Product management methodologies provide a framework to plan, structure, and control the process of developing new products that meet customer needs.

Understanding these methodologies is key to a successful product manager career. They help product managers navigate the complex, multi-dimensional product management process. They also provide the favorable results that business leaders expect when investing in product development: efficiency, improved performance, and consistency.

What is Product Management?

The journey from product concept to market crosses diverse and challenging terrain. There are many different stakeholders along the way, each with its metrics for success. Product management is the careful execution of each step. Effective product management charts a course that meets all benchmarks, satisfies all stakeholders, and brings quality products to market.

What Do Product Managers Do?

Describing what a project manager does often leads to analogy – an orchestra conductor, perhaps, or an expedition leader. These analogies fit in that they represent the kind of leadership inherent to each.

Where narrow specialists dive deep into the weeds of their particular field, the conductor, expedition leader, or product manager maintains the broad view. Each role involves guiding diverse elements of an endeavor to a complete whole.

In other words, product managers are specialized generalists. They possess the technical, organizational, business, and soft skills required to maintain the big picture, translating that vision into useful–and easy to use–products.

Important Product Management Methodologies

Commercial product management tools come and go, but the principles and methodologies that inform them endure. For those moving into the product management field, these methodologies support the successful design, development, and testing of a product, leading to its eventual launch.

While these same principles are used in project management, professionals working in product management focus only on the lifecycle of a specific product–from the initial idea and design to distribution. Product managers must understand these principles and techniques and have the ability to choose the right one for particular situations.

Agile

Created for product development in the software industry, the Agile manifesto famously calls for:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Agile works best in projects that involve self-organizing, often cross-functional teams, and with products that teams frequently update based on user feedback. Students in a product management graduate program learn Agile-related techniques, including Agile Lifecycle, Agile Process Flow, and Agile Iteration Cycles.

Waterfall

In comparison to Agile, Waterfall is a more traditional approach to product development, with a linear approach to product planning, development, and delivery. The manufacturing industry developed Waterfall, typically for products where one phase ends before another begins. The debate over Agile vs. Waterfall is a long-running one in product management. Waterfall offers more planning, while Agile tends to provide more flexibility.

Kanban

Created by Taiichi Ohno as part of Toyota’s much-emulated Lean production system, Kanban has since moved beyond manufacturing. Early Agile practitioners made Kanban part of their approach to software development. Teams use Kanban boards to visually display every aspect of a project and its current status. Most boards separate each task into three categories: to do, in progress, and completed. This transparency allows everyone to see the workflow as it happens. Kanban is central to a “pull” system that creates products based on consumer demand.

Scrum

Typically used as part of Agile, Scrum provides a framework for organizing meetings, identifying tools needed, and assigning roles to team members. Scrum emphasizes self-organization among team members. It also supports continuous process improvement, something central to Lean and Agile. For example, teams are encouraged to immediately integrate the results of their efforts – both successes and failures – into how they approach future work, quickly adapting to create the best possible outcomes.

Sprints

A Scrum team uses a sprint to focus their efforts on a clearly defined issue for a specific period of time. Sprints are usually short. Teams do not consider outside issues, focusing only on finding solutions to the challenge presented within the sprint. A sprint is at the heart of iterative projects where teams take an Agile approach.

All these product management methodologies – and much more – are central to the Merrimack College master’s degree program in product management curriculum.

Learn Product Management Online at Merrimack College

With a firm grounding in the concepts and methodologies, professionals with either a business or STEM background can thrive as in-demand product managers. The online Product Management Graduate Certificate or MS in Engineering Management Product Management degree offers both the skills and experience to launch or advance a career in product management.

Both the MSEM and Graduate Certificate employ an experiential learning model that combines theory and practice in an industry-aligned curriculum. Earning the Graduate Certificate prepares students to land their first jobs as product managers. The MSEM degree allows students with some experience to master their craft. Whether just starting out or taking the next step in a product management career, students emerge ready to apply the business, technical, and soft skills required to lead successful product development projects and teams.

The flexible, 100 percent online program offers specialized tracks in Life Sciences, Software/Web/Mobile, and Technology.

Successful products reflect a complex vision and planning process incorporating design and iteration, technical expertise, empathy, and communication. With the right tools, skills, and experience, professionals can harness these tools and traits, assume leadership roles in product management, and bring cutting-edge products to market that improve our lives.