Product Trio in a Remote World

Is your company maintaining a good balance among the “Product Trio”? Design helps plan and joins early for discovery in key customer projects? Developers often show their work to clients? A tech lead regularly sits in on customer calls? There is always room for improvement. But these are good things.

However, as a company grows and adapts to the remote world, teams can fragment, and this way of working will not just happen naturally. Slowly, a designer will find a meeting was held without them. Slowly, a developer deemed too busy will get insulated from key product decisions.

In the old way, each person was tasked with their bit of work — dev doing the coding, design drawing boxes, and PMs figuring out what to build.

As a result:

  • Bugs creep in because Devs don’t understand the feature they are building, they don’t understand the data they are putting in; QA doesn’t understand what they are testing
  • Designer misses out on creative input from development and wastes time capturing and passing on customer feedback the developer wasn’t there to hear
  • Design lacks context bc they were not on the call where such as such was discussed; design spins their wheels on work that is not adequately scoped or feels frustrated bc it’s unclear why the thing they are working on is important — they overcompensate by focusing on minutiae they do have control over
  • PM prematurely converges on a solution, bringing a “requirement” to design, at which point design has to “take a step back”. This also happens between Sales and the PM.

And I think the biggest impact is trust and a sense of agency.

In contrast, in a healthy Product Trio (PM-Design-Dev) you have:

  • Collaboration, not hand-off
  • Starting together, ending together
  • Shared mission, shared knowledge (i.e. connection to customer)

In the modern way, it’s less that design creates UIs and developers code and PMs talk to customers. It’s that everyone has the opportunity to apply their own lens to all aspects of the project.

Design, Dev, and PM all talk to customers and they each ask different questions, notice different details. Developers have the opportunity to be creative, to suggest more feasible solutions that still meet customer needs. PMs are more confident in decisions made by the team, there are fewer surprises, less pushback.

One thing to consider is the impact of remote work culture on this. In an office, it’s easier to tell that conversations are happening without you, because you see them. It’s easier to overhear things that are of interest, easier to notice the whiteboard discussion and chime in, easier to invite someone bc you are walking past them (not that office culture was perfect either). I just think in a remote world, it’s even more important to keep communication in public channels, to help people discover the topics they are interested, to avoid gatekeeping or sheltering people from information, to at minimum keep people in the loop that something happened.

How has your company adapted to growth in this remote-friendly world?

Resources from Teresa Tores of Product Talk:

What Is a Prroduct Trio?

Collaborative Decision-Making in a Product Trio

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Designer & Strategist

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Vlad Malik

Vlad Malik

Designer & Strategist

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