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Be Upfront About Product Delivery Constraints

Pete Woodhouse

Chief Technology Officer at Prosper

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Problem

"While working as the CTO of Paypal Credit, a division within Paypal, we developed a new product as a proof of concept. The development wasn't done to a live scale. Instead, it was done to prove that it would work really well in the marketplace. It was incredibly successful. Because of this, the business leadership team and the president of the company wanted to scale it straight away. I was under a lot of pressure from the business' leadership to push this product out. However, we couldn't do this, as we needed to replatform, restructure and rewrite the product before it could be scaled."

Actions taken

"I told my business leadership that before we could scale the product we would need nine months where we focussed on redeveloping the platform and where we didn't add any new features."

"I did this in a one-on-one with the business owner, rather than in a committee meeting, board meeting, or with executive staff, as it allowed me to get a clear message across without interruptions."

"While the business owner wasn't happy with the situation, he had enough trust in me, and I had enough details about the situation, to make it clear that this was the right thing to do. After coming out of that meeting, we went to the President of the business unit together to make our case."

"Next, I went to my team and explained that we had permission from the business to spend nine months working on replatforming. However, I also made it very clear that we had to meet our nine months deadline, as my credibility was on the line. Engineers tend to hate being under a fixed timeframe and it breaks Agile rules. However, sometimes you are faced with having to do this. Ultimately, it was successful and the business leader was very complimentary, saying it was the best product launch he had ever been involved with."

Lessons learned

"If I were to be faced with this issue again, I would do our execution in exactly the same way. However, I would start the conversation with our business leaders earlier, so I could avoid getting into a situation where I have to have difficult conversations. By managing these type of cases a little earlier, you can avoid drama."


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Pete Woodhouse

Chief Technology Officer at Prosper


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