Product Management: The 4i Way

16 February 2017 ‐ 6 min read

Our success as a mobile application development studio is enabled through our processes, systems and committed team. At every level, the way we do things – The 4i Way – defines our success.

Product Management

Enter almost any business, and within its operations, you’ll find a project management system. At 4i, however, we call it product management, rather than project management, because we see this process as so much more than just another project.

Product Owners

Our product owners take full responsibility for each project and collaborate closely with each client. Through this, they’re able to make decisions in close collaboration with our clients, and actively represent their interests within our team. Product owners know and understand what the critical success factors are for the product they’re assigned to, and they create comprehensive roadmaps and feature lists. Ultimately, they oversee every aspect of the product development process, ensuring that priorities are met and we’re able to create or implement a beautiful, successful project, on schedule and within the assigned budget. Relationships are the cornerstone of our product management process, so we try to match our products with product owners who will be the best fit for both client and our team. This is usually defined by an overlap in interests, or where there is already an established connection of some type.

Our Internal Processes

In conjunction with our strategist and analyst, the product owner ensures that we build relevant analytics into all our applications. We track cohorts and measure user groups or populations within an app, identifying the demographics. We write up a mission statement for each of the products, defining specific objectives and how to achieve those, continually referring to the mission statement. We identify which features and functions are vital to achieve the mission. We continually review the features, plan each sprint ahead of time, and propose changes to the client that are more in line with the client’s business objectives. Each feature of the application is prioritized in accordance with the mission statement, but we constantly monitor the process, to ensure that each fit with the different life stages of the product. Working in line with our agile methodology, our team works in sprints of two-week time-periods, each of which include core steps and specific outcomes that must be measured. Each Thursday, before the start of a sprint, we host a sprint refinement meeting, where we assess the backlog list of features and functions that need to be built, and define our priorities for the next sprint, discussing in detail how it will play out, in line with wireframes and designs.

Let’s Sprint!

The product owner for a specific application creates a Trello board that outlines the essential tasks for each resource or member of the team that’s working on this product. Using Trello’s magnificent functionality, easy-to-follow checklists are created, and our teams can easily monitor overall, and individual, progress throughout the sprint. In Monday’s sprint planning meeting, the team then looks at the items identified for that sprint period. They discuss any risks or complexities that might result in delays, and then the sprint starts. Development runs for eight days, and on the Wednesday of the second week, the lead developer will demonstrate the work completed, so far, to the team. The analysts, quality assurance testers, designers and developers sit in on those meetings and in the review, and offer their input in terms of adjustments or tweaks that may be required. Our team also conducts a short sprint retrospective, to assess and identify anything that could be improved upon for the next sprint time-period. The final two days of the sprint time-period are devoted to finalizing the product’s progress, making any necessary adjustments, fixing bugs, and ensuring that objectives have been met. Development is completed on a Friday, and a shippable test build is sent to our Quality Assurance team on the Monday.

Once this process is implemented for a product, things tick along within our team like clockwork. Further down the product timeline, and a few weeks in, we may have three defined sprint sessions running at the same time. These could include:

  • A shippable sprint that’s been released to the relevant app store;
  • A sprint that’s been sent to our Quality Assurance team for testing and,
  • A new sprint that’s just begun.

See below for an idea of how that looks for our product owners:

Progress Takes Planning

Our team aims to plan three sprints ahead, so our progress is highly dependent on our planning. Each sprint begins with UX and UI screen designs, followed by development, before going to QA, which is why it can take up to six weeks for our team to produce the first shippable sprint. That’s not to say we work slowly, but rather that, by working methodically, we’re able to achieve what we set out to, in an ordered and measured way, while ensuring that our resources are not stretched to the maximum. As important as our internal processes are, however, representing the client’s interests and requirements is key. Product owners carry decision-making responsibilities and call the shots when it comes to prioritizing development milestones. Our product owners focus entirely on their specific products, enabling them to immerse themselves into the development cycle, and ensuring that the very best product is delivered, on time and on budget. It’s this focused, methodical approach that enables us to be one of South Africa’s most successful software development companies.

Do you think you’ve got the knack for product ownership? Are you keen to join our 4i team, and participate in the development and creation of useful, beautiful software? If so, why not apply today?