We help our partners do Product by themselves

Product management is new to government, and it is critical to the success of our mission. Our partners must understand this and allot the necessary resources and time to ensure they can manage their products by themselves. So, when working with a partner agency, a big part of your job will be helping partners set up and sustain product teams and solid product development practices so that they can take over after we leave. A product that dies when we walk away is a failed product.

To enable long-term partner success, focus on the following:

  • Start product management coaching from day zero: Developing strong product management capacity with our partners can take some time. As early as possible, make sure the team understands the role of product managers in defining and prioritizing work, and measuring and communicating outcomes. Help the partner establish this role in-house, and do what you can to ensure that the entire team is empowered to execute on the vision and strategy. This TTS-internal Google folder has training and coaching resources that you can use with your partners.

  • Make sure partners know how to deliver continuously, and learn quickly: Partners need to learn how to measure, fail fast and learn the right lessons from these failures so that they can regularly deliver value to their users and stakeholders. To do this, they must have the right culture, process and infrastructure to enable continuous delivery of value to their constituents. Helping partners establish these necessary components and practice continuous delivery from the start of any engagement is crucial. Take a look at this blog post for ideas on how to set the stage for continuous delivery.

  • Encourage partners to own product communications from the start of the engagement: Partners must always be able to articulate a compelling vision and strategy for their product. They must also constantly show their team and stakeholders how the work they are doing is furthering the product goals. Help them get into the habit of making public their vision and strategy documents, sending ship reports, publishing release notes and blogging or tweeting (or otherwise tell their own product story) so that they are already doing this by the time the engagement ends.

  • Identify transition risks and work with others to mitigate them: Partners will need to handle the entire gamut of activities associated with product delivery. They need to understand and own their hosting situation, they need to pay for and manage any third party integrations, hire and work with vendors, ensure system security, support users of the system, do quality assurance testing and deliver product updates by themselves.

Conduct activities with partners to identify any gaps (skills, knowledge, processes, tooling, etc), as well as specific strategies to fill gaps and mitigate risks. You will want to plot these strategies in your roadmap.

By the time our engagement ends, we should be walking away from product teams that are already healthy and functional. What this looks like will be different for each engagement, but an 18F product manager will need to lead this effort and make sure it happens early and continuously.