A recent challenge for me has been to eloquently espouse the benefits of product teams over project teams. Here are my thoughts for your perusal, feedback and a request for your thoughts and help too.
We shall define as such:
Product teams: Long lived teams structured around a product or products
Project teams: Short term team created to complete a piece of work.
Pros of Product teams:
Product knowledge – Product knowledge is retained within the team making it easier to make changes, resolve problems in the future.
Ownership – The team has ownership of a problem and are less likely to cut corners as they will be the ones fixing it and having to help support this product.
Velocity – We can expect an upturn in velocity as hopefully the team stays stable, meaning less disruption from Forming, Storming and Norming. Maybe with long lived product teams we need to be aware of Dorming though! See the lesser known fifth model of team dynamics.
Architecture – Conway’s law tells us that organisations are designed to create systems which reflect there structure. By structuring ourselves around products we will create more independent modular systems helping to reduce complexity and increase the velocity of feature delivery.
Morale – Team morale tends to be higher as the team see their product being used in production and get feedback on their work. Happy people do more right….
Agility – Able to pivot onto the highest value item quickly, because the budget is fixed and the team is usually working closely with an empowered product owner the team can more easily pivot onto the highest value item. Ultimately getting more business value and pounds back for each pound spent. True agility, responding to change.
Long term – Mark Schwarz in his book The Art of Business Value gives us a great review of the problem of business value but unfortunately not a solution. Business value can be defined as from Wikipedia as informal term that includes all forms of value that determine the health and well-being of the firm in the long run. Product teams facilitate more focus on the longer term health of the product and ultimately the business using ownership.
Less arbitrary deadlines – Less arbitrary deadlines which when questioned around time value propositions .
More empiricism – The product team that stays together gets more chances to inspect and adapt there process. With a stable team moving to distinct but similar pieces of work we could expect estimation to improve based on previous evidence.
Dev Ops – You cannot fully embrace a DevOps approach and realise all the benefits without first being a product team
Cons of Product teams:
- Requires a shift from short to longer term thinking
- The ownership element may mean the team are inclined to gold plate and may cause friction against a lean product delivery argument.
- Less able to micro-manage! Traditional managers may feel like they are lacking control
- Organisational structure change required, change is hard.
- Faith in and empowered Product Owners required
The idea that by using change portfolio or programme boards to optimise pounds spent across a department or company gives you better return on your investment is one of positive intent the key problem with this idea i believe is it results in short term-ism. Although the intent is positive that view of short term bang for buck which i believe is actually for the reasons above an anti-pattern over longer term health of the business as implied in the definition of business value.
When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor E. Frankl
Writing this has been a useful tool for me to crystalise the benefits of product teams for me. The challenge I have now is to improve myself and my influence techniques to persuade and cajole people of the benefits of product teams.
To talk about the benefits of product teams and empowered product owners the logical argument, to point to the industry success stories real life examples, to use analogy and story to allow people to relate it to their reality.