About one and a half years ago Hemnet’s product development organization decided to change the way they worked with product development, with the goal to have a more efficient collaboration. Hemnet’s CTO, PerOla Schelvander and CPO, Francesca Cortesi explain how that turned out and how we work with product development at Hemnet.
PerOla: “One and a half years back we sat down to prioritize all the initiatives we had ongoing in the development department. We listed 38 initiatives, in a department which back then had 35 team members. We worked on too much stuff in parallel and the prioritization was not clear enough. This led to, in a culture where people are very willing to help each other, that it was hard to see what was most important to focus on. We decided, together with the product department, to do something to change this.”
Francesca: “Nowadays we spend time and energy on fewer initiatives, but the most important ones. We start by looking at the company goals, our OKRs- objective key results. We break down the OKR’s quarterly and from here we create a priority list, our backlog. Then it’s up to each development team to create their own backlog out of this. This process enables us to take big, valuable steps forward, in an easier way. We know that what we spend time on is well thought through. We know we are focusing on the right things and that we all have the same goals and we are way more efficient.”
Francesca continues: “This new way of working is a tool for us to communicate why we do certain things. It has become much more objective and clear. This is a continuous work that constantly is getting better. Clarity between product development and the company's strategy is important- this must be anchored, aligned and transparent. We are still experimenting with this process, we test and iterate a lot, but one thing is clear - we will always have a global backlog based on Hemnet’s organizational goals.”
What would you say is the key to a well-functioning collaboration between a product and development department?
Francesca: “I think one of our advantages is that we have a great trust in each other. We share some principles and have the same goals- that we want to build great products for our users, and we trust that others make good decisions. Without that in our culture we wouldn’t be able to run as fast as we do.”
PerOla: “I agree. Having clear and common goals and trust in the teams and colleagues lead to committed individuals, and committed humans are often creative.”
PerOla, describe the development department at Hemnet.
PerOla: “We have a development organization consisting of over 40 team members divided into six teams with clear product area responsibilities. The approach is that each team should have the cross-functional competence they need to independently solve the challenges they are facing. We must be able to solve both database optimizations and at the same time be able to do user research, and everything in between. All teams have a Development Manager helping the teams to stay autonomous and constantly improve the way they work. It’s important for us that the Development Managers are present and in depth understand what the teams are working on.”
PerOla continues: “All our development teams are very much involved in product development, working as a software engineer at Hemnet means that you're a product developer, not “only” a software developer. Everyone uses his or her specific competence by being involved in the business and product goals.”
Concretely, what does that mean?
PerOla: “We have developers, UX and UI designers, CRO experts, user researchers and digital analysts sharing the same reporting line. They together get a direction with business goals or product goals, and the whole team, with their different competences, are involved in deciding how to go from there and reach these goals. The teams build the idea first, then the solution. This leads to a lot of creative freedom, continuous communication and ownership - the development team is the product owner, but has the support from their Development Manager and the Product Manager from Francesca’s team.”
Francesca: “Like PerOla says- we start with a business or a product goal, based on an idea, a problem or a hypothesis. It's then up to the development teams to decide how to proceed - what the next sprint should look like and what steps to take to tackle the problem or work on this hypothesis. We work in a very experimental way, we test and iterate a lot, and analyze a lot of data, to make sure we work on the right things.”
PerOla: “We get feedback on our experiments quickly, often within a day. We release often, most teams deploy several times per day and we want feedback from our users as early as we can, whether it's performance issues or user feedback, so we can tweak things as soon as possible. We want to be able to re-evaluate, or confirm, our choices right away and all people using Hemnet give us that possibility. It’s rewarding to see that something you’ve been working on affects hundreds of thousand people as soon as you release it.”