The teams that build these products have changed over the years, too. Leveraging a diverse range of skills, digital product teams must address business and customer demands with agility. Otherwise, their products may soon become obsolete.
Maintaining the right skills and functions on your digital product team can help you innovate faster, increase your products' value and grow your bottom line.
Here are our top tips for building a better digital product team, informed by nearly 20 years of experience of building our own.
Start with the essential roles
Every digital product team has to start somewhere. At a startup, there may be just a handful of people devoted to your product; at a large enterprise, there could be dedicated product teams for every feature of your platform. Either way, the following roles are essential for digital product success.
Product Managers ensure your product is successful and aligned with your company vision. In short, this person "owns" the product, calling on Stakeholders, Designers, Developers and Testers to solve problems and continuously innovate.
Your Product Manager should have the strategic fortitude to cut through all the clutter of cool, flashy — but empty — ideas and instead focus on the "why": Why should the product be changed? Why now? Why in this particular direction?
A strong Product Manager can guide your digital product team to greatness; a weak one can quickly burn through resources on misaligned or poor-fit innovations. Finding the right fit for this role should be one of your top priorities when building a digital product team.
Project Managers are the unsung heroes of digital product teams. They keep projects on track by balancing cross-functional deadlines, scoping and prioritizing work, handling budget concerns and more. With a great Project Manager in charge of these granular details, the rest of your team can stay focused on what they do best — whether that's designing better user experiences or building airtight code.
While the majority of product innovation happens behind the scenes, the end result — your users' experiences — is what matters most. UX/UI Designers craft these experiences, owning the look, flow, accessibility and ease of use of your product.
UI/UX Designers are experts in empathy; they think like a customer, optimize product experiences and create compelling user interfaces that keep customers coming back for more. This role can make or break your digital product. For example, your application could be as reliable, secure and scalable as possible — but if the UX is poor, your customers could be driven to competitors within the first few minutes of downloading your app.
Developers are the backbone of any digital product; they translate all of the strategic work from the folks above into actual code, bringing your best ideas to life. While the divide between Full-Stack vs. Front- and Back-end Development persists, what unites all great developers is their commitment to best practices, quality and consistency, and their thorough understanding of technology platforms.
With the right Developers on your team, you can reduce product downtime, bolster your security strategy and build code that easily scales alongside your organization.
Finally, your QA Engineers provide peace of mind that your product is secure, reliable, scalable and error-free. As the final checkpoint before new code in pushed, your QA Engineers must be detail-oriented, thorough and efficient. They'll be the ones to flag any code errors, run tests, give Developers feedback and more.
Essential roles: key takeaways
Improving a a physical product can take months or years; improving a digital product can take just minutes. With so much emphasis on speed, it's crucial that your team has the essential functions to work together quickly and effectively. Poor project management, buggy code or half-baked strategic decisions can quickly derail your digital product, sending ripple effects across your entire business.
Beyond these essential roles, remember to leverage automation and collaboration to truly empower your team. At Zemoga, we've embraced both agile methodologies and DevOps principles to help us handle workloads, prioritize concerns, automate repetitive tasks and reduce human error.
Bring in diverse perspectives
Although your digital product team should encompass the roles above, they shouldn't be the only ones informing your product decisions. If necessary, there are a diverse range of perspectives that can enhance your digital product team:
- Customers - It's always important to listen to what your customers really want, and, if possible, gather feedback from early adopters to make sure the product will be successful.
- Marketing Teams - Marketing teams should work with Product Managers to understand the customers' needs and define marketing campaigns that will eventually support the sales process.
- Sales Teams - Your sales team should be experts on the product and its benefits, getting full visibility into new and existing product features.
- Operations - Operations must understand the processes and nuances of your product so they can support your internal teams and your customers if issues arise.
Ultimately, it is the Product Manager's responsibility to collaborate with other team leaders to guarantee that the product takes into account all Stakeholders' interests and needs. These key players can help answer questions like:
- Are we measuring engagement and user flows?
- Are we following up on leads and customer feedback?
- Did we provide enough channels for our users to speak their minds about the product?
- Are we being honest about the current product state, including its flaws and improvement opportunities?
- Are we addressing any of this within the release plan?
Enhance your soft skills
Beyond being able to write code or design user interfaces, your digital product team will need a number of soft skills to work and innovate effectively. In our experience, the following soft skills are essential:
- Effective communication - Breaking down silos and fostering honest dialogue between teams leads to better ideas.
- Teamwork and Collaboration - With so many key Stakeholders involved, digital product teams must be experts at working within a group, collaborating with different personalities and reaching a shared consensus.
- Problem Solving - In shaping and enhancing your product, your digital product team should focus on finding, exploring and solving problems in everything they do.
- Adaptability - Sometimes launch dates get delayed or product innovations are poorly received by customers. Staying adaptable in these scenarios will help your team overcome unexpected obstacles and be proactive about addressing setbacks.
- Empathy - Understanding your customers and teammates requires empathy. Your digital product team should be able to put themselves in others' shoes to stay focused on what truly matters: adding value.
Provide strong leadership
While not often directly involved in product development, organizational leaders have significant influence over their products' success. Leadership sets the tone, vision and objectives for both how their digital product team works together and what they will produce.
Some of the ways leaders can enable their digital product teams include:
- Defining the vision and the OKRs of the project
- Defining the legal and operational requirements
- Defining the roadmap of the project
- Defining the team structure and project methodology
- Managing change
- Providing feedback
- Motivating the team
- Actively listen to the team
- Helping the team with issues and blockers
Better teams, better products
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into crafting a digital product team. From essential roles and technical abilities to soft skills and leadership support, a strong team draws upon a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and stakeholders to bring great ideas to life.
Building this type of team internally can take months or even years — but partnering with a digital product development team like Zemoga can help you realize this value immediately.
At Zemoga, we've been building our digital product team for almost 20 years. Along the way, we've learned that integrated, agile, collaborative teams do the best work. We partner with leading organizations across numerous industries to build strategic, cutting-edge digital products.
To learn more about how we bring digital products to market, check out our case study with PlayStation. If you're ready to get started on your next digital product project with Zemoga, reach out to us today