The product team is the focal point where ideas converge with engineering teams to bring innovations to life. In a dynamic market defined by customers' mercurial demands, delivering a 'product-led' experience is paramount! In fact, 88% of product team members surveyed in an Appcues study revealed that establishing a 'product-led' experience is critical in developing a competitive advantage. Delivering an experience that satisfies customers starts by building a product team that can effectively collaborate. That's why I've spoken with two well-respected leaders in the space from both Product and Engineering teams - specifically a Product Manager and Lead Application Architect – to pick their brains about the dynamics of what goes into creating a successful product. Let's explore the four primary insights provided by our experts!
1. Dismantle Silos
Breaking down barriers between the product team and engineering team is crucial. Often, teams tend to remain within their guarded ecosystems, limiting the exchange of ideas and inhibiting the flow of information. That is a recipe for disaster! The product manager owns the product, and the application team owns the code – working collaboratively in different disciplines to the same end goal. In other words, the product and application teams should operate as a left and right hand.
As silos crumble, having united and collaborative teams can harness these teams combined strengths to create impactful solutions. Hence, building solid relationships early on in the development process is critical—especially the relationship between the product owner and application architect. Establishing a cohesive partnership between the two roles is vital, as it provides developers with a clear direction to generate code that precisely mirrors the requirements. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to ensure everything from a technology aspect is attainable and secure to avoid bug fixes down the line.
Another way to insert synergy into your product team is to reinvent the interview process by involving a range of roles from the development team. For instance, when interviewing a product owner, involve your software developers and architects in the process, and vice versa, to evaluate candidates from different perspectives. This 'team-effort' approach to interviewing allows hiring managers to better understand a candidate's ability to collaborate within cross-functional teams.
2. Develop a Clear Vision
Product owners are accountable for shaping the product vision to ensure the final product reflects the customer's requirements. To evaluate a product owner's capacity to communicate critical requirements to the development team and shape a dynamic product, pose a set of scenario-based questions in the interview. Keep in mind that when interviewing a product owner, it's crucial for the hiring manager to be mindful of the product type being developed—whether it's B2B or B2C etc. – to customize the scenario-based questions based on the product type. Here are five scenario-based questions to adequately judge a product owner's ability to ensure requirements are fulfilled.
Imagine a key stakeholder requests a significant change to a product feature just before its scheduled release. How would you handle this situation, balancing the stakeholder's request with the project's timeline and resources?
You're presented with two potential features for the upcoming product roadmap, both of which have high potential value. However, resources are limited, and you can only choose one. How would you prioritize and justify your decision to the development team?
A user feedback survey reveals that a core functionality of the product is confusing users. How would you gather more insights, identify the root cause, and implement improvements to enhance user experience?
You're leading a cross-functional team of developers, designers, and testers working on a new product iteration. During development, conflicts arise between team members about the technical implementation approach. How would you mediate these conflicts and ensure the team stays aligned and productive?
The product is facing increasing competition, and market trends are evolving rapidly. How do you stay ahead of the curve in terms of product innovation while also ensuring that the team's efforts align with the company's long-term goals and vision?
3. Encourage Innovation via Experimentation
Innovation thrives in an environment that encourages experimentation. A strong product team cultivates an atmosphere where new concepts are welcomed and integrated into the development process. But how is that achieved? Here are three ways a product owner can stimulate innovation.
Innovation sprints are brainstorming sessions where product teams can explore creative solutions without constraints—an excellent opportunity to channel outside-the-box thinking that is the cornerstone of innovation.
Foster A Culture Of Curiosity
Encourage product owners to explore new ideas by creating an environment where curiosity is rewarded. Product owners should learn through osmosis by absorbing all the knowledge from stakeholders, architects, developers, and, most importantly, customers.
Celebrate Failure As A Learning Opportunity
Embrace the idea that only some ideas will yield success. Encourage product owners to view failure as a learning experience for growth. Recognize and celebrate their efforts to drive innovation, even if outcomes are not always as anticipated.
4. Concentrate on the Bigger Picture
Product owners play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of a product by concentrating on the bigger vision. Despite product owners being shielded from the technical implementation - leaving the execution to the developers –they should be concerned with unifying direction. This involves understanding the users' immediate needs and envisioning the product's future evolution and its place within the market.
Conversely, if a product owner fails to develop a cohesive vision, the product will become disjointed. Without this broader perspective, decisions might be driven solely by short-term goals or immediate requirements, potentially leading to the omission of critical features contributing to long-term success. The product's overall vision and alignment with market trends could also suffer, resulting in a product that fails to meet evolving user needs or needs more competitive advantage. Therefore, the product owner's role in focusing on the broader vision is integral to crafting a successful product.
In short, building high-performing teams for product success relies on four main principles. First, working closely together as a team and sharing ideas is vital. Second, having a clear idea of what the product should resemble helps everyone stay on the right track. Third, trying new things, being curious, and learning from mistakes can bring fresh and innovative ideas. Lastly, the person in charge of the product should think about the present and future, ensuring it stays useful and competitive. The key takeaway to remember is this - if your product team isn't strong, things don't get done because they are the glue that connects every team.