When and how do product managers in your company collaborate with engineers, UX and the business? Is products first interaction with engineering or UX in iteration / sprint planning? If so they have fallen for the classic product manager mistake I call "the lone ranger".

According to Marty Cagen product management is the epicentre between "Value, Feasibility and Design". Martin Eriksson translates this to being the middle point of "Business, Engineering and UX". These three disciplines are referred to as the 'triad'.

The triad collaborating is crucial to product success. The triad does not have to be three people it may be more or fewer but it must represent the three functions with confidence. 

Product managers I have coached typically fail to collaborate early enough. This results in a failure to identify core assumptions for validation early on in product discovery. Overlooking assumptions wastes a lot of time and in some cases encourages product to accept a less valuable proposition - sometimes to save face but often because there is already strong emotional investment. 

The triad does not need to be present for all of a product managers effort, the collaboration starts at the very beginning and typically increases as more is learned about the problem and value proposition there are increased returns for greater triad engagement. 

Product Managers must collaborate to capture great ideas, learn about the problem and identify the right features to build. A lot of great material has been authored about product talking with the customer and 'getting out of the office', but less focus is given to encourage product to talk with the triad. 

In his book User Story Mapping, Jeff Patton proposes using the triad to break up "product" user stories which are normally quite large into smaller bite sized stories. While I agree with Jeff, some organisations fulfil this through a kick off process at the time of writing user stories and estimation without any previous collaboration. This is not enough! A lot of product work should already have taken place. The triad collaboration should start at the beginning of product discover and strategy.

I have experienced product managers challenge early triad collaboration as encouraging big upfront design, suggesting it is not agile. If executed poorly it can be.

Typically it plays out that its takes 2 to 3 weeks for product to validate, prototype, improve and learn what needs to be built and 4 to 6 weeks for a delivery team to build it right. Obviously this is a rough guide.

Who is in your triad? When does it form? How often do you collaborate?

AuthorDave Martin