Pain to profit: How to make product management strategic - Webinar
Many product groups find that they are feature factories – they are forced to do what they are told, when they are told to do it, and they become slaves to the next requirement. Feature factories are cost centers, every year the executives will ask them to do more with less. Worse, they are not in control of your own destiny. They, take orders from sales, from marketing, from the CEO, and people will never be satisfied with what the product does.
Real product groups fulfill the company strategy. They are product aligned, and empowered. Because they push the company forward and fulfill strategy, they have a seat at the decision table. They are asked how to grow the company rather than being told what to do.
In this presentation, we are going to talk about how to transform a group from a feature factory to a proper product management group, how to create roadmaps, how to align them to the company strategy, and how to have product management and engineering become as a profit center and a driver of the company.
[00:00:00.100] - Scott
David is the founder and managing partner, plus now the in term CTO and CPO at Internet, a consultancy helping organizations make product development successful. Their team brings a deep bench of product expertise across the complete software development lifecycle, helping technology companies scale while continuing to deliver products that impact the lives of their customers. His career has spanned various senior roles from CIO to CTO to CPO, building products that delivered value for tens of millions of billions of customers, building hardware and operating systems for augmented reality devices, assisting Linda. Com in their $1.5 billion sale to LinkedIn, advising the Walt Disney Company on Disney Plus, founding two companies, and serving as an advisor and executive for three unicorns. Hopefully that encapsulates it all in that wonderful career that you've had so far, David.
[00:00:52.690] - David
Thank you. Good morning, everybody, or good afternoon, depending on where you are around the world. Today I'm going to talk about pain to profit, about how to make product management strategic. There's a couple of ways to really think about this talk. It is about making product management strategic, but it's also just about as much about moving from feature factory to proper product groups. I'll be talking about things all along that aspect. When you have questions asked them, I will try to get to, as I said before, as many of them at the end as I possibly can. Then you can hit me up in the Slack community. I will also give you my contact information across the web. I'm not going to go too far about who we are and in turn and what we do just because it's an amazing intro, but I'll give a little more background just so you know more about where I come from and what my perspective is. We work on product management and engineering and the teams and how they produce product. We'll often get a call from a senior executive or a board member that says something like, Hey, things don't seem quite right.
[00:02:13.060] - David
We keep putting money into product management engineering and not much more gets out, or we're just hitting scale. And the stuff that got us here isn't going to get us there. We cobbled this thing together. And so we need some advice on how to get to the next level. And so for those groups, we'll assess product management engineering, and we'll align it with the strategy of the company and how product management engineering helps fulfill the strategy and the broader mission of the company. And we'll come back with a diagnosis and a prescription. And we do this a lot. We see this a lot of places where we say, Here's some stuff that's going well, here's some stuff you might have alignment issues, here's what you might want to do about them. By the way, those alignment issues might be about, hey, here's how things are working in product management engineering. They might be about communications between product management and engineering with those two teams and with the other teams in the company alignment. You'll hear about all those things today. We also coach product management technology personnel. We serve as interim CTO and chief product officer.
[00:03:17.550] - David
And then for investors, we do diligence for VC firms, PE firms. The interesting thing here and the things I want to pick up today are what's common between companies of different sizes, small companies to large companies? What do we see at a Disney that we might see at a startup that we might see at a private equity backed company? Those are the things we're going to chat about today. And we're really talking today about companies that change the world through product innovation. This is really where product management and engineering can be strategic to driving the company. And this is really the nirvana that you want to get to if you're trying to move from feature factory to product management being strategic. But I want to look at a few companies. I'm going to pick some typical examples that people talk about, but I'm not always picking here the most obvious places in the company histories. At Apple, when Steve came back, Steve Jobs came back to Apple, the product portfolio was a mess. There was tons and tons of product, and they were all over the map. And so what did Steve do? He killed a bunch of stuff.
[00:04:46.290] - David
He killed a bunch of products. If I get a minute, I'll tell a story about Apple and some short time that I spent there. But then he came out with products that were directly focused on a specific consumer base that appealed to that consumer base. It actually took features away from the existing products to be directly targeted at who they serve. And the candy colored Mac, which I have the picture of here, was that first device that reset the landscape. It reset the landscape because it was just attractive visually. It was unlike something anyone had ever seen. But it was targeted at the student and the graphic designer market, a very small niche, but it was highly focused on that. And as I mentioned, it took things away. What did it take away? It took away the ability you couldn't maintain the machine. It turns out that you can take things away that people might think they love. But if it's not directly targeted at what they do, it's okay if you make a better product. But Apple, as everyone knows, is a product first company. Tesla came out with the first Tesla rosters, crappy.
