How to Assemble a Complete Product Team
A breakdown of the six voices that deliver a successful product for your customers and your business.
This article was originally published on the Mindtribe blog.
By Steve Myers, Founder and CEO, Mindtribe.
At Mindtribe, we often like to think of a complete product team as the synthesis of six major voices.
Each represents a key aspect of a product’s development:
- Product Visionary
- Customer Voice
- Business Voice
- Engineering Voice
- Design Voice
- Product Manager
These six voices provide the perspectives (and healthy tensions) that together deliver a successful product for your customers and your business.
Each voice has a perspective to offer.
Think of your product as a spider web — it needs to be anchored in just the right places to function properly.
These voices are your anchors.
They also help you get your team in full agreement on the priorities and aspirations of your product. Which, by the way, is surprisingly uncommon.
If you’re a small team then don’t worry if you need some people to double-up on voices. It’s just important to explicitly acknowledge which voice is coming from whom.
PRODUCT VISION HOLDER
Here’s your dreamer. The person who truly believes what you’re about to build can change the world.
They have keen insight into user needs and desires, and imagine a better future for users of the product.
This “better future” should be consistently refined throughout development to help you develop your marketing messages.
If there are questions about product priorities or feature implementation, the buck ultimately stops here.
This person is the user evangelist.
They provide a clear customer voice throughout development, mostly by getting feedback and insights directly from user testing and feedback.
If this voice isn’t also the product vision holder, they must remain tightly coupled to ensure the product vision is fully informed by customer feedback and not completely divorced from reality.
(Mad scientist CEOs, we’re looking at you).
This voice is traditionally one of the loudest in the room, especially at a large company.
By representing business interests, this person ensures that the product will support the strategic goals and needs of the business itself.
They will be aligned with the company’s core competencies and will validate that the product and its cost to product meets bottom line expectations.
Engineering voices often get drowned out, but ironically they have perhaps the most influential voice as the team in charge of building the actual product.
Solutions to engineering challenges are ultimately what define a product. So you must at least be aware of what issues the engineering team is seeing.
Successful products are the best optimization of features, product performance, cost, and development time and expense.
So the engineering voice is the rational person in the room, telling everyone what’s possible so the entire development team can choose the best trade-offs.
Basically: the thing needs to make people feel good using it.
The design voice shouldn’t be guessing: they too must rely on user testing and feedback to make sure things are going in the right direction.
The last voice on the list is the product manager.
Their job is all about knowledge and resource management:
“Based on what we know about our customers, how do we organize our resources to get from vision to the best final product?”
This person is responsible for reconciling and aligning competing inputs from the voices above. We often think of this person as the “product CEO”.
Together, all of these voices should agree on the user features and product priorities, in order of importance.
You might already realize that this is easier said than done. Which is the point! It triggers plenty of healthy discussion that companies should have, but don’t hash out until the cost of changing anything is so high that it’s effectively impossible.
If you can pull it off, you have a huge advantage.
You’ve reconciled subtle differences in product vision when the cost of changing your mind is very low (for example, before you’ve built anything).
It also gives the engineering team a roadmap of priorities they can use to guide their work, and validate the most important product features ASAP, instead of trying to build everything at once.
As you develop your product, these voices will also come across new learnings and market changes. Now, at least, you’re positioned to hear and respond to those learnings.