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5 Ways to Communicate New Features to Business Facing Teams

February 25, 2019

Product Leadership

Communication between product and business-facing teams is crucial to any company’s success. It’s easy to fall into a trap of not being transparent if you don’t take the time to talk to others!

This failure to talk to business-facing teams can be telling of three problems:

  1. Your company isn’t set up in a way that encourages collaboration between multiple departments
  2. You are relying too much on your development team and not enough on your business facing teams
  3. You are building features without getting feedback from other team members (particularly those outside of your direct product/dev teams)

It’s also a symptom that the product team is feature-driven rather than customer-centric. Remember that business-facing teams speak to customers all day, so they’re in the right position to give you information you need, like:

  1. Potential customers to speak to
  2. Potential beta testers/user testers
  3. Unique insight based on conversations they’ve had

If you’re currently suffering from these problems – good news – they can be solved!

Here are a few actions you can take to get your internal communication moving in the right direction:

1. Get your teams involved in discussing potential ideas (and solutions)

Talk about the problem, see if anyone has insight. You are there to ask questions, not to find all the solutions on your own. Rely on your team members, especially those who are directly exposed to customers.

2. Make sure business objectives and product objectives are in line

I’d love to say this isn’t a mistake people make, but it is. I’ve seen it time and time again. Make sure you have a North Star objective – a long-term, high-level goal that you and your team use as motivation – to work towards and that everyone understands what your roadmap looks like and why.

Marketing and sales can’t talk about things that don’t exist, just like you can’t build something just because they decided to talk about it. Communicate!

3. Have bi-weekly presentations of upcoming features

Encourage communication by having developers show off what they’re working on. This gives your team the opportunity to be exposed to new features, to ask questions, gather feedback, and share progress. It also puts a face to who’s behind building things, and gives your dev team a nice boost!

It also forces your team to show off whatever you have at that point, even if it’s not perfect. People often get held up because they don’t schedule the time to show off a feature until they have something to show for it… but that’s usually way later than expected (lol at sticking to timelines) and it usually means the person waits until the feature is in a more complete state. Showing off items early on helps you to get feedback to iterate accordingly.

4. Be transparent about progress

I don’t mean share a timeline or promise a release date. Share your progress – literally. Speak about what you’ve achieved so far, why the feature is helpful to users, and what you hope to achieve in the coming weeks. It’s also important to note that marketing doesn’t need to have something ready the day the item goes live, so don’t pressure them into doing so. Give yourself leeway to test the feature properly, and once you’re confident, let your teams go wild! Sound the bells and whistles, scream things as loudly as you can – at this point, it’s already passed user testing.

5. Play the Product Tree Game

The Product Tree Game is a great exercise for any product team. We use it quite a bit! The game encourages everyone to get involved, ask questions, and understand upcoming priorities. You can get a copy of the game on our blog.

Product Tree

Takeaways

At the end of the day, most of these issues come down to poor communication. Whether it is through meetings, emails, or over a coffee – make sure that you find the time to sit down and talk to those around you. Don’t let the everyday hustle get in the way of a good chat!

Andrea is a Product Support and Management expert, technical writer, and social network monkey. An undercover geek with a passion for music, animals, and avid unicorn rights activist, she's always up for a challenge.

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