3 min read

TPP #002: Product Engineering Teams

TPP #002: Product Engineering Teams


This week I want to talk about product engineering teams: 

  • The problem with traditional software teams. 
  • Practices and values of product engineers. 
  • What it takes to make the switch on your team. 

Traditional software teams are just order takers

It’s easy to get stuck working at the feature factory. 

  • Disconnected from the customer. 
  • Ignoring opportunities to add value. 
  • Just doing whatever the next ticket says. 
  • Unaware of how their work creates business outcomes. 

That means their time is spent doing whatever work they’re given. 

It sucks working at the Feature Factory.

But not everyone works at the feature factory

Product Engineering teams take a different approach. 

These are truly cross-functional teams. That means they have everyone needed to deliver on business objectives. And they get the organization’s buy-in through repeatedly demonstrating success. 

Product engineering teams are able to: 

  • Get working software into customers’ hands. 
  • Analyze and measure their business impact. 
  • Prioritize and decide what to do next. 

Ultimately, they take ownership of the outcomes they – do or don’t – produce. 

What’s important to Product Engineering teams

You can understand the priorities of any team by examining what they value. 

Product Engineering teams value: 

  • Solutions over technology – They acknowledge that technology is important. But they mostly see it as a way to deliver value. 
  • Outcomes over effort – They don’t measure themselves by how much work they’ve done. Instead they measure their impact on business objectives. 
  • Action over reaction – They get involved early. Because they provide value beyond just writing code. 
  • Customers over proxies – They don’t rely on customer proxies. Instead they get to know and regularly talk to their customers. 
  • Experiments over certainty – They know they can’t tell the future. So, they work in a way that reduces the risk of being wrong. 

A happy Product Engineer at work

Becoming a Product Engineering team

Changing how you work is hard. 

Most organizations are resistant to change. And most teams lack the willingness to get outside of their comfort zone. Which means becoming a Product Engineering team is harder than it looks. 

But if you’re courageous, try adopting one of these practices: 

  • Regularly talk to customers about how and why they use the product. 
  • Handle support calls and talk to frustrated customers about problems with the product. 
  • Test new ideas with short-lived experiments that have clearly defined measures of success. 
  • Stop reporting on how much work you’ve accomplished and start reporting on which business outcomes you’ve improved. 

Product Engineering is the future

It doesn’t matter if you choose to adopt these values and practices. 

Eventually you’ll be made to. Because there is ever increasing competition to do more with less. But this desire for efficiency favors those who can maximize outcomes. And it’s not going to be pretty for those who plan on just working harder. Because those teams eventually burn out and get replaced. 

So, get a head start and dive into the deep-end of Product Engineering.