Interview with Nick Coster, brainmates

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First of all, could you give our readers a quick overview of yourself and your work?

My name is Nick Coster and I am a co-founder of Brainmates, Australia’s leading provider of product management consulting and training services. I have been working in various Product Management roles since 1996, across a range of product types and industries. At Brainmates I am the Head of Training services and deliver most of the training courses that we offer as well as facilitating collaborative workshops with clients. I believe that there is a better way to deliver products that customers love and at Brainmates we are constantly learning from our experiences to explore better approaches.

Your talk deals with “The Agile Business Gap”. In your opinion, why is there a gap?

The Agile Business Gap is created in larger organisations when “Agile” is initiated by an organisations development team. The first part of this Gap is just terminology where “agile” to a business has the dictionary meaning of “able to move quickly and easily” while “Agile” to a software development team has a very different meaning. The next part of the Gap is exposed as an “Agile” development team starts to demand a different way of operating beyond the development function and impacts everything from product management activities, business case development, financial planning, marketing messaging and operational planning.
“Agile” development is very effective at delivering smaller usable parts of a product to the market in shorter time frames, yet these shorter timeframes are not immediately compatible with the rest of the enterprise.

How do you see product management developing within the next few years?

Product Management is developing into a more clearly defined profession and needs to continue to do so. Challenges like clear role definition and their associated responsibilities need to resolved and codified. Product Management will also need to undergo its own version of an “Agile” like transformation to keep up with the rate of change that an always on, ubiquitously connected marketplace is demanding. The combination of role specialisation and repeatable, time constrained product management practices will help to enable this change.

What 3 tips would you give product managers in an agile environment?

TIP 1 – Know your Target Market, their goals and what is preventing or inhibiting them from achieving them. Helping them achieve these goals matter to them then there is an opportunity to create and exchange value with the target market. Now this doesn’t sound very “Agile” but without this fundamental information everything else is just a waste of time regardless of development methodology.

TIP 2 – Hire or obtain a dedicated Scrum Product Owner. This person is the development representative of the rest of the business and the outcome of TIP 1. Without this person in place the Product Manager will be sucked in to the development team and will become ineffective at supporting the product in the market.

TIP 3 – When a release is available refer back to TIP 1. If the product is providing helping the target market get closer to their goal then it is a win, otherwise it is a distraction or a learning experience or both.

What can our attendees expect from your presentation and which 3 learning points can they take back to work?

Learning Point 1 – I will help attendees recognise the symptoms of the Agile Business Gap and how it impacts their business.
Learning Point 2 – By applying best practice Product Management processes attendees can see how to interface more effectively with an agile development team to effectively deliver products that customers will love.
Learning Point 3 – I will identify some to the key organisational friction points that must be addressed foe Agile to be work in larger organisations.

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