Mike Slinn

Product Development Collaboration

Published 2024-02-18.
Time to read: 7 minutes.

This page is part of the posts collection, categorized under Startups.

For product development, the goal of effective collaboration is to fully engage all parties. Good product-oriented collaborators maintain a flow of information, ideas and commensurate action. Hesitation is minimized. Feedback is rapid. Reactions are prompt, yet measured through constant practice.

Product Collaborator Checklist

The following criteria are a guide to effective collaboration candidates for product development.

Desirable Traits

  • Strong interest in optimizing the architecture and engineering processes.
  • A focus on the contributing to the desired results for the team, which are: reliably providing an easily understood and valuable benefit to a well-defined customer base.
  • Manage the difference between desired outcomes and actual outcomes.
  • Strive for process and product consistency.
  • Willing to expend the overhead of time and energy required for effective communication:
    • Driving their activities from a Kanban-style status board
    • Planning interactions with others, minimizing impulsive chatter
    • Preparing and distributing notes before meetings
    • Describing alternatives for decisions
    • Documenting the rationale for design decisions
    • Summarizing discussions in project documentation
    • Contributing to an up-to-date product roadmap

Undesirable Traits

People with the following traits disqualify themselves from being a member of the core team because they are unable to consistently contribute effectively to the ever-evolving vision for the project.

  • "Guns for hire" just want to get paid for time spent; they have no vested interest in the long-term outcome. They are tools to be exploited, not valuable resources to be cultivated. The best use of a mercenary is to give them orders, supervise them, learn from them, and then dispose of them as soon as possible.
  • "Putting in time" demonstrates a lack of personal engagement. Those people require constant supervision, and the cost of the supervision must be subtracted from any value they might provide when computing their net contribution.

Software Architecture and Engineering Processes

ChatGPT gave me the following response when I asked, “Compare and contrast the processes of architecture and engineering for software”. I like the quality of this response, and provide it verbatim because it exactly matches my understanding of those terms.

When it comes to software development, there are parallels between the processes of architecture and engineering, but there are also significant differences due to the intangible and rapidly evolving nature of software. Let's compare and contrast the processes of software architecture and engineering:

Purpose and Focus

Software Architecture: Similar to architectural design in physical structures, software architecture focuses on designing the overall structure and organization of a software system. It involves making high-level decisions about the system's components, their interactions, and the principles that guide their design.

Software Engineering: Software engineering encompasses the systematic approach to developing software solutions. It involves various disciplines such as requirements analysis, design, coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance. The focus is on creating reliable, efficient, and maintainable software systems.

Design Process

Software Architecture: The architectural design process involves defining the system's key components, interfaces, and their interactions. Architectural patterns, such as layered architecture, microservices, or event-driven architecture, are often used to guide the design. Considerations include scalability, performance, security, and maintainability.

Software Engineering: Software engineering encompasses the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC). It begins with requirements gathering and analysis, followed by design, implementation (coding), testing, deployment, and maintenance. Various methodologies like Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps guide this process.

Creativity vs. Technicality

Software Architecture: Software architects must balance creative design decisions with technical constraints. They need to envision the overall structure of the system and choose appropriate technologies and patterns to achieve the desired functionality and quality attributes.

Software Engineering: Software engineers focus on implementing the design created by architects. While creativity is still important, engineers primarily deal with the technical aspects of coding, testing, and debugging. They translate the architectural design into working software components.


Software Architecture: Collaboration between architects, stakeholders, and development teams is crucial to ensure that architectural decisions align with business goals and technical requirements. Architects often communicate their designs through diagrams, documentation, and discussions.

Software Engineering: Software engineers collaborate closely with other team members, including architects, designers, testers, and project managers. They work together to implement features, resolve technical challenges, and deliver software increments according to project timelines.

Regulatory and Environmental Considerations

Software Architecture: Architectural decisions may need to comply with regulatory standards, industry best practices, and security guidelines. Architects must consider factors like data privacy, compliance requirements (such as GDPR or HIPAA), and interoperability with other systems.

Software Engineering: Engineers implement features and functionalities while adhering to coding standards, security protocols, and testing practices. They ensure that the software meets quality standards, performance targets, and regulatory requirements specified by the architecture and project stakeholders.

In summary, while both software architecture and engineering involve designing and building software systems, they have distinct focuses and processes. Architecture concentrates on high-level design decisions and system structure, while engineering encompasses the entire software development lifecycle, from requirements to deployment. Collaboration and communication are essential in both disciplines to deliver successful software solutions.


ChatGPT defined collaboration as the following. Again, I very much like the response, so I provide it verbatim.

Collaboration refers to the process of individuals or groups working together to achieve a common goal or objective. It involves the sharing of ideas, resources, responsibilities, and tasks in a coordinated manner to accomplish tasks more effectively and efficiently than if done individually.

Collaboration often emphasizes communication, cooperation, and mutual respect among participants. It can occur within various contexts, including businesses, organizations, teams, communities, and even across different disciplines or sectors.

