The Most Frequently Cited Obstacles to a Product Team’s Success

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Our research into the dynamics of product teams it primarily focused upon what differentiates high performance teams from less effective ones. However, each year we ask a question geared at understanding the landmines that trip up product teams from the vantage of product team members themselves. This year was no different. Here is what survey respondents told us.

Greg Geracie, Actuation Consulting, Take Charge Product Management

Obstacles that Undermine the Product Team  Copyright Actuation Consulting. All rights reserved.

The most frequently cited obstacle that product teams report was “not having enough resources to get the job done properly.” These resources could be either human or financial. This should not be too much of a surprise as organizations are still struggling to overcome the macro economic impact of the great recession – particularly upon staffing levels and hiring. However, what is striking about this response is that over a third of organizations report that resources remain their primary challenge in achieving higher levels of performance. This was also the most frequently cited obstacle in last year’s study.

The second most common challenge was “hand-offs between the functions”. Almost 22% of organizations said that cross-functional hand-offs were challenging and leading to performance related issues. Organizations frequently indicate requirements and product launch as particularly troublesome areas.

The third area that product teams point to is a “lack of executive leadership and direction.” Interestingly, only 37% of product teams state that there is a clear and coherent corporate strategy that they can tether to in terms or product development. In fact, 54% of organizations told us that while their organization has a corporate strategy – it is either poorly communicated or changing so frequently that the product team views it as useless. Respondents point to less active involvement by executives as a significant factor contributing to low levels or product team performance.

The final area that product teams call out is “poorly defined roles.” Lack of role definition, particularly in the areas of who does what and when impacts the effectiveness of product teams. This can lead to leadership boundary issues, duplicate efforts, conflicts between different perspectives and functions, and a wide range of other issues that have a meaningful impact on performance.

So how does your product team stack up? Do you see reflections of these issues in your organization and on your product team? If so, you are not alone.

Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.

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