[00:06:01.610] - David
And then they came out with the Model S and the Model X, which were aimed at the top level of the market. Great products, but not really broad market. But once again, they were targeted products, but Tesla was targeting those products so they could broaden the market to create an easy, great to use product for the mass consumer market. Eventually, the Model 3 and the Model Y. If you've driven one, you'll know as you sit into one, there's no way to turn it on. When you leave one, there's no way to turn it off because they've rethought the product experience. There's no reason to turn on electric car. It's always on. It just changes state. They rethought the design so it was very centric to what the user needs thinking from first principles. I'm going to skip Uber for a moment. I'm going to talk about AWS because AWS is my favorite of the ones on this slide. I don't know how many of you remember, but back in the day before we had cloud computing, startups had to go buy, call it $6 million, $5 million, $4 million worth of hardware just to get started.
[00:07:10.440] - David
They had to buy servers, they had to rack and stack them. They had to get tech ops group. They had big OpEx cost, big CapEx cost just to start the company. My argument is Amazon with AWS revolutionized the technology industry in a way no other company has. And they did that by making the fractional use of computers very inexpensive. Now, people could start companies very inexpensively. It changed not just the startups, it changes the venture capital market. The number of things that we could get started. It boomed the whole industry in a very different way. But once again, they started with a very simple product. Remember, there was EC2 and there was S3 storage. That was all it was. It's now big and complicated. There's a lot more there. And they were focused on startups. They weren't focused on the giant companies that use them today, the Disney's, Netflix companies like that. They were focused on a specific market, but they were, once again, product first market. So what's common between them? Product was the differentiator for these companies. If you want product management to be strategic, product has to be the differentiator. All these companies started with a small number of products, or at least Apple, when they relaunched, started with a small number of products.
[00:08:32.640] - David
Each product was on a specific market. They iterated quickly, harder to iterate on hardware than software. On cars, it's hard to iterate than it is on cloud computing. But they learned, they iterated, they expanded. They used all of that knowledge not just to think about how to expand the product, but how to expand the company. And then they penetrating into a chase of markets. Those are the key factors of product first companies. I'm going to talk later in this presentation about how you get here. But those are the factors that these companies all had in common. Now, by the way, we're all in product management. We all love product management. We all want product management to be strategic. And maybe some of us even think that's the only way for companies to be successful. It turns out there are other ways. Like Yoda in Star Wars, there is another one. There are other ways for companies to be successful that aren't product first. Microsoft was never a product first company. They're a fast follower. Very successful, important company in the history of technology, in the history of the world. But DOS, they bought. They didn't create.
[00:09:54.390] - David
They bought it because IBM wanted to buy B asic, and they also needed an operating system. And then when that got successful, Windows, they copied Apple, who obviously copied Xperia, but Apple commercialized it. And then for a web browser, they copy Netscape. Each time they built something for Microsoft Office, they copied other products out there and they bundled them together. They had a different way of selling it. But each time what they did is they leveraged something before to get market advantage. They are not a product first company. They build good products, maybe not great products, but they build really good products, but they're not a product first company. They're successful, clearly. Open AI, my argument is that they're scientists, not a product company. They released Chat GPT because they had to, because they thought market competition was happening. They thought Google was going to release a similar product. So they released Chat GPT before it was market ready. But they're eventually scientists and tinkers, and clearly a successful company. I'm very optimistic about them. Company that people think is product first, the Walt Disney Company, is not an innovator. It's not really a product first company.
[00:11:15.950] - David
What Disney does, and Dell does well, too, is distribution networks. Disney has content they can distribute on Disney Plus, they can put in the theme parks, they can put in the movie studios, they can build toys. But they're not innovators. Actually, by innovation, they bought Lucasfilms because Lucasfilms had great content and could create additional great content. That was a great bet. They bought pixar for the same reason. They bought Marvel for the same reason. There's other ways to be successful, aside from being a product first company. And the reason I mention this is, depending on the company you're in, product management might be a leader or it might be a follower. These other companies that I talked about, great companies all, but they're not product first companies. And let's talk about what it's like to be a follower, not a leader. And this is where you get to be into the world of the feature factory. Oftentimes, I'm not going to say in those specific companies, but oftentimes, you have roadmap problems. The roadmap might not have a consistent theme. Why is something on the roadmap? The priority is arbitrary. Why is it where it is on the roadmap?
