Communicating clearly, and often

Communicate clearly and often about your product to all of TTS, your stakeholders, users, and the public. This will help you refine and strengthen your strategy while alleviating the overhead of having to constantly respond to questions.

As soon as you can, work with the team to create a high level summary document outlining the vision of your product, a description of your users, stakeholders and partners, the desired impact or outcome, and any strategy to get there. Talk about any risks you’ve identified and how you plan to mitigate them and include high level metrics for short term, mid term and long term goals. Make this document easily accessible and keep it up to date at all times so that anyone interested in the status of your work can get a quick summary. Link to more detailed research, architectural diagrams, product roadmap or other team documentation so that viewers can dig deeper if they are interested.

18F also has a practice of sending regular “ship reports” to the team and the client, detailing the work that has been completed to date. We post these reports in #the-shipping-news. The structure of these reports can vary, but they will usually include some description of the work done in a given sprint. Make sure that your ship reports are understandable to your partners—transparency alone is not enough. Use plain language, not industry jargon, and consider including visuals.

In addition to this, it’s helpful to write release notes and make them available to users of your product to help scale rollout of any new features or bug fixes. Release notes are common in private industry and they are similarly useful in the government context. We do have access to certain pre-approved tools we can use to help in this regard.

We are also fortunate to have an outreach team that can help you communicate publicly via blog posts or tweets to an existing and enthusiastic audience. Blog posts tend to be more general than ship reports and are used to talk about what we do in the context of our mission. These posts are frequently used to help new clients understand the value we can provide to them or the lessons we have learned over time. As product leaders, your role at TTS gives you a unique perspective on the value we are delivering, so blogging about your work is crucial to sustaining what we do as an organization. For questions on how to blog, consult the 18F Handbook Outreach section.

We also have a practice of announcing milestones, releases, or other news in our Twitter feed. 18F has an active following of people interested in our work, and they love to hear about it. To suggest a tweet about your work, post a request in #outreach.