What is a product lifecycle?

Every product has to go through several phases in its lifetime, from conception to it's eventual decline. The overarching vision for a product is called product lifecycle management, which includes its software, customer market, growth, data management, marketing, positioning, profit margins and more.

Broadly speaking, there are four phases in a product's lifecycle:

What is a product lifecycle?

Each phase demands a different skill set; a sound product strategy acts as a common underlying theme for all the activities in all the phases. Identifying and acknowledging what stage a product is in is as important as knowing what's required of that phase. This awareness also helps all facets of the product team, such as development, marketing, and sales, to align their goals and present a united front.

  • Introduction

    In its nascent stages, the primary challenge for a product is to confirm the product-market fit. The product team's activities must revolve around creating awareness and generating demand. The team needs to be agile at this stage, monitoring feature usage, validating their positioning, and ironing out their customer journey. This phase will not be the most profitable phase for a product, as the cost of marketing, research, and acquisition of new customers will likely outweigh any new revenue. That being said, any new revenue is still an indication of their relevance in the market, and is always an encouraging sign.

  • Growth

    Your product enters the growth phase when your sales numbers start to show a healthy increase. At this stage, the team's confident of what positioning works well for their target audience and which of the channels have higher conversion rates. After multiple experiments, budget invested in marketing during this time is likely to have the highest returns. With the growing customer base, it's also important to leverage user feedback to prioritize your product roadmap.

  • Maturity

    Eventually your product's growth peaks and the number of new customers starts to decrease. This may be because you've maxed out on your customer base, or you're losing your market share to competitors. The team should focus on retention at this stage, work on features that set them apart and highlight their product's competitive advantage.

  • Decline

    It's an inevitable phase for every product. For some, it's a gradual slope; for others, it's a cliff drop. If the decline is due to the market shrinking, companies often try to pivot their product strategy to expand into a new line. It's important for a product manager to look at the data and know when to retire a product. At this stage, one can continue to offer the service for existing customers and stop taking new ones, kill it completely, or reboot it as something else.

What is the difference between Product Management and Project Management?

Product managers and project managers are both referred to as 'PMs', but like siblings, they get annoyed if you mix them up. Despite some similarities, both roles have multiple distinctions. Product management handles the entire product, takes care of the vision, and accordingly creates the roadmap. Project managers execute pre-approved plans, sett timelines, and handle resource allocation. Product management is about strategy, while project management is about execution.

Differences

Product Management

  • Responsible for a product's lifecycle
  • Includes market research and product strategy
  • Dynamic planning based on customer feedback (agile)
  • Aims to increase product usage and revenue

Project Management

  • A 'project' runs for a fixed period of time
  • Includes resource allocation and planning project timelines
  • Sequential execution of pre-approved plans (waterfall)
  • Aims to deliver on time and minimize risk
Similarities
  • Requires collaboration with multiple teams
  • Responsible communicating status to stakeholders
  • Requires good communication and people management skills

What is the role of a product manager?

A product is the brainchild of everyone in the team, but a product manager is the face of the product.

A product manager creates the product's positioning and pricing margins, oversees marketing, approves UX designs, and is closely involved with development. While they usually carry out these tasks with the heads of the respective teams (engineering, marketing, UX), it's imperative that the product manager is knowledgeable in these domains. In some teams, the product manager chooses to call all the shots themselves. In others, the decision-making is delegated to the domain experts.

Product managers need to have a working knowledge of business, market research, user experience, and technology.

"A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat."

– Deep Nishar

What is Agile Product Management?

With agile product management,product strategy and the roadmap can be adapted and adjusted based on changing market conditions. This is done by using smaller feedback loops. With agility, the process is more fluid than a traditional approach, and the product is built over multiple iterations, shaped by customer feedback, and backed by the product vision.

Agile product teams typically follow a framework. The most popular one is Scrum. Scrum has three roles: the development team, the Scrum master, and the product owner. The product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product, is involved directly with the development team's work, and keeps the stakeholders informed of the team's progress.

In most teams, the product owner is the product manager, because there is a considerable overlap in their responsibilities. Some teams prefer to separate them into two distinct roles. In such organizations, the product owner is involved closely with the development team, while the product manager handles the external work, such as strategy, road mapping, and stakeholder management.

Agile product management using Zoho Sprints

Agile product management using Zoho Sprints

An agile product management tool is a catalyst that helps you manage your process using visual aids and tangible metrics. Empiricism is a core concept of agility—you make decisions based on knowledge from previous experiences. This means that measuring your work is a critical part of learning from it.

When you're building a product, getting feedback from your stakeholders for your feature helps you iterate a better version of it. Monitoring the number of bugs filed by customers helps you track your product's health and consistently work on improving it. Observing how your customers use your product helps you prioritize your product roadmap. Understanding who your users are helps you identify which demographic your customer segment falls under. This is where an agile product management tool like Zoho Sprints can help make your life easier.

Using Zoho Sprints, you can write user stories for your customer requirements, create and organize your backlog, customize your Scrum board and run sprints, log your timesheets and schedule agile meetings, track real-time agile metrics, iterate your releases, and integrate with all the developer tools you use.

We developed Zoho Sprints to be a flexible, lightweight tool that can be used equally well by teams large and small, industries IT and non-IT, and seasoned agilists as well as beginners to build products they're passionate about.