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Should Product or Engineering Define the Squads?

Exploring the debate on whether Product or Engineering should take the lead in defining squads within an organization.

Ever find yourself in a meeting where Product and Engineering are arm-wrestling over who gets to define the squads? It's a scene straight out of a sitcom, yet it raises a serious question. Who should really have the upper hand in shaping these critical team structures?

The Product Perspective

From the product side, defining squads is like sketching the blueprint of a dream house. Product managers have the vision and the roadmap; they know what needs to be built and when. They are the conductors of the symphony, orchestrating a diverse set of instruments to create harmonious customer experiences.

Product-led squad definition ensures that the squads are aligned with customer needs and business objectives. PMs can prioritize features and allocate resources to the squads that will drive the most value. With a clear line of sight to the roadmap, product-defined squads can adapt quickly to shifting priorities without missing a beat.

Benefits of Product-Defined Squads

  1. Customer-Centricity: Keeps the focus on delivering value to the end-users.
  2. Flexibility: Agile in adjusting to market changes and customer feedback.
  3. Alignment: Ensures all squads are working towards a unified product vision.

The Engineering Angle

On the flip side, engineering teams bring a wealth of technical expertise and a deep understanding of the architectural implications. Engineers are the ones who transform those blueprints into reality, brick by brick. They know the ins and outs of the codebase, the dependencies, and the technical debt lurking in the shadows.

When engineering leads define the squads, the focus shifts to feasibility and sustainability. They can structure teams to optimize for code quality, technical innovation, and scalability. Engineering-defined squads are often better equipped to handle complex integrations and long-term technical strategies.

Benefits of Engineering-Defined Squads

  1. Technical Feasibility: Ensures squads are structured around technical capabilities and constraints.
  2. Innovation: Promotes a culture of technical excellence and innovation.
  3. Sustainability: Focuses on long-term maintainability and scalability of the product.

Bridging the Gap with AI

Enter AI, the neutral third party in this debate. Tools like Eververse can analyze vast amounts of data, from user feedback to code commits, to provide insights that neither Product nor Engineering might have considered. By leveraging AI, organizations can strike a balance between customer needs and technical feasibility.

AI-driven squad definition can dynamically adjust team structures based on real-time data, ensuring optimal performance and alignment with both product goals and technical constraints. This hybrid approach can lead to more informed decisions and, ultimately, a more cohesive and effective team structure.

A Collaborative Approach

The reality is, defining squads shouldn't be a turf war. Both Product and Engineering bring valuable perspectives to the table. A collaborative approach, where both sides contribute to the squad definition process, can yield the best results.

By fostering open communication and mutual respect, organizations can create squads that are not only aligned with the product vision but also technically sound and innovative. Regular check-ins and using AI-driven insights can help maintain this balance, ensuring squads remain agile and effective.

In the end, the best squads are those that leverage the strengths of both Product and Engineering, creating a synergy that drives success. So, next time you're in that meeting, maybe skip the arm-wrestling and start a conversation instead.

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