Why the product engineering mindset matters

7 May 2024

This post marks the beginning of a series delving into the realm of product and product engineering. Here, we will explore the concept of ‘product engineering’ and why it’s an important term in helping shift the mindset of how modern products are built.

What is product engineering?

Traditional software development treated applications as things to simply "build" to a predetermined specification. Requirements came from stakeholders, solutions were architected, and code was delivered - a transactional process disconnected from evolving customer needs.

Product engineering takes a fundamentally different approach. Rather than building software to a fixed specification, product engineers treat their software as a living product. They take an iterative, user-centric approach to continuously enhancing and evolving the product experience based on market feedback, usage data, and experimentation.

Didn’t we solve this by becoming agile?

Adopting agile processes with more frequent iteration doesn't automatically make a team user-centric. Classic divides between roles like product managers / business analysts, designers, and engineers can persist even with agile processes in place. While the output may check some agile boxes, the team itself may still operate in silos rather than rallying around end-user value.

True product engineering aims to infuse user obsession across the entire team, transcending disciplinary roles and titles.

How product engineering teams operate

Product engineering is a philosophy more than a process, centered on key principles:

  • Everyone understands the “Why”: All team members grasp the rationale behind requirements and features through an understanding of the user journey and pain points they solve.

  • Cross functional becomes cross caring: When united by care for end-user value, collaboration transcends titles and the team becomes better equipped to help each other.

  • User value is celebrated: Victory is not on the number of designs signed off, features shipped, or how much the backlog burndown advanced. Everyone gauges success by the value delivered to end users.

  • The product mindset is embedded: Product thinking and user-centric delivery is evangelized at every level. Maintaining this mindset requires buy-in from all parties to ensure its success, otherwise we’re back to silos.

Benefits for both users and teams

The benefits of this product-centric model are significant for both end users and engineering teams. For end users, the software they use innovates rapidly to meet their evolving needs. The overall user experience is thoughtfully crafted by teams obsessed with solving customer problems holistically.

For product engineering teams, silos between parties such as design, product, and engineering are broken down with greater understanding of how each party plays their part. The product engineering mindset unlocks a strong feeling of purposeful work as everyone ties their efforts directly to customer needs.

By truly embodying product thinking, teams can transform from construction crews following blueprints to empowered craftspeople delivering truly valuable experiences.

Article By
blog author

Adam Dickey

Senior Business Analyst