The Most Important Thing for Product Companies is Engineering

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Best single source of innovation is your engineers (because they’re working with the enabling technology every day, so they’re in the best position to see, what’s just now possible). Product vision is intended to attract and inspire these engineers. The product strategy is intended to ensure these engineers are working on the most important problems. The team objectives give the engineers clear statements of the problem to solve, and the outcomes to strive for. The product manager and product designer provide critical constraints regarding business viability and customer experience, respectively. User research and data science provide the engineers with key insights. Empowerment of engineers means that you provide the engineers with the problem to solve and the strategic context, and they are able to leverage technology to figure out the best solution to the problem. If you’re just using your engineers to code, you’re only getting about half their value. Strong tech-powered product company no sooner outsources their engineers than they would outsource their CEO. The engineers are the easiest way to tell if the company has teams of missionaries or teams of merceneries. All breakthrough innovations you use and love every day originated from an empowered engineer working in an empowered team.

Your company understands the critical and essential role that technology plays in enabling your business, and the experience you provide to your customers. When new technologies emerge that you believe have the potential to be relevant, you immediately designate some engineers to learn that technology and to consider how it may be able to help solve problems for your customers in ways that are just now possible. You view your product managers, product designers, engineers, and data scientists as absolutely core to your business. You would no sooner consider outsourcing them than you would outsource your executives. You have developed and embraced a culture of coaching. Every single member of a product team has at least one manager that is committed to helping her reach her potential. You have built a reputation as a company where ordinary people who are competent and have good character can develop into a member of an extraordinary product team. Your hiring managers know that they are personally responsible for recruiting candidates, ensuring a strong interview and hiring process, and then onboarding these new people and ensuring they are successful. Strong staffing has become a core competency for your managers. You have an inspiring and compelling product vision that unites the various product teams from across the organization in a common purpose that is meaningful to your customers. This vision will likely take 3 to 10 years to fully realize, but you are consistently making progress on this vision, quarter by quarter. You have designed your team topology to optimize for empowerment and autonomy. The people on your product teams feel real ownership over a meaningful piece of the larger whole, and they understand how and when to work with their colleagues on other teams to collaborate on larger problems. You are executing on a product strategy that focuses on the most important goals and is powered by insights that come from your data and your ongoing interactions with customers. You know the most impactful problems that you need your teams to solve. These problems to solve are assigned to specific product teams with team objectives. Those teams then use product discovery techniques to figure out the tactics that can actually solve the problems, and product delivery builds that solution to bring it to market. Today, the relationship between the product teams and your business leaders and stakeholders is one of mutual respect and true collaboration. The product teams work closely with the stakeholders to come up with solutions that customers love, yet work for the business. Both the teams and the stakeholders understand and embrace this. Most important, the product teams are empowered to come up with the best solution to the problems they’ve been asked to solve, and they are accountable to the results. The engineers are constantly looking to apply new technology in new ways to better solve customer problems. The designers are continuously working to provide the necessary user experience. The product managers take responsibility for the value and the viability of the solutions. The teams are inspired and proud to be working collaboratively with skilled colleagues on meaningful problems.

Content source: EMPOWERED by Marty Cagan

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