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What is a Product Team?

Posted by Liz Love
May 20, 2021

At ProdPad, we talk a lot about separating strategy and execution – in fact, in this blog, we call it out as Product Management Rule #1. We know that there is a difference between discovery and delivery, and that the two sides of that “double diamond” involve very different skill sets, met by different people in the product team.

However, there is a danger in creating silos in product development and launch. We have to work out how to ease the transition from inception to real world usage, through every stage, in a way that reduces confusion along the way. It’s natural to believe this requires good project management, and well-defined handover stages, but there’s a better way. You’re more likely to succeed if you work as a collaborative product team including more than just traditional product team roles.

What should the product team structure look like?

We’ve all seen the chaos that can result from a lack of understanding when specifications are handed off from one team to another. There’s an element of “throw it over the wall” that means one team (product management) is finished and the next team (product development) can start.

We see similar issues when development is done and testing/QA starts, and then again when the success and operations teams have to work out how to deliver the new functionality. The problems stem from different functions having different questions about what needs to be done, and a lack of context from other teams. 

A visual representation of a product manager throwing a paper aeroplane over a high wall and a product developer catches it and is reading the note written on the aeroplane.
“Throwing it over the wall”

Let’s think about an example about the product team roles that might be needed. If we’re building a new search function, each team will have different questions.

  • Product Management will spend time on defining the problem that will be solved. Is the purpose to help with discoverability? If so, what value will that provide to the user, and how will building this feature contribute towards the product team’s OKRs?
  • Product Design/UX will want to know who’s using it, and will work with Product to create a user experience that is easy, intuitive and achieves the desired outcome.
  • Product Development will want to understand exactly how the search needs to work in every possible scenario. They’ll need to understand every ‘state’ the UI could be in, the transitions, and any user workflows for interacting with the search bar. They might also want to understand the expected output of the search – is it fuzzy, exact text match or more abstract?
  • QA will want to understand similar information to Development, but with more of a focus on what could go wrong. What will real world usage look like? How could the user encounter problems and how might they be overcome? Does it perform well under pressure or with high volumes of data?
  • Sales & marketing will want to know why people will use this feature, whether there are any pricing implications, what the benefits are, and how they can tell the story of the new feature
  • Success will be thinking about the search in real life, similar to QA, but they’ll want to anticipate what help will be required by the end user. Will they need any training? Are there changes needed to the documentation? How will this change affect existing users vs new users? 
  • Operations will have concerns around how services are delivered and paid for. What will this mean for billing or finance? Will more resources be needed in any way? Does the change affect the way contracts are drawn up?

What is the key to a great Product Team? Collaboration.

The key to the product team’s success is collaboration. When we plan and define a new feature, we need to work with multiple teams to ensure that everyone has a voice. Don’t forget, as a product manager, your role isn’t necessarily to have all the answers, but to ask the right questions

Take it from someone who knows.

Take the time to define the problem being solved. Once you’ve nailed that, you can start asking questions early on.

When leading the product team, a great product manager will ask the Design team to think about how they might design the user experience. They’ll ask the Development team what information they need in order to build the proposed solution. It’s important to have a chat with QA to see what they think might cause problems for the user in real life – get ahead of those problems before they become a surprise. 

Something that’s often overlooked is the need to discuss with the customer-facing folks what solving the problem means for their market, or their customers – how valuable could it be? Could you consider charging more for your product if you solved this problem? How would you position the solution, and what does it mean for your competitive position. Speak to finance and legal about the potential for changes in forecasting, pricing and contracts so they know what’s ahead.

Having these discussions from early in the product process will help to ensure that

  • Everyone knows what’s coming down the development pipeline
  • Each team can get ready for what lies ahead
  • Risk is lowered – you’re less likely to have those last minute panics and changes
  • Launch is smoother

The specifications need to answer any questions which will crop up during the execution/delivery of an idea, regardless of who’s asking the question. Gone are the days of writing up functional and technical specs and thinking you’re done – we need to think about launch readiness and ongoing operations too! 

How does ProdPad help?

Thankfully, ProdPad can help to ensure that the product team roles include representation from every part of your organization, regardless of their role. With unlimited free reviewer licenses, you can open up the product process to everyone to ensure there is visibility into the product roadmap. Discussions, commenting and collaboration features throughout the app means everyone is able to decide what they’re interested in and set their own noise levels.

ProdPad’s integrations with Slack and email mean that conversations can start, continue and reach a conclusion in the most convenient place for everyone involved. Not only that, you’ll get traceability and have a single source of truth for discussions and decisions made along the way – no more going back through old notes to work out who said what.

If you’re about to kick off a new piece of work, have a look at how ProdPad can help you get the best results in the most collaborative way. Get started with a ProdPad trial today!

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