Product Managers Unite!
3rd August 2016 - Lenore Adam
With dev, test, and biz teams, that is. Thanks to a Micro Focus Atlas, product managers can now be at one with dev, test, and business teams.
Agile methodologies, DevOps practices and dedicated tools have improved collaboration, efficiency, and time to market for development teams. But the needs of product managers are often overlooked.
Capturing evolving customer needs and understanding the impact of these changes on schedules, resources, and budgets are what product managers do. PMs are the voice of the customer for engineering, and the financial and business analyst for the executive committee. But to do the job properly they need information in real time for insightful analysis.
How will a new customer requirement impact the release cycle?
Which requirements caused the project timeline to slip?
How much development time was spent on a specific requirement?
This need for knowledge has driven the development of Micro Focus Atlas requirements management software. Let’s put Atlas to the test with a couple scenarios.
Your customers demand a new requirement. Development asks ‘exactly how badly do you need this?’
Product managers often have to evaluate trade-offs, like whether a new feature is worth a schedule delay. They rely on data to support recommendations, but without good data, sound judgment is compromised. One of my mentors used to chant ‘the data will show you the way’. But how?
To begin with, you need your finger on the pulse of current activity. Atlas creates a bi-directional link with DevOps and Agile tooling. Customer requirements created in Atlas are sent to the Agile backlog, establishing a direct connection between customer requirements and the dispersed stories and tasks needed to execute that requirement. Automatic status updates of these activities are centralized back into Atlas and available for PMs. No black box of engineering activity, no need to interrupt busy engineering managers for updates. Setting up the sync is pretty straightforward as these YouTube postings prove.
Syncing Atlas & Rally
Syncing Atlas & JIRA
Syncing TFS & Atlas
Now, with an eye on the future, use this data within the Atlas environment to develop a what-if planning scenario to evaluate options. What would be the expected schedule impact if a new feature was included in the release? Does the potential increase in revenue offset the expected schedule delay? Linking engineering activities to customer requirements gives projects teams the tools needed to make better decisions.
So why did the schedule slip?
The execs promised the sales teams and customers a timely delivery. So what went wrong? Feature creep? Did specific features take significantly longer to execute than planned?
Use the Atlas Time Machine feature to clarify cause and effect. Explain why the original estimate was so far off with historical tracking that summarizes which stories were added, removed, or updated and how this impacted schedule over time.
Leverage the data in Atlas for your project post mortem to make the next project even better. Atlas project baselining is where the team hits ‘rewind’ to uncover the original project definition and scope. The version control identifies each change, the person who made it and any associated discussions for context. For the multi-disciplinary team, this is an opportunity for an informed discussion and objective review after the whirlwind of development and release.
The hands-on executive—hey, remember what happened the last time you did that?
What happens when an executive bypasses the decision-making process? Suddenly, a requirement ‘proposal’ becomes a new requirement, end of story. True confession: we often padded our schedules and budgets with a line item affectionately labeled ‘friends of execs’ to factor in these unpredictable yet inevitable curve balls.
The trick is to view the schedule before and after the unplanned insertion in a previous project. Was there a schedule slip—and if so, how bad was it? Even understand the breadth of impact by using the Atlas Relationship Diagram to trace downstream requirements that may also have been impacted.
And here’s the killer data point you need to save the project from unhelpful top-floor intervention: How much development time was chewed up by the requirement? That said, Atlas just records the facts. You’ll need to draw on all your expert diplomacy skills to present them. Try ‘Just sayin’…’
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Senior Product Marketing Manager