The Government’s Information to Hiring Product Builders

The Executive's Guide to Hiring Product Developers

Guidelines for building a strong relationship between the executive team and the product development team.

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9, 2020

7 min read

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Whether you're building an app for your startup, a marketing website, or an advanced digital workflow system for businesses, the same guidelines apply to building a strong relationship between your leadership team and your product development team.

Software projects have a reputation for being expensive, taking up too much time, and consuming capital and resources before they are actually started and proven. In the ten years my company has been a product development team, we've seen successful structures and learned many best practices for managing the process.

Good communication is at the heart of the relationship between the product development team. We have found it extremely important to ensure that senior management stakeholders and development team are aligned and understand the needs and constraints on both sides of the equation. Everyone needs to be very clear about what exactly is being delivered.

The most important thing as a senior executive on a software development team is to remember that you are not on one side and the developers on the other, it really has to be a collaboration. Good software guides, through the correct use of some key management tools, give directions, align, and actively emerge.

Over the years my company has developed a variety of systems and tools that enable us to work effectively with our customer stakeholders. Because we've been asked to do more advice than just development work, we've found that they are universally applicable to all types of leadership-development team relationships. Here are the guiding principles of these systems and tools as elements of action:

Before starting the process, make sure you understand:

  • Your budget for your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is the first iteration of your product that you'll get into the hands of testers, so you don't have to break the bank on that first round. All you need is a product that delivers the core value, just enough features to attract customers and validate the usefulness of your product to those customers. This doesn't have to be the most perfect version and can easily be deployed in a closed beta.

    It's important to understand that you are paying your product development team, whether in-house or outsourced, for the time. The more features, integrations, APIs, etc. there are, the more expensive the project becomes.

  • Typically, depending on the complexity, we recommend aiming for MVP costs between $ 50,000 and $ 300,000 for most customers. In almost all cases, this should give you the first working version of your product. So if you are being charged by an outside product development team outside of this range, or you have a budget of over $ 500,000 for your MVP, check carefully why and whether it is really necessary, just to provide the most important information to spend.

  • Your timeline. Make sure you know when you need the product ready. A realistic time goal is important to hold everyone accountable. If you need a finished product in a month, very few product development teams can produce something successful in that period of time, unless it's a very simple website. Remember, you want to put an MVP in the hands of the test users first. Determine when that should be. From there, you can develop important milestones that you want to achieve beforehand and important milestones that you want to achieve afterwards.

Related: 3 Strategies for Optimizing Innovative Product Development

When interviewing developers, be it an external team or an internal one, make sure that:

  • Ask for references. Yes, seeing customer work and reviews on a website is important, but remember that any developer you hire will only share the best of the best when it comes to completed work and reviews.

    Ask that potential developer for references – plural. Schedule an in-depth conversation with these references. Ask about the whole development process because you want to find people who can start from a concept and build something polished and scalable. Various skills are required throughout the life cycle of an early stage product. So you want someone who can handle the ambiguity of early concepts and the attention to detail that is required for a high quality product. A good question, of course, is always, "Would you hire her again?" Listen carefully as they answer this question and you can usually tell by their tone if something is wrong.

  • Ask about their agile process. Developers and definitely development teams (if you hire externally) should have a well-established agile process in place that they have previously used with successful results. Make sure they can give you a full overview of this process.

    Also, ask how well they are following this process. Often times, developers and product development teams will talk a lot about their agile process on their website, in interviews, or in published thought leaders, but how well they stick to that process is a whole different ball game.

    In the interview process, ask questions such as, “How did you handle and adjust to changing demands on a previous project?” You should then be able to guide you through your process. If this example is from one of their references, that's even better.

  • Ask them how they work with design. The user experience will immediately affect or affect the success of your product. Hence, design has to be an extremely important part of the process. Every good developer knows that.

    When hiring a product development team, make sure you understand the people who are responsible for the design and that both designers and developers have experience working together. One of the main reasons software projects fail is that design and development are not aligned.

Related Topics: How To Build An App When You Cannot Code (A Step-by-Step Guide)

If you've hired a product development team, make sure that you and the team both:

  • Understand the vision. This seems obvious, but it is possibly the hardest way to communicate. It's very easy to envision your dreams in your head, but sharing them with a team for development is a whole different challenge. Because of this, a well-written vision letter is a great tool to start your product development project. We tend to give our clients our short worksheet as homework before starting a project. This worksheet contains questions such as:

    • What are the goals of this product?
    • Who will use it? Who is the ideal target group?
    • Which functions are a must and which functions are good to have?
    • What are the top priorities of the product?
  • A short vision document serves as a blueprint for a project. It can evolve over the course of this project, but is a good place to start. From there, you and the product development team can review the order together, ask questions, edit and add as needed. Once complete, make sure this document is shared with everyone on the project so they are all on the same page, and review it regularly to ensure alignment

There are so many good product developers and development teams. Regardless of whether you are hiring internally or externally, I'm sure you will find the right solution, but remember that you can't be too thorough throughout the hiring process. It can be very difficult to switch teams during product development.

And most importantly, while building a product is hard work, have a good time with it! Positive energy for collaboration is the main reason for good results. So make sure you work with people who like you.