How AdAction’s Product Team Stays True to Its Vision

by Michael Hines
January 15, 2021
An illustration of a team brainstorming
Shutterstock

A fully fleshed-out product vision should answer the “who, what and why.”

It should also serve as a reference point when hard decisions need to be made, like where to allocate resources. But if a company’s product vision and its importance aren’t communicated clearly, then this North Star can seem more like a roadblock to teams who make requests to product owners. 

The solution to this problem isn’t some new project management tool — it’s communication and collaboration, or at least that’s the tack Shelby Cer, the director of product at AdAction, a Lakewood-based mobile-app marketing company, has taken. Instead of working to fend off outside influences, Cer courts them. Rather than trying to explain her team’s vision after a project has begun, she works to secure buy-in as early as possible.

“Our stakeholder groups are able to influence our direction through kick-offs and monthly steering committee meetings and are more involved than I’ve seen in the past,” Cer said. “I think this creates a comfortable alignment organization-wide and saves us from fielding a lot of conflicting requests from many different directions.”

Built In Colorado spoke with Cer in May of 2020 as the company was about to embark on its latest greenfield project and recently had the chance to sit down with her again to learn more about how her team stays true to their product vision.
 

Shelby Cer
Director of Product

First, briefly tell us about your overarching product vision. What is it, and how do you communicate this vision across the business?

We are building a suite of products that readily connect consumers with brands they are interested in and care about. I host a quarterly all-hands meeting with the builders of these products to make sure we are all aligned and bought into the vision and make sure the team’s curiosities are addressed. We also hold a yearly town hall to make sure the entire organization understands what we are building and can see the vision for their overlap and contribution to our efforts.
 

We try to use our product vision as a North Star to ensure we are always heading in the direction everyone has bought into.


How does your product vision help inform your product strategy or other decisions around product development?

Our vision helps inform most decisions we make in our product builds, and we try to use it as a North Star to ensure we are always heading in the direction everyone has bought into. Right now, for example, we are finessing the user research initiative on one of our products to really hone in on and understand our target personas on a deep level, as opposed to just their relationship with software. 

We know we need to cover both bases, but with the limited resources we currently have, we were only able to really focus on one. Since our product vision revolves around understanding what makes our user base tick — so that we can better connect them to brands they trust — we consciously made this trade-off, with our product vision as the guiding light.

 

How do you stay true to your product vision while also taking into account the wants and needs of various stakeholders?

If you make sure your stakeholders are bought into your product vision early and often, this challenge is a moot point. Our stakeholder groups are able to influence our direction through kick-offs and monthly steering committee meetings and are more involved than I’ve seen in the past. I think this creates a comfortable alignment organization-wide and saves us from fielding a lot of conflicting requests from many different directions.

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