[00:12:41.170] - David
And things might change constantly. If you're in a world where your roadmap can't be counted on, if you don't know why something's there, or why it doesn't make holistic, strategic sense to the company, you're probably in a feature factory. In companies where product management is a follower, not a leader, people are more concerned about the output of what product puts out rather than the outcome. I'm a salesperson. I just need this thing to close the sale. Just get it out there. People aren't asking, did you increase our user base? Did you decrease churn? What impact did you have on the world? Where product is a follower, it's more output than outcome. You tend to switch tasks a lot. And all of these things, because it's driven on getting things out, tends to drive conflict between the various teams. Either product management and engineering, which I'm going to argue should be thought of as one team, even if they have two heads, should be thought of as one team. But there tends to be conflict in there that's unhealthy, or between product management and other groups. And the other ramification is, if product really is this feature factory, the CEO will tend to think of it as a cost center.
[00:14:06.210] - David
You are the opposite of strategic. The purpose of this talk is to talk about how to make product management strategic. This is the beginning state. The CEO will tend to think of it as a cost center, supporting other groups, not being strategic, not being the driver to grow. And the problem is when the CEO thinks of your group as a cost center, every year, they talk about how do we get more with less, not how do we invest. And that's where you want to get to. And being these feature factors, if you're in them, they tend to feel very much like a treadmill. Run, but except there's no tape at the end of the race. There's no victory, there's no medal at the end. And not that I'm suggesting that you should be doing this for the medal at the end, for the victory at the end, but you should know the why. And in feature factories, the why is someone else asked you to. So the first question I would suggest you have to ask about is your company a product innovation company? Is the product group really about innovation or are you in fundamentally a feature factory?
[00:15:21.120] - David
So let's say you are in a feature factory. You've decided that, yes, you know what? Product management, engineering, innovation isn't really driving this company. The executive management doesn't really think of us as being able to build a product and significantly change, if not the world, change our market in a significant way. We're not an innovation driver. How do we change? And this is really the heart of the talk. This is where I want to help everybody who lives in a feature factory get to. And the fundamental thing here is I mentioned it briefly before, is aligning to first principles. And first principles here is, what is the purpose of the company? What is the purpose of a company, excuse me? And what is your CEO's job? Because if you're both looking in the same direction, your product group and your CEO, you'll tend to get aligned and you'll tend to get empowered. So the CEO's job, let's go to some basic economics. The CEO wants to create a sustainable company that creates value for the stockholders. What does that mean? Increasing revenue, increasing profit, increasing market impact, increasing potential sales in the future. So how do you in product think about that?
[00:17:00.720] - David
If you haven't read Ben Graham, he's got this book, The Intell Investor, pretty dense, but it's a fundamental treatise on how the stock market works. Warren Buffett used this as it to drive the companies they invest in Berkshire Hathaway. And Ben Graham says, The value of a company is the sum of all the future cash flows discounted to net present value. What does that mean in English? How much money we're going to make over a long period of time. Now, I have this fundamental belief that customers buy from companies that deliver value to them. This is where product management comes in. Revenue is a side effect of delivering net value. If you're going to Ben Graham, then profitability and a cash flow becomes that repeated revenue. That's the alignment with the CEO. If you and the product management leaders and the engineering leaders achieve alignment with the CEO by saying, by creating customer value, here's how we're creating a bigger presence in the market. Here's how we're generating revenue as a side effect of that. Here's why that's profitable. Here's why that drives us into the future. Now you get alignment with the CEO and you have the opportunity to have product management be strategic.
