Zeenea - Data Innovation Summit 2022

The 5 product values that strengthen Zeenea’s team cohesion & customer experience

March 14, 2022
March 14, 2022
14 March 2022

To remain competitive, organizations must make decisions quickly, as the slightest mistake can lead to a waste of precious time in the race for success. Defining the company’s reason for being, its direction, and its strategy makes it possible to build a solid foundation for creating an alignment – subsequently facilitating decisions that impact product development. Aligning all stakeholders in product development is a real challenge for Product Managers. Yet, it is an essential mission to bring up a successful product and an obvious prerequisite to motivate teams who need to know why they get up each morning to go to work.

 

The foundations of a shared product vision within the company

Various frameworks (NorthStar, OKR, etc.) have been developed over the last few years to enable companies and their product teams to lay these foundations, disseminate them within the organization, and build a roadmap that creates cohesion. These frameworks generally define a few key artifacts and have already given rise to a large body of literature. Although versions may differ from one framework to another, the following concepts are generally found: 

  • Vision: the dream, the true North of a team. The vision must be inspiring and create a common sense of purpose throughout the organization.
  • The mission: it represents an organization’s primary objective and must be measurable and achievable.
  • The objectives: these define measurable short and medium-term milestones to accomplish the mission.
  • The roadmap: a source of shared truth – it describes the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of a product over time.

With a clear and shared definition of these concepts across the company, product teams have a solid foundation for identifying priority issues and effectively ordering product backlogs.

Product values: the key to team buy-in and alignment over time

Although well defined at the beginning, these concepts described above can nevertheless fall into oblivion after a while or become obsolete! Indeed, the company and the product evolve, teams change, and consequently the product can lose its direction… A work of reconsideration and acculturation must therefore be carried out continuously by the product teams in order for it to last.

Indeed, product development is both a sprint and a marathon! One of the main difficulties for product teams is to maintain this alignment over time. In this respect, another concept in these frameworks is often under-exploited when it is not completely forgotten by organizations: product values. 

Jeff Steiner, Executive Chairman at LinkedIn, particularly emphasized the importance of defining company values through the Vision to Values framework. LinkedIn defines values as “The principles that guide the organization’s day-to-day decisions; a defining element of your culture“. For example “be honest and constructive“, “demand excellence“, etc.

Defining product values in addition to corporate values can be a great way for product teams to create this alignment over time and this is exactly what we do at Zeenea.

 

From corporate vision to product values: a focus on Zeenea Data Catalog

Organization & product consistency at Zeenea

At Zeenea, we have a shared vision – “Be the first step of any data journey” – and a clear mission – “To help data teams accelerate their initiatives by creating a smart & reliable data asset landscape at the enterprise level“.  

We position ourselves as a data catalog pure-player and we share the responsibility of a single product between several Product Managers. This is why we have organized ourselves into feature teams. This way, each development team can take charge of any new feature or evolution according to the company’s priorities, and carry it out from start to finish.

If we prioritize the backlog and delivery by defining and adapting our strategy and organization according to the objectives, three problems remain: 

  • How do we ensure that the product remains consistent over time when there are multiple pilots onboard the plane? 
  • How do we favor one approach over another? 
  • How do we ensure that a new feature is consistent with the rest of the application? 

Indeed, each product manager has his or her own sensitivity, his or her own background. And if the problems are clearly identified, there are usually several ways to solve them. This is where product values come into play…

Zeenea’s product values

If the vision and the mission help us to answer the “why?”, the product values allow us to remain aligned with the “how?”. It is a precious tool that challenges the different possible approaches to meet customer needs. And each Product Manager can refer to these common values to make decisions, prioritize a feature or reject it, and ensure a unified & unique user experience across the product.

Thus, each new feature is built with the following 5 product values as guides:

Simplicity

This value is at the heart of our convictions. The objective of a Data Catalog is to democratize data access. To achieve this, facilitating catalog adoption for end users is key. Simplicity is clearly reflected in the way each functionality is proposed. Many applications end up looking like Christmas trees with colored buttons all over the place that no one knows how to use; others require weeks of training before the first button is clicked. The use of the Data Catalog should not be reserved to experts and should therefore be obvious and fluid regardless of the user’s objective. This value was reflected in our decision to create two interfaces for our Data Catalog: one dedicated to search and exploration, and the other for the management and monitoring of the catalog’s documentation. 

Empowering

Documentation tasks are often time-consuming and it can be difficult to motivate knowledgeable people to share and formalize their knowledge. In the same way, the product must encourage data consumers to be autonomous in their use of data. This is why we have chosen not to offer rigid validation workflows, but rather a system of accountability. This allows Data Stewards to be aware of the impacts of their modifications. Coupled with an alerting and auditing system after the fact, it ensures better autonomy while maintaining traceability in the event of a problem.

Reassuring

It is essential to allow end-users to trust in the data they consume. The product must therefore reassure the user by the way it presents its information. Similarly, Data Stewards who maintain a large amount of data need to be reassured about the operations for which they are responsible: have I processed everything correctly? How can I be sure that there are no inconsistencies in the documentation? What will really happen if I click this button? What if it crashes? The product must create an environment where the user feels confident using the tool and its content. This value translates into preventive messages rather than error reports, a language type, idempotency of import operations, etc.

Flexibility  

Each client has their own business context, history, governance rules, needs, etc. The data catalog must be able to adapt to any context to facilitate its adoption. Flexibility is an essential value to enable the catalog to adapt to all current technological contexts and to be a true repository of data at enterprise level. The product must therefore adapt to the user’s context and be as close as possible to their uses. Our flat and incremental modeling is based on this value, as opposed to the more rigid hierarchical models offered on the market.

Deep Tech 

This value is also very important in our development decisions. Technology is at the heart of our product and must serve the other values (notably simplicity and flexibility). Documenting, maintaining, and exploiting the value of enterprise-wide data assets cannot be done without the help of intelligent technology (automation, AI, etc.). The choice to base our search engine on a knowledge graph or our positioning in terms of connectivity are illustrations of this “deep tech” value at Zeenea.

 

Take away

Creating alignment around a product is a long-term task. It requires Product Managers – in synergy with all stakeholders – to define from the very beginning: the vision, the mission, and the objectives of the company. This enables product management teams to effectively prioritize the work of their teams. However, to ensure the coherence of a product over time, the definition and use of product values  are essential. At Zeenea, our product values are simplicity, autonomy, trust, flexibility and deep-tech. They are reflected in the way we design and enhance our Data Catalog and allow us to ensure a better customer experience over time. 

 

If you would like to learn more about our product, or to get more information about Data Catalog:

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At Zeenea, we work hard to create a data fluent world by providing our customers with the tools and services that allow enterprises to be data driven.

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Chez Zeenea, notre objectif est de créer un monde “data fluent” en proposant à nos clients une plateforme et des services permettant aux entreprises de devenir data-driven.

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Das Ziel von Zeenea ist es, unsere Kunden "data-fluent" zu machen, indem wir ihnen eine Plattform und Dienstleistungen bieten, die ihnen datengetriebenes Arbeiten ermöglichen.

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