What Engineering Leader Can Learn from Product Model at Spotify?

Marty Cagan and the SVPG group strongly advocate for software engineers to be an essential component of product teams.

"The role of technology in a product company is to solve customers' problems."

This sentiment is echoed frequently in Cagan's "Inspired" and "Empowered" books and is reiterated here in Practical Engineering Management.

In the recent article, "The Product Model at Spotify" they delve into how product teams function at Spotify. Here are a few highlights to explore by engineering leaders willing to build empowered teams:

  1. Transitioning from a Waterfall to a more iterative approach, valuing user feedback early on.
  2. Investing in experimentation infrastructure for real-time data and A/B testing.
  3. Advocating for small, frequent, and uncoupled releases through continuous delivery.
  4. Fostering a culture of empowered product teams led by strong leaders who provide strategic context and enable data-informed experimentation for better business outcomes.

These insights are not only valuable for top-tier product organizations and senior leaders but can also serve as a beacon for first-level engineering leaders.

Let's delve into each point to discern actionable strategies (here you can download a cheat sheet PDF file):

Iterative Approach

In product organizations, most of the ideas are... hypotheses! We will only know how customers receive a product after we launch it. The longer it takes to unveil it, the harder it is to adjust the effects of your work to real customer needs.

As an engineering leader, you should cultivate a team culture that emphasizes the following:

  • Product Ownership: Your team is crafting a product to serve customers, not just code. Every member should have a basic grasp of the business metrics and the outcomes they're driving.
    Further inspiration: Focus on Outcomes

  • Quick Iterations: The initial product launch is only the starting point. Adjustments are inevitable. Once your product is live, it's prime time for gathering customer feedback. Your team must be ready to face it, react quickly, and evolve the product to the desired state the customers want.
    Further inspiration: Building a Product: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

  • Demos and Feedback Sessions: Sometimes, it's impossible to launch the product's first version within a few days or weeks. But it cannot stop you from regular reviews of your work - demo sessions, UX reviews with mocked data, etc. You should build a culture where you share your work often and the team is open for feedback and amendments.