Engineering Cultures Suck at Product

1024 581 David DeWolf

I laughed out loud this morning as I read a blog from High Scalability that noted “Engineering First Cultures Suck at Product.” The author couldn’t be more right, and it’s about time that this message becomes mainstream.

The reason I decided to build 3Pillar from an independent consultancy into a product development specialist in 2009 is because product matters. From 2006 through 2009, when I was still writing code as an independent consultant, I continually found that what my clients perceived as a technology, process, or personnel challenge was in fact a product mindset challenge.

In other words, while it’s important to know how to build the software right, it’s ten times more important to know how to build the right software.

Performance, scalability, and maintainability are essential, but they only matter if your product is gaining traction in the market. What to build and how to monetize it always matter.

It amazes me that even today, the vast majority of product engineering firms do not grasp the importance of product. While they seem to have embraced the reality that user experience and design matters (note their continued acquisition of digital agencies), they have largely failed to understand the primacy of product over both design and engineering. They continue to talk about microservices, their engineers, and their agile processes.

In a world that’s being “eaten by technology,” we have come to rely too heavily on engineering as a golden hammer. Engineering is critical. It is essential. But, it is not enough.

Product Management, on the other hand, is even more critical. Unlike Engineering, however, Product Management is a rarely understood discipline.