The “product sense” pillar (version 1)

Part of a series on the seven pillars of a good Agile team

A product is a bundle of services. A team with product sense understands how the product fits into its environment. Team members can talk about who uses the product, why they use it, and how this product fits together with all the other products they use.

The team combines this external view with an internal one. They understand the pieces out of which the product is made. While they may specialize in one piece, they can speak sensibly of others, and they can describe the overarching principles or strategies or biases that shape the whole team’s work.

Just as there are no team members so buried in detail that they don’t see the big picture, there are none that don’t have a hand in the detail. For example, architects write code.

The team understands the history of the product, of its market, of its environment, and of their team. They know why things got to be the way they are.

Some evidence of product sense

  • People on the team can convincingly answer the question “why does this work the way it does?” You’ll know you’ve found a team with product sense when you see their answers making use of different sources of information—the outside and the inside, the big principles and the accidents of history.

  • The team can help direct the product’s growth because of their knowledge. For example, if a particular feature’s implementation cost is too high, they might suggest an alternative that gives most of the benefit for much less cost. Or they might suggest that the existing product makes particular kinds of features easy to support—maybe the product should grow in that direction?

  • People make decisions about design or testing collaboratively, because lots of people have the capacity to make useful suggestions.

  • Even changes that involve many parts of the product can be made in small, safe steps.

  • Team members would be good at customer support. If the team does second- or third-level support, most anyone on the team can handle most calls.

  • If bugs are reported, they’re easy to find. Bug isolation doesn’t depend on knowledge held only by Satish (who is on vacation).

    3 Responses to “The “product sense” pillar (version 1)”

    1. Exploration Through Example » Blog Archive » The Seven Pillars of an Agile Team: Introduction Says:

      […] Product sense […]

    2. Daily Links for Thursday, June 11th, 2009 Says:

      […] Exploration Through Example » Blog Archive » One pillar of an Agile team: product sense (version 1… […]

    3. Karine Sabatier » Blog Archive » Links w#24 Says:

      […] The “product-sense” pillar This article relates to another thing that I really like about the agile approach : keep the big picture in mind. If you don’t know where your work fits in the whole product, or how the product fits in the company strategy, then you’re doomed :) Tags : […]

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