Building a World-Class Product Organization
Make no mistake about it, software development is hard. The creation of a game-changer often requires sweat, tears and a myriad of iterations. This makes it almost certain that there’s no easy way around a typically complex process.
Especially in the context of a startup, where the failure rate is right around 90%, this becomes a big goal to reach— one requiring a substantial amount of time, money and human capital. Likewise, turning a startup into a world-class product organization that runs smoothly, efficiently and effectively becomes even more challenging.
We like to think of it this way— a world-class organization is one that builds world-class software. Simple enough, right? However, the only way to know if you have this type of organization is to validate it with exceptional software. And the only way to substantiate that you have world-class software is to set it loose in the marketplace.
So, what can a company do to begin setting themselves up as a proven world-class product organization?
Think About the “Why”
Especially when it comes to teams directly involved in the building of a product (think dev teams), truly conveying the business case behind why things are being created is key. However, this is an initiative that should be accomplished companywide. As a team, everyone is working together to reach big goals. As such, everyone needs to understand the value, the business problems being solved, and why the investment is being made to develop the software in the first place.
Understand Testing and Validation
Validate at every turn. This means taking the features you’re building into your software and independently testing them— putting them in front of real users that have experienced the problems your features are looking to solve, and getting feedback. Once you’ve gauged the reaction of real users, you can take their feedback and identify what can be done to better your efforts and the end-product.
Learn From Failure
Although many people don’t truly understand the power of a retro, creating and reviewing a post-mortem on every major effort— whether that means a sprint, after going live with specific features, or after a defined time period— is imperative to becoming better. By ensuring that this is part of your process, you’ll be able to learn from your wins, failures, and more, to get a comprehensive view of what has worked (and what hasn’t).
Focus On the Team
If you don’t do anything else, assembling a good team is paramount. Configuring a team for execution at high velocity means understanding the mission, so looking for skill sets that can truly help to make that happen is key. Search tirelessly for team members that are passionate, committed, self-motivated and can add to the DNA of the team. Find a mix of team members that can create a balance, foster healthy debate and competition, and that can help the entire team to rise together. Just as important, ensure that your team is naturally curious and that they have the resources to continually learn and improve with time. This is a great way of making sure every iteration of your software is better than the last.
As most leaders of successful organizations will tell you, one of the most important things to remember is to listen to the market. By keeping market need at the forefront of what you create and focusing on continually making your team the best around, you’ll be in a great position— one where you’re more likely to reach and surpass your goals.