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How Haven Life makes product planning less hard

Poor communication can blow up even the most ironclad strategy. At Haven Life, our product managers know how to keep teams in sync.

Note: This post originally appeared on the blog of Built In NYC, an organization for tech professionals, and features Haven Life’s own rock star product owner, Meghan Furdyna. As part of our ongoing efforts to introduce you to the people who make Haven Life so special, we wanted to share an edited version of the post, spotlighting Meghan’s thoughts.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Product managers know the sentiment of this proverb all too well. Often, clunky execution is a people problem rather than a strategic one, and poor communication can devolve even the most ironclad plans into chaos. Built In NYC recently touched base with our product managers for practical advice on how Haven Life keeps teams in sync, even when things don’t go according to plan.

At Haven Life, Product Owner Meghan Furdyna communicates often and stays realistic about the production schedule. “If my timeline slips due to scope creep or competing priorities, I over-communicate early and conservatively estimate the extra time needed so as not to underdeliver,” said Furdyna.

Furdyna emphasized the importance of two-way communication to avoid any surprises on the development team and to ensure they have the opportunity to be true partners in the creation of the roadmap. Here, in Meghan’s words, are some of the steps she takes to create and maintain alignment throughout the product development cycle.

In this article:

Ensure there’s alignment across teams from the get-go

I look at our product roadmaps from a yearly and quarterly perspective. For yearly planning, I work directly with my manager to understand the company’s annual goals and how our work supports achieving those goals. At the start of the year, I will work with my team to outline a six-month roadmap. As we are prioritizing the team roadmap, I’ll coordinate directly with my stakeholders to ensure that our priorities align. Since we are building an internal software platform with complex features, I need to consciously be a few steps ahead of new business implementation.

Quarterly planning is then a refinement of the longer-term roadmap. During the last month of the existing quarter, I start to have more detailed conversations with my stakeholders about what’s ahead. We outline dependencies and begin any conversations needed for gathering feedback on the build of upcoming feature work.

As we are prioritizing the team roadmap, I’ll coordinate directly with my stakeholders to ensure that our priorities align.

Maintain alignment throughout the development cycle

We’ve recently implemented what we call a program increment (PI) planning cycle of fully grooming and mapping out three sprints of development work. Our program increments line up with my new business team’s PI, which pushes us to identify our dependencies at a more refined level and raise concerns with scope among our platform team and stakeholders.

A long-term project I’m working on with the new business team is adding an advisor-driven deferred income annuity product to our administrative platform. Each quarter, I work with a new business counterpart to outline our goals. During the PI cycle, we meet as a product team to define where we’ll need to collaborate and what we want to achieve in the next three sprints. To prepare for the next cycle, our development teams meet to outline development dependencies or clarifications needed before kicking off our tasks. If reprioritization of feature delivery is an option, I offer that as a solution.

When (and when not) to reprioritize the product roadmap

If possible, I try not to reprioritize within the PI unless something critical comes up. If something critical does emerge, my first step is to connect with our platform team to determine if the request is something that we can handle. If it does fall on my team, I like to work with my tech lead to fully understand the details of the request, and whether it’s realistic to deliver within the desired time frame. If there is a push from our new business partners to prioritize this new piece of work over what was previously agreed upon, but the timing is not possible, I’ll reconvene with the new business team and ask them to reassess their list and ask where we can deprioritize other items.

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About Louis Wilson

Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Read more by Louis Wilson

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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