Full Stack Product
At Joyous the product team also looks after our customers. And some of our product managers are also designers. We call this approach full stack product.
Using this approach we combine nine roles from product, design and customer care into one person.
We didn't set out with the intention of running this way, it simply evolved over time. Our first product people also had good design skills. So product and design has been part of the same role from the start.
Over time we noticed that having other people take care of our customers wasn't working well. So, we decided to experiment with product looking after customers.
If you think about it, the skills that product managers have are ideal for working with customers. They are experts in the current product, and they know what's coming. They are collaborative and organised. They are comfortable presenting to an audience. And, they prioritise work and set product direction.
We thought it might be more efficient, and result in better outcomes for customers. So, we decided to give full stack product a go.
In the same way we have Unified Engineering, so too do we have Unified Product.
For us this means:
- We share ownership of the product, rather than divide it into parts.
- We have a shared understanding of the product, and where it's headed.
- We have a shared understanding of our customers, and how they use our product.
- We have a focus on keeping the product simple.
- We have a shared set of tools, standards and practices.
This extends across customer care, product management and design.
Stretching our capabilities
Figure 5 Roles combined in full stack product
It is rare to encounter a product person with all the skills and experience to be full stack. It can take six months to a year for someone to stretch across most of the stack.
One person started out focused on product management. Over the next six months they stretched their design capabilities. After that they stretched into customer care.
People will need the time and space to stretch. They will also need support, and mentoring.
A shared set of tools, standards and practices is essential to make this work.
We often have one person lead something out. They will codify it and make it as efficient as possible. Then others will follow from the same shared starting point.
After that it will keep evolving, but someone leading helps us get there faster.
How to scale full stack product
Hiring people with the right potential is important. Try and hire people with experience in at least two of the disciplines.
Even more important, is someone's willingness to be full stack.
We currently have four people who are full stack or stretching.
Figure 6 Stretching our product team
We also have a growing customer base. So, we intend to hire product specialists soon. Their focus will be on customer care.
They will still be part of our product team and have a strong influence on product direction. While this is a deviation from our principle on broad capabilities over specialists, it is necessary.
Our full stack product folks will still continue to care for customers. They will not become specialists in the other direction as a result. This is important as having some full stack and some specialists will allow us to scale.
Benefits of full stack product
Here are some reasons why we like this approach:
- Better outcomes for customers. When product people look after customers, they develop empathy for them. They also understand the challenges customers are trying to solve with our product first hand.
- Faster outcomes for customers. When product people cover the entire stack it becomes more efficient. This may sound counter intuitive, but for us it‚Äôs true.
- Less room for misunderstandings. There is no longer a pass the parcel effect across the disciplines. Reducing the likelihood that something gets misinterpreted between the customer and product.
- Productization of customer process. The relationship and process around the product is more likely to become part of the product. This is critical to our success. We want to scale our customers, without also having to scale our (people) organisation.