Startups are naturally organised for cross functional collaboration, the size of a startup makes it easy for people with different roles to collaborate and prioritise tasks based on what’s most important for the user and most important for the company at any given time. The challenge is to try and achieve the same level of collaboration in larger organisations where you have multiple product teams and departments and in Schibsteds case multiple media brands spanning different countries. How do you organise product teams to ensure departments, teams and the brand stakeholders are aligned and working in the most efficient manner possible on shared goals.
I have previously written about how how the organizational planning methodology, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can help connect company, team, and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move together in the right direction. It creates a clarity of purpose among all departments, teams, and individuals in an organisation. Having shared objectives and KPIs are only part of the solution though, an organisational structure can either help or hinder the collaboration between the different product teams and departments.
A typical product team consists of the following key roles
- Product manager
- UX lead
- Tech lead
- Data analyst
- Developers/Designers (Front end, backend, testers, app developers, graphic designers, researchers etc)
An organisation with multiple product teams should ensure collaboration between the different teams and roles in each team. Ensuring that each team is aligned and dependencies within teams are defined and prioritised. For example, product leads across teams need to coordinate potential dependencies and prioritise tasks based on the overall company strategy. UX leads need to coordinate design tasks and ensure that each design element confirms to the various brand manuals.
We have used some time to identify key stakeholders within VG and define their expectations and how they can contribute to product development. Their involvement in product development varies depending on the feature, product or project being worked on.
They are involved in
- defining the quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Helping to form the key business, editorial and user strategies.
- Steering committees for specific product or feature development. For example the user payment department are key stakeholders in defining the business model requirements, for example; how campaigns or the paywall is implemented.
- Product development, domain experts are actively involved in requirements gathering, defining the user stories and hypotheses the product team develops tests for.
- Stakeholder interviews. Product teams carry out interviews with key stakeholders in relation to a particular product feature or release.
A stakeholder can be defined as a person who has a vested interest in the products or technologies developed by the product teams. She shares valuable domain knowledge gives the product teams input that helps define the product strategy and prioritisation of tasks. And if needed support the team or allocate resources from their team to help during the development. She takes the stakeholder vision and strategy and aligns it with the product vision and strategy. Always focusing on maximum customer and business value.
The stakeholders communicate key information and priorities from the commercial, editorial, marketing and support departments with the product team. Company and departmental OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) help to align objectives and priorities throughout the organisation ensuring that all departments are working towards the shared company strategy.
Stakeholders within media organizations can be represented by the following functional areas and their interest in product development.
Commercial – User payment stakeholder (freemium business model)
Interested in how paid content is fronted and integrated with free content, tracking of subscribers and which content converts to paying subscribers. Also interested in when and why users actively or passively churn. She is responsible for aligning the commercial strategy with the product strategy. She is responsible for the bundling and pricing strategy of the locally branded products.
Commercial – Display advertisements stakeholder
Interested in how advertisements perform and are displayed, development of new ad formats, use of personal information to deliver more targeted advertisements and tracking of ad campaigns.
Customer Support stakeholder
Interested in the prioritisation of bug fixes, notice of service disruptions and feature request prioritisation. Customer support is dependent on technical help from developers in product teams to investigate issues that go beyond first line support.
Interested in aligning branding and promotional initiatives with the product strategy and roadmap. Interested in promoting new product features or new product releases.
Interested in how the editorial content is fronted, presented and consumed. Interested in the development of features which will enrich the user’s experience and improve the user’s knowledge and understanding of content.
Stakeholder management becomes more complicated when product teams need to develop products that must meet the requirements of multiple brands within an organisation. Each brand having their own set of stakeholders with their own opinion about what the product teams should prioritise. The requirements of Stakeholders with different roles across brands need to be aligned and requirements categorised into features multiple brands are interested in and features only applicable to single brands.
Product teams need to take the user, business and editorial requirements into consideration when developing products. To do so they need to rely on the expertise of key stakeholders within organizations to help define the product requirements and contribute with their domain expertise.