In our previous blog we highlighted several challenges in product management. To recap, the big challenges of Product Management (PdMs) are “Process, Tools, Data, Collaboration, Communication, Visibility and Authority” In this blog, Addteq would like to propose a solution to reduce the impact of those challenges if not all at least half of them.

Brief introduction: Confluence is a system that provides an extensible platform for teams to capture information in one place while emphasizing collaboration, sharing, and content. While useful in many arenas, Confluence has all ingredients necessary to build a knowledge base for your organization. Extensiblity is supported by an robust plugin ecosystem that is backed up by a strong, centralized marketplace. If Confluence doesn’t have a built in feature for a particular user need, there is likely a ready made solution waiting in the marketplace. Moreover, if you are building a software product and want an integrated solution for PdMs, Engineering, Service or Quality Assurance, Confluence is part of the Atlassian Application Lifecycle Management Suite, which is comprised of JIRA, Stash (GIT), Bamboo, Fisheye, and Crucible. The Atlassian ALM suite gives teams an integrated environment so that everyone can focus on their core activities instead of spending time finding or copying information from different systems. This not only makes Confluence a powerful collaboration system, but an integrated and context based navigable knowledge management system.

Irrespective of methodologies, collaboration is key. In Confluence, users can collaborate on not only documents but even presentations, keynotes, images, artwork, mockups and sketches, all of which are supported by an in-line, contextual commenting system. In short, Confluence makes users’ day to day work a lot more effective.

Let’s divide Product Management into 3 phases: Pre-Development, Development, and Post-Development.

Pre-Development

The Product Manager spends significant time in Pre-Development performing a lot of tasks like capturing the voice of the customer, performing Market Research (Qualitative, Quantitative, Total Available Market, Market Segmentation), Persona creation, Competitive Analysis, Business Case development and approval. In general, they capture a lot of data either by talking to potential customers, through internet search, and via internal teams. They synthesize that data into information that is useful not only for the product they are working on but for their organization’s knowledge base and innovation pipeline.

In talking to many Product Managers, it became apparent that most of them have templates (on top off MSOffice) to structure PdM information. Consolidating the results (from different sources) and Collaborating with MSOffice based information is very tedious. It’s easy to overcome a lot of these challenges by dropping your own templates into Confluence. However, in order to maximize results, there are a few recommended plugins that deliver a more complete experience.

Development:

After a business case is approved, PdMs need to create the product strategy and roadmap for execution. Confluence has built in features that can help, as well as few few good plugins. For sharing the development requirements with Engineering, pre-loaded templates are the way to go. Users can customize them based on organization needs and requirements. A common recommendation is to create a new document for each feature. Please refer to Addteq’s blog and webinar on Requirement Management for more details.

The real challenge with a text based requirement is that teams have to wait until product/ feature development is complete in order to consider its place within the context of the product. Using a user experience (UX) based requirement decreases this challenge. There are a few plugins that can deal with this directly:

Post-Development:

The post-development, or go to market phase, is probably the most overlooked in terms of collaboration. This is unfortunate, because collaboration is just as important at this point as in the development cycle. For example, Marketing and sales strategy along with expected leads or orders figures needs to be shared by Product manager; also documents like Market positioning statement and Value Proposition are very critical and probably overlooked. Using Confluence to capture and collaborate these artefacts increases transparency and idea sharing during product strategy building and also later during execution by respective sales and marketing teams.

Two plugins which can be used to manage and support sales and marketing campaigns:

As readers can see above, low hanging fruit is abound in Confluence. Furthermore a lot more can be achieved if the Confluence is integrated with JIRA for issue tracking and Salesforce for business development. Give teams Confluence and configure the solution as per their needs considering above recommendations, and product management function effectiveness will skyrocket.

Thanks to David Fradin from Spice Catalyst for his constant guidance on my research towards Product Management Process and Information System.

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