Digital Product Management – Best Practices for 2021

What Is Digital Product Management?

Digital product management is defined as the process of conceptualizing, planning, developing and selling a digital software product to be used for desktop and/or mobile devices.

Examples of digital software products include all mobile apps, websites, programming packages and operating systems. 

There are several types of digital software products. E.g.

  1. Operating system products, such as MacOS, Linux and Windows. All other digital products use these platforms as their base. Basically, such products form the fundamental link between the device hardware and the digital products that run on it. 

    Since OS are the connection between the device and the application – a product designed for one OS may not be compatible with another and will need to be modified based on the new OS’s structure and perhaps even the coding language itself. 

    For instance, an Apple OS based digital mobile app product will not be compatible with another OS, say Android, and needs to be modified for successful store upload, download and run-time. 
  1.  On-device application products, such as Microsoft word and spreadsheets that can be used as long the product is installed on the device.
  1. Cloud products, such as websites that simply need a browser to access the product (web products) and various mobile apps that need an internet connection to work (as most of the functionality is hosted online and only the client-side of the app is downloaded on the device)

Successful digital product management require alignment across the following key components:

  • Setting the product vision and roadmap
  • Conducting market research and forecasting to assess demand
  • Competitor landscaping to understand existing product capabilities and price points. 
  • Budgeting and resource allocation for technologies and human talent
  • Product team formation through hiring or grouping of existing employees
  • Alignment of the team around product goals and targets
  • Actual product development based on user interface design for optimal product-use experience
  • Go-to-market strategy to meet revenue targets.

Key Best Practices to Follow to Develop a Successful Digital Product Management Strategy in 2021

Digital product management requires an understanding of product development technologies and the experience of the user. It additionally requires marketing and sales strategies to make the product successful in the market. 

Below are 5 key best practices to use in your digital product management strategy in 2021:

  • Iterative and agile product development

Digital product development methodologies have evolved to become more agile and iterative, which has proved to be successful in revenue generation and leaves room for feedback from customers for additional feature developments. Iterative programming methods focus on developing the product in smaller iterations, also known as sprints or builds. These sprints carry a slice of the actual product and each sprint is designed to improve upon the existing stage of the product. 

Iterative methods and metrics like kanban, are also preferred by product managers since they allow time for evaluation and feedback, rather than deploying the entire product functionality at once, which used to be the case with older models like spiral or waterfall

  • Align your team around user needs

A digital product’s user/customer is the ultimate judge and jury. Customer and user centricity is no longer just a theory, it is a common sense practice that the products that keep in mind the needs of the customers/users will outperform those that are created to meet only business/organization goals. 

User-centric digital product development requires user research and input in the development stages to understand the best-suited design/ layout for the product. Digital products are expected to be fully DIY- which means feature navigation, intuitiveness of the interface, and usability experience hold the key areas of focus for a successful digital product that solves a real-life problem. 

  • Marketing channel prioritization based on success 

While a digital product manager may not need to become the marketing manager, they do need to understand, identify, and give their opinion on the right channels of priority for budget spend. For example, if the previous ad spend test on social media proved to deliver greater success with a specific set of ads, the product manager needs to consult with the marketing manager and seek to amplify it. Similarly, if an article starts ranking on Google, the product manager should have the capability to invest more in such articles and grow its success. 

The actual execution of content and delivery across the channels will be done by the marketing team, however, how to spend the product  marketing budget must be prioritized based on success of previous campaigns. 

  • Cross-product collaboration to fill knowledge gaps  

A company may have multiple digital products and multiple managers to handle each of them. However, often key knowledge gained from the successful go-to-market strategy of one product may remain and operate in a silo. The goal for the company’s leadership and the digit product managers should be to ensure the identification of knowledge gaps and challenges that may be filled through cross-product collaboration and cross-team learning

  • Aim for time-bound outcomes over output

Managers who are responsible for digital product lines often need to work cross functionally independent teams and departments. This requires management of employees who may not directly report to them. In such situations, the best way to promote individual accountability and ownership, is to be more outcome oriented than managing the output of these members.

For example, if a digital product manager needs to update the product page information on the website managed by the marketing team, a clear and final date for the content update must be set with the marketing manager. The marketing manager can then be responsible for the coordination of the actual delivery of the outcome needed on the website. 

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