When you’re launching a new business line, product, or service, there are numerous context-specific dependencies that arise. Every outcome comes with tradeoffs and produces its own, sometimes unpredictable ripple-effect.
Behind the scenes of every award-winning product or glamorous launch campaign is a series of complex processes and interactions. That’s why the concept of dependency management is so key–it’s one of the biggest pain points that a program manager faces, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why products fail. When you can’t predict the future, you need to be positioned to react and respond.
The dependency management process, however, is one that can leave almost every PM’s head spinning. With so many bases to cover, a laundry list of considerations to keep in mind, and limited end-to-end visibility, how do you make sure that you’re focusing on the right areas? Software management tools can help by surfacing key patterns to watch, keeping track of many moving parts, and providing transparency into each team member’s contribution. Here are the qualities that your tool should have.
Real-time visibility into processes
From hiring consultants to implementing detailed project plans, PMs put significant effort into understanding dependencies —the idea being that steps should be taken, well in advance, to prevent problems before they have a chance to arise. The traditional way of doing dependency management is to try to predict challenges ahead of time. But this process is often inefficient because issues are impossible to predict and will often arise with projects that are in progress.
That’s why your software development process and tools need transparency and coordination. When things do go wrong—again, because you can’t avoid it—your teams can react and respond in real-time. At any given time, software development team members and all other stakeholders need to know exactly what’s going on so that they can react and respond. That’s why PMs need to have real-time visibility across multiple teams, so that they can help resolve – issues and dependencies that teams can’t easily resolve themselves.
Peer to peer collaboration
There’s no substitute for talking to each other. PMs should build systems to keep teams talking to one another. It’s important to talk through dependencies in progress, ongoing priorities, and alignment with organizational goals. In addition, managers need to help each other out and understand how much work other teams are contributing to achieve common goals.
PMs need tools that increase communication, collaboration, and unity between teams. Day-to-day interactions and engagement should help iron out dependencies and ensure that projects can move forward without manager intervention. Information needs to be free-flowing and under the control of employees themselves with clear visibility for managers at any given point.
To that end, software management tools should come with features that allow teams to raise and resolve dependencies, autonomously. These resources should operate in tandem with in-person meetings and everyday communication. Information exists at multiple touch points.
A living feature backlog
Project plans are ever-changing—which is why it’s important to have continuous insight into the road ahead. Practically speaking, this goal is best achieved by having each product manager provide a visual representation of dependencies into their full feature backlogs. The priority system should be as follows: dependencies related to high priority features from an organizational standpoint, features near completion, and features built on capabilities already present.
Following this approach, component project teams can identify and commit to what the most important dependences and features are. Teams can stay aware of what’s coming up next while self-organizing to tackle dependencies as they arise.
As your company and operations grow, you don’t want to be chasing down new software. Your tools and technologies need to scale with your product and customer base. While teams should be able to address dependencies autonomously, with transparency, in real-time, and in the context of your software’s future, your software management platform should provide uniform cross-project and cross-program visibility to your leadership team.
Your tool should make sure that every individual remains connected to a clear business goal. Even as organizations grow, individual dependencies matter.
Read next: Bottom up vs. top down: How to scale agile