Building Customer Centric Products: Why Program Managers Should Work Backwards To Move Forward

By Kiran K.

Program management is the process of planning, coordinating, and executing complex projects that involve multiple teams and stakeholders. It is a vital skill for delivering successful products that meet customer needs and expectations. This article will focus on describing ways technical program managers can set a strong foundation when starting new projects.

It will discuss the importance of having a clear vision, well-defined goals, and a strong communication strategy in place. By following the tips in this article, technical program managers can set their projects up for success and help develop customer centric products.

Technical Program Management

Work Backwards From The Product Vision

In a product development setting, one way to understand the difference between product and program management is to think of them as answering different questions. Product management answers the question of what to build, while program management enables engineering to build it efficiently, hence taking reins on how to build it

This means that program managers need to work closely with product managers to understand the requirements and vision of the product, and then collaborate with engineering teams to translate them into feasible and actionable specifications.

A useful tool for Product Managers to document and communicate the product vision is the PR-FAQ document. This is a document that describes the press release (PR) and frequently asked questions (FAQ) of a hypothetical product launch. It helps to capture the customer-centric value proposition, benefits, features, and use cases of the product, as well as anticipate potential questions and concerns from customers, partners, and internal teams. A program manager should be familiar with the PR-FAQ document and use it as a reference point for planning and executing the program.


Setting Clear and Achievable Goals as a Program Manager

Program managers also need to set clear and realistic goals based on the product vision, and then work backwards to break down those goals into smaller tasks and milestones. This helps them to prioritize the most important and urgent tasks, identify the critical path of dependencies and risks, and allocate resources and time accordingly. 

One way program managers can set clear and achievable goals is by making sure that the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (a.k.a SMART goals). This means that the goals should be specific enough to be understood by everyone involved, measurable so that progress can be tracked, achievable so that there is a realistic chance of success, relevant to the overall objectives of the program, and time-bound so that there is a deadline for completion.


Fostering Cross functional Collaboration

One of the key challenges that program managers face is influencing and aligning multiple engineering teams and stakeholders to work towards a common goal. This requires a high level of trust and communication skills.

Program managers can build trust by sharing information openly and honestly, explaining the rationale behind the priorities, removing obstacles from the engineering teams, and showcasing the improvement in engineering efficiency and quality.  It also entails being willing to listen to feedback and make changes as needed.

Program managers can also help to improve cross-functional collaboration by providing the resources and support that team members need to do their jobs effectively. This includes providing training, tools, and other resources that team members need to be successful.

Conclusion

Program management is an essential skill for delivering successful products that meet customer needs and expectations. By working backwards from the product vision, program managers can plan, coordinate, and execute complex projects that involve multiple teams and stakeholders.

We’ll cover more techniques on planning and execution over the next few blogs, where we’ll go into details on how to measure risk at the start of the program and how to harmoniously manage HW/SW integration projects.