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Discovery & Delivery

Understanding “why” in our backlogs

Ever since we started researching the ideas that became Herolens, about 3 years ago, we found what was an immense amount of options and ideas to do, in some way, our destiny was in our hands. My partners and I had it all planned out in a small Starbucks’ bag, on paper! We were going to build a product recommendation system backed by AI to show the most relevant products and increase sales.

It was perfect! Except suddenly it was not… We researched a bit more: “the market is huge”, “there are giants in this space”, “how are we gonna fit?”. Fear kicked in.

But it was really easy to overcome “fear paralysis” at this stage, 3 founders with nothing to lose, “Done is better than perfect”, “Fail Hard Fail Fast” and “Murphy’s law” became mottos, we worked on what we found out was the best product and technology we could build.

A lot more of analysis came in until we started working in the core technology that makes Herolens today, a Creative Management Platform that can easily scale to millions of different creatives, and, integrating with the advertiser’s, platform’s and contextual data, bring the best results for their given goals. All of this triggered a lot of options and tasks to do.

So when it came to working on building the product, the backlog of ideas was an ever-growing list. And since we grew our business out of the initial product we made because of being bootstrapped… that backlog made it into more and more ideas!

Initially this was OK, until, again, fear paralysis started coming back at us. A huge backlog and many ideas to explore, at some point we felt we were a “sales driven” company. A lot of people in the company had different views on what to do next, but no one was sure about which was the exact way to go, and how to do it. This lead to a lack of prioritization, “reactive” feature development, etc.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

That was the exact same question that made me feel uncomfortable while reading Marty Cagan’s INSPIRED book and seeing a match on the problems we knew were facing, which talks about how great tech products are built. It was the first book I started reading as I started working as Head of Product this year, and it helped us understand more which steps were needed to take to move forward. It turns out that many companies face this problem, the ones that have great products that people love, sort out this problem through developing products in a different way.

Marty introduces a concept of “dual-track” agile development. The Discovery and Delivery tracks.

The Discovery track tries to understand the problems to solve with the set of given objectives, metrics and product vision. The result of this is a validated backlog, something that the team will know “why” is being built with the vision, and how it can impact the objectives via the resulting changes in metrics. How? Through prototyping and validating ideas fast, knowing that half of the ideas won’t work at all, and that the rest probably won’t work in the first try.

The Delivery track is what most people know as the traditional software release process. Once the backlog is ready and validated, teams proceed to work on releasing software iteratively within a Sprint, validating as soon as possible the outcomes.

A common misconception is that Delivery and Discovery tracks are done by different people or teams. Discovery and Delivery are done by the same “Product Team”, which is an interdisciplinary team composed of Product, Engineering and Design. Product Managers and Designers work mostly in Discovery, but working with Engineering leaders in this track is crucial. The same applies to Delivery, Product Managers act as Product Owners, helping to clear doubts, provide feedback and insights during this track, this is also crucial.

At Herolens, we’ve started to deeply organize our teams this way as we’ve grown this 2018, and we’re coming out with a much clearer understanding of our objectives, problems to be solved and development requirements. It is a constant process and we’re learning a lot while doing it.

Do you work in a Product company? How much different is this from what you’re doing today? We’d love to know! You can write us at product@herolens.com.

Interested in becoming a Hero? Check our open positions!

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