[00:18:29.910] - David
And I'm careful about saying, I'm saying you have the opportunity, not necessarily the outcome. We're going to talk about that a little bit more in a second. So how do we transform? How do we get that? The fundamental thing I would ask, and this is once again to that first statement about what markets want, is markets buy from people that deliver value to them. So the first question you have to ask is who do you serve? I'll meet with the CEO, and I apologize for the in which I say this. When I meet a CEO, I will often say to that CEO in the first few minutes, We need to talk about Jesus. And people tend to get a little bit uncomfortable. And I'll say, as seriously as I can, looking into the CEO's face, We need to talk about Jesus right now. I'm not an evangelical Christian. I'm not a Christian at all, as a matter of fact. But let me tell you why we need to talk about Jesus. And then I tell him this true story about a friend of mine, second job out of college, and he was an evangelical Christian.
[00:19:32.120] - David
He was looking to get married. His name was Ken Johnson. And so Ken and I were friends. We obviously had very different backgrounds, but we were friends. I said, Ken, describe this person that you want to get married to. Tall or short, what are the attributes of this woman? Talk to me about who this is. And Ken said to me, David, you don't understand the problem. And I was like, Yeah, I get the problem. I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to meet someone to get married to. So taller, short, he was a black man. I said, You only interested in black women. Describe the attributes of this woman. We're friends, Kevin. If I meet someone, I'll introduce you. And he looked at me, he said, David, you don't understand the problem. But now I was getting frustrated. I was in my late 20s, and I looked at him and I said, Ken, I've had some experiences in life. I think I got this problem down. So could you please describe this woman to me? And he put a glass in front of me. This is one of those moments in life that you never forget, just moments of clarity.
[00:20:35.390] - David
And he put a glass in front of me. He said to me, David, this is Jesus. And he pointed at the glass. He said, I'm trying to move towards Jesus. And then he pointed with his left hand as well. He said, If I find a woman who's also trying to move toward Jesus, we'll tend to converge. You're asking me if I want to marry a 6 foot tall black woman? And I said to him, You're right, Ken. I didn't understand the problem. So then I'll turn to the CEO after I'm telling the story and I'll say, Your product management team, does your engineering team know who your Jesus is? Do they know who you serve? Do they know what makes your Jesus happy? So my question to people in the product groups is, do you know who you serve? Do you know what makes them happy? Because that's the basis of what you need to make product management engineering strategic. If you want to build products that change markets, you need to have products that create value for your customer base. That's where you have to start. So what does the market want? So first of all, you have to know who you serve.
[00:21:45.100] - David
Then you need to know what do they need to achieve? And often this is about if you're in a B2B market, who do they serve and how do they serve them? You need to know that. And then what are their jobs that they have to get done? What are the jobs be done? If you're not familiar with jobs to be done, I very much suggest you read Clay Christensen. Christensen was a professor at Harvard Business School. Brilliant guy, passed away several years ago. He wrote three or four great books. One he wrote about jobs to be done. Another is the Innov's Dilemma. I suggest you read all the books he wrote, but he's a brilliant guy. But jobs to be done talks about what tasks they need to get done. I suggest you need to understand that about the people in your market you serve. But it turns out that just serving your market, just thinking about the people you serve is not sufficient. Because it turns out that the market wants tons and tons of things and those don't always serve your company. Of all the things that Apple could have built when Steve got back, they chose not to build some things.
[00:23:04.480] - David
So this is the Apple story that I hinted at. I was at Apple with one of our clients who was building an Augmented Reality device some years ago before this most recent device that Apple just came out with, which looks surprisingly a lot like the stuff that we built. But we were meeting with the top Apple executives, and one of them told me this story. When Steve came back in the building, he was responsible for a colored dot matrix printer. And Steve was looking at everybody's products and deciding what worked and what didn't work. This gentleman happened to be on an elevator at one infinite loop with Steve before he was going to brief Steve. And Steve said, What's in the box? And the guy said, It's a dot matrix printer. And he explained all about it in literally the elevator pitch. And then a few days later, it was his time to brief Steve. And Steve looked at him and said, Oh, I've already heard what you had to say in the elevator. Your product's killed. Now, I don't want to say Steve job was a particularly nice guy. I never met him, but the several people that I know that had met him said he was not a particularly nice guy.
