Best Practices

The Product Manager’s Quest: A Unicorn Named Traceability

Open just about any business management book or blog and the topic of accountability—and the eternal quest for it—will turn up. But when your world revolves around managing the creation, iteration and release of new products, traceability much more accurately defines what you seek.

The frustrating fact is that, for most product managers, trying to implement traceability that occurs concurrent with build processes is like trying to wish a unicorn into existence. It’s something you aspire to see, but repeated trial and error suggests it might remain a figment of your imagination.

As Jama product manager Derwyn Harris likes to say, traceability is the process of connecting data, people and work. It sounds simple but the challenge is that traceability is too often treated as a kind of checklist.

To add real, measurable value to your team’s product delivery process, traceability needs to show you how every item, action and actionable item connects to each person working on it; it needs to illustrate how your people are connected to each step of the process.

Of course, decisions drive the actions in each product delivery cycle. As taken from our webinar, Evolve Your Definition of Traceability, below is a partial, simplified outline of the decision questions traceability needs to answer for each stakeholder and team member, from the point of original concept through the stages of define, build, test and launch:

Decision needed:
Whom do I need to ask?
What’s the best way to communicate with decision makers?
Do I have all the necessary context to understand the reason for this decision, or the problems associated with it?

Decision in progress:
How will this tie-in with and affect what we’ve already agreed to?
Can we make this discussion transparent so we can react in real time?
How can we determine what the impact of making this decision will have?

Decision made:
When the next iteration requires more decisions, how can we track them?
What’s the best way to notify stakeholders and key team members about changes that are relevant to them?
Our product’s history is in millions of critical details; how do we provide context and rationale for each choice made?

When your teams work in different time zones, on different product-related projects or in siloed areas of expertise, static methods of tracking data for impact analysis and coverage fall short. Product managers need a live environment for real-time collaboration that tracks relationships between people and data—whether you’re building software, hardware or a combination of the two. To see a demo of how traceability works with Jama, grab a coffee, tea or a snack and check out our webinar.

Today, every product launch involves many people and thousands of decisions. Apply real-time traceability to them, achieve product delivery accountability and stop chasing after the unicorn.