Working with products as a modern product team requires a multidisciplinary approach for solving problems. Software powered products are not created in a linear fashion with well-defined plans, but are built using a lean, messy and often unpredictable approach. The modern way to work with products embraces learning above anything else. These are 10 things that characterize a modern product team.
#1 — They are passionate about the problem they are solving
A modern product team has a clear understanding of customers’ challenges and goals. As a team they share a strong purpose and vision and work tirelessly to solve the problem they are facing. The problem space is not just owned by UX or product management, but shared across the entire team. Modern product teams are in love with the problem they are solving and use their strong vision statement to recruit new team members with a similar mindset.
#2 — They spend A LOT of time on researching and testing
A modern product team lists assumptions for every product or feature idea and convert these to testable hypotheses. They test hypotheses upfront before committing to any development time. The make sure they really understand the user problem thoroughly before building a solution. They test often with users and customers using wireframes, MVPs, prototypes or whatever tool they have at hand. They don’t seek comfort in linear plans. They thrive with product creation being a messy and unpredictable process. They understand that things are constantly in flux and will change based on feedback received from customers.
“There are no facts inside the building so get the heck outside” — Steve Blank
#3 — They focus roadmaps around customer challenges, not features
A modern product team thinks in customer journeys and outcomes. They build their roadmaps around challenges that they would like to solve for the customers. Their roadmaps never contain features that can’t be backtracked to the strategy of the product. A modern product team has a strategic and goal oriented approach towards planning product improvements. They don’t ship features without a measure of success.
#4 — They commit everyone to solve challenges
A modern product team engages the entire team in solving customer challenges. There are no invisible walls between the product manager, designer and developers in a modern product team. They understand that everyone is responsible for the final user experience — whether they contributed with pixels, code or customer insights. This means that a modern product team always hits the ground running with a shared understanding of the challenge to be solved based on initial customer discovery. The entire team is engaged in designing, prototyping and testing a solution. Titles and job functions aren’t preventing the modern product team to solve problems collaboratively.
#5 — They see a release as the beginning, not the end
A modern product team knows that a feature is not done once it is released and only sees the release as the beginning of an experiment where customers will interact with and react on the feature. When modern product teams release a new feature, they measure the success of it based on the insights of the initial customer discovery.
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Ellitot
#6 — They celebrate learning
A modern product team celebrates when they learn something, not when they release something. They celebrate customer feedback and insights that enable them to learn from their tireless effort to try out new approaches for solving their customers’ problems.
#7 — They understand the competitor space
A modern product team knows the existing solutions that customers have. They understand what customers struggle with, and what the potentials for improvements are. They don’t religiously benchmark every product feature against competitors’. They know that innovation doesn’t come from copying features, but from understanding what customers are trying to achieve in a given situation. Instead, they acquire a thorough understanding of the competitor space to map out basic product expectations of customers and end users, to identify gaps and potential business opportunities. They spice up their existing customer and end-user research with knowledge about competitors.
#8 — They see technology as a tool only
A modern product team is driven by the outcome a technology can help create, not the technology itself. They never start developing a new technology without first understanding the problem it should solve and the context it should work within. They understand that a new technology will not be adopted by users before having experimented with and achieved a solution that fits users’ actual usage and expectations. Therefore, they will rather spend time building conceptual MVPs and testing product ideas, than waste valuable time on perfecting technology before putting it in front of users.
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
― Clayton M. Christensen
#9 — They constantly renew their world view
A modern product team is aware that what works today might not be the best solution tomorrow. They never settle with a fixed understanding. They continuously seek feedback from users, customers and leads, and they are aware of where the market is moving. They constantly update their perception of pain points, personas, customer goals and product expectations.
#10 — They see the product as part of a bigger journey
A modern product team doesn’t work in isolation. They collaborate closely with sales, marketing and support. They instill a lean approach for learning and responding to customer behaviour all across an organization. They know a customer journey doesn’t start when users enter their product. Instead, they know that a customer journey can start when sales initially talk with potential customers and learn new insights that must be transferred to the product team. They collaborate closely with marketing and branding to target the right customers and are well aligned on personas and pain points. Additionally, they collect pearls of wisdoms from the support team that help guide the product in new directions.
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