[00:24:21.680] - David
But he had a focus on, of all of the things that we could build, what advances our company as well? What provides value for the customer? And how do we create a subset of what provides value for us as well? What do you need to drive? Do you need to decrease churn? What are the things you can put on the roadmap you can have that would decrease churn? You need to increase penetration. You need to increase usage. What are the things on the roadmap that the customer has asked from before that I talked about in the last slide? We'll do that. What I suggest is that you have Northstar metrics. If you're not familiar with Northstar Metrics, hit me up later. I'm glad to talk to you about them. Think about the fundamental drivers of your company and what you need. And then from that large set of things, the jobs to be done that the potential people in the market or customers need, what drives the thing for your market? These are the things that are getting you to an alignment with the CEO. Getting revenue is a side effect of value to create, but filtering those things into the things that your company also needs.
[00:25:35.610] - David
You still have a lot of stuff. You still have a lot of stuff to build. And of those things you filter out, how are you going to decide what to put on the roadmap? This is going to get you to that conversation with the CEO that gets you empowered. There's different techniques. If you're not familiar with Kano Maps, I suggest you look at them. Kano Maps takes features and breaks them into three kinds. Those features that are just necessary, those features that are performance features, and those features that are delighters. I'm going to use a metaphor of a car. The features are necessary, the things that if you don't have them, no one wants your product. The performance features are the better you do, the more satisfied customers they are. The differentiators are the ones that people don't expect, but if you give it to them, they really want your product. So in the metaphor, let's go back to electric cars, let's go back to Tesla. If you don't have a steering wheel, no one's going to buy your car. The necessary feature. The performance feature might be the mileage range on the battery. The more you have, the more the like it.
[00:26:50.430] - David
And the delighter, the differentiator, are things that people don't expect but really would like when they have self driving. My argument is, from all of those things that people want to that filter thing of what benefits your company, order them in the feature set of what are the necessary features, then the performance, then the delighters. And by the way, over time, the delighters become performance features. The performance features become expectations people have. But order them in that way because then you have something that, A, it's more natural, but then you have something to talk to the CEO about. If you haven't read Jeffrey Morris books, he talks about how to build from the beginning of a product when you have the first people using it to getting in market. As you get more mature, think about road maps and that order, you can have that conversation. Jeffrey Morris books are a great series of books. I definitely suggest you read them. And then you can think about network effects. Using these techniques, you can think about how to assess this stuff on the roadmap. Once again, why to do this? It's not just good product management technique, but it enables you to get conversations with the CEO.
[00:28:08.590] - David
Conversations with the CEO empower your product manager to become strategic, to move from a feature factory to really an innovator. Great bunch of techniques, David. I have no credibility. What can I do to move the needle? What can I do to show the CEO? I'm in the room with the CEO. How do I get the CEO to listen to me? e haven't done, we've been a feature factory before. What do I do? Good product management technique for things on the roadmap. Turn out to be useful things, useful tools to talk to your CEO about. I suggest everything on the product roadmap has a reason for living, has a reason for being. And here's a mechanism, here's a formalism that you can use for everything on the roadmap. We believe by building this feature, whatever you're trying to build for these people in the market, they will achieve that outcome. Remember, people buy from companies that provide value. They will achieve this outcome, and we'll know it's true when we see this feedback. Ceo, here are the things we want to build. We believe by building people for products they want to use, they will buy from us.
[00:29:28.640] - David
That will generate revenue. Here's our bets that we're making, here's why we're making, here's how it is. We know that those bets are going to be successful. We believe by doing this feature for these users, they will achieve this value, therefore, they want to buy from us, and we'll know if we've succeeded at what we see this happen. That's great. You're not done. It's often said that if you build a better product, build a better mousetrap, the world will be the path to your door. It's not true. Wish it was true. It's not true. You also have to have a go to market plan. How are we going to release this thing? If we have a Salesforce, how is the salesforce going to be able to sell this? If we have customer success, how are they going to be ready? How are you going to bring that company around? If you're a product like growth company, how is this going to get marketed? You need to tell the whole story to the CEO, not just about what you're going to release, but how are you going to make it out there? How is it going to make it out in the world?
[00:30:35.050] - David
Now, the bad news is this is more work. The good news is that thing I was talking about before where product management might fight with other groups, you're bringing them along on the journey with you. You're telling them why things are on the roadmap, and you're saying, Here's how we're going to walk that walk together. And if successful, you're saying to sales, if you have an outside sales team, here's how this is going to increase your revenue. If you're a product lead growth company, maybe you only have marketing, this is how we're going to increase sales together. And it draws together other groups. You're going to do that and you're not going to get the whole roadmap. The CEO is not going to give you the world in the first day. You're going to be successful on a small part of the roadmap, and then you're going to ask for more. You're going to have this big roadmap, but you're going to say to the CEO, I want you to give me one bet, and then you're going to execute on the bet, and then you're going to ask for more. This is moving from feature factory to strategic.
