Working together is a phrase we’ve all heard since our early elementary school days. It’s a critical part of many work cultures and helps move projects forward between specialized teams. But since this concept has been so ever-present, it’s easy to let it fall into the background and focus on your role on the team.
No matter what part of the process you are a part of, it always makes sense to get familiar with all of the context surrounding the project. That’s why we talked with our product management team, Scott Luna and Julie Pifer, at Choozle to help reignite the strategy and purpose behind working together.
What is Product Management?
“The intersection of technology, UI and business” is where product managers find themselves most often. By having a dedicated role that opens themselves up to the expertise of every team, the product managers can observe, track, and prioritize goals as they ramp up.
Primarily, product managers are responsible for zooming out and looking at the problems from a macro level. They ask the big questions right from the beginning. What is the problem? Is this something we should tackle right now? Who does it affect? And, how bad even is it? But simply meditating on these questions doesn’t help the product at all. It is up to the product managers to go out and investigate every possible answer to these questions. They are dedicated researchers and prioritizers for different stages of development. They collaborate and research with all the teams and clients who build and experience the outcomes.
In order to best understand the goals we set for ourselves, we must also understand the problems our goals are meant to resolve, and why they need to be solved at all. A good place to start is by discovering what success would look like according to every player on the team. The feeling of success is hard to define, but consider how different success feels to a consumer, as compared to a developer on the product team. Once the team understands the problem at hand and what success looks like, product managers can start to work backward and map out the road, from where they are now to a solution. While still asking hard questions throughout the process: is this feasible? How big of a lift is this?
Throughout this roadmapping process, product managers are seeking context to clients’ questions and account managers’ answers, context to the product team’s solutions, and context from the business to help connect the dots in the big picture. They get as much context as they can find. “All feedback is good feedback”. By stepping back, clearly defining a problem, and illustrating a goal, a product manager can begin to break down the teamwork needed to get there. From their vision of success to where they stand today, product managers begin to work backward to understand the best path to success.
Open up lines of communication
In almost every collaborative setting, no matter who you are on the team, opening up lines of communication between roles can help guide transitions smoothly. Tasks and goals within siloed teams can build up fast before even understanding the true purpose of your specialized work. It’s critical to share what you do with the people who don’t know. By adopting the mindset of a product manager everyone can review and analyze the purpose of their goals and cross-reference this information with others to make sure an easier option isn’t being overlooked. While not every organization has dedicated product managers on their team, their efforts can be supplemented by the whole of the team.
What tools can we borrow from product managers?
Julie and Scott were full of insightful ideas on their live choozlechat last month, and they offered a few takeaways and tools that product managers employ to communicate at a high level that we wanted to share with everyone to consider when they begin planning and communicating with teams.
This is a simple tool used to get a fast understanding of the level of effort required for any given initiative, feature, or task. Most everybody knows how t-shirts work. Small, medium, and large. For specialized positions with unique goals, it can be difficult to understand the work they put into a particular goal. By sharing a t-shirt size of a project or milestone it becomes easier to say, this is a large lift for our team, or, this process can be quick, call it a small.
Context is everything to product managers. User stories allow product managers to convey context in real-life terms to other team members who aren’t fully exposed to the user’s experience. User stories can be a living document throughout a product’s life, detailing an accurate persona of who is being served by the product. These stories are a great way to continue asking detailed questions. Who are we talking to? What problem are they facing? What do they want to achieve? How do we know when it’s complete? User stories can help break down issues into smaller chunks when building solutions, but ultimately display the value being provided to the user throughout, ensuring that they are central at every point.
Build, measure, learn:
This is a simple three-step process that Scott encourages in everyday life. By taking on this testing mentality anything can become more simple to learn from and track your results. At every round of development, step back and measure your result, take in your feedback, and really try to learn what it is telling you.
No matter where you are in a company, you can learn a lot from your product management team. Collaboration and open communication can be vital to your success when working with others as well as across departments.
About the author:
Zack is a Content Specialist at Choozle – Easy Digital Advertising®. Always learning and connecting the dots, Zack helps translate some of the tougher answers to simple questions marketers ask themselves. Outside of the office, Zack loves hunting for old vinyl to add to his collection and picking up garbage on his favorite walking trails.