The term best practice is frequently used to describe a process, technique, or practice that was successful for one team, organization or industry and are copied by others who believe if it worked for them, it will work for us.
Unfortunately, a practice that works great in one context may not work as well in a different context or may be entirely inappropriate. There are no best practices, only appropriate practices.
You can avoid the lure of best practices when you understand the conditions under which a practice is effective and determine if your situation has similar characteristics.
In other words, understand your context to understand the appropriate practices.
Type of product drives the practices you use
As a product person you need to understand the context in which you’re operating.
Let’s say you’re working on a product that you’re going to sell. If so, do you know what problem you’re solving and for whom you’re solving it for? Are you selling to individual consumers or are you selling to a few large organizations? Are you familiar with these buyers? Depending on the answers to these questions, you may face quite a bit of uncertainty. You’d be well served to use the product management techniques necessary to understand your customers and their needs.
What about if you’re working on an internal product, something you won’t sell and will be used inside your organization. You need to have a general understanding of how this product will help your organization serve its customers, but you’ll also need to understand your organization’s processes, rules, and data. Business analysis techniques are helpful here.
You may find yourself working on your organization’s website or mobile app (also internal apps as I use that term). It’s something your customers are going to use to buy your product and it’s also something that helps out people inside your organization with their activities. You’ll need to understand your customers and your organization’s processes in this case.
The structure of your organization drives the practices you use
Regardless of what type of product you’re working on, you’re going to have to figure out how to work with the team building that product. Product ownership techniques come in handy for these interactions.
The trick is, there’s more than one way to organize the product function. There are at least four different ways to organize your product people, primarily based on where the responsibilities for product ownership lie. There are of course multiple factors that determine what model you use.
Your background and experience influence the practices you use
Your past experiences and training influence how you approach an unfamiliar situation. If you come from a development background you’re going to interpret a situation and the proper course of action differently than if you come from a business analysis or project management background.
If you primarily work in startups, your view of roles and organization structure and process are going to be different than if you’ve worked in Fortune 500 companies your entire life.
You can certainly learn new techniques and become proficient in new skills, but you will always tend to see things from a perspective that’s influenced by where you’ve been before. That could be previous roles, it could be previous industries. It’s wherever you did the specific, detailed work that allowed you to build up a specialty.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you are an expert in certain practices and understand when they are applicable, this can become a competitive advantage when you move to a new context.
When you understand why a practice works when it does, and are able to pick up new contexts, you can often apply creative ways to solve problems in that new domain. You just need to be aware of your tendencies and be open to learning new techniques or applying existing techniques in new ways.
KBPMedia will help you navigate your context
There are a lot of materials available about product management, about business analysis, and about product ownership separately.
There are not a lot of resources about how to apply those techniques in specific contexts.
There are not a lot of resources that explain how to meld product management, product ownership, and business analysis together effectively.
If you’re a product owner, business analyst, or product manager working with development teams to deliver internal products products for medium to large organizations, KBP.media is for you.
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