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Build the product

You will be working on distributed teams comprised of designers, engineers, researchers, policy experts, contracting experts and, frequently, agency partners. As a product manager, you are responsible for ‘leading from within’ (you are a member of the team and everyone is on equal footing), and you must provide direction to the team so that they are focused on the right priorities and feel empowered and excited to build the right solution. The vision and strategy will set initial direction and give the team a north star, and you will help lead the team to deliver in that direction.

Considerations: What it looks like when this is done well

  • A Minimally Viable Product (MVP) is identified from the roadmap with a focus on “must haves,” or non-negotiable functionality that will deliver a high value to end users.

  • Features of the MVP tie back to user value and are communicated to the project team in the form of user stories written from the perspective of an end user.

  • User stories are prioritized based on data and research and a backlog of features is maintained that can be iteratively released based on evolving user needs.

  • Work is able to be continuously deployed every sprint that delivers user value.

  • Code that’s destined for production is not accumulating technical debt.

Activities: How to get there

  • Break the initial MVP into small, prioritized features that deliver value to the end user.

  • Write user stories that meet the INVEST standard and provide actionable acceptance criteria prior to beginning the work.

  • Evaluate key risks, assumptions, constraints, and dependencies, and have a mitigation plan in place for significant risks.

  • Leverage time-boxed spikes (technical or design investigations) for exploration into areas of uncertainty.

  • Have a planning meeting with your team and Product Owner every sprint where you clarify, prioritize, and estimate the work (e.g. stories, spikes, defects, tasks) the team will commit to completing in the upcoming sprint.

  • Evaluate work as it is completed to make sure it meets the user story acceptance criteria.

  • Remove blockers that arise for your team so that work doesn’t stall.

  • Develop a go-live strategy that includes a QA testing plan, dependency tracker, technical readiness (e.g. DNS configuration changes, load testing, disaster recovery planning if the change needs to be reverted), as well as clear success metrics to validate whether the changes deployed are meeting user needs.

  • Use authorized tools/platforms (via FedRAMP, when possible) to support desired build methodology and get an ATO if necessary.

Incorporation: What to do next

  • Communicate progress to stakeholders regularly and solicit feedback.

  • Test product increments with users to validate whether the developed solution meets their needs and to prioritize additional work.

18F Product Guide

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