6 Tips to Improve Product Delivery in an Agile Team Setup
As product managers of tech startups, it is usually our responsibility to execute product strategy and ensure that agreed deliverables are pushed out on time to production for our users to use.
How then do we implement cost effective solutions to make our product delivery process more efficient and scalable?
- Implement Product Demo Review
To increase team accountability, implement at least a once a week product demo review with the whole team or company
In my current team, I have instituted a new process called the app demo review where key developers would demo to the whole team the current progress of the week including bug fixes and feature developments.
In this sense, the whole team including the QAs and the other developers would know what are the features that are already available for testing or determine what are still the missing features/API that are still pending for development at a glance.
If in case there are any clarifications about certain features or certain product flow, the product manager is there to clarify issues on the spot instead of addressing them at a later stage, with the whole team benefiting and gaining clarity about the expected behavior/process flow.
The app demo review can be done in a span of 30 minutes to 1 hour, is very efficient, can get teams aligned very quickly, and does not cost a lot in terms of resources to implement.
2. Push back, Discern, Bill and then Prioritize
One key challenge of being in a product role is receiving numerous feedback about product features and product customizations from both internal and external stakeholders.
The most challenging is receiving feedback/feature requests from clients who pay the bills, but the features may not necessarily be applicable to the majority of your end users. In short, you are doing customization work specifically for that client.
Before you immediately agree to the development of the specific feature, figure out what the specific problem the client is trying to solve. Is it to address users not being able to receive SMS/email? Is it to address usability issue? Is it only a feature that is only applicable to that specific client?
Once you have figured out the problem, try to suggest solutions (present at least 2–3 alternative solutions) that are minimally disruptive to the majority of your end users and present those options to the specific stakeholder.
Once you and the stakeholder have agreed to a more viable solution, start by translating those business requirements into technical requirements, estimate the cost and the time required to deliver on the feature requests, and align back to the stakeholder.
As it is still custom work (i.e. assuming that it is not really an issue for majority of your users), it would be prudent to charge the client for the specific feature as it would involve additional manpower cost in terms of resources, time spent, and a shift in development priorities.
Once billed, you can then start prioritizing your backlog to include the new request taking extra care to phase out development backlog, so as not to fully consume the full development backlog with custom work.
3. Involve your Developers Always!
When developing features or even when trying to solve user issues, it is important to get the opinion of the developers that you are working with especially for non-tech product managers.
Strong developers can offer unique perspectives and solutions, and help assess whether proposed solutions/feature are 1) feasible and 2) cost effective (in terms of resources). They most likely would also propose a different solution that are more technically viable, and less development work in solving a specific issue.
This principle also applies when scoping out new features or feature requests from stakeholders.
4. Sell & Re-Use Existing Functionalities/APIs
This is particularly true especially for teams selling white labelled solutions. As much as possible, when designing solutions for your clients, steer the clients towards solutions that have already been developed instead of selling new, custom features to clients.
Selling and re-using existing features lowers development cost, expedites product delivery, and consequently improves relationship with clients in the long run.
If in case there are client requirements that are totally new, collaborate with commercial/sales in offering alternative solutions to clients that are less disruptive, more technically feasible and still work within the budget of the client.
5. Involve yourself in QA work
As a product manager, it is part of our job to ensure that anything we deploy to production is thoroughly tested and as much as possible to guarantee no major breaking bugs upon deployment.
This is not to say that there should be zero trust with your QAs — definitely not. This is just to assuage you, and boost your confidence when deploying as you can ensure stakeholders that you have personally tested the product before handing off to your users.
There is no need to do deep dive in QA work, but make sure at least to: 1) do an end-to-end test of the product 2) ensure that major functionalities (these would depend on a case to case basis) are working 3) ensure that data integrity is intact, and there is data consistency (this is important as usually checking for data consistency is usually missed/glazed over in favor of checking the functionalities which, of course, is also important)
6. Make the Process Work for You, Not the Other Way Around
Remember that processes are there to support the teams, put accountability, and put structure in organizations.
I believe, however, that people should not be slaves to the processes especially when the processes put in place are no longer working, and the team’s productivity is suffering.
People should carefully discern which processes are still useful/applicable to them and to the team, and adapt themselves accordingly to improved processes or eliminate processes that no longer work for the team/company.
That is how you keep development agile and scalable in the long run.
P.S. Feel free to send your own tips for product delivery improvements!