Building the perfect Product Team
Anyone who knows me professionally knows I’m really big into communities of practice, which is why I love nurturing and building the product capability at Kainos.
We need more fantastic people to join us
The demand we have from our clients for our product people is at an all-time high, which is fantastic, but as you can imagine also gives me a nice problem to solve. I thought I would put down some thoughts to help people understand what being part of the product team at Kainos is like and dispel some myths at the same time.
Are you a Business Analyst (BA) or a Product Manager?
What’s the difference? Product Consultants usually sit inside an agile delivery team while the Product Leads will have oversight of the analysis being done by multiple teams.
At the core of what we do is ensuring we are solving the right problems for our clients, traditional Business Analysis skills are key to this.
To help you understand the Product Management side of things I’ll tell you a little bit about our engagements. Most of our teams are multi-disciplinary agile teams with the Product Manager/Owner role on the team usually being fulfilled by the client. Sometimes however the client needs us to help them fill this skill gap. This is why it is important for the product people at Kainos to understand about product management as well as having the traditional BA skills.
A Product Consultant will typically take a road-map and work with a subject matter expert from the client side to create and maintain a healthy backlog for their delivery team, while a Product Lead would fulfill more of a Senior Product Manager role and work with the senior client stakeholders and set the vision and roadmap for the delivery teams. The Product Leads are still however delivery focused and have a high level view of the delivery team’s backlogs on their project.
Both Consultants and Leads know how to iterate out a product or service to users and like getting their hands dirty by writing user stories.
For both roles you will need solid Business Analysis skills. Think along the lines of the qualities a traditional BA would have and put on top of that some product management skills.
Will I have to travel?
Let’s get this travel thing out of the way. Working in our product team, there is going to be travel required, and it is likely to be three-four days on site with the client. I had reservations with long term travel myself. I recall when one of the Kainos Delivery Leads asked me to work with him on a long term project in England, my response at the time was – ‘I’ll try it for three months max.’
I think I shocked him by saying this as I’m usually pretty easy going, but I had a life in Belfast that I did not want to leave behind.
When the three months were nearly up he came back to talk to me about heading home, my response was ‘No thanks, I’m staying here!’
The team were amazing, I was gaining new skills really quickly, and what we were building had the potential to really impact the lives of UK Citizens for the better. There was no way I was giving that up and going back to Belfast. Working alongside clients and with the team at Kainos wasn’t something I wanted to give up.
But I don’t come from a developer background
What skills make the members of the team work so well together? I graduated as a Software Engineer, stuck with coding for about eight years before I became a full time business analyst. Do I think having a Software Engineering background helps me do my role? To be honest being able to think logically helps me more than being able to cut code.
The other skill that helps me the most is communication and knowing how to best engage with the various groups of people involved in getting the product shipped. If you can ensure that the team and the business have a shared understanding, you are well on the way to helping your team meet their goals.
My advice if you’re selected for interview
During the interview process myself and the team want to hear about you, what you did on projects. So often many people talk about their ‘teams’ which means we don’t get to fully understand the skills you have and what makes you, well, you.
We want to see your personality coming across so we can imagine you working alongside us on engagements. Its cliché to say this – but for us, cultural fit is as important as being good at your job.
We’re building up the team to work on life-changing digital projects across the UK. Find out what it’s like to work for us here, and check out our current roles. Hopefully some day soon, I’ll get a chance to meet you!
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