Book summary: “ Inspired: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love” — Part 2

Part 2 : The Right people

Who are the Product teams?

Image courtesy: Productplan
  • A product team is a group of people who bring together different specialized skills and responsibilities and feel real ownership for the product
  • In other words, A product team is a set of highly skilled people who come together for an extended period of time to solve hard business problems.

What are the Principles for the strong product teams?

1) Team of missionaries:

  • Mercenaries build anything or everything they’ve been an instructor to build.
  • Missionaries are their believers in vision and are committed to solving the problem for their customers.

2) Team Composition

  • Typical product team comprises — a product manager, product designer, and somewhere about 10 to 12 engineers.
  • Teams might also have delivery managers, product marketing managers, one or two test automation engineers, and a data analyst.

3) Team empowerment and accountability

  • They are given clear objectives and they own delivering on those objectives.
  • They are enabled to figure out the most ideal approach to meet the objectives and responsible for the outcomes.

4) Team size

  • There is no rule that all the product teams should be the same in size. Depending on the mass of the product, the number usually varies.
  • “Two Pizza rule” — which is intended to help the team in the range
  • More important than the absolute size of the team is the balance of skills needed to ensure we build the right things, and build those things right.

5) Team reporting structure

  • The product team is not about reporting relationships — it has an intentionally flat organizational structure.
  • Everyone is the product teams are individual contributors, and they aren’t people managers People on the team typically report to their functional manager.
  • To be clear, the Product manager is not the boss of anyone in the product team.

6) Team collaboration

  • The nature of the relationship is more about true collaboration.Product, design, and engineering are really working out solutions together.
  • The more you collaborate with the product team, the more strong you become!

7) Team location

  • Co-location means that team members literally sit right next to one another. That doesn’t mean in the same building or even the same floor. It means close enough to easily see each other’s computer screens.

8) Team Scope

  • One dimension — it’s important that a product team has responsibility for all the work — all the projects, features, bug fixes, performance work, optimizations, and content changes — everything and anything for their product.
  • Another dimension — Responsible for the complete product.

9) Team duration

  • The bottom line is that we try hard to keep teams together and fairly stable.
  • Another reason that durability is important is that it can take some time to gain enough expertise in an area to innovate. If people are moving from team to team all the time, it’s hard for them to get that expertise and to feel the necessary sense of ownership over their product and missionary-like passion.

10) Team autonomy:

  • If we want teams to feel empowered and have a missionary-like passion for solving customer problems, we need to give them a significant degree of autonomy.
  • At scale, it’s just not possible to eliminate all dependencies but we can work hard to continuously minimize them.

Product Manager

  • There are essentially three ways for a product manager to work, and the author would argue only one of them leads to success:
  1. The product manager can escalate every issue and decision up to the CEO.
  • In this model, PM is really a backlog administrator.
  • Roadmap administrator
  • The honest truth is that the product manager needs to be among the strongest talent in the company. If the product manager doesn’t have the technical sophistication, doesn’t have the business savvy, doesn’t have the credibility with the key executives, doesn’t have the deep customer knowledge, doesn’t have the passion for the product, or doesn’t have the respect of their product team, then it’s a sure recipe for failure.
  • Some people prefer to focus on the raw ingredients of what makes a strong product manager
  • Others tend to focus on the product manager’s day-to-day activities and what they’ll be spending their time doing.
  • PM is responsible for evaluating opportunities and determining what gets built and delivered to customers. (Sounds simple enough!)
  • What’s hard is — to make sure what in the backlog is worth building.
  • Every business depends on the customer — what Customer buys or chooses to buy your product.
  • The product is the result of what the product team builds, and the product manager is responsible for what the product team will build.
  • When a product succeeds, it’s because everyone on the team did what they needed to do. But when a product fails, it’s the product manager’s fault.
  • You need to have
  1. Deep understanding of customer
  • Be acknowledged expert on the customer — their pain points, issues, desires, what do they think, and how they decide to buy. Without this deep customer knowledge, you’re not guessing.
  • Expected to have both qualitative and quantitative skills. The best part of knowing your customer is understanding what they’re doing with your product.
  • Successful products are not only loved by your customers, but they work for your business. This means — knowing your various stakeholders and the constraints they operate under.
  • Succeeding in the product means convincing each stakeholder that you understand their constraints and committed to only deliver the digital solutions that solve the constraints.
  • This includes competitor analysis, key trends in technology, Customer behavior, and expectations, understanding the role of social media in your market space.