[00:31:44.570] - David
It's something that iterates and happens over time. Pick one or two or if you're lucky, three things. Make your bets and then ask for more. What happens if they won't believe you? What happens if you can't get the first back? First, you have to evaluate your team in the company. What does the company need? What does the company want? And what does your team do? This is something that we do when we do the deep dive. As I said before, there's four things we do. We do a deep dive, we coach technology and product execs, we do interim work. We almost always start by doing evaluation because you can come back to the CEO or to the board and say, I understand what the company wants to be. Let me tell you of the factors that product management needs to have in order to succeed at that, and engineering, by the way. Here's how we're doing on each of them, and here's what we need to do. Demonstrate that you understand where the business is trying to get, but more, don't do it just as a demonstration. Do it because you earnestly want to get the product management team to be a driver for the company.
[00:33:03.960] - David
Do that evaluation. Create the strategy that's going to get you there. Talk about that strategy. As you're doing this, you will build internal capital, but you have to build the internal capital, telling people what you're doing and why and bring them on that journey. If members of the board, you should sell the board as well. Sell the board on what you're doing and why you're trying to drive it. And this vision of, if we build a great product, if we're a product first company, we're going to be producing things of value and people will want to buy from us. You need to sell the vision. There are some cases, and this is often where we're called in, there are some cases where you can't do this yourself, so you don't have the right leverage, you don't know the right folks. That's when you might work with someone on the outside to help you with this. If you can do all this inside, please do this inside. Sometimes you need an outside voice to do it. That's when you bring in them when you need help. My thoughts to you today are, if you're truly a feature factory, it's a painful place to live.
[00:34:25.010] - David
If you want to be strategic, the solution is about getting alignment with the CEO and solving the same problem the CEO is solving. Solving the same problem the CEO is solving because you're solving the problem for people in the market, for customers. Of the things in the market that you could solve for the customers, pick the one that help advance your company, know why you're doing it, be able to state why you're doing it, create a roll out plan, and start small and build big. Those are the attributes you need to move from a backwater product unit to being strategic and making your company product first. I'm glad to have a continued conversation about this. Used up way more time than I think I was allowed to. Please hit me up on the Slack, the product board Slack. You can get me directly as well at a bunch of other places. Glad to take questions. I live and breathe this stuff. I love this stuff. So feel free to call or to Slack or whatever. Ask me questions. I'm just glad to be helpful. Thanks, everybody.
[00:35:43.220] - Scott
Thanks, David. Appreciate it. I'm going to jump on one of the questions here from the audience, but how do you balance tech debt in the context of your roadmap?
[00:35:52.360] - David
Great question. Presented it a little bit to flip matter. Not everything on the roadmap is for direct and customer experience. There's some controversy about this, and one of the PE firms that we work with doesn't always agree. Tech debt is a thing you have to always address. Tech debt is a thing that is a constant problem. Before I said, Procman Engineering Functions is one group in the perfect situation. The person who leads engineering, if you can serve them pure, they need to have some time to address tech debt a little bit at a time. So my first job when I was in high school, I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Fried Chicken is a horrible job. I learned two really important things. My first thing I learned was I really don't want to work here for very long. That was the first thing. The second thing, which was actually more valuable, was they taught you to clean as you go. You drop the extra crisp in, a little bit of grease spilled out. If you waited to the end of the shift, it took two hours to clean all the grease, and then it'd pay you for that time.
[00:37:14.620] - David
Clean as you go. Address tech debt a little bit of time. I say to engineers, if you're in a bit of code that's ugly, that no longer fits the purpose of what we need it now, please don't ask permission. Refactor it right then. If you have a giant architecture effect and we have to have the conversation where that fits and what that happens. But please don't work with taking fried chicken. Please clean as you go.
[00:37:40.510] - Scott
Makes sense. Maybe a loaded question here, but why should PMs have to push CEOs or take the risks? Why do we essentially have to be the heroes?
