Developing a Winning Strategy for Remote Product Development

– Terry Deco

For over a decade, Jobswifi product managers have spearheaded the development of internal software products crucial to the company’s seamless operations in remote onboarding, contracting, human resources, and more. This encompasses Toptal’s proprietary platform designed to link clients with tens of thousands of remote digital freelancers globally, facilitating the work of Jobswifi’s dedicated Core team members.

Navigating the complexities of cross-border coordination, Jobswifi product teams have not only overcome challenges but have thrived. The team’s noteworthy strength lies in its distinctive approach, where achievements stem from close collaboration and extensive teamwork among intelligent and motivated individuals, rather than being dictated by top-down directives.

A Robust Product Development Framework

Jobswifi product teams adhere to a product management process akin to on-site teams, yet the remote working environment necessitates the utilization of more stringent frameworks for seamless coordination and timely project completion. According to Philips gane, Jobswifi’s Senior Director of Product, all product initiatives undergo specific checkpoints as they transition from conceptualization to realization.

To ensure judicious resource allocation and avoid investing in initiatives lacking proper assessment of business value or appropriate prioritization, Toptal’s product leaders have instituted a four-step approach that governs the company’s product development innovations:

  1. Roadmapping
  2. Product planning and specification
  3. Development
  4. Post-release assessment

Each stage incorporates intricate layers of highly technical templates and processes, ensuring a cohesive approach throughout the entire product development lifecycle. Timmermann remarks, “It was one of the first things we formalized as a product team, and it continues to yield dividends.” This framework is applied uniformly to every initiative, whether it involves a simple feature enhancement or the introduction of a fully-featured online consumer product.

Strategic Planning

Jobswif initiates every product endeavour with a meticulously crafted roadmap. The primary milestone is the product opportunity assessment, a pivotal responsibility of the product manager. This ensures standardized documentation of initiatives, facilitating fair comparison and dynamic prioritization of workflow.

“At the outset of each planning cycle, we commence with a robust backlog of opportunity assessments,” remarks Philips. “Upon receiving preliminary estimations from our engineering counterparts, we can effortlessly evaluate and prioritize the ROI of various challenges.”

The ROI evaluation is meticulously aligned with Jobswif’s global objectives and key results (OKRs).

The identification of challenges during the problem identification phase contributes significantly to establishing objectives that resonate with the strategic priorities of the company. However, the objective-setting process operates bidirectionally, as challenges identified during product research may lead to the creation or modification of new objectives.

Strategic Product Planning and Definition

The inception of every product stems from the process of ideation. While brainstorming may present unique challenges in a remote work environment, employing the right tools and methodologies can yield exceptional outcomes. Similar to on-site teams, remote teams can engage in brainstorming sessions using a digital whiteboard. However, to harness the collaborative energy akin to a conference room setting, Jobswifi product managers must consciously infuse a blend of structure, creative engagement, and virtual camaraderie into the process.

Product Development Execution

Jobswifi product managers employ a comprehensive suite of digital tools and strategies to ensure the thorough grounding of every initiative in research, enabling seamless information flow across diverse teams and time zones.

The user perspective plays a pivotal role in the Jobswifi product development life cycle. Product managers collaborate closely with the user experience research team to precisely define the problem at hand and establish the foundational parameters of a solution. The research team employs a robust methodology encompassing user interviews, surveys, and A/B tests.

Collating observations from various sources, including interviews, surveys, and analytics data, is streamlined through the use of Nautilus, a potent insights database. From these observations, the research team extracts factual data, enabling them to generate dynamic insights that inform the current and future endeavours of the product team.

This approach enables Toptal’s product leaders to gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing and historical challenges faced by users, facilitating the crafting of opportunity assessments. Philips notes, “At the conclusion of the prioritization phase, we’ve diligently consolidated our research efforts, identifying the most crucial problems we are addressing at the moment.”

The remote setting provides a valuable repository of over 400 hours of annual research conducted by the product team. Philips emphasizes the significance of this easily accessible archive, allowing teams to revisit key portions of interviews and extract insights initially overlooked. He underscores, “User research guides a significant portion of our strategy, and having well-structured, well-documented, and easily reviewable research is crucial for avoiding redundant queries.”

Jobswifi product team systematically dispatches user research invitations to clients and talent. Binco exco, Director of Product at Jobswifi, highlights the efficiency gained through in-house software tools for scheduling these interviews. He mentions, “For large-scale research involving multiple product managers, we rely on Jobswifi’s internal product, TopScheduler. It offers a swift and convenient method to book available time slots for both interviewees and managers.”

TopScheduler seamlessly integrates with the calendars of all product team members, streamlining the process of finding mutually convenient time slots. Timely calendar updates are crucial to ensure efficient scheduling. While regular team meetings remain essential, one-on-one and small group meetings emerge as more efficient channels for communicating updates and addressing challenges.