Davide Vitiello – Focus vs Product Team Structures "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 23 January 2018 True Focus, Impact, Kpis, Metrics, Oslo, Product leadership, ProductTank, SoundCloud, Team Alignment, Team Leadership, Team Structure, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 388 At ProductTank Oslo, Davide Vitiello talks about balancing team structure with team focus at SoundCloud Product Management 1.552
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Davide Vitiello – Focus vs Product Team Structures

At the #MusicMonday edition of ProductTank OsloDavide Vitiello, then the director product – listener experience at SoundCloud, talked about his experiences on the topic of focus. For organizations, finite resources translate into need for focus – a challenge that frequently affects product managers. In addition to describing three key steps to achieve this, he outlined a few ongoing experiments with ways of working at SoundCloud.

The What and Why of Focus

Davide puts forward a simple definition of focus: “To do less activity in parallel and do all activities in the same direction.” There are three key reasons to stay focused.

  • Maximize impact
  • Ensure clarity of objectives while developing products
  • Enable delivering and moving to next steps in product development.

How to Focus

He outlines a three-step approach to enabling focused organizations.

1) Define the Mission

Designed to be simple and inspirational, the mission should be generic enough to allow room for creativity, yet strict enough to enable teams to focus

2) Define the Performance Metrics, aka KPIs

Aligned to the corporate objectives, the metrics of measurement should be actionable. They should be able to answer the basic question of “are we focusing on the right things?”. Here he talks about the ideas of A/B testing and reverse A/B testing.

3) Embed the Mission and KPI Within the Teams

Deploying these across the organizational teams, making them a part of daily routines and celebrating achievements is essential. Above all, the validity of the KPIs must be revisited periodically.

While explaining each of these three steps, Davide uses specific examples from the work at SoundCloud. Interesting to note were the iterations around defining and meeting KPIs – adopting lean principles to remain relevant to changing market needs and business environment.

He also spends some time explaining experiments in organizational structure to achieve better focus and the associated challenges. These challenges include lack of scalability, silo-ed development organizations, long lead times to market, specializations spreading too thin and lack of ownership.

Closing Observations

“Finite resources” is an undeniable truth in business that product managers come across constantly.  Focus is essential in order to deliver value to users and to capture value for the organization. Ensuring that the workforce is engaged and is aligned to the mission goes a long way towards delivering the best user experience and meeting business objectives.

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