Collaboration is an important skill to have, and perhaps nowhere is it more important than in the product development world. Being able to work well with other teams and across departments, countries and languages is a key element in the product development process.
To help ensure a successful and timely product launch, it’s vital to encourage good communication among the various teams involved, including external partners. It’s a good idea to go even further by putting checks and balances in place to make sure the teams are contributing and communicating.
Communication is of the utmost importance, and will help your product development process greatly. Read on for some tips on how to collaborate and communicate during a product development project.
1. Put the Right People in Place
You don’t want to get halfway through the product development process, only to realize your team is spinning its wheels because of a lack of collaboration. Take some time early on to build the right team and equip them with the resources needed to support the project.
By spending that time in the beginning evaluating the project needs and resources, you can make sure you have a strong team in place to work toward the end goal. This will pay off in the end, so don’t speed through the process of getting the right team in place.
Having a diverse team made up of members with technical, engineering, marketing and business backgrounds brings a variety of skills and expertise to the product development process. This is one way in which collaboration is vital to ensure a successful product launch.
2. Identify and Strengthen Weaknesses
Once you have the right team in place, realize that no product development team is perfect. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and collaborating internally can help you shore up any weaknesses, leading to a smoother development and launch process.
You could always find an external partner to help bolster any holes on the team or weaknesses. However, keep in mind that it might be more cost effective and timely to collaborate in order to fill a need instead of hiring externally or training someone new to fill the role.
Don’t underestimate the resources needed to make product development collaboration work. It won’t work if you require team members to pick up a lot of extra slack in addition to their responsibilities. You can poison a team quickly by foisting a ton of extra work on members under the guise of it being “collaboration.”
Also see to it that collaboration is supported—and driven—from the senior levels of management. Make sure the message is loud and clear that collaboration is important and required. Having the right supporting infrastructure in place is a great launch pad for collaboration.
3. Keep Lines of Communication Open
As you can see, communication is a key element in product development. By working together, teams can overcome challenges and anticipate problems early on. To encourage effective collaboration, be sure to establish open and direct communication from the get-go.
Also, be sure not to overlook the physical aspects of your product development team, such as where members sit in relation to one another. Is someone stuck down the hall, far away from everyone else? Are a few members at the opposite side of the room from the others?
Collaboration occurs best when team members can easily talk to and communicate with one another, without having to climb a set of stairs, walk down a hallway, or pick up a phone to quickly hash out a problem or work together for a period of time.
If the parameters of your workspace don’t allow for everyone to work closely together, add a desk in each area or department that members of other departments can use when they need to work collaboratively. Having open desk or workspace available fosters collaboration.
There should also be a process in place for keeping tabs on the progress your product development team is making. That way, if anything falls behind, you can reallocate resources as needed to keep on schedule.
4. Clearly Define Roles
Don’t keep product development team members in the dark about who is responsible for what. It’s great when members can wear many hats, but having clearly defined roles that are known to all team members help put everyone on the same page.
That way, your bases are covered as to who is doing what. Clearly defining roles also reduces redundancies and can show you where you have overlapping duties—which can lead to costly mistakes or delays in the project.
Collaboration can make or break the product development process. With the proper alignment of all parties, plenty of communication, and the drive to solve any problems that arise, product development can be a success.
Are you interested in learning more about the product development process? Read a two-part series on the must-know phases of the new product development process. Part 1 outlines the first four phases, and Part 2 outlines the second four phases.