Product and company stages

As I mentioned in my last article, I decided to invest some time seriously studying product management. Somehow now it feels natural for me to dig deeper on this topic, it’s a genuine interest.

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Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Some months ago, I discovered this guy called Marty Cagan. If you are into product management you probably know him, he is some sort of a big deal in that area. He was an executive for several relevant companies, such as eBay, Netscape, HP, and he is a partner in the Silicon Valley Product Group, a really fantastic place to learn about the matter of this article.

My goal here is to summarize some of the things, from my point of view, so you can learn something too, without the overhead of reading hundreds of articles or reading his book Inspired, which I bought some weeks ago.

The first thing I would like to bring, it’s an update about an opinion I had in my last article, where I wrote that feedback loop is the most important thing. In the technology world, we generally have three different stages of companies: startups, growth-stage, and enterprise companies. The feedback loop is definitely useful in all of them, but there are few other things we should consider

Startup

Nobody knows or cares about the company, founders don’t know if their product has a market fit and they should try to build something viable as soon as possible. Usually, at this point, the organization is in a race to achieve product/market fit before running out of money. Martyn says:

“While money and time are typically tight, good startups are optimized to learn and move quickly, and there’s normally very little bureaucracy to slow them down. Yet, the very high failure rate of technology startups is no secret.”

He also suggests that most of the companies that succeed during this period are the ones that are great at product discovery.

Growth Stage

When companies finally find a market fit, they need to tackle another challenge: to effectively grow and scale. Besides hiring lots more people, they need to build strategies and tactics good enough to replicate their earlier successes with new, adjacent products and services. Communication is a big challenge in this phase, too, since some symptoms start to appear. Product teams complaining about a lack of understanding of the big picture, people don’t see how their work contributes to the broader goals, and in general, employees feel less empowered, departments have a hard time to communicate with each other, the infrastructure built for the product is not scalable enough, etc. Cagan writes:

“This stage is also tough on leaders because the leadership style and mechanisms that worked while the company was a young startup often fail to scale. Leaders are forced to change their roles and, in many cases, their behaviors.”

However, the energy and motivation to overcome these challenges are powerful, since there is a possibility of having a significant and positive impact on the world if they do the right thing.

Enterprise

If these companies are lucky enough to succeed in scaling their business, they now have a different set of problems. How to ensure consistent product innovation? How to keep creating value to the customers and the company without the bureaucracy? In the earlier stages, the organization had a clear and compelling vision; however, this usually changes since they already achieved that original vision, and now people are not sure what’s next. Decisions take forever to be made.

To have some breath of innovation, some companies create “innovation centers” to test new business ideas in a protected environment. However, Cagan says this rarely results in the innovation they’re so desperate for.

However, some big tech companies manage to stay relevant and innovative, even with hundreds of people and initiatives, like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc.

So, what is the secret? I’ll let you know as soon as I learn.

Conclusion

The beauty of this book called Inspired is that it is practical, and I feel I’m getting a bit less naive about product management, which was the initial goal. Now it’s clear to me that you should adopt different strategies in different stages of your company. Besides that, B2C and B2B business have entirely different dynamics and practices, things that work for one not necessarily will work for the other.