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Three Ways to Foster a Successful Relationship Between Your Product and Engineering Teams

Nurturing a strong partnership between product and engineering teams is crucial to the success of accomplishing your product vision. While the product team provides the “What” and the “Why” for a product, the engineering team provides the “How” part of the equation. In order to create a product that provides real customer value, product and engineering teams must work in harmony with one another. Here are three ways to create a strong working relationship.

Combine Forces Sooner Rather Than Later

A great way to begin fostering this partnership is by getting engineering in the room with product as soon as possible. Combined meetings provide a compound effect, with communication flowing more efficiently throughout the process. This approach will facilitate constructive conversations between the teams, as you work towards the same goal. This is where you also begin building trust and support between the two teams.

The product team provides subject matter expertise, emphasis on the customer problem and business goals, and the roadmap for product vision. Engineering provides the critical details on what is technically possible and any potential limitations. They have the technical know-how to determine feasibility and if there are any impediments that could affect, or possible enhancements to help achieve the product vision. Engineering will also be able to help shape a realistic timeframe necessary to achieve the vision, taking into consideration the level of effort and complexity.

Avoid Disparity

A major pitfall that you want to avoid is not having product and engineering on the same page. If you’re both moving in different directions, the product vision will never turn into a successful product. The partnership between these two is crucial to achieve the necessary outcome. Communication is key. Daily updates on how progress towards the goals, sprint reviews to gather stakeholder feedback and ongoing discussions will aid in staying on the same page. If there are requested changes from stakeholders, immediate conversations should occur to ensure progress is not wasted. It’s also important to consider market or user changes throughout the process, in the event things need to be shifted. The team should be incorporated into these conversations as well and items can be worked into ongoing efforts.

Open and honest discussions with your team will help everyone understand the collective goal to be achieved. Incorporating regular conversations about customer value and use cases will also help the team fully understand the product vision. Again, product is providing the “What” and the “Why” of the product vision, so reiterating the purpose behind decisions that are being made is important to success.

Cultivate Shared Leadership

Another item that is vital to the success of a product and engineering partnership, is shared leadership. In a product role, you don’t manage the engineering team, however, you do rely on their work. In turn, they also rely on product for direction and leadership throughout the product life cycle. Each role on a team has their own distinct responsibilities, but they all work together to achieve the same goal.

The definition of shared leadership is “the sharing of power and influence, with one person remaining in charge”. Every Scrum team has its own Team Product Owner who is accountable for the value of the team’s results, both deliverable and non-deliverable. As product focuses on the present and near-future, the rest of the team is focused on the present and needs guidance for timing beyond. Shared leadership is a collaborative approach that will support all members of the team and create trust.

Allowing autonomy over decisions and valuing everyone’s ideas and opinions will offer further support for executing a successful product vision, as well as building a cohesive team. Ideally, each role on a team has their area of expertise, therefore we should treat it as such. Empowering individuals to take ownership and leadership within their areas of expertise will not only distribute the responsibility evenly, but will also help the team feel included and valued.

It’s not product’s job to have all of the ideas and do all of the product thinking.  You never want to come up with a grandiose product vision, then proceed to toss it over the wall for implementation. Collaborating on shared purpose and understanding will pave the way for a cohesive relationship between product and engineering. Continue to nurture these partnerships and see for yourself how successful your team can be.

About the Author:

Brittany Chance is a Senior Product Strategy Consultant with nearly 10 years of experience in Business Analysis, Product Management and Quality Assurance. She is passionate about enabling delivery teams to do their best work through strong product, team leadership and support, while building trust across teams, organizations and stakeholders. In her free time, she is an artist of many mediums, including crochet, jewelry and mixed media and also owns a small Apothecary business. She also enjoys hiking, being out in nature, watching movies and listening to music.

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