed cycle process consisting of multiple interleaved stages that are insanely difficult to explain in written form. While they do include the production, design and retail of a product or service, there’s much more involved, and it’s not nearly as linear as one might expect.
Well despite this being a pretty much impossible thing to actually describe, I’m going to try to do it anyway, because I’m a special kind of crazy like that, you know.
The biggest problem with trying to describe this process is picking a point in the process to start from, since as I said, it’s cyclical and unending, through a product’s lifespan.
For the sake of this explanation, and the sake of discussing as many steps as possible, let’s assume that we’re working with a digital product like SaaS or a local application, which brings in a couple extra steps as well.
Let’s start with the one step that’s left out of most diagrams, because it’s not part of the ongoing cycle, that being the product design. This is the stage where, in our case, the software is conceptualized, and initially developed for prototyping.
After this point, the first step which is part of the ongoing cycle is R&D effort evaluation. This evaluation concludes what needs to be tested, what needs to be studied, and what processes of refinement must go into revising the current version. This includes detailed user stories from previous versions if they existed, or results from early prototypes (screen mockups, beta versions and other such things), and the testing and implementation of final UI designs, or in the case of solid products, packaging and other user experience aspects.
A final stage of additional R&D is then conducted to ensure that it meets effort requirements, goal standards and acceptable levels of tolerance. At this point, the product enters general availability, at which point it will, for the remainder of its lifespan, technically remain in this state, even when the cycle begins anew.
While the existing form remains available indefinitely, the cycle now loops to market input, where competition is analyzed, customers are interviewed and surveyed, prospects are surmised and market trends are calculated as well.
From here, new features are prioritized, new screen mockups and other static prototype artifacts are produced, and the R&D stage is begun anew, completing the cycle. Upon reaching availability, the new revision enters this eternal availability state as well, while the cycle returns to revision once more.
This is the general gist of the product management process, but describing this in a few pages of text only gives a vague picture of it, those who teach product management for a living find that even a year’s courses are not suited to fully create a verbal image of this process, because it becomes infinitely more complicated the closer you look.