Product Discovery

Product Discovery

Sep 21, 2023

No, You Have Enough Developers



Ronny Röller

"Clear your backlog, and remove stories that aren’t based on any evidence. You might have more than enough developers to get the impactful stories done."

In the vibrant world of product management, the age-old lament rings out often and loudly: “We have too many ideas, but not enough developers to bring them to life!” But if you pause and take a closer look, is that truly the case?

Dreaming vs. Delivering: Distinguishing Fables from Fact

Every product owner's backlog is teeming with stories - a wish-list of features and improvements. But how many of these stories truly hold the potential to move the needle? It's time for a reality check. How many of those stories are inspired by a passing whim, and how many are grounded in solid evidence that they'll positively impact user experience?

For instance, consider the "Night Mode" feature that a team developed because it was a current trend. Despite spending weeks in development, user analytics later revealed only a fraction of users ever engaged with it. The team realized they hadn't actually gathered evidence indicating their users wanted or needed such a feature. In the flurry of trying to keep up with the latest industry buzz or an off-the-cuff idea, many product teams find themselves chasing after goals that, ultimately, don’t resonate with the end-users. The outcome? Teams burning the midnight oil, rushing to push out features that gather virtual dust, as users simply don't engage with them. The illusion of progress is mistaken for real impact.

Well-intentioned stakeholders also frequently inject ideas into the backlog. Often based on their personal experiences or industry buzz, these ideas can seem promising. However, without substantial evidence from the user base, these additions risk becoming white elephants—grand in concept but lacking in actual utility. The key is to balance stakeholder enthusiasm with user-centric evidence.

Rethinking the Bottleneck: Quality of Ideas Over Quantity of Hands

Take a moment to consider this: Perhaps the bottleneck isn’t your development team or the number of hands on deck. What if the real hold-up is the quality and relevance of the ideas you're choosing to work on?

The power of an idea isn't in its novelty, but in its potential to resonate with users and fulfill a genuine need. Instead of loading your team with every idea that emerges, it's time to prioritize. Focus on refining that backlog, filtering through stories to identify those backed by tangible evidence of their potential.

The Era of Evidence-Based Backlogs

So, how do we make our backlogs more actionable and evidence-driven? Here’s a transformative idea: Enrich your stories with video clips from users that underline the motivation and reasoning behind each one.

Picture a backlog wherein each story is complemented by a fragment of a user interview, a segment of a usability test, or a brief demo underscoring its raison d'être. This approach is not about adding layers of work but embedding context. It grants product owners and the entire team an unequivocal, visual, and emotive understanding of a story's prospective impact.

Not only does this bring clarity, but it also fosters empathy. Teams can literally see and hear their users, leading to a more user-centric approach. It’s no longer about just ticking off items on a list, but about striving for genuine impact.

In Conclusion

As product managers and product owners, our primary duty isn't to keep our teams perpetually busy. It's to ensure they're invested in work that genuinely matters. By wholeheartedly embracing an evidence-based approach to story selection, we're not just optimizing our resources. We're making sure that every ounce of effort poured into a project has the potential to reverberate positively with our users.

The next time that feeling of "we need more developers" starts to creep in, take a deliberate pause. Examine your backlog closely. Prioritize those stories built on a foundation of evidence. You might come to a surprising realization: it's not about needing more hands; it's about having clearer vision and intent.

Let’s shift our approach, transform the narrative, and commit to creating products that genuinely resonate!

Photo: Jernej Furman