At Lockstep, we believe that engineers with a product-mindset are a key ingredient to building a successful product. As we embarked on our journey to create a new category of products on Lockstep’s connected accounting network, we learned that providing value to customers is more than a task to complete, but is a mindset that’s required across the organisation from the top-down.

Why is product-mindset required?

In a traditional company, this “perceived value” or, “the what and why” is well understood by business and product teams, while engineering teams focus on “the how and when.” This separation helps in establishing clear ownership but doesn’t necessarily ensure that the value of what we are building for our customers is clearly understood by engineering. This gap in understanding results in major leakages between product and engineering, which ultimately translates to the value not reaching the end-user in its defined state. Enabling product curiosity in engineering helps the teams focus on end-user goals instead of product or engineering objectives.

How we enable product-mindset at Lockstep?

By keeping engineering close to customer feedback, we ensure that customer feedback and suggestions are continuously relayed to engineering teams. Notes from customer sessions are made accessible to all relevant teams. This serves the dual purpose of showcasing their impact and developing empathy with end-users.

By giving a clear definition of value or success, our product teams are encouraged to effectively communicate the definition of value and success. Well-defined success criteria set clear objectives for engineering, enabling them to make appropriate design choices.

By discussing success measurement criteria and analytics goals. At Lockstep, measuring the success of a feature is a shared responsibility of product and engineering. Analytics to measure success is not an engineering afterthought, but an important functional requirement covered in feature specifications. Our engineering team track success, just like product teams do. While collaboration between design and product is obvious, we additionally facilitate close collaboration between design and engineering.

With a well-defined feedback loop between design, product, and engineering, we set all three teams up for success. This avoids design re-work and shared solutioning often results in a more simplified design.

The benefits we see from this mindset

  • 🤩Engineers develop an intuition for product – While feature specifications are quite detailed, there can always be specifications which are implied or not very explicitly stated. Knowing what success looks like for end-users, engineers can connect the dots where feature specifications fall short. For a lean product team, this understanding goes a long way.
  • 🏃🏼‍♀️Well understood minimum viable criteria ensures faster delivery of value – Focusing on the value, engineering teams can right-size their work to deliver value as soon as possible. The distinction between “must-have” and “good-to-have” allows them to prioritize and ship value faster.
  • 😎Engineers can take decisions on backlog – Understanding the product needs, engineering teams can prioritize backlog with little or no help from product.
  • 🥳Engineers gain domain understanding and get better at communicating with non-technical folks –By understanding customer feedback and setting up metrics for products’ success, engineers end up collaborating with different stakeholders. This exchange opens a communication channel where engineers understand problems and explain solutions non-technically.
  • 💁🏼‍♀️Engineering trade-offs are better informed and more relevant – Engineering is often balancing short term needs with long term scalability challenges. Knowledge of product direction informs them sufficiently so they can strike this balance better.
  • 🤑Engineers suggest smart solutions to product problems – Product and design teams make assumptions on technical feasibility which is better understood by engineers. A feedback loop with engineering enables smart and easy wins to be discussed promptly and implemented faster.

A product-mindset approach is culture value and not a skill, which ultimately results in a better product and increases end-user retention. Defining value across the organisation goes a long way in alignment across product and engineering. By enabling engineers with product knowledge ensures the value reaches end-users faster and better.

Learn more about Lockstep’s vision of Connected Accounting.

By Aditi Bhatnagar, Lockstep