February 27, 2019

The importance of collaboration

Luis Ouriach
Lead Designer

It may seem like an obvious statement given the current startup climate defining success with open road maps, fundraising milestones, and remote working, but as an industry we’re not sharing our work enough.

When was the last time your team ‘huddled’ to discuss your current work in progress, or to collaborate on a decision? Weekly status meetings are great for more formal discussions, but it’s often what happens in between these that can make or break a product feature’s success.

At Upgrade Pack, our busy product and tech teams insist on micro-catch ups. Whether it’s sharing the latest screenshots for our app on our Slack channel, or grabbing a whiteboard for five minutes to discuss a bottleneck in our build process, we’re confident that these spontaneous sessions are pushing us further away from Minimum Viable Product and more towards Minimum Beautiful Product.

Anticipating and planning for seemingly minor product details are what ensures a trusted, slick and reliable user experience. In our team this includes planning for scenarios like 'empty states' screens (such as a ‘no results ’ message or display) in order keep our users engaged, ensuring consistent styles across submission forms, or using a proper typographical hierarchy to instil a familiarity across the platform.

So, here are my top tips for balancing collaboration with the pace of startup life here at Upgrade Pack, as we prepare to launch our app this Spring.

1.   Keep everyone else in the loop

As well as impromptu whiteboard sessions, we organise a monthly ‘show and tell’, which isn’t limited to the product or tech teams. Does our VP of Commercial have some industry insights that’ll allow our UX designer to increase customer empathy? 30 minutes around the lunch desks with the wider team (burritos included) adds invaluable insight to our development and build process.

The show and tells also provide another knowledge sharing environment, where we can all develop our skills and gain broader understanding that helps us all become better at what we do. It’s paramount that we can help each other along.

2.   Sense-check with others

Have you been staring at your screen for five hours and still can’t quite work out why what you’re working on doesn’t feel ‘finished’. Then share it.

An insular attitude to work can only get us so far, and by asking our colleagues for a second opinion, we can often push our own progress in the right direction. Most of the time, we’re sure that the solution we’re fleshing out is the right one, but we need to validate it. Speaking with a colleague, more removed from the immediate task, will enable you to talk through your thought process. We all miss important points sometimes, and running through your ‘so far’ version and ideas with a colleague can help you identify any holes - or even discover the solution - during your discussion.

3.   Launch, and learn...

As a product team, we’ve got to be realistic – each stage must be wrapped up at some point. We can’t continue designing or building until we think we’ve found the right solution, we must be comfortable with a ‘90% done, launch and learn’ approach to what we’re working on.

This is a core value of ours here at Upgrade Pack. Sure, we’d love to be able to create ultimate perfection with our first go, but the beauty of the product process is that it allows for iterations.

In her recent blog, my colleague Jovita talked about how our user testing will continue, post Beta and beyond. It’s in our very method that we create incremental value.

4.   Realigning the future roadmap

We’ve launched our MVP. But did we miss an important blocker when planning out a certain feature? Or is something considerably easier than first anticipated? Amazing. We can rejig our future roadmap accordingly.

If we find something will take a lot longer than first thought, it’s better to know sooner rather than later and shift priorities to ensure what needs to be delivered, is delivered. It’s in these aforementioned micro-sessions that we can discuss feasibility and take another look at the project requirements.

5.   Keeping spirits high

You don’t need me to tell you how grinding the sales or marketing process can feel at time. Demonstrating the same project to client after client can seem like you’re on auto-pilot.

Regular catch-ups allow the broader team to see that there are real strides being made in the product development, and it’s these updates that prove we’re all in this together. Not only that, but being involved in the product process allows someone outside of the team to think a bit more laterally about their own work, finding new solutions or language to use in the sales or marketing process, and ultimately a feeling of ownership over the final outcome.

Sharing and collaborating are the buzzwords of our industry, but unless we take a few minutes away from our laptops to talk with the wider team, our product development process will stagnate.

Are you ready? Organise a quick five minute catch up with your team on something you’re currently working on, or a blocker in your current workstack. Send a work in progress design or piece of copy to a member of a different team and ask whether they can spare a minute to feedback. You won’t regret it.

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