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3 leaders your product development will fail without

We’ve built hundreds of innovative digital products over the last decade. With that experience comes some trends — you start to notice signals for success. One of the biggest signals we see in product development success is on the staffing front. We’ve identified three mission-critical roles and what it takes to succeed in those roles when it comes to building software that users love, on time and on budget.

Let’s break down what these roles are and why they’re so crucial.

The Product Development Novel

We recorded a full webinar with every bit of granular detail you might want to determine what these roles are and who should be filling them. You can find that below:

If you’re more of a short story kinda person, keep reading:

The Product Development Novella

1. The Product Visionary

First up, we have the Product Visionary. This person is the heartbeat of your product. They deeply understand the problem you’re trying to solve and have a clear vision of how your product fits into the solution. They might not be technical or experienced in building software products, but they are intimately familiar with your target users and their pain points. Their vision guides the team, ensuring everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal.

In a startup, this role is usually filled by the founder. Founders often have a personal connection to the problem they’re solving, usually stemming from their previous experiences. They worked in a particular field, noticed a problem they wanted solved to do their job easier/better, and nothing existed out there yet — boom, founder in waiting. This personal insight drives their passion and vision for the product.

In a more established company, this role might be held by a Product Owner or Manager who has the authority to make decisions and move the project forward.

Key attributes of a successful Product Visionary include:

  • Deep User Understanding: They know their users inside and out
  • Clear Vision: They can see the end goal and understand the business case for the product
  • Communication Skills: They get everyone on the same page, from developers to designers
  • Sales and Persuasion Skills: They constantly sell the vision to stakeholders, keeping everyone motivated and aligned
  • Analytical Mindset: They digest data and research, translating it into actionable plans

2. The Technical Delivery Leader

Next, we have the Technical Delivery Leader. This person is your go-to for all technical decisions. They have a strong background in software development and can navigate the complexities of delivering a product from a technical standpoint. Their role varies depending on the organization’s size. In a startup, they might be a lead developer wearing multiple hats, while in a larger company, they would be a seasoned delivery leader with deep expertise and a track record of putting software into production.

This role is crucial for ensuring that technical decisions align with business objectives. They balance perfection with practicality, making sure the product is built efficiently (we all know developers can fall in love with beautiful code at the expense of shipping products) without compromising on quality. They also act as a translator, bridging the gap between the technical team and the product visionary.

Day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Estimating Effort: They provide accurate timelines and resource requirements
  • Managing Timelines: They keep the project on track, aligning tasks with broader objectives
  • Designing Architecture: They set long-term technical plans and ensure the team stays aligned
  • Code Reviews: They review and validate code to maintain quality and consistency

3. The UX Strategist

Finally, we have the UX Strategist. This role goes beyond just creating beautiful designs. A UX Strategist ensures that the product provides a seamless and intuitive user experience. They understand the user journey and make design decisions that enhance the overall experience.

This role is tightly aligned with the user. They create user personas, map out user journeys, and translate the product vision into wireframes and prototypes. Their work is crucial for informing the product roadmap and ensuring that the final product meets user needs and expectations.

Key activities include:

  • Creating User Personas: Defining target users, their needs, and pain points.
  • Mapping User Journeys: Understanding the user’s process and designing accordingly.
  • Wireframing and Prototyping: Visualizing the product and refining it through feedback.
  • Staying Involved: Remaining engaged throughout the development process to address gaps and ensure consistency.

Risks of Not Having These Roles

Without these three key roles, projects are at risk of delays, poor technical decisions, and subpar user experiences. Delays can stem from misaligned priorities and missteps, leading to budget overruns. Poor technical decisions can result in instability or inefficiencies, while a lack of a strong UX focus can lead to a product that users find confusing or frustrating.

Not all staffers are created equally

Just as not every employee is an A+ contributor, so too is not every position mission-critical.

In the best performing software teams we’ve worked with, they all have some version of a Product Visionary, a Technical Delivery Leader, and a UX Strategist:

  1. Operating at a high level
  2. Acting with clarity
  3. Empowered with agency

These roles complement each other, ensuring that the product is technically sound, user-friendly, and aligned with the business vision.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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