Successful collaboration typically results in synergy, where the combined efforts of the participants produce outcomes that exceed what could be achieved by any individual or subgroup working alone.

Following is the response when I asked "what is required for effective collaboration in a new software project?" I highlighted a passage that is important, and struck out portions that I disagree with.

Effective collaboration in a new software project requires several key elements:

  1. Clear Goals and Objectives: Establishing clear, well-defined goals and objectives for the project ensures that all collaborators understand what they are working towards and why.
  2. Communication Channels: Implementing reliable communication channels is essential for keeping all team members informed and facilitating the exchange of ideas, updates, and feedback. This can include tools like instant messaging, email, project management software, or regular team meetings.
  3. Defined Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly defining roles and responsibilities for each team member helps avoid confusion and ensures that tasks are completed efficiently. This includes designating a project manager, developers, testers, designers, and other relevant roles.
  4. Collaboration Tools: Utilizing collaboration tools such as version control systems (e.g., Git), issue tracking systems (e.g., Jira), document sharing platforms (e.g., Google Drive), and collaborative coding environments (e.g., GitHub) can streamline the development process and enhance teamwork.
  5. Regular Feedback and Reviews: Encouraging open and constructive feedback throughout the project lifecycle allows team members to address issues promptly, make necessary adjustments, and continuously improve the software.
  6. Flexibility and Adaptability: Remaining flexible and adaptable to changes in requirements, timelines, and priorities is crucial for navigating unforeseen challenges and ensuring the project stays on track.
  7. Respect and Trust: Cultivating an environment of respect and trust among team members fosters collaboration and encourages open communication, creativity, and innovation.
  8. Documentation: Maintaining thorough documentation of project requirements, design decisions, codebase, and processes helps ensure continuity and facilitates knowledge transfer among team members.
  9. Regular Progress Tracking: Implementing mechanisms to track progress, such as sprint planning, daily stand-up meetings, and regular status reports, enables the team to monitor project milestones, identify potential bottlenecks, and make necessary adjustments to stay on schedule.
  10. Quality Assurance and Testing: Integrating quality assurance processes and testing procedures into the development workflow ensures that the software meets the specified requirements, functions as intended, and delivers value to end-users.

By incorporating these elements into the collaborative process, teams can increase the likelihood of success in their new software projects.

Design Decisions

I asked ChatGPT "how would someone document design decisions in a software project?" The highlighted portion is covered in more detail later in this article.

Documenting design decisions in a software project is essential for ensuring clarity, facilitating collaboration, and providing a reference for future development. Here's a structured approach to documenting design decisions:

  1. Establish a Design Document: Create a designated document or section within project documentation specifically for recording design decisions. This could be a separate document, a section in the project wiki, or part of the version control repository.
  2. Provide Context: Start by providing context for the decision. Explain the problem or requirement that the design decision aims to address. Include any relevant background information, constraints, or considerations that influenced the decision-making process.
  3. Describe Alternatives: Outline the various alternatives considered during the decision-making process. This could include different approaches, technologies, architectures, or design patterns. Briefly discuss the pros and cons of each alternative.
  4. Justify the Chosen Solution: Explain why the chosen solution was selected over the alternatives. Highlight the reasons, benefits, and trade-offs associated with the chosen approach. Consider factors such as performance, scalability, maintainability, ease of implementation, and alignment with project goals.
  5. Detail the Design: Provide a detailed description of the chosen design solution. Break down the design into its constituent components, modules, or layers. Use diagrams, flowcharts, UML diagrams, or other visual aids to illustrate the architecture, structure, and relationships between components.
  6. Document Dependencies and Interactions: Document dependencies between different components or modules within the design. Describe how these components interact with each other and with external systems or services. Identify any interfaces, APIs, or protocols used for communication.
  7. Address Risks and Mitigations: Identify potential risks or challenges associated with the chosen design. Discuss strategies for mitigating these risks and ensuring the robustness and resilience of the design solution.
  8. Include Implementation Details: If applicable, include implementation details or guidelines for developers to follow when implementing the design. This could include coding standards, best practices, design patterns, or frameworks to be used.
  9. Update and Maintain: Keep the design document up to date as the project evolves. Update it to reflect any changes, refinements, or new decisions made during the development process. Ensure that the document remains a reliable reference for developers and stakeholders.
  10. Review and Iterate: Encourage team members to review the design document periodically and provide feedback. Iterate on the design as necessary based on feedback, changes in requirements, or lessons learned from implementation.

By following these steps, you can effectively document design decisions in a software project, providing a comprehensive and structured reference for developers, stakeholders, and future contributors.

Comparative Product Matrix

Comparative product matrices are useful for guiding and documenting design decisions. Search for them when you need to identify pre-existing solutions to a problem, and generate them when considering the implementation of various approaches.

Comparative product matrices take time to read and to prepare, but they help guide the team to the best technical decisions. Without them, you are just hoping to get lucky.

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