Balancing Product Management and Technology Engineering Goals

In product-driven organizations, the engineering team tasked with developing the product often has a different reporting structure than the product team. Engineers fall into a vertical structure reporting to a technology leader.  However, they are assigned to develop products envisioned by a product leader who relies heavily on customer feedback, market demand, and industry trends to shape and define their vision for the final product. With their laser-sharp focus on solving customer problems, these product leaders set their product goals and typically align them with their leadership’s Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)

While engineers are asked to focus on product development and work toward meeting the goals and OKRs laid out by product leadership, they may have additional targets defined by their respective technology leaders. These technology-focused objectives could be addressing upgrades needed for achieving scalability, availability, and performance. In addition, there could be benchmarks to improve the maintenance and quality of software products or pay down technical debt.

Engineering teams are tasked with competing leadership goals and priorities

In a desperate attempt to satisfy both ‘verticals’, the engineering team finds itself pulled by these two priorities – should they focus solely on new product development to meet the product leadership OKRs or should they concentrate on addressing technology initiatives? If they devote their capacity to product-related OKRs — as these usually take the priority in product-driven organizations — technology upgrades are delayed and the effort of technical debt reduction to improve software quality is deprioritized. However, the constant pressure to meet both priorities is not taken off engineers’ shoulders and the team gets caught in the crossfire of competing leadership goals and priorities. As product and technology leadership contend to have their viewpoints, business cases and priorities heard, the inevitable result is confusion, frustration and work overload for the engineering team.

Collaboration between Product and Engineering leadership is critical for success

How can product-driven organizations address both the need to deliver solutions to their customers and keep software performing at a high level without driving their engineering teams to madness? Collaboration and communication between product and engineering leadership is essential. While it is not feasible to have a single set of goals for both, it is possible to set aside agendas and develop engineering team OKRs that reflect both priorities. Collaborative discussions can happen prior to finalizing product-focused goals  where input from engineers is considered by the product manager.. The engineering leader milestones that have a direct or indirect impact on the product can be blended within product-related OKRs. Subsequent team discussions can be held to arrive at a consensus where the entire team agrees and commits to the blended OKRs drafted for the period. 

A balanced team workload addresses the need to deliver products that are technically sound

The need and desire to deliver better products that are both valuable to customers and technically sound is constant and the engineering talent and capacity to build both is finite. Closer collaboration between product and technology leadership is critical to ensure both sets of objectives are considered, addressed and properly prioritized. This creates a balanced team workload with attention given to product enhancement and customer problem solving while allowing teams to keep software scalable, responsive and dependable. Your organization’s engineers will thank you for the clarity and collaboration.

What is your experience with balancing product and technical OKRs? Has your organization found a successful approach to address collaboration between product and technical leadership? How are your engineering teams balancing the needs to deliver product solutions to customers while keeping software technically sound? Please share your thoughts!

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Tech Solutions for Rapid Growth

The Situation

When we first engaged with Crossroads Church, they were struggling to stay agile amidst their growth and needed a partner with a growth mindset that could help through their agile transformation. Teams were struggling with autonomy and measurement. Our partnership with Crossroads has flourished throughout the years. We provide the best consultants to meet their Product Ownership, Scrum Master, Design, Development, and Quality Assurance needs across 50+ Products. Crossroads has been undergoing a rapid agile transformation, and their needs have shifted to include strategic planning for products, preparing teams for discovery, restructuring the team dynamic, scaling processes to be right-sized, and building an empowering culture. As they have grown, their website needed to scale to be able to support new locations with customizations, similar to a franchise model. We also helped them with their Kids’ Club application that needed an improved customer experience for improved kid safety, parent notification, and faster check-in and checkout process.

The Solution

We work closely with Crossroads to align resources and skills to meet very fluid goals. Our consultants collaborate with employees and other consultants across a diverse product portfolio, supported by autonomous teams. The Crossroads culture, similar to our culture at Ingage, embraces a growth mindset which enables our consultants to explore, train, and develop into new roles. Our consultants flex to the need, pursuing professional development, able to quickly adapt to new roles. We recently transitioned an automation consultant to a developer role. And, we’ve had others flex to need floating between product owner, scrum master, and agile coach roles. Our team has created value by optimizing existing products, defining new products in discovery, and retiring products.We helped modernize and add more engaging content for their website while improving team culture along the way. We’ve also analyzed and recommended products to purchase to replace outdated payment and custom travel solutions.
For Kids’ Club, we helped streamline the check-in process, which led to increased safety measures, improved parent notifications, and functionality that alerts staff when a new room needs to be opened. This creates an experience for parents that delivers peace-of-mind, helps employees provide organized care, and collects more accurate data. No available product could deliver all the complex requirements needed for Kids’ Club. But, now the code is freely available on GitHub.

The Impact

We’re helping Crossroads care for up to 10,000 kids each weekend. Because the updates to event check-in allow for faster check-in and more personalized data capture, events can start more quickly and community engagement has increased. This not only serves Crossroads’ Ministry but also Crossroads’ volunteers and families. Additionally, the engaging content we’re developing is helping individuals process their personal stories. Along the way, we’ve helped to modernize their technology stack and architecture.With all of these changes, team culture and morale have been impacted. We’ve embraced growth and agile mindsets leveraging SCRUM and design thinking, to create a culture and set of teams that can adapt to meet client needs.