Before talking about how to create a product engineering culture, we need to align what Product Engineering is (for a software engineer) and mainly what culture is (or at least what I’m calling culture). Product Engineering is a process that places our user as the protagonist of the “product” we are developing and we seek to understand the points with the greatest friction to prioritize what needs to be done (not just what we want). Generally, product engineers are passionate about using technology to solve problems and know how to apply it to solve problems in the short, medium and long term, starting in a simple way (we can also call it MVP) and connecting with the long-term strategy.
Culture is the set of knowledge, customs, traditions and expressions transmitted from generation to generation by a group of people, the way these people face the world and interact with each other.
What is Product Engineering Culture
It’s an approach to developing high-quality, cost-effective products, involving best engineering practices, creativity and collaboration. This culture focuses on making products more profitable and successful in their lifetime. This includes using performance analysis, risk analysis, market research and design processes to create products that meet customer needs. It also encourages innovation, the pursuit of excellence and a long-term mindset. In order to ensure the success of the product, the culture encourages collaboration between the people involved in the process. For example, engineering people work closely with people in marketing, sales, etc., with the aim of developing a product to better meet customer needs. This collaboration is essential for the success of the product and to ensure that the product is evolving with the needs of the customers and not the
guesswork of the managers.
The product engineering culture also works with a broader scope of business perspectives. For example, we take into account the product maintenance and upgrade process, as well as the cost at which the product was produced and the return on investment. By using these resources to gain insight into how to improve product performance, product engineering professionals can create efficient and profitable solutions to any problem. The key aspect of a product engineering culture is the focus on collaboration and communication. This involves regular meetings and check-ins to ensure all team members are on the same page, as well as using tools and technologies to facilitate collaboration and communication (regardless of each team member’s location) – without a doubt. agile methodologies will help a lot and will ensure the recurrence of communication.
In summary, a product engineering culture is characterized by a focus on delivering high-quality products that satisfy customer needs, as well as a commitment to collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement. By fostering this type of culture, organizations can create a positive and productive work environment that allows for maximum innovation and success.
How to create a Product Engineering Culture?
Regardless of the culture you want or need to create it is an arduous, continuous process and takes time – culture will not be created overnight – when you get tired of talking about culture it will be the moment that people are starting to understand the first item of culture , this means that leadership must constantly invest a lot of time to talk about culture and train new “culture keepers”.
The key to successful culture creation is ongoing dialogue, involving people in the process and consistency in practice. I describe below how I have been building this culture at Buser:
- Develop software by collecting metrics from your users. It’s common to be anxious (hurried) to get a new product feature live, but don’t fall into the trap of putting the feature into production without first collecting useful metrics on the use of the new feature. Having metrics we can prioritize the evolution of the resource or even discontinue the resource.
- Always seek to know your user. The more you know your customer the better it is (have empathy), interviews, discoveries and etc are essential to connect with them – it is common for people who do not know the product not to like “discovery” because they have had experience with discovery that takes days and days , do not create prejudice with your bad experiences before studying about discovery.
- Know the data you are capturing. You must be the person who knows the most about the data you are capturing from your customer (even if it is a “simple” click on the XYZ button).
- Seek to use data as your guide. Being a “data drive” is not easy at all (especially for those who are starting out), so start using the data as a validator of your “feeling”*, but try to have reliable data, so you can leave feeling aside and truly use the data.
- Invest a lot of time in improving communication. Having clear and concise communication is not easy – the biggest problem for companies is communication gaps. If the whole team is not going to the same side, we will have a tug of war, wasting energy on unnecessary matters.
- Connect engineering people with the business. We will be better engineers when we can understand the company’s business. Stimulate and give your engineering team time to understand the business, if possible, encourage them to become users of the product you develop.
- Understand all costs involved. Have control of the cost that your product generates, so you can estimate how much the new feature will cost and understand if it is worth the investment. Example: the cost of the team is BRL 100,000/month, the new feature will add BRL 10,000/month, you need 10 months of billing (after the new feature goes live) to “recoup the investment”. I’m not saying not to “take risks” in the development of this resource, but to understand if there is no other resource that can have more ROI (return on investment).
- Be open to feedback. The best way to improve culture is by listening to the people who will experience it on a daily basis. Ask for their feedback on everything, encouraging collaboration and open dialogue – this will make people feel part of defining the culture, thus forming faithful gatekeepers.
- Develop and encourage leadership. Identify good leaders among your employees, encourage and train them to replicate a healthy culture.
- Create opportunities for collaboration. Create opportunities for people to work together on exciting projects – encouraging collaboration creates a productive and successful work environment.