One of the best ways to achieve efficient product development is to make sure everyone involved with a project is on the same page, working toward the same ultimate goals. However, this is harder to do than it sounds.
Engineering and product teams bring very different priorities to the table, and establishing which priorities to focus on first often becomes a matter of debate. If the two departments have completely disparate philosophies, they often tend to work independently on the same project, splitting attention and complicating the process.
The following nine recommendations will help your organization align engineering and product teams to build collaboration and cohesion.
9 Strategies To Align Engineering And Product Teams
1. Limit handoffs between teams
In many organizations, one team will work on a project for a while, accomplish their objectives, and then pass it to another team for the next steps. This clear boundary creates a false sense that each team’s responsibility ends at the point when the project gets passed to another team.
In reality, the “ownership” of a project should belong to all team members, from beginning to end. The next strategy illustrates one way to accomplish this, though you may find other opportunities for optimization in your own business.
2. Create blended teams
Instead of having a separation between product and engineering teams, try assembling groups that combine both specialties.
If a product development team includes some engineers, some product specialists, and some UX specialists working together under the same project umbrella, they can consult with each other, own driving a project to a successful end, and retain a sense of ownership over the project.
This strategy in turn allows you to limit handoffs by equipping a team to start with a problem and get all the way to delighting your users.
3. Keep teams together
It’s extremely difficult to align product development teams if members frequently switch in and out of different teams and projects at a moment’s notice.
When you assemble a product development team, attempt to keep each member in the group for the duration of the project, and limit the number of side projects that could divert the attention of each team member.
4. Establish communication norms
Groups should decide among themselves how best to communicate. Strive to gain a general consensus (not necessarily specific details) around expectations for meeting times, talking in person versus sending an email, how to resolve disagreements, etc.
5. Designate clear responsibilities
While the team should have a unified and clear goal, each individual team member should also have defined responsibilities for propelling the team toward that goal. It may help to layout specific milestones and timelines for each team member ahead of time, so he or she knows what to work on and when.
6. Have every team member talk to customers
Unlike the world of physical product development, in the software world, the customer’s needs ultimately determine the goals and scope of a project.
Often, it isn’t enough to simply list these requirements on paper. Putting each team member in the same room with the customer they are serving helps connect nebulous goals with a human face and a consistent viewpoint, clarifying the reasoning behind a project.
7. Define specific measures of success
To know when you have succeeded at solving a problem, you must first understand what success looks like. When CloudZero puts together a product development team, one of the first things we do is give the team an objective and decide how we are going to measure success within that project.
Importantly, these measures of success should be consistent across the entire team. If engineering is judged by one metric and product specialists are measured by another — or worse still, when individuals are all measured by different standards separate from one another — that means everyone must work toward different goals to achieve their personal version of “success.”
8. Limit work in progress and project churn
You have probably noticed by now that consistency is the name of the game. Just as you want to aim for consistency in goals, team members, and communication, you also want to keep a steady focus on one project at a time. Sometimes, organizations give in to the temptation to hop from project to project, switching ideas before one project is fully or even halfway complete.
Team members need to be able to pour themselves into the work of completing a task, knowing the task will still be important tomorrow, or two weeks down the line. Constantly shifting attention from idea to idea causes employees to lose focus and determination for completing projects.
9. Work toward a minimum viable product
When each member of the team has a different personal vision for what the optimal product should look like, they tend to unconsciously work toward that vision. Without even knowing it, each team member then operates with different scopes, timelines, and priorities in mind.
To prevent this, establish a clear set of parameters that constitute a minimum viable product — the most barebones version of a product that still performs its basic function — and make achieving that version a priority. This eliminates the temptation to work on more interesting, “cool” features or plan for developments far into the future.
Bring Engineering And Product Alignment To New Heights With CloudZero
It’s hard to calculate how much time and money most companies waste going back and forth on teams, ideas, and priorities. You won’t know how dramatically aligning your teams can help your business until you put these principles to the test.
CloudZero works with SaaS companies every day to help them fine-tune costs and boost efficiency. Once you’ve smoothed out your product development team’s workflow, ask us how you can start incorporating cost-efficiency into the goals of every project.