Change and innovation are what drive the manufacturing sector to new heights. Sometimes innovation comes in the types of products consumers want, and sometimes innovation comes behind the scenes and changes how the industry operates.
The twenty-first century has been a very exciting time in manufacturing, seeing many improvements and advancements in how products are planned, managed and manufactured on the factory floor.
With change and added complexity comes a need to adjust the management end of the business. Traditional methods of planning, tracking, and reporting on products can no longer support the need for efficient information sharing.
Product teams require long-term timelines to plan and manage products, and product managers require one source of truth to give them a high-level oversight of all the products they are managing. These reasons, and more, are why manufacturers are adopting a new approach to product roadmapping.
Keeping Teams and Goals in Alignment
No matter how great a business idea is, that business will fold without strong products. Much goes into creating strong products. One of the basic essentials of product planning is knowing the company’s goals to stand out and grow in the market. Successful companies don’t lay down goals on a whim. They research their market, consult their customers, and seek out opportunities and gaps between available products. Next, they consult the experts within their teams to highlight the opportunities where they can succeed the most and make those the targets.
A company might create a short-term goal of having the most user-friendly product in one to three years while setting a long-term goal of being the most environmentally sustainable product within ten years. If this is a primary goal of the company and a core value, it means that every product decision that the company makes should prioritize user experience and sustainability. The key is communicating these priorities throughout the organization and ensuring that all teams remain aligned with these goals.
Creating and Maintaining Transparency
With research and clear goals in hand, the process of informing leadership and keeping teams aligned to those goals requires transparency. Intending to create transparency may sound simple, but implementing it is the real challenge. While the motivation to keep all leaders and their teams informed on company-wide goals may be strong, the place where companies are vulnerable is in their methods.
What Does Transparency Mean?
Transparency requires having systems in place for strong communication. This means that data cannot be collected and sifted into silos, living only in channels accessible to one team or manager. When information is not shared, it can lead to the duplication of work or time spent working on an idea that was abandoned without clear notification to all teams. The last thing a company needs is for its design teams to outline a new easy-to-use product model based on customer feedback while its engineering team plans a new model based on old designs that customers consistently complain about.
How to Create Transparency?
There are several ways to create and promote transparency within a company, regardless of size. The first way is to optimize the systems. Information needs to live in a place where all stakeholders can view it or share it with real-time updates. That way, anyone involved in that piece of the puzzle can see the same detail everyone else does.
Another way is to communicate the product plans and goals in a centralized location so everyone has access to them, depending on the parts they need to see. For example, product managers need to ensure that they document the short and long-term goals on the roadmap and that all partners have access to that roadmap.
Timely communication can also help increase transparency and keep everyone on track. Just dumping information into a centralized location does not guarantee everyone sees or understands it. When product managers stay in touch with the stakeholders of each product and provide tailored reports and presentations, the teams will be better informed and able to provide insight and feedback to make products better.
Reaping the Benefits of Cross-Functional Teams
Having more voices involved does not guarantee better decisions will be mnade. Sometimes, the more voices that get involved, the more noise they generate. But when product managers consult the right teams, magic can happen. Customer research teams may have collected valuable feedback on a certain feature that the design team can improve upon, or engineering may hear about a design goal and have suggestions on how to improve it. Another important voice is that of the finance team and project management.
Great ideas are a starting point, but if the cost is not realistic or the requested timelines are not possible, alternate ideas will be required. One of the best ways to encourage great ideas is to bring together cross-functional teams. Too often, companies let their departments work in isolation rather than in group settings. Consulting various teams and bringing leaders together fosters creativity.
When setting up cross-functional meetings and collaborations, here are some stakeholders to consider consulting, but are not limited to:
- Research & development
- Design teams
- Finance departments
- Project managers
- Sales teams
- Customer research
- Marketing teams
Better Product Management
Experienced product managers know that no plans are ever set in stone. Changes beyond their control can often catch them by surprise, such as a global pandemic, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, or a dramatic shift in the market. Having teams that are aligned, connected, and sharing information in a timely manner means that it’s easier to react to these unexpected scenarios. When product roadmapping utilizes effective tools and prioritizes transparency, the work of product management becomes easier and better all around.
Roadmapping that Connects Organizations
Organizations that invest in transparent systems for their product roadmapping are building stronger processes that will benefit them in the long run. Making it easy for teams to work together, share ideas, and analyze up-to-date data saves time, money, and frustration for team leads and product managers.