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Product Navigation: Monitor

By Adrienne Tan

Product Management is changing.

Initially, Product Managers were only expected to manage the products that were already in the market (Horizon 1).

Over the last 20 years, Product Managers have moved from managing products to becoming drivers of change, orchestrating development for ideas that are yet to go to market (Horizon 2). This is a direct result of the digital transformation that has given ubiquitous access to internet and mobile services (and much more).

We are now on the cusp of the next evolution of Product Management. This is being driven by the science fiction-like changes that are presenting themselves in our current world. We now live in a world where we co-exist with artificial intelligence, the first self-driving cars, virtualised and distributed workplaces, personal 3D printing machines and so much more. Among these, we are enduring world-changing disruptions in the form of pandemics and conflict that will forever transform our experience.

It is in the face of this change that Product Management must now also embrace “future” products. Largely, the time scales that we use to consider for Horizon 3 initiatives have been compressed to the present day.

To help us frame this journey into an uncertain future, we will be guided by the time-tested rules of nautical voyage planning. The rules of voyage planning allow a ship to set sail on a voyage to a land it’s never seen before and arrive safely at that chosen destination.

The Product Navigation Framework comprises the following steps:

  1. GAZE
  2. APPRAISE
  3. CHART
  4. VOYAGE
  5. MONITOR
  6. ARRIVE

Monitor

Monitor is the fifth step in the Product Navigation Framework. Our organisation will need to be kept informed of the Voyage, and Monitor focuses our attention on looking forward to ensuring we are pursuing the safest route to our future destination.

What is it?

Monitoring helps us manage the uncertainty of the journey, by referring to our Voyage Plan to course-correct along the way to our destination.

During Monitor, we establish the information we need to track the journey, including any early warning signs. It helps us to decide which route to persevere with, and which to abandon when we reach key decision points along the way to our final destination.

Goal

The goal of Monitor is to track key measures, understand blockers, and decide how to navigate challenges that are presented during the journey. Specifically, tracking leading indicators on this journey provides for a faster feedback loop that can accelerate learning or provide better course correction opportunities.

How do we Monitor?

  1. Collect – the key measures for every target milestone
  2. Track – the measures that help us gauge if we will reach each milestone
  3. Decide – if we need to continue monitoring OR if we should return to CHART to look at the second route if we’re off course (or another route).

1. Collect

Voyagers have to establish data collection early on in the Voyage, not as an afterthought. Voyagers should define both leading and lagging indicators at the beginning of Voyage. As the Voyage progresses, the team should collect and assess the data to help evaluate the progress of the whole journey.

Leading indicators offer early warning signals and enable the team to course-correct as they travel from milestone to milestone. It is essential to identify ways to assess continued route viability by measuring elements linked to the uncertainties identified in earlier stages.

Lagging indicators offer the team and organisation information about what has happened. They help inform the team’s preparation to voyage to the next milestone and are used to demonstrate and communicate progress to stakeholders.

As a baseline, the team should obtain the following categories of data and information:

Leading Indicators

Lagging Indicators

Uncertainties and Risks:

  • Uncertainties and risks identified in Appraise and Chart
  • Uncertainties and risks that were avoided during the journey

Market Measures:

  • Strong signals identified in Gaze
  • External activities that diverted or assisted the team during the journey

Financial Measures:

  • The budget burndown rate
  • The total budgetary spend after completing each milestone

Process Measures:

  • The projected cycle time of each operational process
  • The throughput produced after each operational process

Project Measures:

  • The progress of the tasks to arrive at each milestone
  • The sprint/output variance

Portfolio Measures:

  • The investment spend across each milestone
  • The R&D throughput created after each milestone

Team Measures:

  • The employee/capacity load
  • The employee retention rate

Technology Measures:

  • Technology readiness
  • Technology launches, patent filings

The actual data and information the team collects, however, very much depends on the milestone Voyagers intend to deliver.

2. Track

Design a Voyage Scorecard and use leading indicators to track if we are voyaging as expected. The Scorecard should convey a story of the Voyage at a point in time in order to aid decision making. The Voyage Scorecard should be reviewed by the team as a part of a retrospective and updated by a Project / Program Manager ideally after every sprint.

Depending on your journey, it may be necessary to update the Scorecard more or less frequently, but it’s essential to keep good records on such a long and potentially difficult journey. This update should also be communicated to immediate members of the team and to stakeholders of the journey.

