Imagine a situation where your newly upgraded product goes live. It gives you the feeling that everyone in the company was involved in bringing the idea to life. Both the product and engineering team feel confident that this new update will resolve every customer’s problem with your product.
Months go by, but the KPI dashboard reflects low adoption on the users’ end. Support tickets start coming in & the whole cycle repeats. What is it that went wrong? You did everything you could to put the problems to an end. You kept testing to make sure the user experience was not affected.
But what went wrong? You did all you could to test and collaborate with your team on the requirements. You even kept the communication going with customers through email, in-app features & social media. Suddenly you stand confused about the whole situation. Both the product and engineering team feel let down. Everything that led up to the launch was perfectly planned.
If you work with an engineering or product team, this situation might ring a bell. Product and engineering work in unison. But there is often friction when the responsibilities overlap.
This post will cover the importance of a successful partnership between the product and engineering team.
Product vs. Engineering: The Core of Product Development
In a SaaS-perfect world, product managers and engineers would work in harmony. But this is a distant reality since it is a lot more complicated in a real-world scenario.
Differences of opinions and disagreements are bound to arise. Maybe the information is half-baked, and the specifications were not clearly defined.
But a little stress did not harm anyone, did it? This stress is why we are motivated enough to achieve our end goals and focus on the tasks at hand.
However, why is it that two teams can work towards a common goal but not work in alignment? What is the root cause? What is the reason behind this miscommunication? And finally, what can you do to collaborate effectively? Let’s find out.
Ask anyone from a project engineering company who works in a SaaS environment & they would define their collaboration in one word: Agile
But what does Agile mean?
Agile project management involves both an incremental and iterative approach. It is to deliver on project lifecycle requirements. Agile is all about flexibility, trust & above all, collaboration. Agile projects take place in either sprints or short recurring cycles.
While many organizations claim that they take the agile route, most still have not implemented it across the board.
Agile and SCRUM go hand-in-hand. Both teams work in SCRUM, which itself is an agile project framework.
SCRUM depends on cross-functional functional teams – that’s where product and engineering come into the picture.
Let’s take a look at the responsibilities of the teams and where SCRUM would apply:
Product focuses on features and functionalities. But beyond that, it understands the Why of how things work. It’s about bringing ideas to life and concentrate on the best user experience. Post that, a product roadmap comes in handy for the engineering team.
They are the ones who ideate and strategize. They use their design thinking abilities to incorporate UI/UX for customer personas. Additionally, they also need to manage the expectations of stakeholders and customers.
Engineering involves a team of technical developers who create the code. Further, they need to bring to the product team’s attention of possible backend issues that can affect front-end product functionality. Engineers focus on the Why and What of things.
Common Issues Between PM and Engineering that Affect Product Development
The product development team creates, develops & supports the overall product vision. Proper alignment of goals is essential. Otherwise, it can lead to problems in later stages. Here’s a look at the most common issues encountered:
Product managers have a lot to consider before providing the engineering team with specifications. There are budget constraints, stakeholder influence, bugs, backlog & product/feature prioritization. Any decision the product team takes has a direct impact on the engineering team. That’s why the right product prioritization framework is critical for the business to operate correctly.
Speed in software development is often discussed. But, the worry lies in the quality of production. Rate also has a lot to do with the skills and experience of an engineer. Time is usually never on your side. But it’s not always the only factor that affects the end outcome.
Many times, product and engineering work as separate entities but work towards a common goal. At the core of this problem is usually the lack of communication. It is also the fact that teams often work blindly on the tasks at hand without understanding their real purpose.
Product and Engineering: Bridging the Alignment Gap
Working in alignment boils down to proper communication and planning. Sounds easy and yet is challenging to implement. But it is possible to bring the two to work together. It comes with taking up excellent practice and unlearning old patterns. Learn from mistakes and see what works best to collaborate better.
When we talk about SaaS, the focus is not on the product or engineer. It is rather about addressing user needs. Here are some tips to get you started:
Start with Explaining Why
There’s always a purpose behind anything we do. That’s why every team needs to know why they are working on a task. Having no sense can create chaos. It leads to miscommunication, time waste, and a lack of desire to achieve the company and customer’s goals.
The why and the purpose is what bring alignment into the picture. A clear vision and strategy is a must. Set the right objectives. Teams must work towards a common goal and feel motivated enough to achieve it.
Whatever the deadline may be, understand & explain the Why behind it. It just keeps you all motivated and keeps your mind open to new ideas. Also, strong team identity can make all the more difference in clearly defining goals.
A Dream Team
There’s never “I”; it’s always “We”. But the skills of individual team members are critical to project success. Each person will be able to add value to the overall project. Uncover the skills and expertise of individual team members to work better on tasks.
If you are a team lead – confidently delegate responsibilities and hold team members accountable.
Try and maintain a calm atmosphere as much as possible. Ensure that there is mutual respect between you and the team members. People put in only their 50% when they know that the atmosphere is tense. And they are bound to commit errors in such a stressful state. Being calm allows teams to work better under pressure with new product releases.
Quality Assurance and Testing is Everyone’s Responsibility
Quality assurance and testing are not a single team’s responsibility. It’s a joint effort. Testing and learning go hand-in-hand.
Everyone within the product and the engineering team is responsible for quality and assurance. Those who don’t participate in this collaboration can directly impact the quality of the product.
Ownership and Partnership
It all again boils down to collaboration. Define who builds what and keep focusing on the Why of things. The product and engineering teams are the brain of the project and both sides of the brain need to be activated.
While the product owner who strategizes and ideates & engineering overlooks implementation, it does not mean that the product owner oversees everything the engineering team does. It’s all about working together. Regular check-ins, meetings, feedback and open communication are key.
If you are on the product side, the engineer’s feedback is critical. Please give them the answers they need immediately and help them out wherever needed. Keep them motivated so that they don’t stress out over deadlines.
Take a step back for a moment – you would realize that everyone is the “owner”. All team members are involved with some of the other aspects.
You Are the Customer Advocate
What promotes the right product and engineering team in a SaaS company? It’s all about finding the right balance and understand what forms a great team. What is it that drives them towards customer success? Everyone on both sides of the team needs to be a customer advocate. It will help you visualize and understand what the customer wants. It’s all about working towards a common goal.
Ask Yourself and the Team These Questions:
- What Does the User Want and is it Worth Solving?
- How Can We Validate that This is the Right User Need to Solve For?
- What is the Complexity vs Value Ratio?
- What is Our Conclusion About Product Post Release?
- What are the Additional Costs?
A SaaS company is all about adding value to the user experience and understanding its benefits. Plan ahead of the risks and problems that may arise. Remember that everyone has a part to play in the process and it is not the product manager’s job to oversee things.
Paving Clear Roadmaps
Specific product and technology roadmaps are a must. Both play a critical role in product success.
A successful product is not based on just development and engineering. It also involves how well you can get your customers on board. It’s the excellent onboarding experience that counts. One that gets customers excited about product adoption.
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