Seven Tips for Product Managers on How to Cooperate with a Development Team
A few articles ago, we speculated on the different ways an IT client can motivate a remote team. This time, we decided to look into the question deeper and wondered: what is the most effective way for product managers to work with a development team? Which character traits should they display? How should product managers distribute roles in a team?
We thought that the best way to get answers to these questions would be to ask those who are at the frontier, working with product managers on the client side: Zoolatech product owners. To do so, we compiled a survey with more than 15 questions and asked ten Zoolatech product owners to complete it.
Now that we have the results, we can picture the ideal product manager on the client side and the ideal communication between the product owner and the developers.
So, here are our seven tips for collaborating with a development team that every product manager should follow.
1. Be Passionate, Systematic and Honest
Our team agrees that outstanding product managers are passionate about their product, exercise a systematic approach, and build a trusting relationship with the development team.
Product owners are expected to drive the team and ignite them with passion about the product. If you don’t, team members will feel deflated and are unlikely to work to their full potential. How can you spark them?
- Tell them who your product is for
- Share your product vision and strategy
- Figure out high-level requirements and pass them on to the team in advance
Being honest and sharing any difficulties your business may be having will help you to create a better relationship with your team. Be systematic in your communication and share regular doses of inspiration to keep everyone feeling motivated.
2. Develop Your Business Background
It’s widely believed that product management is the intersection between business, technology, and UX.
However, our survey revealed that having an extensive business background generates greater benefits for the product and team management. 70% of Zoolatech product owners believe that a strong business background is more important for product managers. They say that with a business perspective at the forefront, it’s easier to give a more holistic approach and better prioritize features.
The right product is the product that solves the right problem. When a product manager has a strong business background, then he/she knows what problems are usually faced in this domain (by customers or by businesses). Knowing the audience as well as business nuances helps to focus only on what is really important.
Daria Iarchevska, Product Owner, Zoolatech
3. Juggle Different Cooperation Styles
Some product managers may take a strict, supervisory approach, some are Scrum Masters, and others might leave the team to their own devices. The best scenario is in between. When asked which cooperation style product owners prefer product managers to have, 40% voted for self-organization and 50% favored a mix between strict management and self-organization.
Our product owners seem to agree that managed self-organization helps the team members feel like co-authors of the product. It’s also a sign of trust and a healthy relationship.
This win-win type of relationship supposes that product managers announce their expectations, while the team decides on the best ways to reach the set goals. This has nothing to do with telling people how to do their jobs and assigning tasks. On the contrary, the product manager should display trust in the professional expertise of the development team.
Remember: Product managers manage a product, not a team.
4. Collaborate with the Development Team at All Stages of Product Development
The reality is that remote development teams are usually not involved in the pre-development stages like user research, product roadmap, and strategy development. The very nature of remote teams dictates this situation.
However, it’s virtually impossible to develop the right solution without understanding the product context. For this reason, it’s okay to involve the remote team in the product discovery work, or in creating the release and sprint goals. This will not only generate better technical decisions, but it will also ease the workload: understanding the bigger picture allows team members to be more self-sufficient.
To prove the point, 70% of Zoolatech product owners expressed their interest in participating in other—non-typical—development processes.
My key advice to product managers would be to treat a remote team as a part of their team. It’s really important to share your culture and product development strategy with them. It’s also crucial to communicate the short-term and long-term objectives, upon which the development team has a direct influence.
Olena Yatsenko, Product Owner, Zoolatech
5. Keep in Touch and Provide Timely Feedback
This point appears to be a constant headache in the development process. Busy as they are, product managers often let important notifications pass them by. However, in a Scrum context, it’s vital to keep in touch with the team and provide timely feedback.
- Agree on the acceptable degree of communication frequency at the onboarding stage
- Save dates for sprint planning and sprint reviews
- Choose the preferred means of communication
Our years of experience have taught us that team chats work nicely for quick and productive communication between the development team and the product owner.
These small yet effective steps will lead to greater understanding in communication between the development team and the client.
6. Explain Product Changes Through Data
Constantly changing product requirements is another troubling point for development teams.
It’s evident that product managers need to deal with lots of unexpected issues during the development process. If you find yourself having to make tough or unpopular decisions, you can lessen the tension in the team by using data to support your choices, or by clearly explaining your reasoning.
If the team understand where you are coming from, this will generate more reliable communication and enable them to provide the perfect solution.
7. Be the Part of the Team
By the end of our small research project, we discovered that product management is at the intersection of more than three disciplines. As well as business, technology, and UX, psychology has an important role to play.
The majority of Zoolatech team members agree that a product manager should be able to create a friendly atmosphere in the team, avoid unnecessary conflict, and recognize team achievements. These three points are even more critical than other development-related processes, like setting product goals or preparing documentation.
In summary, never underestimate the power of emotional intelligence and don’t forget to communicate regularly with your remote team. It could be a simple as sharing a meme with them that has been circling within your company; this kind of inclusion will foster a strong working relationship and help you to achieve great results.
We hope that these tips will help you cooperate better with your remote development team and build your product with pleasure.