Key takeaways:

  1. Product manager is clearly distinct from other disciplines
  2. Like the CEO, Product Manager should deeply understand all aspects of the business
  3. The winning solution doesn’t come from users, customers or sales
  4. True leadership is a big part of what separates the great product people from the merely good ones.
From the book!

The product designer

  • Traditionally, the designers get the requirement from the product manager and user to create the design.
  • In contrast, modern product designers continuously collaborate with the product manager and engineer from discovery to delivery.
  • Rather than being on the output of their design work, measured on the output of the product designer is measured on the success of the product.
  • User experience is much bigger than the user interface.
  • Good product designers think about the customer’s journey over time as they interact with the product and with the company as a whole. Depending on the product, the list of touchpoints could be very long, considering questions as:
  1. How will customers first learn about the product?
  2. How will we onboard a first-time user and (perhaps gradually) reveal new functionality?
  3. How might users interact at different times during their day?
  4. What other things are competing for the user’s attention?
  5. How might things be different for a one-month-old customer versus a one-year-old customer?
  6. How will we motivate a user to a higher level of commitment to the product?
  7. How will we create moments of gratification?
  8. How will a user share his experience with others?
  9. What is the perceived responsiveness of the product?
  • Good product designers use prototypes as their primary canvas for communicating ideas, both internally and externally. They are generally comfortable with many different prototyping tools and are able to apply the correct one for the task at hand.
  • Good product designers are constantly testing their ideas with real users and customers. User testing is broader than usability testing. Product designers and their product teams utilize the opportunity to assess the value of their ideas. Will customers use or buy the product and, if not, why not?
  • You as product manager trying to do the actual design yourself. In this situation, you have not been trained in design; yet, your engineers clearly need designs, so you oblige. That usually means you provide the engineers with wireframes, and they cobble together some form of visual design themselves.
  • You as product manager don’t provide the designs but, rather, provide very high-level user stories to the engineers. To begin coding, the engineers have no choice but to work out the design themselves.
  • You as product manager provide the interaction design — especially the wireframes — and then you use a visual or graphic designer to provide the visual design.

The Engineers:

  • There’s probably no more important relationship for a successful product manager than the one with the engineers.
  • Engineers are typically smart and often skeptical by nature, so if you’re bluffing, they likely won’t be fooled.
  • It’s so important for the PM to directly engage with the engineer on a daily basis.
  • Typically, these conversions will fall under two types.
  1. you’re soliciting their ideas and input for the items you’re working on in discovery.
  2. They’re asking you clarifying questions on the items they’re working on delivering to production.

Product marketing managers:

  • In the best tech product companies, product marketing plays an essential role in the discovery, delivery, and, ultimately, go-to-market, which is why they are important members of the product team.
  • Modern product marketing managers represent the market to the product team, the positioning, the messaging, and winning go-to-market plans.
  • They are deeply engaged with the sales channel and know their capabilities, limitations and competitive issues.
  1. User researchers-User researchers are trained in this range of qualitative techniques. They can help you find the right type of users, craft the right types of tests, and learn the most from each user or customer interaction.

People @ Scale

The role of leadership

  • The primary job of leadership in any tech organization is to recruit, to develop, and to retain the best talents.
  • In a startup, typically just one or two product teams so it’s not hard for everyone to keep their hands in the holistic view of the product.
  • One of the big challenges of growth is knowing how the whole product hangs together.
  • The three distinct but critical elements to the holistic view of the product are described next.
  1. Leaders of product management
  • To ensure a holistic view of how the entire system fits together from a business point of view (product vision, strategy, functionality, business rules, and business logic), we need either the leaders of the product management organization or a principal product manager.
  • These leaders must ensure a consistent and effective user experience systemwide.
  • Finally, to ensure a holistic view of how the entire system fits together from a technology point of view, we have a technology organization leader (often titled CTO or VP engineering). In practice, that person is often helped by a group of engineering managers and directors and/or software architects.



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