login


Google Sign inLinkedIn Sign in

Don't have an account? 

Developing High Performing Teams: How To Transform a Software Developer Into a Product Engineer

Cross-functional collaboration
Product Team
Collaboration

30 May, 2020

Alessandro Pintaudi, Product Management Director at Payfit, comes up with an exciting proposal of transforming software developers into product engineers by establishing cross-functional context analysis and shared objectives.

Problem

One of the problems I frequently encountered is that the business side of the company makes in advance very detailed plans on how to structure product roadmap, which product to build, and how to build it. Volumes of analysis are made even before talking to clients, but the reality often unfolds quite differently than forecasted. After the initial discussion with clients and the first efforts to build a product, every so often you realize that you are unable to attain your plans as you come across real-world frictions that you couldn’t anticipate.
 

At the same time, the level of detail of a plan in many instances goes down to the level of a product team affecting the autonomy of the team itself. While everything is well structured, a little or no freedom is left to change things during the solution definition or execution. Commitments towards investors, customers, or internal stakeholders have already been made and engineers can only blindly follow the direction that was set in advance. Both the process and methodology that were set years ago to reduce uncertainty and tighten control resemble a supply chain with strict roles and strict production processes that undermine attempts to grab opportunities or calculate delays.
 

As a result, engineers are interested only in technical aspects of things, unconcerned about Why and refrained from being proactive and solving customer problems. Results are measured at a very high level, making it impossible to run product iterations based on usages and customer insights. Consequently, frictions are frequent between a PM and engineers over deadlines and commitment. Therefore, engineers are merely software developers uninvolved in the product side of things.
 

Actions taken

The first thing a PM (or a business analyst) should do is to explain the context -- the reasons behind the decision to do something in a certain way. This explanation could arrive from analyzing business context or market-specific target segment for example but should be presented as a problem that should be collaboratively solved. Clear objectives should be set at every level and should be defined cross-functionally (versus vertically) and rooted in a customer-first viewpoint. This will reveal Why that is behind of What is being done.
 

You should be concerned with the outcome, not outputs. How many features will be released in the next quarter is nearly not important as if the outcome is achieved and properly measured, whether on a macro or micro level. If we are able to translate every single Jira ticket into the outcome and establish how to measure that outcome, we will give the team a sense of purpose.
 

This approach will inevitably require cross-functional team meetings at any stage of the process. While there should always be someone responsible, everyone is the owner of the product at any stage. of the process. The ownership is co-shared by every single person involved and that is pushing engineers to take on product decisions, include challenging the existing product decisions. There are many benefits to this approach. Engineers will be able to attain the same objective by choosing a faster route, become more involved and thus advocate for their solution(s) and be proactive in front of stakeholders and the other team members co-owning the responsibility on the product (from identifying opportunities, finding the right solution, delivering it in the right way and measuring the outcome).

Lessons learned

  • People would be able to use resources more efficiently. If you transform your engineers into product engineers you won’t need to micromanage or micro-lead them -- no need for product owners to constantly check on the backlog and check if everything is prioritized. Instead, more time could be spent on specifying the problem and the metrics to measure the outcome.
  • PMs and EMs could finally focus on more value-added tasks, for example identifying the right product to build or the right problem to tackle instead of asking engineers to estimate every single task, log every single hour because they are afraid that they are spending time on off-target issues. If everyone is aligned and motivated the whole team is moving forward without the necessity of being pushed.

Related stories

Improving Collaboration Between Engineering and Product Across Time Zones
6 July

Shridharan Muthu, VP of Engineering at Zoosk, describes how to make communication effective between PMs and engineers when they are located in different time zones and have very little overlap.

Collaboration
Internal Communication
Reorganization
Remote
Shridharan Muthu

Shridharan Muthu

VP of Engineering, Backend Applications at Zoosk

Handling a Mistake - Adopting a New Workflow
6 July

Shridharan Muthu, VP of Engineering at Zoosk, describes how he quickly agreed to adopt new workflows, a mistake he later regretted, and how he handled the situation by spending the time to course correct and taking a stab at making things easier for his team.

Team processes
Agile / Scrum
Collaboration
Shridharan Muthu

Shridharan Muthu

VP of Engineering, Backend Applications at Zoosk

Cultivating a Relationship Between Collocated and Remote Teams
3 July

Arjun Rao, Director of Engineering at Place Exchange, highlights three ways that induce a genial, positive, and flourishing atmosphere between collocated teams and their remote, contracted, or outsourced counterparts.

Remote
Collaboration
Company Culture
Arjun Rao

Arjun Rao

Director of Engineering at Place Exchange

Some Ideas for Breaking Down Silos In Your Organization
30 June

Jeff Foster, Head of Product Engineering, shares how he managed to break down silos in his organization by encouraging their employees to choose their own team.

Team reaction
Managing Expectations
Company Culture
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Productivity
Reorganization
Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster

Head of Product Engineering at Redgate

Recruitment and Interview Rotas: the Engineers’ Way
30 June

Jeff Foster, Head of Product Engineering, explains how engineers at his organization self-managed their taking part in the interviewing process.

Hiring
Collaboration
Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster

Head of Product Engineering at Redgate

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.