Product trio and risk mitigation: when three is definitely not a crowd
The 2020 pandemic and the changes that came with it have exposed something that was already imminent. Even before lockdown, people were already discussing the BANI world (CASCIO, 2020), an increasingly brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible world with even more unpredictable needs. In this context, it is imperative to recognize that a challenging scenario calls for a dynamic and creative approach that is unlikely to be achieved by just one person.
According to research on the future of big techs conducted by JP Morgan (2022), "opportunities for Big Tech companies in 2023 include cost-cutting measures and leaning into long-term growth drivers". In plain English, do more with fewer resources. Product managers must adopt an even more pioneering stance, looking less at trendy frameworks and investigating the business's and its customers' needs. However, this should not be a solitary task; collaboration can be the focal point for guiding their Discovery processes.
The product trio typically comprises a designer, a product manager, and a tech lead, a configuration encompassing technical feasibility, business relevance, and usability. Although talking about collaboration between three areas seems natural for the product's success, many product managers are swallowed by the demands of stakeholders and end up not doing their part in bringing their trio into the process. Thus, with little clarity on the "whys" of each project, the team's engagement may decline due to not seeing its relevance in the Discovery process.
We say if you’re just using your engineers to code, you’re only getting about half their value. The little secret in product is that engineers are typically the best single source of innovation; yet, they are not even invited to the party in this process.
Marty Cagan, Author - Inspired Book
The collaboration between this trio can mitigate the risks identified early in the Discovery and avoid costs at a more advanced stage. Firstly, exchanging information between these professionals allows potential problems and solutions to be identified more quickly. This happens because each one has a different view of the product and can contribute with ideas that together form a more complete and accurate picture. In addition, collaboration between these professionals also helps to ensure that the final product meets the user's needs and is technically feasible.
To lead a transformation into something that will solve someone's problem, it is necessary to move away from the attitude that makes many companies "feature factories." Without comprehensive involvement from teams from the very proposition of a product opportunity, wrong decisions and delays in development will be common. Torres (2021) proposes a Discovery culture based on the trio's collaborative structure and exposes how important it is for everyone to work aligned towards a goal.
When a product trio is tasked with delivering an outcome, the business is clearly communicating what value the team can create for the business. And when the business leaves it up to the team to explore the best outputs that might drive that outcome, they are giving the team the latitude they need to create value for the customer.
Teresa Torres, Author - Continuous Discovery Habits book
Therefore, it is clear that for making a product Discovery that leads to better team performance – and also delivers more value to the user – it is necessary to remain distant from the rigid silo format and start sharing more understanding and responsibilities. Although the product manager has the role of orchestrating the processes, the trio should share the responsibility of delivering the best product to the customer, which meets all technical, usability, and business requirements.