Brand growth is very exciting. It can also be scary. As you scale your business, it can feel like you’re fighting hard to keep pace with your own progress.
One of the best ways to handle this kind of growth is to build your product team. But then you face a new problem. How can you scale your team without sacrificing quality or profit? After all, you don’t want to end up with “too many cooks in the kitchen”. And you definitely don’t want to expand your team beyond what your budget can handle.
So, how can you overcome these problems and expand successfully? In this post, we’ll look at eight tried-and-true strategies for scaling a product team. But first, let’s get into the background information.
Why do you need to scale your product team?
There are many reasons for scaling a product team. Typically, it’s necessary because your organization is experiencing rapid growth. Your product has become successful and achieved product-market fit. You’ve attracted more customers, and there’s a growing list of user needs.
Scaling your team is often a reaction to feedback and product insights. For example, if you’re using something like Canny’s customer feedback tool, you have some great insights about your users.
Feedback from your users might lead you to consider adding a new product line for example. To do that, you need a bigger product team – to make sure they can cope with the increased workload.
To continue growing, you have to make sure that your product can support its growing user base. And you have to do this without any drop-off in quality. It’s even more important if your company is experiencing hypergrowth. In that case, it’s vital to prevent your team from burning out.
Yes, there are dangers in scaling too fast. But you should begin the scaling process as early as you can. Otherwise, your team will have more work than they can handle, and this will seriously hamper their productivity.
What are the challenges of scaling a team?
So, we know why you want to scale your product team. But, what kind of challenges will you face while doing it? Well, the bigger a team gets, the harder it can be to keep everyone coordinated. Here are a few reasons for that.
Why? First, large product teams generally have to deal with many products and features. They will face competing priorities, handle large amounts of data, and use a range of disparate tools and systems. This can lead to disconnected processes and even to silos developing within a team.
- Range of opinions and expertise
Second, larger teams have a wider range of skills, specialties, experiences, and outlooks. On a product team, you’ll usually have UX designers, development teams, a product manager, and a QA engineer. There may also be a project manager, marketing strategists, and graphic designers.
This diversity is a good thing. But each of these team members will approach ideation and project management differently. It can be tricky to get everyone working as a close unit. It gets even more complicated as new team members join an existing team.
Plus, in large teams, unanimous decisions aren’t possible all the time. There may be arguments about the best course of action, or the best tool to use.
- Product quality
Big teams can struggle to come together around the key goal (to deliver a great product to your customers). In short, even with more people to handle the growing workload, product quality can take a hit.
- Conflicting priorities
Another issue is – expanding business has shifting requirements. The team setup that works for you now might not be the same in a year’s time. So you have to try to forecast future needs and build some flexibility into the team. That means hiring for quality, not only for quantity.
It can also be difficult to generate a shared sense of company culture in bigger teams. You have to ensure the team is cohesive, even with new hires or restructured roles. It’s vital to make the right decisions about how you communicate and collaborate.
Let’s talk about some strategies to combat these issues.
Eight strategies for scaling a product team
Scaling a product team isn’t a walk in the park. But, with the right strategies in place, you can make the expansion a lot smoother. As promised, here are eight ways to do that.
1. Clear team responsibilities
A strong team structure is key when it comes to organizational growth. Yes, rapid growth comes with a lot of risk for your business. But you can mitigate this (and preserve product quality) with good team management.
Everyone on the product team must be crystal clear on their own responsibilities. When people know exactly what’s expected of them, they can get the task done faster. There’s no need to ask extra questions or wait for the team leader to respond. And everyone has ownership and accountability for their tasks.
Team members also need to have a good awareness of what their colleagues are doing. This way, you can prevent any confusing overlaps and duplicated work. Plus, nobody will feel like someone’s stepping on their toes.
You don’t want two people working on the same product feature at the same time. Clarifying team responsibilities also helps you uncover any gaps in your operations. By dividing up tasks and roles, you’ll be able to see where key skills or personnel are missing. This gives you a better idea of who you need to hire to help your product team operate at its best.
TL;DR: help everyone get clear on their responsibilities. Make sure everyone knows who’s working on what and what the expectations are.
2. Streamlined resource allocation
If poorly managed, rapid growth can lead to a particular resource used up too fast on a single product area. This will delay production elsewhere while you wait for replenishments to arrive.
It can also cause different teams to fight over the same resources, which disrupts teamwork and may affect collaboration in the future.
So, how can you prevent these problems? It’s vital to streamline and optimize your resources. You need to ensure you always know exactly what’s available and who needs it. The right software can make all the difference to this task.
For example, you might use a cloud ERP platform to keep track of your resources. Enterprise resource planning tools usually have intelligent workflows and project management capabilities. This means that team members can also log in and check resource availability.
On top of this, you could consider using organization tools such as shared calendars. This will help you to manage access to resources. Tools like this make communication much easier and prevent any potential clash.
TL;DR: optimize your resources. There are many tools that can help.
3. Enhanced communication channels
It may sound obvious, but communication is crucial for rapid scaling of a product team. This is because it is crucial for good team relationships and smooth collaboration, as well as also being useful for delegating tasks and checking in on progress.
Regular communication helps to foster a sense of community. It also promotes transparency. Managers can share goals and updates with everyone involved, no matter how big the team is. That way, you’re keeping all colleagues in the loop.
As your product team grows, communication will become more complicated. You can resolve this by using enhanced communication channels. But which ones should you choose? Think about how your team works, and which technology would make the most sense for them.
