Believe it or not, there are still people out there that think that a technology company is really about two types of people: engineers and sales people. People to write the software, and people to go sell it. Everyone else is overhead and at best a necessary evil.
For nearly every organization that has grown beyond a very early stage startup, one of the most common, yet difficult, questions is the optimal way to split up the product work. As soon as you have more than one product manager, or more than one interaction designer, teams face this question. And for larger organizations, this becomes a very significant and ongoing struggle.
One question I’m often asked is whether an early stage startup needs to hire a product manager or head of product. The answer really depends on the skills of the founders, especially the CEO. Much more often than not, I see the CEO as the head of product, and I argue that in most cases this is a good thing. This is especially true in consumer-facing companies.
I want to be clear up front that this is not a typical article. I have had as a policy to only provide product development process related content to my SVPG readers, and this is the first time in the 5 years I’ve been writing these articles that I’ve strayed from that. So I completely understand if you do not wish to read further. However, I’m hoping that people will give me a one-time pass on this one because it really is for a good cause, I don’t gain anything personally, and I promise I’m not asking anyone to contribute money.
In my last article I discussed the top reasons for slow product, and here I wanted to highlight the top reasons for weak product. I am defining weak product here as product that fails to meet its objectives and provide new and expanded sources of revenue and/or growth for your company.
I work with quite a few product teams, and after a while you start to see patterns. Many organizations are frustrated because they believe that it takes far too long to move from concept to delivery. They often just blame the skills of their developers, which is rarely the root cause in my experience.
I am writing this article sitting on yet another international flight, and I wanted to discuss what I believe to be the start of a truly transformational trend.
Have you noticed how fast a team goes when they’re just getting started, but that once the product is live and there are customers and users, that the velocity of the team can slow down to a crawl? It’s an all too common problem, and it causes frustration all the way around. Once you have real customers and/or an active sales team, there are always bugs to be fixed and changes urgently needed. So the development team no longer has a clear focus because they’re now being pressured to fix and change the prior versions at the same time they’re being pushed to create significant new things.
I’m often asked about the blogs I read and the people I look to for inspiration as to thought leadership when it comes to product. Sadly, for several years I couldn’t give a very good answer to that, however, today there are some exceptional people that have published their experiences, and I thought I would highlight my favorites here. If you like the topics that I write about, I’m confident you’ll also like what these people have to say.
I hope that everyone that reads this knows that I am one of the biggest advocates in our industry for user experience. Because I generally work with the CEO’s, VP Product, and product managers of technology companies, I am probably in the best position to explain to them the importance of user experience design in coming up with great products. I am not a designer, and I don’t have a design agency I’m trying to sell, so they know I have no personal interest other than I just want them to create better products.