Here is an example of a Voyage Scorecard for a milestone:

Second Milestone:

Secure a partner for the delivery of a renewable plastics formula

Timeframe:

August 2022 to December 2024

Reporting Date:

July 2024

Sprint:

23

Status:

DELAYED BUT BUDGETARY SPEND IN LINE WITH EXPECTATIONS

Leading Indicator

Progress

Next Steps

Uncertainties and Risks:

  • Indicator: No interest from universities or high tech companies in partnership
  • Measured by # active partnership opportunities in pipeline
  • Have secured 1 partnership with Ghent University
  • Additional potential partner in review by legal
  • 5 others in pipeline, 3 have exited pipeline
  • Contract with ABC tech company is being reviewed by legal

Market Measures:

  • Indicator: Lack of Political support to reduce carbon emissions
  • Measured by policy indicators & sentiment
  • Party policy on carbon emissions does not support progress
  • Sentiments indicate continuing support for this policy
  • Engage lobbyists

Financial Measures:

  • Indicator: Budget is not spent according to timeline
  • Measured by budget burn down with target of 50% of the budget used by Sprint 15
  • 80% of budget has been used so far to identify the top global chemists and to offer a grant to Ghent University
  • No additional funding is required until the next milestone

Process Measures:

  • Indicator: Partnerships held up by legalese
  • Measured by contract review turnaround with target of 4 weeks
  • The process is averaging at 6 weeks
  • Escalate to an Executive before finding new legal firm

Project Measures:

  • Indicator: Milestone is delayed, impacting R&D activities
  • Measured by all tasks in Sprint 23
  • All critical tasks have been completed in Sprint 23
  • De-prioritise additional tasks in Sprint 24 & 25 without impacting milestone and timeframe

Portfolio Measures:

  • Indicator: Too much budget is spent on early milestones, later milestones cannot proceed
  • Measured by % of allocated budget spent with a target of 25% for milestone 2
  • Spent 20% of total investment
  • Delay new headcount

Team Measures:

  • Indicator: Slow hiring delays milestone
  • Measured by number of roles in hiring stages
  • Hired 3 new roles
  • Remaining 2 roles have no good prospects
  • Delay hiring 2 roles because of impact on budget

Technology Measures:

  • Indicator: IP sharing is laborious, so teams are operating with out-of-date information
  • Measured by pipeline stage of vendor for research database
  • Preferred vendor identified from 5 possible candidates
  • Negotiate price with preferred vendor

3. Decide

Every journey will have times when it is a little off track. It is important to identify whether the team should be worried about delays and if they will have any material impact on the ability to reach the destination.

A decision must be made to stay the course and continue monitoring, or to re-assess the viability of the course altogether. This decision cannot be made alone, and the team and potentially relevant stakeholders may need to come together to decide.

The Voyage Plan & Blueprint are essential to steer this decision. If you are off course, consider:

  • The impact of being off course in this milestone on the overall journey – how essential is this milestone overall?
  • The likelihood that the next steps will be able to course-correct – how far off course are we and are we confident we can change this?

If the impact of this milestone is large and the likelihood is low, it may be an indicator that the team needs to make the decision to go back to Chart and look at alternate routes. If the impact is small and/or the likelihood of getting back on track is high, the team may decide to continue monitoring longer to check that the course can be brought back on track.

In our example, we have assessed:

  • The impact of this milestone is LARGE – if we cannot secure a partner, or spend too much of our budget, it will mean we cannot achieve our preferred route.
  • The likelihood of our next steps in course-correcting is HIGH – the team are confident we will be able to bring this back on track in the next few sprints
  • Decision: We will continue to monitor and expect to be back on course in 2-3 sprints.

There will be many wins and setbacks during the course of the Voyage. The core navigation processes of Chart, Voyage and Monitor will be used time and time again. Monitoring is key to deciding if we are on track.

At the heart of the Voyage is the team’s ability to maintain its passion and commitment to reaching its future destination. It will be worth the effort when we Arrive.

Bring your team to LTP DIGITAL 2022 | APAC on May 18, 2022, for an immersive, one-day product conference where we will unveil this new framework and watch them bring back a new toolkit to drive greater outcomes for your organisation.

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of the Six Phases in the Product Navigation: How to Chart a Course to an Uncertain Future in the countdown to LTP DIGITAL 2022 | APAC.