Best Practices

Knowledge Management for Product Development Teams

Earlier this month, Sara Estes wrote on Pendo’s blog about the staggering increase of product operations functions within the startup realm. In her article, Estes explained that operationalizing the core aspects of your business is vital, as it allows for “better visibility and collaboration, increased efficiency, and more output” throughout your organization. 

One of the key areas of business this applies to is the area of product management and development. By operationalizing your team’s approach to these areas, you’ll enable the team to maximize productivity and output — ultimately leading to increased user satisfaction.

Now, a huge part of operationalizing your product management process is ensuring your development team has access to any and all data and information they may need.

This is where knowledge management comes in.

In this article, we’re going to discuss how a solid approach to knowledge management can help your product development teams consistently produce to the best of their ability—leading to massive returns for your company.

Implementing Knowledge Management Throughout the Product Management Process

As discussed in an article on ProductPlan’s blog, there are five key stages in the process of product management:

  • Conducting market, competitor, and audience research
  • Developing a plan/strategy
  • Communicating the plan to your dev team
  • Coordinating product development
  • Acting on feedback and data

Knowledge management is vital to each of these stages, for a number of different reasons. Let’s take a closer look at each, shall we?

Knowledge Management for Research Purposes

The very first stage of the product management process is conducting research on your market, your competition, and your audience.

In conducting this research, you’ll gain a better understanding of:

    • Ongoing trends within your niche
    • How these trends go hand-in-hand with the changing needs of your audience
    • How your competitors are working to meet these changing needs

This, of course, is a pretty involved process, which is why knowledge management is so vital. 

First of all, knowledge management is all about systematizing the collection, organization, and interpretation of incoming data. Basically, the idea is to transform raw data into reliable, usable knowledge to be referred to throughout the product development process.

Speaking of reliability, KM also includes continually updating stored knowledge as more current, accurate, and/or relevant data becomes available. As a result, your teams never act on out-of-date or incorrect information.

KM also ensures that all involved parties can easily access this data. The less friction involved when digging up the necessary info, the more time and energy your teams will have to put to good use.

Knowledge Management Tools for Research

Developing a Plan of Attack With Knowledge Management

Once you’ve interpreted your data, you’ll use what you’ve learned to form a plan of attack.

First, you’ll need to define your goals for the initiative at hand. Here, you’ll be consulting your data to unearth opportunities for growth. For example, these might include overlooked customer needs, predicted shifts in demand, or any other factors that your business can capitalize on.

Once you’ve set your sights on a goal, you’ll then create a basic overview of the upcoming project. This involves discussing the best course of action with your product development team and other stakeholders. Again, you’ll use the data you’ve collected as the foundation for the discussion.

As you formalize your plan, you’ll also need to assign roles and tasks to your product development team members and other involved parties. What’s more, you’ll need to ensure that everyone involved knows what everyone else is doing throughout the process — and that they remain on the same page.

Knowledge Management Tools for Project Planning

Knowledge Management’s Role in Communicating Plans

“Communication” has two meanings here:

  • The overarching, ongoing communications that occur throughout your organization as you finalize your plan and begin working toward your goals
  • The individual engagements that occur “on the ground” as your team completes the project

In both cases, knowledge management is necessary to ensure that information is seamlessly communicated to the right people.

Regarding “on the ground” communications, your team members need to be able to communicate with each other and deliver information in real-time. Knowledge management ensures these individuals all have access to the channels that will enable this to happen. In addition, they’ll know how to use these channels to effectively and efficiently communicate the necessary information.

In terms of overarching communications, KM can help you create standardized procedures for communicating with different parties. More than just enabling team members to use different tools for communication, the idea here is to determine when a certain tool is most appropriate and efficient for a given purpose.

Knowledge Management Tools for Communication

  • Decision support systems to provide planners and stakeholders with relevant information in real-time
  • Chat software to enable real-time communication and collaboration across teams

Using Knowledge Management to Coordinate Product Development

At this stage of the product management process, you’ll begin fleshing out your blueprint and plan of attack.

Here, you’ll be setting in stone:

  • Who’s responsible for completing certain tasks, by when
  • What tools and resources are to be used throughout the project
  • Any milestones or other moments that are indicative of progress

As we’ve discussed, knowledge management is essential for ensuring that everyone involved has access to these tools, and can use them to efficiently communicate.

It’s also vital for your team to revisit the product roadmap as they work through the project. This will allow them to keep you (the product manager) and other stakeholders in the loop at all times. Also, you’ll be able to assess their ability to make progress as planned.

When your product development team is “in the trenches,” it can be easy for them to overlook information that may prove useful. By focusing their attention on proper knowledge management throughout the development process, you can be sure that vital pieces of data never fall by the wayside.

Knowledge Management Tools During Product Development

  • Product roadmap and management tools to log and assess progress
  • Chat software to communicate and collaborate while completing tasks
  • An internal knowledge base to log new discoveries and insights

Reviewing Team Performance Using Knowledge Management

The final stage of the product management process is similar to the first, in that it’s all about research.

Here, the focus is on assessing your team’s ability to complete the project as planned and determining the project’s impact on your target audience.

As mentioned above, assessing your team’s performance requires that all involved parties look back on all that occurred throughout the process and compare to the original plan of attack. This is why it’s extremely important to log and record data while in the trenches. If it doesn’t happen, you won’t have much to go on come performance review time.

Finally, you need to know how the project was received by your customers. This involves collecting feedback and measuring engagement. Then, compare this newly-collected data to that which you collected at the beginning of the process.

Knowledge Management Tools for Review and Feedback

  • Product roadmap and management tools to assess performance
  • Feedback and survey software to gauge audience response
  • Knowledgebase software to store newly-discovered data and information

Once you’ve collected all this data, you’ll be prepared to start the process all over again. And with the newfound knowledge you’ve gained along the way, your team will be better able to put their best foot forward through each iteration.