Building & growth

Achieving team alignment around your product vision

Written By

Anna Burgess Yang

Arrows pointing in different directions | How to achieve alignment around your product roadmap and vision | Mercury
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Team alignment goes far beyond product teams. In reality, your product's value and its impact on your customers need to be well-understood across departments, from sales to marketing to customer service.

When product strategy isn't aligned, it can lead to confusion or wasted resources. Any customer-facing messaging might be unclear (at best). It's critical for startups, in particular, to ensure that everyone is aligned with the company's vision for the product. You don't have the wiggle room to get off track or have teams scatter in different directions.

You need to consider alignment at all stages of the product development process, from ideation to launch. It's a continuous cycle, and the more tightly you can knit your team around your product along the way, the easier it will be to realize your vision.

At the start: Establish clear objectives and connect the dots

Whether you're trying to get to your MVP or enhancing a more mature product, it all starts with the "who," “what,” and “why.” Why are you building this thing, who is it for, and what problem does it solve?

In the earliest stages, your product team needs to answer these questions, and those responses should be recorded in your product requirements documentation. Your product team may even conduct further research to clarify the "why.” You may have a sense of what your product needs next (based on direct customer requests, for example) and how it fits into your overall vision, but customer interviews or market research can dive into this further — and help you clarify the expected outcome of a particular project.

Once you have that solidified, you need to tie your company goals to team goals and individual goals. Your product team may have the most obvious goals: to bring the new product or feature to market, within a specific timeframe. The trickle-down effect of reaching that goal will impact your sales, marketing, and customer service teams.

Even if a new project is in its infancy, you want to begin creating alignment between teams. For example, you expect this new product or feature to have an impact on sales — such as moving into a new market segment that may add more pipeline, or give you the opportunity for upsells or cross-sells. The earlier people can start understanding the impact on their individual roles, the better.

Along the way: Master the art of internal communication

If you only talk about a new product or feature at the start of a project, a lot will get lost in translation. Concepts and mockups can drastically differ from what's delivered at the end of a product development cycle.

Breakdowns can happen for two main reasons. First, team communication is siloed, and second, no one is specifically responsible for communicating between departments.

Tools are one way to help with this. While your product team may have a project management tool, other people within your company may not have visibility into the projects or deadlines. Even if they have access to the project management tool, they may not regularly check it if it’s not part of their primary job function. If your project management tool has the ability, you can send updates to a company-wide Slack channel (or use a tool like Zapier to do this).

You also need a clear point person to own the process of communicating product information at various points in the development process, whether that’s the product manager or another individual on the team. This helps keep the team aligned not only on what's being developed but also on the expected timeframe for delivery.

Things can inevitably fall off the rails in product development, especially if you're working on multiple projects concurrently. Product managers and analysts can go down rabbit holes, trying to ensure a product meets different use cases — even if those use cases aren't aligned with the project's objectives. Sales or marketing can get hyper-focused on bringing in new customers, even if those customers aren't the best fit. Tight internal communication can help you maintain your alignment throughout product development — and throughout the organization as a whole.

At a higher or executive level, you should reiterate the product's objectives at every opportunity. Whether it's a company-wide update or meetings with team leads, you'll want to reiterate how the product development roadmap is aligned with company goals and share any updates or changes that happen along the way, such as timeline, messaging, or what’s included with the next feature release.  Re-alignment may also need to happen around deadlines and expectations since those are also tied to company and project objectives.

Preparing for launch: Check your alignment

Product launches require a lot of alignment across teams, whether it’s a small new feature or a larger product change. Communication has to be in sync between the product team and the rest of the company since everyone has a role to play in getting the product into the world and communicating with your existing customers.

While the product development may end with the release’s final cut, you should be working on alignment in advance of that date. Your marketing team may contact the press under embargo or prepare a release announcement. Sales may need a one-pager or an internal walk-through to ensure they understand the changes. Customer service needs to know how to answer customer questions.

A product launch plan can keep everyone aligned: who is in charge of each task, and when they need to be completed. While wrapping up a release can feel like a huge sigh of relief, it isn’t really “finished” until you’ve done everything you can to maximize its impact.

If alignment starts to break down before the launch, take time to re-group. The last thing you want is for a release to fall flat simply because the teams aren’t aligned. Re-affirm your product launch plan and make adjustments as things come up.

Bonus tip: Find your internal cheerleaders — and enforcers

While product vision comes from the top, alignment can happen at various levels of the organization. Ideally, you can find people within your departments who truly understand your mission, goals, and how the product meets customer needs.

These people can rally enthusiasm within their respective departments and remind their peers of the "why" throughout the product development process.

Equally important: they can be on the lookout for misalignment. If projects stray too much from your product vision, they can course-correct or bring it to the right person's attention.

Lean into these internal cheerleaders to help you maintain product alignment so you don't carry the message alone.

Written by

Anna Burgess Yang

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