The task at hand: brief your executives and the board on the progress you’ve made this quarter. Leaders and board members want to see what it is your team is doing, or whether and why you are or are not doing whatever is in their head. This can be tough when it comes to engineering. You may know how your team is doing, and you know what they’re doing, but it can be a challenge to present this to the business and board members. In this series, I’ll take you through five slides topics that should answer questions even before they’re asked:
Slide Topic #1: Deliverables
Questions to address (that your board may be thinking, even if they haven’t asked): When is X going to be done? What else are they doing over there [why aren’t they doing XYZ feature]? How long is that going to take/when are they going to be done with it?
This may be over simplifying, but at the end of the day, you as an engineering leader have one job: to get product out the door. Just as sales leaders have the job to get things sold, it is yours to build the things they will sell so that your users can use it. Your goal with this slide, then, should be to communicate what is being done, when will it be shipped, and when it can be used (whether that means the sales team can start selling it, users can start using it, sales engineers can start demoing it, etc.). The board is looking to understand how your projects are being executed (on a macro level), any predicted pitfalls, and other targets for the year ahead. Remember that, while this might seem pedantic to you, it isn’t coming from a place of mistrust. More often than not, business leaders simply have to plan around delivery for sales and marketing timelines, and the board wants to know that can happen.
The art here is to know exactly which things to surface and with what granularity. That will become easier as you get to know your board better. As you understand the cares of each member better, make sure to cover those. Focus on the deliverables that really tell your team’s story, and avoid topics that can confuse. The products built by the engineering team are what allow the rest of the company to sell, to profit, and to grow. It’s important that you [tactfully] remind the board of that up front.
Here are some points you might want to include on this first slide:
High-level Progress Report
- List the major features or deliverables in flight and the progress the team has made toward completion
- Any major bugs or customer requests, or other substantive efforts across the company that are worth paying attention to, as well as the status and/or % completion of those issues.
- Deliverables (Features/Issues/Projects) that management would stop you in the hall to ask about (the show-stoppers, for example “how’s that twitter integration coming?”)
- Compiled predictions (% completion, % burn-down, or predicted ship date)
- Progress points: three months out, six months out, nine months out, and a year
Note: if you can’t give a prediction, then segment larger projects and talk through progress on each segment (for example, instead of the progress of “that twitter integration,” break it down into the Twitter API integration vs. Twitter UI vs. Twitter targeting, etc.)
Download a Template for the Five Slides to Show Your Board!Download the Template
Being data-driven about the way you present to the leadership team and board will help you align the work your engineering teams do with the goals of the business, and foster trust and support for you.
As your group scales, it can become difficult to aggregate all the metrics necessary to properly build a presentation like the one above. It’s important to keep a steady state of communication with your engineering managers or directors to keep a pulse on things. But there are also tools to help you automate this process. Engineering Management Platforms (EMP) like Jellyfish aggregate engineering signals with business context to give better visibility into deliverable progress, product quality, investments, and productivity of the entire org. To learn more about EMPs or Jellyfish check out our site.