We Care About More Than Engineering

Pivotal/Tanzu Labs

For many years, Pivotal/Tanzu Labs only employed engineers. We expected our clients to bring the product manager (PM) and product designer (PD) roles to the team. We didn’t have any expertise in Lean Product Design or User Centered Design (UCD). We could help our clients “build it right”, but we didn’t concern ourselves with helping them discover the right thing to build – which our clients often did not know how to do. This too often led to a demoralizing outcome: we helped clients build very well-built wrong things for their business.

Great code doesn’t make great software. It doesn’t matter if we “build it right” if we’re building the wrong thing in the first place. All the clean code in the world won’t save a product that isn’t actually solving problems for its users.

This all changed around the end of 2012. We hired product management and product design leadership into our organization and built up in-house expertise on Lean Product Design and UCD. The effect was nothing short of transformational for us. We bring a complete, whole agile offering to the table, which is an order of magnitude more valuable than just agile engineering alone – the balanced team.

The balanced team is a powerful force multiplier for both product or services organizations. Balanced teams can clearly define problems, articulate assumptions, form hypotheses, run experiments, establish Key Performance Indicators, and validate learnings through software. In effect, balanced teams can help organizations not just “build the thing right”, but “build the right thing.”

Our product management and product design practices in Pivotal/Tanzu Labs help our clients find the right thing to build, and our engineers complete the trusted partnership to help implement the vision. Great products are desirable to users, viable to the business, and feasible for the engineers, and it takes all members of the balanced team to enable these outcomes.

Balanced Team Diagram

Furthermore, we’re here to help our clients innovate. We can’t contribute to that if we don’t understand the problem they are – that is, we all are – trying to solve, or the people we are trying to solve it for, or the business we’re trying to solve it with.

Our clients bring domain expertise, but they’re often so far into the details that they need us to help them step back and understand the bigger picture. When you’re down in the details, it’s easy to get focused on optimizing a local maxima, instead of stepping back and seeing the global optimizations. That’s where innovation lies, and it takes all three roles to do that.

We must develop empathy for our users and our clients. We must understand the problems they’re trying to solve. We must understand the hypothesis we’re testing at any given time, and how we’re validating our learnings. We participate in user research and synthesis. We support our amazing product managers and product designers, because it’s only when all three roles work together that we truly help our clients.

In sum: we don’t just “build it right”; we “build the right thing right.