Building a successful product requires a customer-centric approach, agile ways of working, and cross-team collaboration.
The UpCloud Orchestration Team has been doing just that recently, ahead of the launch of UpCloud’s Managed Kubernetes (UKS). We talked to Ville Vesilehto, a Product Owner in the Orchestration Team, to ask all about the product creation journey.
As a Product Owner, Ville Vesilehto ensures that UpCloud’s products are built to the highest standard and maintained rigorously. In his role, he has overseen the Managed Kubernetes and Developer Experience as Product Owner, managing the business and commercial aspects of the product.
Ville tells us that it is vital for the team to have a clear plan in mind for the success of the product, and then be able to work flexibly along the journey from vision to execution. The end product may be constantly refined, but always has the customer in mind.
“All products start with a discovery process in some shape or form,” said Ville. “You have to start with a product vision, then you turn that into a strategy, then into a roadmap – and after that into a series of backlog items and iterative releases as you constantly work on the product.”
“In my role, I work closely with internal and external stakeholders to maintain that product roadmap as well as a prioritised backlog, which helps us plan what to work on next. Our backlog items are represented as ‘user stories’, which we then work through in sprints with the development team and the team coach, Filipe, who ensures the team works together in the most efficient way possible.”
A customer-centric approach to product development
From the very start of the product discovery process, UpCloud has taken a customer-centric approach to our UKS offering. This means not only that we create the best possible product, but it also ensures that it solves real-world problems that our customers are facing.
“The first step to a discovery process is to define the problem we are solving. We then need to understand it deeply, and continuously validate our solution with the target audience,” said Ville.
Throughout the process, Ville says the customer has been the guiding light of the project. UpCloud’s teams have conducted interviews with customers and other key stakeholders in order to mould the final product, with this practical information backed up by studies and UpCloud’s own market research, which underpins the process.
Before releasing UpCloud’s Managed Kubernetes for Open Beta, Ville and his team had created and refined four incremental releases, each delivering a new set of features for customers to test and for the team to validate.
“We constantly reprioritised a significant number of items based on this customer feedback,” Ville added.
“If we’re not providing measurable value to the end user, we’re simply not doing the right things.”
Product development is a learning journey
Ville says the Orchestration Team’s ability to change tack based on customer feedback has been fuelled by its agile ways of working.
“We have built UpCloud’s Managed Kubernetes in a dynamic team,” said Ville. “So as the team has grown, we’ve had to adjust our ways of working. You have to adjust as a team as the situation changes, but doing that has helped us succeed.”
Ville also emphasises the value of being nimble enough to make iterative changes constantly, and throughout the UKS project, the team delivered changes to small subsets of bigger features immediately to create value straight away – not waiting to implement everything at the end in one big update.
“Iterative changes like this are only possible through rigorous scoping,” said Ville. “That’s something we have been getting better at as a team throughout this journey!
“We’ve been working very hard together to make this product available for our customers, but it wouldn’t be as great as it is without strong cross-team collaboration.
“I ultimately have to give a boatload of praise to the whole Orchestration Team for making it happen together, as well as the wider UpCloud team who supported us significantly.”
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