Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google and Agile

Does Google practice agile product management? Yes!

We see from Evelyn Rodriguez's notes that Google's product development process includes:
  • Iteration - Quickly and repeatedly produce a working version of the product for review, improving it with each iteration.
  • Experimentation - Work on high-risk products and "research" the market demand and requirements by releasing the products quickly for feedback.
  • Expedient solutions - Initially favor simple, good-enough solutions over complexity or perfection.
  • Small teams collocated with product manager - Form teams of three developers and one product manager. Scale up to larger projects by dividing large teams into smaller "modules".
  • Sparse documentation - Document requirements and design, but don't spend too much time up front.
You may be able to glean an overarching theme from the practices above: the most reliable market understanding comes from putting real products in front of users. Keep in mind that these practices don't obviate the need for a product manager, as evidenced by the fact that Google has a product manager for every three product developers. You still need someone who:
  1. Has the facilitation skills to elicit and interpret feedback from users.
  2. Understands branding principles and how they influence product requirements.
  3. Clearly distinguishes problems from solutions.
  4. Champions the needs of the market.
We at Cauvin, Inc. practice agile product management.

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