You're wrangling a firehose of new feature ideas, customer feedback, analytics data, and bug reports. Everything from grand new initiatives to sales copy changes. You're doing your best to turn this into something manageable for your product and engineering teams.
You probably don't yet have a VP of Engineering or Product. You can't (yet) justify hiring them, but that doesn't mean you can't build a low-friction pipeline that takes product ideas from inception through execution to delivery, evaluation, and iteration.
This can make or break your company. The faster and more reliably you can get the right ideas into production, the sooner you can validate those ideas and iterate on them. The more quickly you can iterate on your ideas, the better you can delight your customers, boost your NPS, go upmarket, and do all those other things you know you need to be doing.
Right now--RIGHT NOW--you can start smoothing out this process. Your team is more than capable. With the right leadership (that's you!) and the right process (that's me!), they will build the right things.
Our product team had reached a size where the classic early startup "hustle" (i.e. a couple people huddled around a computer writing as much code as possible) was becoming less practical and effective.
Ben has completely revamped the way that our team plans, scopes, and builds product features. Because he's done so in a way that jives so well with the way our team likes to work, the new habits and processes he's implemented have stuck.
He didn't simply take a boilerplate process and apply it. He was careful to listen to our team's specific requirements, preferences, idiosyncrasies, and appetite for change and turn that into bite-sized, custom optimizations that made the most sense for us. Ben's work is already worth the investment and will continue to pay dividends far into the future.
Like so many engineers, I got into software because of the way one person could make so much impact with just their smarts and some hard work.
Over time I figured out that I could multiply that impact by coordinating the work of other smart, hard-working people, and then getting out of their way.
Over the last decade, I've been an engineer, manager, and mentor on many different teams. I've seen that the way a team communicates can be the difference between success and failure of any project. Just like engineering, getting your communications foundation correct in the early stages will keep you nimble and save you from having to undo bad decisions later.
I don't want your team to depend on me. I want them to depend on each other.
I'm glad you asked ;)
A typical engagement takes three months and follows these phases.
Roadmap - If you don't know where you're going, you'll never know when you get there. I give you a process for identifying, prioritizing, and measuring the short and long term objectives that should be on your roadmap. The roadmap is meant to be a living document that keeps you ruthlessly focused on current objectives, while keeping the future flexible to account for pivots or other market developments.
Interface between Product and Engineering - Whether it's just you and an outsourced developer or you have a product manager and an engineering team, there can be tons of friction and confusion when translating product ideas into engineering work. With a few straightforward steps, I create a shared vocabulary and routines between these two departments so that everyone's work ultimately serves the roadmap.
Retrospectives - Your company is growing and you need to be able to grow with it. The way to do that is to periodically inspect and adapt the way you are doing things. I'll facilitate a full team meeting every other week where we celebrate and reinforce the wins and systematically identify places for improvement.
Predictive Model for Milestones - Over time, your engineering and product teams will hit a steady cadence of feature delivery. At this point it will be possible to predict milestones with a reasonable level of confidence. (pssst... investors love this sort of thing)
Structured Offboarding - Like I said, I don't want your team to depend on me for the long haul. Every single process that I introduce will be handed off in a controlled way. Not as a stack of documents that never get looked at again, but as a set of practiced routines that can (and should) evolve over time with your team.
What we got from Ben was more than just expertise: it was expertise plus organized thinking, clear communication, good humor, and an obviously habitual willingness to listen before advising. We recommend him without reservation, and look forward to the next time we work with him ourselves.