Earning the “Right to Build” Products & Features

Whether you are a Product Manager, Developer, UX or another member of a product team, you should always be able to answer a simple question. Why? Why are you working on this particular project/feature/product and why is it more important than anything else?

Regardless of the methodology, agile or lean or whatever, we are all striving to deliver the most value to our customers in the most efficient way possible. In addition, we are looking to become more scalable and more predictable. Interestingly, in the days of enterprise desktop software, we measured ourselves by the number of new features in the “What’s New” press release. More was better. So, how do you remain agile and predictable and deliver a bucket of features? Quickly.

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With the change in platforms and business models the thinking is changing. SaaS and subscription are both changing the way customers use and interact with software. More importantly, the biggest change is their expectations. They expect that things will work and that they will work great. If its broken, customers expect that it will be fixed soon, really soon.
What does this mean for product teams? It means that prioritization, data analytics, intimate customer relationships are critical. We really need to know why we are building what we are building and be as confident as possible that it matters. We need to be accountable.

All of this leads to a philosophy I like to call the “Right to Build”. Teams need to be totally bought in on their plan and should be willing to sell or pitch their viewpoint both to customers and internal stakeholders. It’s more of a mental shift than anything else. It’s about checks and balances. We need to consistently ask ourselves whether we are working on the right things and are we working on them in the right way. We, as product people, owe it to our customers and our stakeholders to earn the right to build. Thoughts?!

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