Overseeing a young R&D team as a relatively non-technical founder is definitely challenging. We use Miro for the product roadmap which is a great tool and slack for communication, but it would be good to hear some tips for any tools, approaches that you find most effective in terms of managing product roadmaps in a cross-fucntional environment. My goal is to bring completely remote teams of design, marketing and R&D closer together to collaborate better on building the product (mobile app in our case).
Hey @Lukamac, good on you for taking on those challenges of managing R&D directly as a non-technical founder, while also being remote. Happy to share what I’ve experienced and seen from others - hopefully some of it can help!
For starters, Miro and Slack are obviously great tools. I personally haven’t actually heard of Miro being used for roadmapping, but that’s interesting, would be curious to hear how you’re using it. There was a great twitter thread by Lenny Rachitsky (ex-product @ Airbnb & author of large PM-focused newsletter) where he surveyed PMs to learn what tools they use / for product. For roadmapping, the common tools were Google Sheets, generic project/task management tools like Asana, Monday.com, Clickup, and product-specific ones, like Productboard. Here’s the link to the full thread and here’s a link to the survey results.
My guess is that tools a bit more structured / rigid than Miro would be better for roadmapping, but then again, not sure how you’re using it. Curious to hear
Tools aside, from everything I’ve experienced and seen in other product teams, process trumps tools everyday, and tools can’t fix a team with a broken process – rather they make it easier to adhere to a process that you’ve already defined.
When it comes to cross-functional collaboration, we’ve seen that having a clear process, where all stakeholders understand their role in the process is key (e.g. when they enter the picture, what they need to do, who they need to work with, etc.). Once that’s clear, then it becomes a question of where they are going to perform their part of the process, what resources they might need to refer to, and where they’d need to send their finished work – that’s when the tools enter the picture.
Every product team is different, but some of the key stages in the process that consistently reoccur across teams are:
- Adding feature ideas to a backlog (not fleshing them out – just leaving them as titles + short description or user stories)
- PM prioritizing those features (determining what’s relevant for the upcoming sprint, based on a variety of factors)
- PM discussing those features with a tech lead or someone else depending on the team’s configuration (the purpose being to understand more of the technical considerations, feedback, questions that still need to be answered, and deciding which features you want to continue pursuing for now) (in your case, sounds like you’re the team lead, so this might mean consulting directly with your devs)
- Answering those questions, iterating with the tech-lead or developers, fleshing it out, and transforming it into a first version of requirements (full PRD, inside of a Jira ticket, or other, depending on your team’s style)
- Iterating on that PRD until deciding it’s time to kick-off development. Having a kickoff meeting to make sure the team is aligned and make sure there are no blockers to getting started
- Development (PM being there to support, answer questions, and potentially manage the timeline / project depending on team configuration)
This is an over-simplification and the process varies a lot across teams. For example, design also enters the picture at a certain point – a lot of times, when they enter the picture depends on if the feature is more front-end heavy or not.
Anyways, this isn’t meant to be a cure-all, but just wanted to share my perspective in case it helps your situation at all. If you have any follow up questions, let me know or feel free to message me. Would love to hear if you do / have tried any of the things above or some others that I didn’t mention and to hear your thoughts on what’s worked vs. not. Good luck!!
Hey @geffen Thanks for some great insights and suggestions. We use Miro for product roadmapping because while other alternatives like spreadsheets and Jira are more process and task oriented, we found Miro to be the best in terms of looking at the big picture for feature development, it has a better user experience and offers a nice way to combine sticky notes and product reviews in one place. I think it depends on how you want to manage the process. I am more of a visionary rather than a process-oriented person and therefore Miro fits my style more from that perspective, however, we would definitely benefit from managing the internal development processes better. Since, you seem to have experience in this, I would appreciate your thoughts about delegating tasks and responsibilities inside the R&D team. We have a small team of 4 developers in the team so far. Do you reckon it’s better to pair the developers so that 2 of them work together on some features or having all of them doing development on their own?
@Lukamac it really depends on your personnel and your goals, so it’s hard to give a blanket statement Sounds like there might be a tradeoff here between speed and redundancy / quality