As seasoned engineers and executives know, developing a technology product doesn’t begin and end with the product team. Creating a website, app, hardware or software product involves an intensive effort on the part of multiple departments within an organization, with the project manager or team at the helm. Even with years of experience, executives leading the creation, updates, scale or management of a technology product can endure dozens of scenarios that can delay the effort, and in some cases, significantly increase costs.
Below are a few personal lessons learned on the frontlines:
1. Put discovery as the focus first. It can be easy to assume that a project will go as planned, even with the estimate of issues or problems baked into project timeline. CEOs and executive team members may put the pressure on for hard dates and deliverables during initial discussions and scope of the project. But do not make any conclusions until you’ve taken a thorough assessment of every element you might be faced with. This can mean asking questions about priorities and trade off given constraints such as budget, time and resource availability. Find out all you can from every corner of the organization. Then, set your course.
2. Be clear on what’s possible. Once you’ve worked through the variables of the project, it’s time to get clear on what is and isn’t possible. This might sound like a ‘no brainer’ for most executives, but we’ve all felt pressure to set ambitious goals. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high in product development, providing that you’re honest about what is possible. Set realistic, attainable goals. This goes beyond what you think is possible for your team, to what is realistic for every department in the company which requires clear internal communications between teams. While you can’t speak for the leadership in marketing or business development, asking questions as noted above and factoring them into what is possible in terms of the product’s development can be important.
3. Identify and alert teams of anticipated delays immediately. Product development is a bit like a train in that whatever the engine does, the cars will ultimately do as well. Never take potential issues or red flags lightly — and cascade these issues or potential delays to the entire team immediately. It’s a good practice to stay true even when you’re not 100% sure something might go wrong. Measurable and frequent milestones are necessary along the way. Alerting the CEO or other leaders in the company of the potential issue doesn’t mean the process will be derailed, but rather adjusted. This will help everyone from all sides of the company to be more agile and prepared which keeps things running smoothly and on budget whether issues and delays arrive or not.
It’s also important to remember that great products come from great teams, and great teams are created by good leadership. Be prepared to ready and support your team. This is demonstrated through small and large gestures, from buying pizzas when everyone’s working late, to ensuring that you set the pace, professionalism and process by example.