Process is Not a Dirty Word

Our blogging has been intermitent recently and we have good reason. We’ve been knee deep in process engineering in the Brainmates business. As we grow to add new staff members and clients, our need as a business for documented processes has increased substantially. Processes definitely make it more efficient for our staff to do their job and to service our clients well.

Since we’re in the business of “Product Management”, I thought that I would relay some of the processes we have been implementing in our business to facilitate better Product Management. What we’ve done can be translated across a Product Management team in any business. Many of our business processes are simple but sometimes when you’re under pressure, its easy to resort to fire fighting mode and do “anything” to save the day. Repeatable processes give us structure and allow us to manage the unexpected with ease.

  • Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities When you’re a small team (like us), you tend to know what each person is responsible for delivering. Most times, you’re so frantically trying to do the work of 10 people that there is no opportunity to encroach on anyone else’s territory. However, with the recent addition of new team members, we created job descriptions (JDs) for our team so that when we are not being a “consultant”, we can easily transition into our “other” day job.Clearly articulated JDs means that no one has to assume what the other person is doing. For our business, it means that we’re not idling our time away when we’re not in a “consulting” role and we are not duplicating work between team members. I am sure that most companies have JDs for their Product Managers but perhaps it would be beneficial to review each person’s role and responsibilities within the Product Management team twice a year. By doing this, your company will have a “common” understanding of what it means to be a Product Manager and your Product Managers will be clear about their role.
  • Team Communications
    We’ve instituted 10 minute daily meetings. It’s a simple yet effective way to communicate with amongst our team members. Product Management teams should consider getting together for a very quick catch up each day even if not all team members are present. These meetings will allow every Product Manager in the team to articulate the important tasks for the day. It forces a discipline of basic planning and allows everyone to know what is going on. It also provides an opportunity for the team to support each other with any tasks that are difficult to complete alone.
  • Requirements Gathering Process
    A key part of the Brainmates service offering is to gather and write market and product requirements. Apart from conducting customer research, we run brainstorming sessions with our clients to understand key customer and business drivers. As part of our requirements gathering process, we use mind mapping software to run our brainstorming sessions. It facilitates immediate capture of all the swirling ideas that can come from a brainstorming session. The information can be grouped and organised after the session to be used in more formal documentation. Your Product Management team should be running brainstorming sessions from time to time. You may want to document this process so that all Product Managers will utilise the same process. This will ensure that each brainstorming session is robust and produces effective results. Too often the results of a creative brainstorming session is captured on whiteboards and flipcharts but never make it to a final document. Make sure that effective data capture is part of your process.
  • Product Management Templates
    We use a range of document templates including Business Case, Marketing and Product Requirements templates. These templates help us produce and deliver the same results each time. Product Management teams that don’t use templates for their key documents should consider creating standardised document formats. This means that the team follows the same process and that readers of the documents will know what to expect each time a document is delivered.
  • Challenge Existing Processes
    Finally, don’t ever feel trapped by your processes. If processes are not working for you or your Product Management team then you should instigate change. A bad proccess that everyone hates will be ignored. It can be worse than having no process at all. Processes belong to the people who use them so if you have an idea that will make it more efficient, while still getting the original outcome completed, share it with your team and get the changes made.