A Product Development Process to Inspire Collaboration In Cross-Functional Teams
Head of Product at PlayPlay
Pauline Marol, VP of Product at PlayPlay, shares a modern product development process that combines discovery and delivery, streamlining the workflow.
The focus of many organizations falls into stark contrast, either anchoring around delivery, involving product owners, developers, and QAs, or discovery; with product managers and designers. Too much discovery and teams are unable to produce products consistently. However, too much delivery and teams ship products that are invaluable to the user.
At PlayPlay, teams have worked to build a product development playbook that combines an equal amount of discovery and delivery, using product strategists, dual roadmaps, and user researchers.
The playbook’s process enlists squads that are responsible for turning opportunities into lovable products. Each squad is comprised of a product manager, tech lead, developer, designer, and a QA.
Here’s a five-step process that each team is accountable for:
Step 1: Problem Understanding
The first step of the process is arguably the most important aspect. The goal is to understand the problem deeply, turning a vague opportunity into a thought-out problem statement. But how should teams narrow down and prioritize opportunities?
Implement a RICE (reach, impact, confidence, and effort) methodology to prioritize more impactful opportunities over lesser ones. The RICE process can help immensely when deciding between hard-to-compare ideas. It forces teams to think about why an opportunity will have an impact and to be honest about the effort that’s needed to achieve it.
If the RICE methodology does not prove to be effective, determine if the opportunity is aligned with the team’s end goal. If not, move past the opportunity and continue with other problems.
If there are multiple problems within one project, prioritize each one by implementing user feedback and evidence from the market. Here’s a list of questions teams should ask themselves before moving forward with a problem?
- What is the problem?
- Why do we want to solve this problem?
- Who are we solving this problem for?
- What are the use cases?
Problem understanding is focused on discovery, geared towards the product management and designer skillset. That is not to say developers and team leads should not be a part of this step, however, as collaboration is key to uncovering the best opportunity.
Step 2: Solution Exploration
After defining the problem in explicit detail, it is essential to find the best solution and start building a prototype of that product. Product designers take the lead during this step, with developers and stakeholders integrating themselves through workshops.
The solution exploration can take anywhere from a few weeks to months. Implementing team-wide stand-ups and other interactive events is critical to nourish ideas during this phase.
Solution exploration is the highest point in the discovery channel. Designers and product managers should plan for a big picture roadmap for solutions that are viable to become a product.
Step 3: Product and Design Delivery
After two steps of discovery, the process transitions to delivery. This phase aims to finalize specifications and define the good market strategy. Again, teams working on this step should ask themselves four questions:
- How will we get this product to market?
- What are the implications for other teams?
- What factors are critical to success?
- How will we measure success for this product?
Before writing a single line of code, each one of these questions should be answered. Designers, developers, and product managers should collaborate to brainstorm responses to each question to ensure team alignment.
Step 4: Tech Delivery
Tech delivery is the most common step when thinking about product development. The goal should be relatively simple to achieve as the prior steps help create a strong foundation for the launch.
In simple, the team is going to sprint during this step, pushing to deliver a product after a long process of discovery. With strong background work done during solutions exploration, teams should be able to push the tech out relatively quickly.
Marketing should be completed during the delivery of the product as well. After, what is usually a sprint, the team’s motivation will be high, although the product development process does not end here.
Step 5: Analysis and Iteration
The most recent step in PlayPlay’s process is based on self-reflection of the newly released product. The analysis may take a week to a month, certifying that the product reaches the initial goals and carries impact. After the team has created a loveable product, write a product close out that answers:
- What is the impact of the project?
- Did we have any fails? What have we learned from it?
- Did we iterate?
- What are the next steps (if any)?
Developers will be extremely involved with the analysis, reaching out to customers, the support team, and examining the data. Once this step has been completed, there should be a new successful product on the market.
How Should Teams Function During the Product Development Process?
During the process, teams should be made up of three core individuals: a tech lead, product manager, and product designer.
The goal is for the entire team to work as a collaborative unit, although leaders should expect different levels of engagement throughout the process.
In specific phases, such as the analysis, developers will be the most active team member; in other steps, like product discovery, developers will not be as engaged. To increase collaboration and engagement:
Start using hotjar sessions. Hotjar is a tool that allows teams to record customer sessions, analyze and later discuss the effectiveness of a product.
Implement playful team-wide workshops. Make team members record real-world videos related to product development, including jokes and tips for other teams.
Set quarterly goals. Revolve these goals around the product development process, involving cross-functional team members.
All these ideas create positive energy within the workspace, contributing to a psychologically safe environment where team members are comfortable fostering new ideas.
The Importance of Customer Feedback to the Product Development Process?
Customer feedback is key to the last step in the process: analysis and iteration. There are two ways of conducting user research in an informal manner. The first is to develop a regular schedule for customer conversations, with the single goal of getting a deeper understanding of the user’s needs and usage.
Set a KPI that dictates the number of conversations teammates need to complete per week, month, or quarter to ensure these regular conversations happen.
The second revolves around the customer service and sales team acting as part-time user researchers. To begin this, provide these team members with the opportunity to ask users for feedback. The feedback received should be forwarded to product managers and developers who can take the feedback into account.
Retaining informal feedback allows teams to have a strong connection with the customer base in the product development cycle. The feedback increases the efficiency of prioritization, as feedback empowers teams with customer needs and pain points.
Implementing Discovery and Delivery in Product Development
The product development process is essential to the lifecycle and creation of strong products. Discovery is often thought of as the creative part of the process, the brainstorming of solutions and problems.
Delivery is the opposite, the technical side of the process, involving developers making the actual product. Both sides of the process are key, yet many methods involve one and not the other. PlayPlay learned that introducing cross-functional team members is best for the creation of products that are meant to last a lifetime.
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