Product Managers and Information Flow

communication tower

Product managers are often described as the hub or center of a software development organization. Saeed Khan takes umbrage with this under-appreciative image in an awesome article about information flow, product managers, and the SDLC.

Hat Tip

I love that the community of great people writing about product management and business analysis has grown so richly over the last couple of years. Yet again we get to thank someone else for pointing us to a great article. Steve Johnson (vote for him) points us to the On Product Management blog in a recent article. They’ve quietly amassed over 50 articles in the last three months, and we, thanks to Steve, found one we loved today.

Information Flow

In one of a series of articles on being a great product manager, Saeed discusses the importance of the product manager not only in creating information, but in getting the right information to the people who need it. Here’s how you know you want to read the article. First, scan it. Then click on the two diagrams. The first one shows the network of roles in a typical large software company, showing the more significant information flows between them. The second diagram shows a detailed heatmap of the amount of information flowing through any particular role as a function of where the product is within the SDLC.

As soon as you see these two diagrams, you will immediately walk away with the appreciation that Saeed speaks with perspective, experience, and insight. Now you know you want to read the rest of the article in depth.

Enabling, Not Documenting

One thing I really like about Saeed’s article is that he positions part of the role of the product manager as enabling other people on the team to be more effective. Product managers don’t make all the decisions, don’t do the product implementation, and don’t do the tactical selling activities. Other people do. What product managers do is enable them to do it better, by providing them with the right information.

In another good article from the same blog, Alan tells about the tragic demo from a company pitching software to product managers – and discussing the features, not the value. Unlike in that demo, Saeed is focused on the value of information flow within an organization. He doesn’t talk about the artifacts that are created (if any), he focuses, particularly with the heatmap, on how different roles are involved in different stages of the SDLC.

The article makes good points, and the heatmap drives home that there’s rigor behind the assertions. And as the first article I read from this blog, I’m extremely excited to read more. I would like to see (and will now have to think about) how different roles need information with an agile product development lifecycle. These are the types of inward focused assessments that help us get better at product management, and help our teams achieve greater software product success.

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