Empowered Product folks make tough decisions, quick!

I was overseeing a group of Product Owners in one of my previous roles and stumbled upon a newly designed feature which made little sense to me. I asked the Business Analyst who worked on the feature, questioning the requirements; here’s the response I got:

the customer wanted it this way!

When you are building customised products, the customer is usually in driving seat but the customer has no experience in developing products, we do — years and years of product design and development experience.

As part of the Product development teams, it is responsibility of the product folks to challenge the customer and build the right thing. They can not visualise the end user access of it, its integration possibilities, the scalability of it or its performance implications down the road — you do. That is why they have hired you — as an expert in product development to keep them on the right path considering present and future of the product.

Another one of the common problems I notice in Product organisations is this:

we will build what the SMEs tell us to

In typical Product organisations, building products for the wider market — product folks should be in driving seat. The subject matter experts are there to help you with the domain knowledge, not to tell you what to build. Again; they have not taken courses in Business Process Modelling Notation, Unified Modelling Language, Product Design & Development or spent years working in all kind of SDLCs from Waterfall to Agile. They are not experts in usability or API standards, neither do they have awareness of how end users are using applications as a trend. Yes, the SMEs know ins and outs of the subject matter, but you know ins and outs of a product life cycle and its development process.

You are aware of the product’s roadmap in the short and long term, you have an eye on the technical trends, you know about competitor products and you should know about other systems your product is going to interface with or currently interfaces with. That information and skillset puts you in a position to make those tough decisions.

Putting the burden of decision making on SMEs is a sign of weakness — of product folks not empowered or skilled enough to make tough decisions which not everyone agrees to, but will put the product in the right spot at the right time.

To borrow from Brandon Chu’s brilliant blog and paraphrasing it:

  • Get the right information to make decision (talk to SMEs, Customers, Internal teams…) BUT

Truthfully, you won’t always make the perfect decision. Mistakes are part of product development but delaying decision making for too long or ‘offshoring’ it outside product team can be costly. That’s why we develop MVPs.

Read my other blog…

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blogger, technologist, foodie, vagabond, avid reader, cricket-lover, and an activist focused on human rights and the case for the environment.

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