In the past few KBPUpdates I explored various product ownership models that exist in the wild. Starting with this issue, I wanted to explore what it looks like to be a product person working on an internal product.
This issue takes a look at getting started on an internal product. I share the steps that I typically follow and suggest a few other good reads that you may find helpful as well. An important aspect of that start that people don’t often talk about is establishing a good rapport with the person whose ultimately asking for the internal product.
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Kent J. McDonald
How do you start work on an internal product?
The Director of Sales Operations just asked you to implement a new system to support the sales bonus program. She has asked you to take over day to day responsibility for implementing the system, but wants to be kept up to date and wants to be involved in any decisions that may impact key aspects of the sales bonus program. Welcome to the world of product ownership for internal products.
Who”Owns” Internal Products?
One thing I didn’t mention in my post about working on internal products, is what position the person doing the product ownership is in. That’s because…well…it depends. Shelley Icocona took a look at What should you do when your title isn’t product manager but you need to manage the product? The post focuses on external facing products, but there are some good ideas in here for internal products as well. The only downside is she didn’t mention business analysts or user experience designers.
What to do when you get everyone together
One of the starting steps is to get the key people together to establish a shared understanding about the product. Cindy Chang (@CindyJChang), Product Designer at Intercom shared her tips for running a successful design workshop (though this advice can be applied to workshops in general, including those intended to build shared understanding).
Charters are useless, chartering is indispensable
With apologies to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the discussions that occur when you get people together can be just as, if not more valuable than the artifacts that result from those discussions. The activity of project chartering applies to internal products as well as projects (simply replace “project” with “product” and everything still pretty much makes sense.)
All I can do in my… particle state, you see, is encourage and suggest. Encourage and suggest. And suggest…
Like Hactar, product people generally have to rely on influence to get internal products to reality. Heidi K. Gardner wrote on HBR.org about how to get people to collaborate when you don’t control their salary. She picked a new research setting where the reward system is highly constrained — and so is the career ladder. By investigating how a leader can boost cross-silo collaboration without changing either the compensation or the promotion system, maybe we could find lessons that translate to companies where people also face limits on their ability to change organizational structures.