Establishing a single source of truth across the product organization
Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock Ventures, once said that the most important thing a product manager does is document decisions. Document decisions – really? With all the things a PM has to do, from setting the product roadmap, to aligning with the strategy of the business and the needs of the customers, it can be surprising that documentation tops Josh’s list of vital functions. But the team at Rosetta Stone isn’t surprised by this idea, in fact, they agree wholeheartedly with Josh.
Product Management at Rosetta Stone
Eric Hilfer is the VP of Product Engineering at Rosetta Stone and leads a team of over 100 engineers, product managers, and project managers working together to build tools that help millions of people learn languages. With such a large team, Eric understands how important it is to establish a single source of truth for all team members.
Because of the breadth and depth of products that Rosetta Stone creates, the product team has to navigate an intricate web of product requirements, best practices, and documentation. And given that Rosetta Stone’s engineering teams are not necessarily dedicated to a particular product, it’s even more important that everyone is aligned on development best practices. Rosetta Stone relies on writing consistent documentation that all product managers and engineers can refer back to as a single source of truth so that nothing gets lost in translation.
Why a single source of truth is needed
One of the biggest challenges of working in a large team is that everyone brings their own perspective, background, and understanding to each new project. That’s why establishing consensus is so important. As teams shift and new members are added, it can feel like you’re on a never-ending carousel of team alignment and training.
And what about misinformation? Not everyone on a team can be expected to remember every requirement and procedural step at all parts of the product development process. And when it goes wrong, it goes really, really, wrong.
“In the past, we discovered cases where teams were happily working away, based on outdated requirements and prioritization, building the wrong things in the wrong order!” Eric Hilfer, VP of Product Engineering at Rosetta Stone, said. “Once we were able to establish a singular and accurate source of information, we were able cut out lots of wasted effort.” When teams have a document that is a single source of truth for all elements of a product, all it takes to clarify a doubt or answer a question is a simple reference back to that doc.
Transparency and openness
Rosetta Stone has also found that allowing anyone at the company to get an inside look at what is happening in Product has created a more transparent and open culture. To accomplish this, they provide birds-eye overviews on a single page that anyone can see and immediately know the status of their projects. “Having a dashboard set up gives me confidence that everybody is seeing the work we’re doing, instead of emailing me for a status update,” Eric said.
How Rosetta Stone does it
The product team has created a team space in Confluence that links out to team pages, product pages, SAFe documentation, and acts as a single portal where people can find everything that they need. When new members join the team, or someone gets a new project, their Product home space serves as the reference point for everything they need to know to do great work.
It includes everything from:
- Quarterly planning documents
- Results of agile ceremonies
- Architectural practice notes, embedded diagrams, documentation
- Product requirements
- Story elaborations
- Product roadmaps (with Gliffy and LucidChart)
- Dashboards that link up to JIRA tickets
- Team contact info
And these pages are shared and viewed by anybody in the organization, whether they use Confluence daily, or not. The site not only serves as the main reference point for all product development information, but also saves countless hours explaining what is happening with a product, because it is easy to see and refer to all supporting information in Confluence.
Over time, the Product Team has seen more and more teams using Confluence to share information just like they do. Or, as Eric says, “We’re bringing powerful transparency to the product management experience, and that transparency is being reciprocated throughout the rest of the organization, too.”
Product teams around the world use Confluence as a single source of truth for their products, projects, and documentation. Learn more about Confluence to see what it can do for you.