Finding and retaining good talent has always been tricky. The Great Resignation and widespread embrace of remote work have significantly increased the difficulty. Organizations began to rely heavily on developing the right product stack tools to help assist their already light teams.
It’s still too early to know exactly how things will eventually shake out. Right now, many businesses are facing acute labor shortages. But just because you’re down a few team members doesn’t mean there’s any less pressure to deliver.
Luckily, some of the tools in a quality product stack can pick up some of the slack and optimize key workflows for stretched-too-thin staff struggling to keep up with the demands on their time and sanity.
What We Lose When People Leave
When staff leaves, their departure removes more from the organization than just their presence on the payroll. Institutional knowledge, key interpersonal relationships, undocumented communication channels also head out the door.
Their absence reveals the gaps they bridged and the cracks they covered up. Sally always kept customer success in the loop with weekly lunches with their manager. Victor ensured the release notes were accurate and up-to-date. Anil’s friendship with a key tech lead kept egos in check.
These unofficial “extra duties” may not appear in any job description. But they’re just a taste of the types of unforeseen repercussions that occur when a colleague leaves.
And even if you capture some of these during the exit interviews or transition periods, it’s not like someone was sitting around without enough on their plate ready to take on those tasks. Instead, teams must optimize on the fly, making it all work with the team members who remain.
These breakdowns tend to occur most in knowledge management, communications, and process. Thankfully, these are the areas where tools can play an instrumental role.
How the Right Product Stack Tools Can Ease the Pain
When operating shorthanded, there are three main areas where organizations drop the ball. The right tools mitigate these weak points during these understaffed moments and help the team perform. eKnowledge management
Ideas and information are the primary currency for product teams. We survey, interview, analyze, and aggregate, taking the pulse of customers, partners, executives, and other key stakeholders. We identify pain points and trends that inform our priorities to balance customer delight with strategic corporate objectives. Teams need them to be sorted, shared, and socialized to become common accessible resources and not trapped in a spreadsheet.
To create a consistent and ongoing repository for all this wisdom and insight, teams must force themselves to adopt and stick with a tool designed for this purpose. For the initial capture, cloud-based tools such as Evernote, Google Docs, or Dropbox help ensure alignment.
When it’s time to get organized, however, many product teams benefit from using a project management tool, such as Jira or Trello, or Pivotal Tracker, which puts those ideas into items that can be executed and tracked across both the product management and product development teams.
When teams get overloaded with work, they don’t always have the bandwidth to employ their soft skills to get everyone on the same page. There’s less time for one-on-one sessions, stakeholder analysis, and consensus-building.
But that doesn’t mean those things are any less vital. In fact, with fewer hands on deck, it’s more important than ever that everyone agrees on goals, strategies, and priorities. This is another domain where tools add real value.
A purpose-built roadmapping tool such as ProductPlan is an excellent way to build and maintain this alignment throughout the product lifecycle. With theme-based, visual roadmaps, the top-line objectives for each iteration of the product take center stage. Stakeholders can now focus on impact instead of hand wringing and bickering over individual features.
Prioritized themes are tied to organizational targets and strategic imperatives. This limits the debate to which themes best achieve those goals, and stakeholders can quickly agree before letting individual teams spend their limited time and resources on execution.
With a roadmapping tool like ProductPlan, you can easily create customized views for different stakeholders. They receive the information that provides them with value to make informed decisions. And with everything hosted in the cloud, all stakeholders will always look at the most accurate and updated roadmap version.
Product teams should stay informed and updated at all times. However, skimping in this area can severely damage your product’s chances of success.
Dedicated, asynchronous communication tools such as Slack and Confluence make it much easier to get information out to the parties who need it most. While excellent for one-to-one communication that takes conversations out of inefficient and lengthy email chains, these tools shine when you’re trying to keep multiple people or teams on the same page. Posting updates to dedicated channels quickly, disseminating key messages and cutting the fluff.
However, most of the tools mentioned in previous sections also have their automated communication capabilities, providing an additional benefit to the core services they deliver. Pushing out alerts to stakeholders and colleagues about roadmap updates, projects making progress, development items being added, dropped, or completed all automated communication tasks that a fully staffed team might have done the old-fashioned way.
When teams can “set and forget,” these communication channels exponentially increase transparency and alignment without additional burden on overworked staff. The more we create systems and automate, the more time we focus on other core tasks.
Making Your Case
Despite the glaring needs the tools mentioned above address, your organization may be reticent to spend money on these things. Just as organizations now invest in product operations, their product stack is equally worthy of funding. These tools have an ROI that may not appear on the balance sheet. The right product stack tools can assist in your team’s overall productivity, which reduces burnout.