This time we were once again fortunate to land a top-class speaker – John Cutler, known to many as the author of the post: "12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory". As Head of Product Education at Amplitude, a leading provider of product analytics solutions, he deals intensively with the topic of data-driven product development.
John speaks at conferences such as Mind the Product, blogs passionately about product management, and reaches nearly 50,000 people via Twitter. Around 70 participants across the entire OTTO Group listened intently to his presentation on "Exploding myths about Feature Factories" and were keen to gain more exciting insights from John first-hand in the Q&A session that followed.
In his original posting back in 2015, John coined the term ‘Feature Factory’. After realising that more and more Development teams were often only focused on delivering requirements as rapidly as possible, he shared his thoughts on Feature Factories – not knowing what reactions this would trigger. People’s desire to understand the impact of their work unfortunately collides with the ‘factory’ work paradigm he outlined and in which many Development teams and Product Managers are stuck.
John himself admitted he had been a little naïve with his original posting, but had obviously struck a nerve. And he regretted he had only described the existing problem; since then he has been trying to provide possible solutions. From his point of view, there are three realities in this context that we need to be aware of.
John now differentiates his view of the Feature Factory by means of 12 dimensions, as he has rarely seen a pure black vs. white perspective. Based on these dimensions, the different nuances of a Feature Factory can be considered and possible ways out can be identified.
Without a strategy and a matching narrative, it’s very difficult to escape from being a Feature Factory. The strategy is the link between the product to be developed and its customers. If your strategy is ‘earn money’, your organisation will almost certainly be a Feature Factory. John pointed out that even the ‘panacea’ OKR does not create a sustainable solution without a strategy in which it is embedded.
In many organizations, the very reasonable question from management, "So what are we getting for our money?" can only be answered with concrete feature promises, because other tools and the necessary trust are missing. Where budget planning takes place at the features or roadmaps/milestones level, an organisation will tend towards being a Feature Factory – and because planning is time-consuming and entails a high need for security, this leads to the dreaded multi-year plans. On the other hand, planning budget for skills, products, value streams or Development teams helps to escape being a Feature Factory.
Small decisions within the organisational structure can have a very large impact, as alignment between strategy and organisation is essential. John’s example was a central team of UX designers who form a bottleneck for all Product Development teams - instead of being directly integrated into cross-functional teams.
Winding up his talk, John also gave us the important message: "Product Management is hard – always! It takes continuous ‘relearning’."
Are you also interested in deepening your understanding of Product Management and Product Development, and getting to know other committed product people? Then take a look at the upcoming Product Pioneer events – we look forward to seeing you there!
Want to join our teams? Take a look on our jobs at OTTO:
- Product Specialist
- Product Owner Text Mining /NLP
the Product Pioneers team