Client Tips: Get Value From Your Product Team

In software development, the equation for achieving exceptional value from your product team extends beyond financial transactions. My journey from viewing project delivery as a mere expectation to understanding the profound impact of positive client-team interactions has revealed the truth. That is, collaboration, communication, and recognition are key to unlocking extraordinary outcomes.

This realization has not only reshaped my approach over the years but has consistently enhanced the return on investment and product quality for those clients who embrace it. By adopting a few straightforward yet impactful practices, clients can significantly amplify the value they realize from their teams. In turn, that fosters an environment where respect, appreciation, and mutual success are paramount.

Let’s explore how small shifts in perspective and engagement can transform ordinary projects into remarkable achievements, enriching the client-team relationship.  We’ll look at this through the lens of feedback, recognition, and thoughtfulness.

The Power of Feedback

Communication is the lifeline of any project. Start by setting clear expectations around the frequency and depth of information exchange. Remember, it’s about finding a balance that works for both parties. Be vocal if adjustments are needed — our goal is to align with your preferences to ensure clarity and satisfaction, while teams retain our ability to deliver. Our project kickoffs help to kickstart this process, but we look at it as something that needs to be checked on throughout a project and as needs and desires evolve.

What kind of feedback?

Feedback, both positive and constructive, is valuable. It serves two critical functions: propelling a product team forward and fine-tuning the path to success. Sharing your experiences regularly highlights areas for improvement and energizes the team. There are many great opportunities to give feedback. Those could include one-on-one syncs with your project delivery lead, design syncs to review the definition of features, and sprint demos where the team reviews the work done in the last couple of weeks.

What’s the point of feedback?

Feedback helps keep communication on track and the product moving in the right direction. I visualize this as bumper bowling.  Ensuring there are touchpoints helps ensure the communication doesn’t break down. 

Here’s an example of feedback that was helpful recently. Recently, my team was able to work with a recent client to understand their needs for reporting to their bosses and saved them a lot of time by altering how and what information we were reporting.  That made their job a lot easier.  Without that feedback and communication loop, those changes would not have come about. 

Another place where feedback is critical on product teams is reviewing user flows. Getting feedback from the different disciplines on the team helps build a more robust user flow that is more likely to meet user, stakeholder, and technical demands.

Don’t underestimate the impact of sharing positive feedback with the team. This gesture of appreciation provides insight into what you value, offering a broader perspective many times unseen by leadership. It’s a powerful way to acknowledge the hard work behind the scenes, boosting morale and reinforcing the team’s commitment to your project’s success.  Teams are eager to get feedback to improve the software development process.  We’ll look at the best ways to incorporate feedback into our practices and processes.

Building a Culture of Recognition

While feedback provides direction and improvement, recognition fuels the heart and spirit of the team. It’s about creating moments that matter — acknowledging not just the outcomes but also the effort and dedication behind them. Recognition is beneficial when teams and clients must navigate a challenging point in the project.

What does recognition look like?

Recognition isn’t just about saying “thank you”. It’s a powerful motivator that validates the team’s hard work and dedication. When clients share their appreciation, it not only boosts morale but also reinforces the team’s commitment to going above and beyond. Such gestures of acknowledgment remind everyone of the value their work brings to the project and the client. Everyone wants to feel respected and be seen as a valuable team member.

Recognition often comes in a few ways we call kind words: a quick Slack message in the team’s main channel, an email to the team and/or Delivery Lead, or verbally during a project sync with the Managing Partners or Delivery Lead.  It can be helpful to call out a specific feature or person’s efforts within the recognition.

When should recognition happen?

Retrospective meetings offer a perfect opportunity for reflection and recognition. Encouraging shoutouts for team members who’ve made notable contributions helps not only highlight achievements but also fosters a culture of appreciation. Similarly, positive feedback during code reviews can reinforce good practices and encourage a more constructive approach to addressing challenges.

The act of recognizing and celebrating the good doesn’t just stop with the individual or the team; it creates a ripple effect that enhances the overall project atmosphere. By making recognition a regular part of your interaction with the team, you contribute to building a motivated group eager to tackle challenges and achieve success.  This recognition can go beyond the impact of your team, we often share out kind works from clients to the entire AO team.

Many of us keep a collection of the kind words clients have sent out.  These kind words feel like tangible proof of the value we create for our clients and the validation of our services.  More than anything creating a culture of recognition fosters an environment that is much more enjoyable to work in.

The Significance of Thoughtfulness and Engagement

Moving beyond the mechanics of feedback and the warmth of recognition, thoughtfulness and engagement embody the spirit of partnership. It’s about showing genuine interest in the product and the people behind it. Clients can demonstrate this through active listening, asking insightful questions, participating in design reviews, and expressing genuine enthusiasm for the work being done.

Responsiveness from clients not only keeps projects on track but also signals respect for the team’s time and efforts. While collaboration is key, too many voices can lead to confusion and dilute the effectiveness of the project. Discuss the importance of having a clear decision-making process and how clients can facilitate this by streamlining communication and ensuring that feedback is consolidated and coherent. This helps maintain a clear vision and direction for the project.

Trust is the foundation of any strong client-team relationship. Consistent, thoughtful engagement from the client side helps build this trust over time. This includes being transparent about challenges, recognizing the team’s expertise, and being open to their suggestions. Trust, once established, leads to a more open, honest, and productive working relationship.

The combination of honest feedback and thoughtful recognition paired with professionalism and a bit of kindness is a recipe to get the most out of your project than you thought possible.  If you’ve used any of these techniques feel free to share what they were and the impact of these actions.


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