[00:37:53.060] - David
We don't have to be. The question is, what world do you want to live in? If you are in a product first company, if you're a product innovator, you're choosing to be in a place where you're making a bold statement of what we build matters significantly, and we drive things forward, and we get to change the world. But a friend of mine is CEO of a major grocery chain, he doesn't care about the features in the cash register. And you can work at his company and they're very successful and they're growing. And if that's the job you need, you want, then you should do that. And the world needs those people. But if you want to be at a product first company where product is strategic, then you're going to be out there.
[00:38:39.240] - Scott
Good answer. Good answer. Another question here, how many companies are in the business of being a business, having to sell things to customers as a pain, now what? I'm sure I quite understand the question.
[00:38:54.030] - David
Repeat it one more time. I'll try it again.
[00:38:56.280] - Scott
Many companies are in the business of being a business, having to sell things to customers as a pain, now what?
[00:39:04.510] - David
I'm not sure I understand the question. If you don't sell things to people, then you're not going to be in business. Call that a hobby. Fair enough.
[00:39:13.700] - Scott
How can we accommodate learning, research and design into a roadmap?
[00:39:17.870] - David
I love this question. There's the upfront learning, and then there's the continuous learning. I'm going to start with the continuous learning first because it's just easier. Is all the things in the roadmap have a bet. You have North Star metrics for why things are going to go on the roadmap. Everything you build should be instrumented to seeing how you're doing on those bets and on those North Star metrics. All those bets should ladder up into the North Star metrics. So that's continuous learning. Turns out that continuous learning by itself is not sufficient. It's necessary but not sufficient. Sometimes you have to learn what the customers want. That stuff I said before, some of that stuff just takes up front time. And it's like the refactoring question. Sometimes you just have to spend time and just understand how people use the products. Some of it is qualitative, some of it is quantitative. That's just an investment you have to make. Sometimes you're going to survey things, you have to understand the market. You just got a lot time for that. The bad news is it's just a cost and I can't tell you exactly what comes out of it from a one to one measure, but you got to do it.
[00:40:38.530] - David
If I don't know who I serve, it's going to be really hard to know what their jobs to be done are.
[00:40:43.940] - Scott
Yeah, that's good. Just want to leave some space for other people to ask any questions they have. They can pop them in the Q&A. In the meantime, I'm going to throw one out just from my side. I think part of this comes back to a little bit maybe of the tech debt question that was asked earlier. But when we think about tech debt, can we also apply that filter of is that delivering or going to enable us to deliver value or future value for the customer or the market that we're trying to target and serve? Is that a lens that we can utilize against that tech debt to more effectively prioritize which tech debt we actually tackle out of that pile?
[00:41:20.490] - David
Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't. Having dora metrics are very helpful to think about that, but it's not always direct one to one. I do really like Doramatrix as a way to think about what problems is it that we need to think about to solve.
[00:41:42.310] - Scott
Other question here. My company does not have salespeople inside or out. We've been responding to RFPs with a very poor win rate. Without good sales feedback, what strategies can I employ to get market feedback?
[00:41:54.420] - David
Early in my career, I did work for a contractor to the government, and they used to say, If you didn't help write the RFP, you're going to lose it. And so I don't know if that's true in this case. It's been a long time since I've done that, so I hesitate to provide very significant advice here. But I would ask, when does your sales process start? If it's starting when the RFP is written, when you've received the RFP, it might be too late. That may be why you're losing them. Why is your mind's mind have better answers there?
[00:42:28.970] - Scott
In your opinion, what are the critical roles on a product team to be product first? And in this case, it's the roles within the team, like a PM, UX designer. What's that team look like?
[00:42:42.300] - David
Pm, PO, if you can have two different roles, UX designer, probably UI person, UI graphics. The definitions of how people slice those up are slightly different. Someone who understands data, if you have a large market and you're getting data from a lot of folks, I don't think all these people have to be in product, but at least they have to work with product. By the way, I've mentioned a couple of times, product management and engineering are really one team. I like to get ideas from engineering because sometimes they see things that product managers don't see, or they see, I understand what you want. That's really expensive to do. How about we do this other thing and I can do this other feature. I want as many people who are focused on building product eyes on the product, eyes on the problem.
[00:43:37.530] - Scott
How do you truly get to know what your customers want? It's hard to get customers to open up in interviews. What are the best methods or questions you can ask to essentially unpack some of that stuff?
