Ever wonder how on earth you’re going to track and manage your ever-expanding product? Are you worried about missing details or delivering the wrong tools at the end of a product’s lifecycle? Have no fear - we’re here to help you set your team and product up for success with our guide to mastering your product delivery with workflow management.
In order to do this, we’re going to need to unpack a few things along the way. Here’s what you should expect to learn:
1. What the heck is a workflow, anyway?
2. How to make your own workflow, and make it really work for you (+ tips!)
This guide will equip you with applicable solutions and examples within product workflows and help you master the art of workflow management.
What The Heck Is A Workflow, Anyway?
A Workflow is likely close to what you think it might be - a managed flow in which your work goes from inception to completion. As easy as the initial concept may sound, it can actually be quite complex to implement in an impactful (and effective) way, and it’s definitely seen as a necessary component for products to run well.
When it comes to digital product management specifically, your workflow could look a lot like business process management once you dive into the development phase of building products. A BPM framework (business process management) framework is a process-centric framework that provides definition for and visibility into an organization’s sets of coordinated tasks.
Holistic Workflows In Digital Product Management
Consider a holistic workflow as the first step to take when planning out a new product. This type of workflow is used when you begin to compile how you might take a product from inception all the way through development. You may begin with mapping out your strategic concepts and end with a high-level roadmap for the direction of your product. In the following example, I showcase a holistic workflow that shows the different steps we follow to take an idea from concept through product roadmapping.
First: Concept Mapping. This first step within the holistic workflow allows the team to describe the different ideas/concepts that they have and visualize how those components interact with one another.
Second: Value Chain. This step takes the ideas from Concept Mapping and prescribes value to those ideas. This allows the team to understand how ideas can feed into the overall goal for the end product.
Third: The Lean Model Canvas. This step is populated with information gathered from the Concept Mapping and Value Chain exercises.
Fourth: User Story Mapping. This occurs next, where your Concepts (and their applied value) are defined into potential features or requests within your new product.
Fifth: Product Mapping. Once you’ve defined user stories, you will then map out the general (timeline or desired priority) approach of how and when you plan to complete the features within your tool.
Every holistic workflow looks a little different, depending on the goals of the product and organization. However, the purpose of creating this workflow is to visualize the steps and exercises that are dependent on one another, and to provide transparency to not only your team, but to potential stakeholders as well.
Miro (previously Real Time Board) is a tool that does a great job of providing different templates, so that you can build out your holistic workflow with ease and confidence.
A Deepdive Into Business Process Management Workflows For Digital Product Management
Once you have your product roadmap built, you will likely dive into design and development. This stage of product management is where things can get incredibly complex - but your workflows don’t have to be part of that complexity! Below, I’ve outlined one of my favorite templates from Jira, one of the more commonly used Product/Process Management solutions used by teams all across the world.
This template showcases a simple Scrum workflow within Jira.
You’ll notice that tasks begin in “To Do”, but aren’t required to transition to a single next step - there are many options you can take depending on the status of the task!
“Ready For Dev” is a secondary status in the flow. You’d treat this status like you would a “sprint backlog”, where items are ready and queued up to be worked on by the development team.
“In Progress” is just what you might think it is - it’s in progress (or actively being worked on) by someone on the team.
“Blocked” is a status that allows tasks to be illuminated when they run into issues/problems that must be solved (or need assistance with) someone outside of the team. This status is helpful for those who are working on the tickets, but also for PM’s like ourselves! It allows visibility into what issues are relevant, and may allow you to find the help or tools to get the task unblocked.
“In Review” means that the task has been transitioned for review. Depending on your team size, the reviewer could be someone outside of your immediate team. Having a separate status for this step is important, because it means that once the task is approved, you’ll be able to move it to the next (and final stage).
“Done” is where your work lives when you’ve completed all required work that was defined, and all tests on the task have passed with flying colors.
Practical Guide: How to make your own workflow, and make it really work for you
Now that you’ve walked through some of my favorite workflows to implement, you may be itching to get started making your own (and you totally should). Here are some steps to help you get going on the right path and a few tips to make life a little easier (and fun!) along the way.
First things first: Decide what you should map out.
- This is the very first thing that you need to do, and this is the step that may take you the longest. My recommendation would be to first physically (oh yes, grab that pen and paper!) draw out what your process looks like. You may need to walk through it a couple of times in order to really nail it down (and ensure you didn’t miss a step), but take the time you need. It’s important that you visualize what your specific process looks like, because this will be what you use to translate your process into a tool.
Pro Tip: Once you feel good about what you’ve outlined, have someone else on your team take a look at it. Specifically if you’re working with development or design, as they may have steps that they’d like mapped out, too.
Second: Find a tool that works for you.
- There are so many amazing tools outside of Jira and Miro that can help you to visualize some of the workflows you utilize within your day-to-day. Find one that works best for you and feels comfortable when you use it.
Pro Tip: Make sure that the tool you use has good integrations! If you use something specific for managing your tasks/tickets and decide to utilize a different tool for developing your workflows, you’ll want to make sure that those tools can talk to each other, as your workflow may change over time.
Last but not least: Don’t be afraid to mess with templates.
- I have no shame in admitting that many of my workflows are really just workflow templates that I’ve adjusted to fit my own team needs. There are many templates available (even beyond what the tools have provided in-house). Utilize what others have created, and make those creations work for you.
Pro Tip: Even if you aren’t able to utilize a template, make sure you visualize the difference paths your workflow can take when you create or alter a workflow (remember the Jira example above? Tasks aren’t always forced into a single workflow, because tasks can have different statuses depending on what’s happening/what is needed).
What Do You Think?
Workflows are such an incredible tool to keep in your toolbelt of PM knowledge. They can make processes transparent and help to ensure products are built in a way that works best for the needs of the whole team. We hope that you feel the same way, too!
Now that you’ve got all the know-how when it comes to workflow management, what do you think about it all? Is this something that you utilize in your organization, or plan to begin championing?