Here’s an example. Stop relying on clunky email threads to discuss everything. Instead, you could introduce chat platforms such as Slack. Missive is a great email tool we use – we can have internal conversations just under an email thread.
These tools make communication clearer, easier, and more specific. They allow your team to fire quick questions and thoughts at one another. They also allow for unrelated discussions to break off into separate threads when necessary.
Make sure that you don’t overburden your team with too many check-ins. It’s easy to book your calendar with calls and feel busy. But it’ll get very hard to get any work done.
TL;DR: communication is important. But it’s all about balance. Overcommunication exists, and it’s unproductive.
4. Agile, Waterfall, and Scrum project management
There are a few approaches to project and product management. Agile and Waterfall methods are two of the most popular ones.
Neither is better than the other. But each works better for certain teams, projects, and timelines.
- Waterfall separates a project into ‘phases’ or ‘packets’ that flow one after the other.
- Agile is about developing projects in increments and on an ongoing basis. It allows many processes to run in parallel.
If you’re scaling a product team, Agile might be better. It’s fast and flexible, which is ideal when you’re scaling. It gives your developing team the scope to figure out how they work best.
Again, the right tools can be a massive help here. Good business management software can help you manage projects in an agile way.
It also reduces many of the risks associated with Agile. For example, with access to real-time data, you can spot problems early. This allows your team to pivot in a different direction before issues arise.
Another type of Agile methodology that you can use is called Scrum. This involves splitting the team up when it becomes unwieldy. Oversized teams are often inefficient and not great at communicating.
Scrum puts emphasis on regular feedback, continuous learning and adaptability.
When using Scrum methodology, you divide work and assign it to small teams (3-9 people). They meet regularly to discuss current tasks and any roadblocks. There’s also a Scrum master who helps to remove these obstacles to ensures team efficiency.
Scrum’s focused on collaboration and uncovering problems. This makes it a particularly useful methodology for complex projects and fast-paced environments.
TL;DR: when scaling a product team, Agile method is your best bet. If your Agile team gets hard to manage, turn to Scrum to split it up.
5. Constant learning and development
A time of growth is also a time of learning and development. It’s especially important to take note of lessons learned as your product team grows. For example, let’s say a lack of resources led to a delay. Was it because of poor communication or poor forecasting? Find out what happened, and improve your processes going forward.
Making changes isn’t always straightforward. It’s all too easy for product teams to become set in their ways. Once they find a formula or dynamic that works, it can be difficult to shake things up.
It’s important for leaders to explain why changes are necessary. You should also highlight the benefits of upskilling and training.
When you emphasize learning and development, your team becomes more open to new ideas, members, and processes. This makes product management and product development more flexible and dynamic. It also gives your team structure the flexibility to expand without issue.
TL;DR: promote a culture of constant learning. Take notes of lessons along your product development journey.
6. Quality assurance processes prioritization
When you only have a few people working on a product, quality assurance is easy. Everyone focuses only on the product and invests in it. But, as your team grows, this focus often gets diluted. Team members’ attention deflects to other products and processes. Or it gets diffused throughout a larger team. That makes it easy for quality to drop.
Plus, when your business is new, the product may not be particularly complex. But, as you start to add more features or new product lines, it’s harder to keep on top of quality. To make sure quality doesn’t suffer as your development team expands, you should focus on quality assurance (QA). Bring in QA processes and emphasize their importance at all times. It’s worth hiring QA specialists or upskilling existing team members for this task.
TL;DR: watch the quality. Invest in additional QAs if necessary.
7. Cross-functional integration
Your product processes must integrate well with your marketing platforms and strategies. If not, you’ll experience problems. This disconnect could have a big effect on both your product and customer experience.
For example, marketers will face problems while relaying customer needs to the product team. And the product team won’t be able to feed things such as product unique selling points (USPs) back to marketing. That’s not efficient for your team or your customers.
So, it’s important you break down these silos. You must make sure your product team is well-integrated with all other aspects of your business. The product team should be cross-functional. It must be able to communicate and collaborate across your organization.
We’ve covered integrating the teams themselves. It’s also crucial that you integrate your systems. Tools for communication, project management, and business intelligence should work together. It should be easy for your teams to access all the information they need from a single source of truth.
TL;DR: establish one source of truth among your tools.
8. Working side by side with automation
Automation is taking the world by storm, and it can work wonders for your expanding product team. The right automation can take a lot of the mundane pressures off your employees. This will allow them to concentrate on what they do best.
For example, resource management software can help you manage your inventory and resources. Similarly, business management software can produce automated workflows and onboarding schedules. This takes a major workload off your employees’ shoulders.
There’s almost no limit to the types of tasks you can automate if you have the right software. By boosting productivity, automation can bring a significant reduction in costs. That means there will be more cash for scaling your team and for ensuring the ongoing quality of your products.
TL;DR: embrace automation to save time.
A bigger product team doesn’t have to mean lower product quality
A large product team brings a variety of skills and perspectives to the table. Such teams are able to handle the increased workload that comes with rapid growth. But it’s harder to ensure smooth collaboration and to keep everyone aligned with the key goals.
To avoid problems with product quality, it’s vital that you make a plan for scaling your product team. That means:
- Hiring the right people
- Prioritizing the right tasks
- Choosing the right communication channels
- Integrating systems
- Identifying issues before they arise
Scaling a product team takes time, effort, and commitment. But with the right strategy, you can expand successfully without sacrificing product quality.
If you follow these eight strategies, growth will become exciting. You’ll also boost your product’s reputation in the process.