[00:43:47.900] - David
I wouldn't ask them what they want. I would ask them what problems they have. This goes where jobs to be done. Who do you serve? What problems do you need to get solved? What are your impediments in their way? Then if you understand what their problems are, you can better create solution. It's not likely the customers will know what they want, but they might know what they need.
[00:44:14.890] - Scott
Yeah, it's great. It's a good point. It's interesting because I think so many of us struggle with this, just getting people to tell us that answer. I wonder if sometimes it's in how we ask it more than maybe their inability to answer it.
[00:44:36.870] - David
I often ask the question, people, what keeps you up at night? I want to know what their pains are. One of my favorite products, I'm such a nerd. One of my favorite products is my electric toothbrush. Why is my electric toothbrush one of my favorite products? It does everything I wanted to do. It times two minutes in my toothbrush and it done. Every 30 seconds it vibrates to tell me I can do a different part of that. It tells me I need to change the toothbrush head. My problem was I went to the dentist to get dental cleaners and she said, You have to come every three months. You're not brushing your teeth. I'm like, I brush my teeth. And she said, Do you brush for two minutes? I'm like, Yeah, I think so. Did each quadrant your mouth get 30 seconds? I think so. I'm sure I clearly got that wrong because when I got this electric toothbrush, I see it every six months. I didn't know I wanted any of that stuff. I just didn't want to see my dentist all the time.
[00:45:36.010] - Scott
If you can't get the CEO or board, and there's layers of managers in a company focused on delivering business requirements or really the outputs versus the outcomes, how can you push that product lead approach? How can you shift it? I know you I think you touched on this a little bit in the sense of small wins, but maybe I think what people are struggling with is as product managers or as product leaders in this context where we have an organization that's embedded in a practice that maybe isn't that mature, how do we make.
[00:46:04.570] - David
That transition? I apologize for saying the same thing over and over again is, if you're getting requirements from someone else, I would go to them and try to help make them successful. How do we get these requirements? What's the win for you? What are you trying to accomplish? Let's talk about how we advance the company or the department forward. And so what I would say is don't accept the requirements as requirements. Be a little bit annoying and ask the why, and give the person you're asking the why for a win. I want to make you more successful. How is it that you are measured? Because we're teammates. I'm not downstream from you. We're teammates. They probably can't say it that way, but help understand their problems and make them successful, and then you engage in the conversation more. If I talk this person directly, I can give more specific answers, but that's a handwavy result.
[00:47:14.360] - Scott
Yeah, that makes sense. Thank you. Looks like that's all the questions that we've got today. I really appreciate it, David. Some great insights shared. I hope this was inspiring for people and getting them to think a little bit about how to make that shift and that it is, to your point, a journey. It's not something that happens overnight magically. You're not going to snap your fingers and change two things, and all of a sudden you're going to be product led in the right way and delivering value strategically. We have to get our slow wins. I think it was really interesting to take that as a key take away from this today.
[00:47:45.060] - David
I hope it's helpful. If anyone wants to chat, hit me up where I should. Before, hit me up on the Product Board Slack. And I'm glad to be helpful to people.
[00:47:55.630] - Scott
Yeah, it's awesome. So we'll just wrap up with a few close out slides here. We definitely love to get your feedback on today's session. If you do get a chance, please take a moment to fill out our survey. They will get prompted on that when you leave today's event, but also to put a link there in the chat. If you want to continue the conversation with David, he is a member of our product makers community on Slack, and you're more than welcome to reach out there. And if you do want to speak at one of our events, maybe you've got some knowledge to share on this topic or other topics, feel free to get in touch with our team. You can find out more details, again, on our website. Lots going on in our community with lots of different events and programs and meetups and things like that starting up. Next week, we're speaking with Becci pierce and Davidson about how to bring community into the heart of your product. Louis Ali is going to be joining us shortly as well to talk a little bit about prioritization and lots of other talks and things like that coming up over the months ahead.
[00:48:45.920] - Scott
With that, thank you, everybody, for taking the time out of your busy days to join us. And thank you again, David, for everything and all the expertise shared today.
[00:48:53.900] - David
Thank you, Scott, and thanks to the community.
[00:48:56.350] - Scott
All right. Take care. Bye.