No matter what industry you’re in, your capacity to build and bring new products to the market is paramount. It’s a critical function that demands cooperation across business, design, engineering, marketing, and sales teams, as well as with partners to ensure long-term success.
Our 30-year experience working with clients has proven that engaging a reputed IT consulting partner in a collaborative product development (CPD) process improves efficiency and time-to-market. Moreover, optimized product management alone could lead to a large increase in profits by nearly 34.2 percent.
Below, we will discuss what collaborative development is and share our tips on how to organize the process properly and efficiently.
What is CPD, and why should you turn it into a regular practice?
Collaborative product development (CPD) is the process of designing as a team. It aims to involve industry experts, customers, employees, and stakeholders in the product creation procedure from initial planning to design to delivery.
Brands recognize the opportunities of co-creation initiatives ubiquitously. For instance, we see Netflix cooperating with studios, media startups, and directors to create an endless stream of quality content. Meanwhile, Google, Samsung, and Fiat Chrysler teamed up to provide music and video innovation, facilitate car-sharing, and enhance self-driving capabilities.
By establishing relationships with other companies, you can access necessary resources and knowledge to improve time-to-market and quality while minimizing disruptions and costs. A recent report found that 61 percent of companies produced more successful products, and 51 percent improved financial performance by adopting a collaborative product development approach.
However, for managers to control processes with so many actors involved and promote team collaboration, working remotely can be challenging. About 39 percent of employees believe people don’t collaborate enough in their organization. So, how can you bring a large team along on the journey and ensure optimal performance?
How to build a collaborative product design team in 6 steps
Based on our experience, we share the best practices for setting up and managing your collaborative development projects. Let’s explore what areas you should focus on.
1. Start with a cooperation framework
Both your company and your partnering organizations have their own priorities and interests. So, it’s vital to establish the agendas and objectives of teamwork for all parties involved. By doing so, you will develop a common understanding and ensure all participants realize their responsibilities are facets of project planning.
We recommend you make a clear and easily available document that defines every aspect of the collaborative development flow, including goals and expectations for each party. That way, any project member can freely access it during the process. This will help you alleviate the uncertainties, minimize confusion between you and your partner, and estimate the efficiency of cooperation.
2. Get all your stakeholders in the same room
Engaging stakeholders at each project development stage will help you get fresh insights and diverse viewpoints on the solution. They can provide valuable input by sharing their knowledge and expertise. Miscellaneous backgrounds will result in different ways of evaluating a solution and help you identify success features.
Additionally, this step will help you reduce revision cycles by communicating the product needs from the onset while minimizing the risk of project failure. So, you will save resources and time by involving stakeholders in developing a collaboration product and getting their buy-in early.
3. Communicate the goal and vision clearly
A shocking number of collaborations fail because only a few people understand the actual reasons and final objectives of their projects. Currently, business executives think a lack of clear goals is responsible for 37 percent of failures.
So, when you start designing your product collaboration roadmap, dedicate enough time to communicate the project context and expectations. You should explain the business purpose in detail and ensure everyone understands the “why” standing behind their work. By doing so, you will make people more committed and motivated to work towards your common goals.
4. Establish timely and open communication
Large engagements like collaborative product development with another company require frequent communication, mutual trust, and regular status updates. Only in this way will your teams make the partnership efficient and fruitful. So, establish regular sync-up calls for everyone to see how the project is going. For example, most of our engineering teams follow Agile Scrum methodology that includes planning meetings to define the scope of work and ways to achieve it. Additionally, they have recurring retrospectives to discuss what went well during the previous sprint and what can be improved.
By introducing a similar flow, you will foster commitment, stick to deadlines, and promote trust among all project members.
5. Provide tools facilitating remote cooperation
Today, the importance of team collaboration software can hardly be overestimated. Especially when you work closely with a team outside of your company. These tools help you establish timely communication and ensure information is shared transparently.
At the bare minimum, you will need communication and video chat software, a task or project management application, and a file-sharing platform. There are many cloud computing solutions out there, so it comes down to what your collaborative product team agrees on. However, we recommend you select tools from one vendor to facilitate collaboration and boost information security. For instance, TEAM International is a certified Microsoft partner, so we run our operations on their products and offer high quality Microsoft services to all our customers.
6. Ensure high integration all the way
Although different team members take the lead during different project phases, engaging them at all stages can help you take a broader perspective. Instead of back-and-forth feedback that takes time, you will have real-time responses and suggestions about collaborative products that can be used immediately.
As everyone gets more information, it will help decide what is viable, feasible, and valuable, as well as deal with possible bottlenecks effectively. By organizing your collaboration development process this way, you will keep everybody on the same page, solve problems faster, and prevent costly revisions.
Effective collaboration is essential for fruitful strategic partnerships
Working closely with partners, we have learned that timely communication is vital for cooperation. Collaborative product development requires a high level of teamwork. It doesn’t really matter if you build a project internally with outside agents or outsource the entire development scope to an external provider. In both scenarios you need to coordinate the processes and control the results. So, it’s important to establish cross-functional teams and build a cooperation process that will work for you.
Below, we share our best practices for breaking down organizational silos and setting up high-performing teams.
- Promote a culture of trust
The collaboration product team will demonstrate better results if your remote work culture prioritizes trust and teamwork. People should feel encouraged to express their ideas because real innovation happens when people feel safe trying new things. For example, Nokia developed a risk-free company culture for cross-cooperation, considering failure essential to growth. This helped them propel pacing technologies, and as a result, their network infrastructure drove a 28 percent revenue increase in 2021.
In the end, your leadership and actions speak louder than any words. So, dare to champion the change, and your team will follow.
- Create common goals, commitments, and metrics
People from different departments often have different agendas related to their areas of responsibility. For instance, by pursuing the goal of improving corporate market share by 30 percent, software engineers would increase the number of collaboration product features. Meanwhile, the marketing department would consider increasing advertising volume and frequency.
So, you should make a strategic alignment and shared commitment for team members to find ways of achieving the goals. Also, identify specific metrics for everyone to understand how their individual KPIs map to company KPIs.
- Set up a communication plan
Clear communication in collaborative product development is vital. It brings all the teammates to the same page regarding global business goals, especially if they work across numerous locations. You need to introduce a communication strategy and rules of engagement, so everyone knows when and how to cooperate.
Make guidelines and create proper channels to keep the conversation in one place. Finally, we recommend appointing people to coordinate team collaboration. By doing so, you will make it more effective and ensure everybody is involved.
- Encourage regular updates
Collaborative product design projects have many dependencies where, for example, UX research will have a direct impact on app design. So, it’s critical to organize regular team meetings to not only discuss technical questions but share recent updates. At TEAM International, most teams follow Scrum methodology, so daily stand-ups are a part of their daily routines. There they don’t just share their priorities for the day, but also talk about completed tasks or deployed changes. By scheduling recurring meetings, you keep all project members informed about collaborative development success and make it easier for them to track progress.
Switching to the CPD approach is challenging, yet it’s key to growth and innovation. It is a great opportunity for design, engineering, marketing, sales teams, partners, and customers to build products that people really need and will actually use. So, in this collaboration renaissance, you don’t tell consumers what to download and use—they tell you what to develop and what features to add.
The collaborative product development process eliminates “I” from the flow. It motivates teams to act as one, promoting knowledge sharing, lifetime learning, and constant professional growth. Of course, it requires you to conduct a detailed analysis, reimagine workflows, and build interactions between teams. However, the potential outcomes are worth the effort. Leverage our best practices on how to build a collaborative product design team to strengthen your professional bonds and create tangible value for customers.