“Build bridges with departments” — The Product team

Sign saying “Brückenpassage” on a wall

In a previous post, I shared the three years analysis of my tasks. Re-checking that post, there are some aspects that extra clarifications could help or inspire other Product people.

The parts of interest are the collaboration with other departments and what a product person can contribute. A smaller aspect of the collaboration is also covered in this post on Cross-departmental communication as a product, written almost a year ago.

This time I wanted to share some more details and ideas for cultivating collaboration with each department. I’ll be sharing more specific examples and questions for the product and each department to answer — encouraging collaboration.

Product team to Product team

Let’s start with the obvious/circular relation first: product to product. This is an internal collaboration. If left unnoticed, or uncatered it will stagnate. So it’s important to feed and cultivate it.

Let’s start with the obvious items around alignment over the same goals and measuring the progress (OKRs). Followed up with exercises on competition analysis, research, and exploration shared across the product team. Rounding up with sessions on product strategy, journey mapping, and feature usage.

If you are at a point where you want more, here are a few questions and ideas to share among your product peers:

  • What are some complementary skills we have? Can we coach/mentor each other?
  • Can we read some books on our craft and present them?
  • Is there any shoot for the moon idea that you want to share?
A wooden bridge in a forest

Product and Design teams

Depending on the teams' structure, Design could be a part of the Product team or not. In both cases, people from these teams need a strong collaboration to create successful features and products.

This collaboration includes tasks in and around the full cycle of feature development, starting early on with user research, usability testing, designs, and collaboration during development. Post-release work includes usage monitoring (quantitative and qualitative). All the above tasks are mainly in the Design territory, yet a Product Manager needs to be at least informed of the work done.

Going past that, some questions that can help cultivate a deeper collaboration are:

  • How can we be more proactive in identifying what people in our product/service want? Can we conduct exploratory calls? What do we want to learn?
  • How can we be more proactive on upcoming work? Is there a way for us to start working earlier so that we don’t block implementation?
  • What is the vision for our service/product? What areas are currently problematic and we can improve together?

Product and Engineering teams

These two teams work hand in hand on developing and delivering new features and products. This is a strong symbiotic relationship, that requires feeding and cultivation too. In a weak relationship, the focus stays on the delivery dates, close monitoring, written-in-stone specs, and a very articulate “how”.

Making the connection stronger between Product and Engineering, mean that both teams are empowered! To achieve that you’ll need coordination on upcoming work and open problems that need addressing, the constant repetition of the “why” on everything in-development, and bringing in feedback and metrics on anything that is released.

Product and Engineering teams should start ideation, brainstorming, and design of new work together. Engineering has deep knowledge of how things work, and the team’s contribution is fundamental to anything that needs implementation! Sharing open problems and ideating together is of great importance. For more read about the way a product trio works.

Some questions for building stronger relationships among these teams are:

  • What are we planning in six months as Product and as Engineering? Are there any overlaps and co-planning that we should do?
  • Is there any technical challenge that could benefit from Product input? Is there a business/product challenge or request that could benefit from Engineering input?

Product and Customer Success teams

The Customer Success team is “the face” of a product. Product and Customer Success working together will improve the empathy with the customer and build a stronger foundation for sharing that information with other teams, like Engineering, Design, and Marketing.

Product and Customer Success working together includes sharing of input from customers, communicating roadmap status and updates — along with the “why” for each decision — assistance in customer support, and identifying gaps in the documentation.

The true power of this relationship lies deeper when you try to answer questions like these:

  • What can we do together to fight churn? What are the knowledge and ideas we both bring to the table?
  • What can we do together to create a smoother onboarding for people using our platform? What can the app do on its own? What parts need design and actual meetings & calls for onboarding?
  • What can we do together to build stronger relationships with existing customers?
  • Essentially, what are items that Product and Customer Success overlap and the service we provide will benefit from our teams' collaboration?

Product and Marketing teams

Product and Marketing teams can work together to define a smoother entry point to the service. In this relationship, the Product team is mostly on the giving end, feeding information in and around the value, competitive benefits, and affected personas for each increment released.

Some of the specific tasks include designing and sharing parts of a go-to-market plan, developing and reviewing marketing collaterals (videos, blog posts, landing pages), and participating in webinars and conference presentations.

For a deeper relationship with the marketing team you could consider these questions:

  • Is there a way to start onboarding way before signup? Can we design a more holistic journey together?
  • Are there personas and behaviors in the service/product that could help in representing clearer what we offer on the marketing site and marketing material? What is the key persona for the industry?
  • Do I (Product) have any valuable insights that have a marketing value? How can we define our company as a leader in our industry?
Side view of St. Angelo bridge in Rome

Product and Sales team

Product and Sales teams working together means that you strengthen your company’s acquisition funnel. Keeping the Sales team constantly educated on product updates enhance their arsenal when meeting and talking with prospects.

Some of the tasks to work on are coordination on upcoming releases, discussions on competition analysis, and deep-diving into a feature. Some of the ways we tackle these in Transifex include, a presentation for a competitor or a very technical feature with an analysis of the benefits offered.

To build a stronger relationship you could consider these questions:

  • Do I (Product) have specific knowledge of an industry field our service is doing well? Can the sales team benefit from reaching out to that industry? Are there any data points I could provide to build a more solid case?
  • Are there any tricky questions asked by prospects that could use some Product help in answering? Could the product participate in any prospect calls?

I hope you found this post useful. If you collaborate in more ways with other departments please share so that we all advance our skills!

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Mike Giannakopoulos

Mike Giannakopoulos

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Thinker, solver, experiences aficionado. Remotee worker, product Manager for hackthebox.eu. Always strive for self-improvement and balance.