Exploring the Power of Product Champions
In the more than a decade that Sparkbox has been working with clients of all types and sizes, one thing has remained constant: the biggest challenges that our partners face aren’t technical, they’re human. In our experience, it is far and away easier to write code and test products than it is to motivate people and run an effective team. However, there is a solution—Product Champions.
So, What Is a Product Champion?
Product Champions are the people that push a project forward, that get the team from ideation to realization. Sure, these people can be project managers and sanctioned leaders but that isn’t always the case. A Product Champion can be anyone and may enter the fray in surprising ways.
You can jump right into Drew’s presentation—below—or read his article "Product Champions: Leading Products For The Win."
More about This Role
It’s not about titles, it’s about impact. Whether you’re focused on strategy or execution, you’re a Product Champion when you take responsibility for leading the delivery of the critical return on investment for your organization. But how does this position get filled?
Choosing a Product Champion
Taking responsibility for a software product isn’t easy. It’s a big ask. But there are ways you can empower Product Champions to get the job done—no matter where they come from. Learn how to position your chosen Champion for success while being open to those rising to the occasion. This is what we did when we encountered an admittedly difficult engagement with Product Champion problems.
What Makes a Great Product Champion?
Each project and each person is unique—everyone brings their own strengths and weaknesses to their positions—your Champions are no different. In this article, we break down the psychology behind an effective Product Champion, what it takes to become one, and how they can be best supported.
Interactions with Other Roles
As your team’s resident Champion, you’re not just an advocate, you’re a maestro. You have to know how to reach out and gather critical support from members within the product team, outside of the product team, and even sometimes outside of your organization. But how do you get everyone onboard?
Working with Developers as a Product Champion
When you’re a Product Champion for a web project, one of the most important things you do is interact with the development team. It’s on you to make sure you’re communicating expectations and prioritizing goals. You also have a responsibility to lead and advocate for the development team. Here are some ideas to get you started.
How a UX Team Can Support a Product Champion
Who has the information, know-how, and expertise that your team needs? As the Product Champion, it’s your job to find out. In this video, one of our strategists explores the uncanny superpowers of your friendly neighborhood UX hero. Learn how you can work with UX team members within your organization to check your assumptions, connect with users, and improve your product.
Useful Tools for Product Champions
You’ve learned a lot about being a Product Champion so far. If you are the Product Champion for your team, we can help! Here are some tools we have found useful for this role.
A Product Champion is responsible for translating organizational needs and priorities into an achievable vision for the product. Product roadmaps can be an invaluable tool for capturing and communicating the vision to your team and your stakeholders along with being used to document how to move from square one to a finished product.
Frequent Sprint Retrospectives
Anyone with experience in software development will tell you that issues will arise—it doesn't matter how well-planned or managed the project is, there will inevitably be bumps in the road. When that happens, we recommend that you pause, consider the source, and address challenges directly.
UX Sketching Techniques
A good Product Champion is not a taskmaster or unilateral decision maker. The most successful Champions find ways to get their team to buy into the product, get on the same page for next steps, and move everyone in the same direction. That’s why UX sketching techniques could be the next evolution of your onboarding and iterative process.
Even More Resources
As you’ve learned, a Product Champion is not defined by a title. However, there is quite a bit of overlap between the role that a Product Champion plays and that of a project manager or product owner. Here are some resources that are for these roles but also apply to the Champion position.
Recordings from UnConference: Leading Successful Project and Product Teams
Taking a project—successfully—from start to finish takes a focused, goal-oriented team that is all on the same page. The difference between a fruitful team and just a team is cohesion. You may find it useful to revisit our recordings from Unconference: Leading Successful Project and Product Teams.
Learning to Communicate as a Product Champion
The most effective Product Champions will make it a priority to have more than a cursory knowledge of the roles, responsibilities, and proficiencies of those around them. Learning the “languages” of the talent that comprise their teams helps the Product Champion engender empathy, head off pain points, and keep everything moving—even when working between teams.
The Three C’s of Project Management
Clarity. Culture. Course Correction. These principles of project management can give you a unique perspective to build a foundation with the team, establish a shared vision, and find a path for project success. With these in place, you’ll be prepared and equipped for any product challenge ahead of you.