Onboarding

The Product Development Team aka The Prod Squad

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Who’s your favorite ensemble of super heroes? The Avengers? The Power Rangers? Voltron? Or even The Care Bears? I won’t judge you.  Everyone likes The Care Bears.

Whoever your superhero group of choice is, you always have to maintain faith that they can overcome any challenge.  It doesn’t matter if that challenge is taking down the supervillain who could destroy the world with the snap of his fingers or making the world a place filled with people who care. Another team of superheroes that you should ALWAYS have faith in is your Product Development Team better known as The Prod Squad.  Product challenges will always arise (before, during, and after release) and you must have faith that your team will always survive.

Who can you expect to be on your Prod Squad?

Your Product Squad is composed of individuals with a very particular set of skills. Skills they have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make them a nightmare for user problems like the one you’re facing at work right now. (Liam Neeson voice)

Introducing…The Prod Squad:

DESIGNER

Designer – The designer is the expert in analysing how human psychology affects the way members will interact with the layout and design of your product.  In other words, they know what buttons, configurations, layouts, etc. will be easier for your user to interact with to ensure they get the maximum value out of your product.  Good designers turn your vision into a mockup that works for your members.  Great designers work with you to create the visual representation of that product vision to ensure design considerations are taken into account, reducing design cycles and maximizing member value.

ENGINEER

The engineer is the expert in understanding the architectural and technical requirements necessary to turn your product into reality.  If you didn’t know, three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and architectural limitations that force you to rethink how you will execute your product strategy.The engineer will give you details on architectural limitations that may alter how you execute your product that may increase/decrease your execution timeline.  A good engineer tells you those limitations and simply creates the quickest workaround.  A great engineer works with you to overcome those limitations while still giving members the same value they expected from the original idea.  Sidenote: Having doubts about how your (lack of) technical expertise may affect your success? Check out “How technical do you have to be? (Engineering)” for tips on how to be technical enough and for reassurance that you will be just fine.

"Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and architectural limitations that force you to rethink how you will execute your product strategy."

USER EXPERIENCE (UX) RESEARCHER

The UX researcher is the expert in asking prospective users of your product the right questions at the right time to validate your product hypothesis or even your product design.  UX researchers know the nuances required to lead interviewees into answers that are genuine and honest. The UX researcher will tell you whether you are actually on to something when you claim you have the next greatest idea. I tend to think product managers underutilize the UX researcher because they feel their “gut” or “intuition” supersedes what potential users actually say. If Jay-Z were a product manager, he’d say Men lie, women lie, explicit member quotes telling you why your product idea actually sucks don’t lie.  I’ll write an article titled  “Why your UX Researcher is Your Best Friend” so you truly understand the importance of the UX researcher. Also, remember that users will tell you what the problem is, but they will not tell you how to solve that problem.  It’s up to you to figure out how to solve it.

Men lie, women lie, explicit member quotes telling you why your product idea actually sucks don’t lie.

PRODUCT MARKETING

The Product Marketer is the expert in translating product benefits into marketing campaigns and material that accurately and concisely communicate your product’s value to the market.  The type of campaigns vary based on the type of product you are selling.  They can be email campaigns, webinars, in-person seminars, internet ads, etc. Always keep your PMM updated on the latest product features and release date.

DATA SCIENTIST

The Data Scientist understands the most accurate and efficient way to measure the success of any product release.  In other words, they are the metric experts.  They help analyze data results to ensure the team is interpreting the results correctly.  If you have a general idea for the metric you want to track but are unsure if it should be a primary or secondary metric, ask your data scientist.  If you know exactly what metric you want to measure but have no idea where to access that information in your data analysis tool, ask your data scientist. If you want to know the probability that Lebron James goes another year with his terrible hair plug job instead of just going bald, your data scientists will probably know that too.

How does all this expertise come together?

That’s right …YOU, the product manager! 

YOU: PRODUCT MANAGER

You are the expert in understanding all facets of the customer problem that you are attempting to solve and how to combine the expertise of your Prod Squad at the right time to release an amazing product.  You have unearthed a customer problem and have worked with the UX researcher to validate WHAT the problem is, WHY the problem exists, and WHY it needs to be solved.  You present an initial solution to your UX designer and fine tune the layout that will define HOW the problem will be solved via user experience design. You then convince engineering of the importance of the solution and they begin to define HOW this will be implemented technically. Simultaneously, you work with Product Marketing to devise the correct messaging that will resonate with your target market to ensure they know that you created the perfect solution for their problems.  You also meet with data science to ensure you are tracking the correct metrics that enable you to accurately measure the product’s success.  

Note: If you work at a startup or an under-resourced team, you may be all of these people yourself.  Don’t let that deter you.  It just means you’ll be gaining expertise to make you an even more formidable opponent to any future challenge.

Now I know you always hear things like “The PM is the CEO of the product”, but this may give the wrong sentiment with respect to how you and your team actually work together. As a PM, you don’t technically have authority to tell anyone how they need to do their job. You and your team are constantly working together and collaborating to create the ultimate product.  If we begin to use the super heroes analogy where you think of your team as a group of collaborating experts, each with the knowledge to step in at the right time to ensure the right decision is made, you’ll ensure a better working relationship with your team and a better end product.

For a list of questions to ask your Prod Squad as you onboard, check out the article “Key Questions to Ask your Product Development Team (The Prod Squad)

Now with your powers combined…go create something great! (and environmentally friendly too). The power is yours! 

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