Empowering a remote cross-functional tech team around an aligned product vision.
Our tight-knit team comprises less than 15 members, including engineers, back-end and front-end developers, marketing specialists, a community manager, and myself as the sole designer. With this small remote team, communication was simple, and we collaborated intimately throughout the project.
To support our remote work, we utilized a range of tools. We used Discord for chatting, GitHub for code reviews, ClickUp for task management, Notion for briefs / ideation / planning, Figma for prototypes and testing, Google Workspace for file sharing and meetings, and Miro (which we later switched to FigJam) for realtime brainstorming sessions.
Building a Product Team
Upon joining the team, I noticed a lack of coherence in our product development approach. Our CTO managed pipeline and guidance, but there was a disconnect between engineering, design, marketing, and community efforts. Taking the initiative, I started running weekly product review meetings to facilitate cross-team communication. With the help of our chief of staff and strategist, we developed a product strategy document centered on aligning product decisions with business needs. This alignment was vital for the success of a startup operating on a month-to-month basis. A product vision served as the anchor for our strategic actions. This work sent me down a rabbit hole of product management content, which led me to iterate on our process and strategy until it felt right to everyone.
Introducing Discovery and Validation
To address validation issues, we embraced discovery as a crucial aspect of our product process. Rather than building ideas based on leadership’s intuition, we adopted various validation methods, including market movements, user research, and analytics. The key was proving that each idea addressed a validated problem and that the process of finding solutions was collaborative, incorporating engineers’ ideas and preferences.
Managing the Pipeline
A process document for creating new “goals” became instrumental in managing our pipeline effectively. Goals were value statements that we grouped tasks within until the value was achieved. To maintain a healthy work environment, goals were categorized as DO NOW, DO NEXT, and DO LATER, avoiding undue pressure from strict deadlines. This process encouraged our skilled engineers to actively participate in problem-solving discussions, empowering them to contribute ideas rather than just receiving instructions.
Coordination between Teams
As the official point person and product manager, I ensured frequent and detailed communication between all teams. Though more time was invested in meetings, the improved collaboration proved highly beneficial.
The results were remarkable. Our small team gained confidence in their work, felt empowered to contribute to product solutions, and experienced a better understanding of upcoming tasks, reducing stress. Marketing and community teams now had a technical liaison to translate documentation for them. Leadership relied on the pipeline to effectively communicate our product to potential investors. With a unified vision and enhanced processes, our remote cross-functional tech team thrived.