Team Spirit Alithya Style
Product Practice embraces support and collaboration as keys to success
Alithya’s dynamic Product Practice is just one more example of how Alithya is distinguishing itself in a competitive landscape. The practice’s approach to knowledge sharing and collaboration in support of Product Owners (POs) and Product Managers (PMs) serves as both a fail-safe system and a performance enhancer that continues to set the company apart.
To gain some insight into the workings and benefits of the practice, we discussed the day-to-day with three Product Coaches: Emmanuelle Raux, who is also a PO, Tara Lachapelle, a PM, and Nicolas Demarteau, a PM with the added management responsibility of Principal Product Coach.
What is the main difference between a Product Owner (PO) and a Product Manager (PM)?
Tara Lachapelle: A Product Manager plays a more strategic role, evaluating the product from a macro point of view and working interdepartmentally through the launch of the product and its lifecycle. A PM stays connected to the market and competition, ensuring that the product portfolio and roadmaps pivot around the delivery of value to both the business and customers. While working within the Scrum team, a Product Owner represents the client’s interests by ensuring that deliveries correspond with the original strategy, and by ensuring that that strategy is supported throughout the product development stage. The PO is the bridge between the Scrum team and the client.
What role does a Product Coach play within that framework?
TL: The Product Coach serves in a supportive role to assist our PO and PM colleagues with their projects. We accompany them on their learning journeys by sharing the techniques that we are experienced in. It’s not necessarily a hierarchical role, but moreover a supportive role to reflect experiences and techniques within the product ecosystem. Rather than being teachers or mentors, we help guide our colleagues towards answers that they find for themselves. Likewise for products, we help POs and PMs define value in their role and measure success based on their objectives.
Can you provide an example of how you might reach out for advice?
Emmanuelle Raux: When I developed my first ever Design Sprint, I felt so comfortable reaching out to Product Coaches who had Design Sprint experience under their belts. Their guidance was priceless, and Tara developed a spreadsheet to provide me with some recommendations and guidelines. My colleagues provide answers to any questions that I have, and that instills confidence and builds one’s knowledge base. Additionally, in his role as Principal Product Coach, Nicolas is a tremendous source of strategic advice for working with a variety of different clients.
How does the team interact, and what is the chemistry like?
TL: We have a weekly Product Practice meeting where we brainstorm different techniques and address the various challenges that we are being confronted with, which provides us with a forum for sharing our experiences with each other. But beyond that meeting, we communicate with each other regularly to solicit feedback on different techniques and approaches being applied to our projects. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s great to discuss different techniques that can be applied to a given context.
Considering that you are engaged in a team sport, so to speak, how has remote work affected your daily routine?
Nicolas Demarteau: For me, remote work is very difficult. One of the key responsibilities of my job is to ensure that everyone is crystal clear on our strategic roadmap, and that people on the development side understand their particular role as well. I like to draw things out on the wall, and I enjoy interacting with people to be sure that they really understand. On the flip side, there is some value to working from home without pants, and I was able to buy a tablet that has become my new best friend. But, in general, it makes my day-to-day job more difficult.
TL: Personally, I love remote work. And from a recruitment perspective, Alithya is flexible on the issue, and that flexibility is really important when competing for talent.
Do you occasionally have the opportunity to work on internal projects with your Alithya peers?
ER: That first Design Sprint that I developed was for an internal project at Alithya. There are occasional opportunities, but I would love to work more often with people from our Product Practice community. We are typically engaged in separate contracts, so we don’t get a lot of time to really work together, but I think that we would all love to do it more often.
What are some of the core values that you embrace as a team?
ND: There are three main values that need to be applied to our work: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Those are the three pillars of Agility. You need to be transparent enough with your developers to ensure that you can make a left or right turn at any given moment, if need be. Inspection is about introspection really. It’s about looking at your own work, but also about looking at how the team is progressing, how the project is progressing, and how the company is aligning itself in the market. If any of those things are misaligned, then you need to adapt and find a way to resolve it.
ER: For me, adaptation applies critically to communication. Communication can vary greatly from one client to another. Some clients want you to work in a very autonomous mode, where they meet with you once or twice a week to ensure that you’re on the right path. Other clients want to meet every day to pursue a continuous execution with you. When you work with two or three different clients at a time, adaptability is critical to project success.
At the end of the day, what do you enjoy most about your work at Alithya?
TL: I love seeing the product approach and Agility applied internally within the company. We are continuously working towards and adapting to our realities, rather than trying to force triangles into squares. Things can change quickly, as evidenced by the pandemic, and in the context of working with various personalities and realities, it’s great to remain flexible and creative. We are meeting things where they are. I also love that, despite Alithya being a big company, there is a sort of startup vibe that allows us to really get involved in forming and transforming the Product Practice. I really like being involved in the vision of our role and the practice within the company.
ND: There is no school for a product person. We all come from different places, with different backgrounds. What is great about Alithya is that we have assembled teams of people who are empathetic and who can step into someone else’s shoes, whether that be business-wise, client-wise, or technical-wise. If someone lacks that ability, it can be a real obstacle to success.
ER: One of the things that I cherish about working as a Product Coach at Alithya is that I have never seen that type of position anywhere else. The role of Product Coach opens the door to brand-new opportunities, and I have a new project to work on every 5 or 6 weeks. Each new project presents a new context, and that requires the development of a new mindset. I am never bored at Alithya!