This week I had a blast attending London Product Club where I listened to product professionals share their real world stories. A common challenge involved how to manage the logistics of continuous lean product discovery to maximise learnings and drive high value cost effective delivery. A few folks described their home grown approach which I recognised as being close to dual track.
By encouraging best practice product management dual track strategic objectives include:
- Reduce development cost to achieve desired outcome.
- Stop developing features that add no value.
- Improve user traction.
- Deliver bigger value.
Dual track is not new, it has been around for a few years and is used by many successful product teams. The technique coordinates two parallel, tightly coupled, work streams managed as two teams. Both teams focus on the same product, one team cares about product discovery and definition (discovery track) while the other build releasable software (delivery track).
The delivery track is a typical cross functional agile team. The discovery track is a team that represent the “product triad” i.e. business, design and technology. The discovery track has its own backlog and the delivery track has its own backlog. The output from the discovery track is validation and learnings which creates the backlog for the delivery track.
The process is not as linear as it may sound. Ideally the learnings from continuous delivery in the delivery track feedback into the discovery track resulting in a harmonious relationship between the two work streams.
Agile relies on the product owner being able to define stories and prioritise. The product track supports the agile process by providing workflow for the product manager to experiment, learn and adapt, leading to validated user stories. When implemented well the discovery track follows a lean process focusing on what to build without getting involved in how to build it.
A concern that dual track sometimes attracts is “This feels like big design upfront”. Dual track is not a step towards the old days instead, it prevents mini waterfall and sustains the agile process. The product track clarifies product management responsibilities by providing transparency and accountability. Dual Track encourages best practice product management.
Implementing dual track needs care, there are numerous pitfalls to cause disaster, but that feels like a whole new blog post.