Reading Product School’s recent “The Future of Product Management” report, it reveals that product-led growth has gone “mainstream” with 34% more businesses adopting this mindset in 2021 vs 2020.
Product led growth is gaining traction as a non-negotiable mindset to design, develop, run, optimise and monetise value propositions so how can you set some foundations to accelerate your product led growth strategy?
Optimise your technology stack for Continuous Integration & Delivery (CI / CD)
- Depending on where you are and “what you have” in your technology stack, work with your technical counterparts to ensure your stack can support a product-led mindset. Explore how you can transition to microservice led stacks that allow you to create new “thin slice” experiences with higher ease. Ensuring you have scalable APIs, security frameworks, systemised non-functional requirements and an automated development pipe all contribute to you being able to incubate the product-led delivery “cred” required.
Build end-to-end product teams & enable accountability
- One of the key successes to delivering true digital products is to build autonomous teams who can be accountable from idea through to the “cheers” post go-live. This allows you to rapidly ideate, evolve, realise but more critically, pivot and respond to changing customer / internal needs be it design or tech.
- End to end teams inclusive of product, design and potentially build are often a difficult business case so initially they can be achieved by working with shared services teams to roster staff to your product, seek freelancers, explore secondments or university placements.
Divorce from your Project Management Office (PMO)
- The hint is in the title itself, if your product features are being delivered as projects, you immediately fall into the trap of what a product-led mindset ISN’T about.
- Often a necessary evil, PMOs have the arduous job of planning and allocating resources, typically on a project by project basis. This presents a number of issues from output over outcome mindsets to rigid funding cycles to not being able to resource your work at all.
- To chip away at influencing PMOs to give you delivery autonomy, strive for faster feature release cycles (i.e. deliver something in 8 weeks, not 8 months) showcase your outcome over output mentality as well as your “bang for buck.” These baby steps can (it has for me) encourage PMOs to pivot, trust you and give you delivery continuity.
Embrace product development rituals
Successful product leaders instigate discipline and establish routines to deliver quality customer value at an appropriate pace to meet customer hunger but often more importantly, internal costs.
- Embrace quarterly planning and test your bets / epics early – bring the team together (preferably also with key stakeholders like IT, customer service and perhaps operations) to review your bets, low performance, external trends and facilitate rapid ideation sessions to create epics to take into concept testing. This allows for high-level cross-functional effort with early indicators of viability and feasibility to drive planning and sequencing of future work post customer validation.
- Establish regular deep dive insights sessions – Incorporate qualitative and quantitative feedback loops at every step of the journey. Plan qualitative and quantitative success measures during discovery. Implement the tools you need to track activation, usage, funnel health and feedback of your releases. Also ensure you capture omni-channel insights such as chats or bot engagements to detect any issues with your experience.
- Always identify thin slices of a feature and plan backlogs accordingly – Once you have validated concepts above, rank the ideas inclusive of desirability and story map them to identify how you can deliver the idea in multiple releases. This allows for more concentrated design, incorporation of feedback loops and exploration of a solution that may leverage existing technology initially whilst new tech is built for future releases.
- Instill innovation time – Always allow teams some time to experiment with new operating system releases or allow teams to ideate working solutions via hackathon style sessions. It not only can quickly prove the feasibility / viability of an idea, it allows team members to stretch into new roles and invigorate (or re-invigorate) energy levels of your delivery teams.
- Balance customer delivery and operations / tech debt – Development teams should aspire to a 70/10/20 model of allowing 70% of delivery time for customer value delivery, 10% for innovation and 20% to continuously optimise your product to be it tech debt, performance or security. This investment will likely improve your value delivery speed over time and enable a more robust stack / product to iterate on.
EmPOWER yourself by building the right team
- Building teams isn’t just about technical skills, it’s also about finding the right mix of soft skill strengths, personality types and levels of emotional intelligence. Invest time early and often to facilitate / coach your team via psychometric / personality testing.
- Build a comfortable environment whereby your team can share their strengths, growth opportunities and personality “blind spots”. Each of these frameworks can uplift resilience, increase collaboration during the more high pressure times and overall, contribute to an improved team culture.
EmPOWER your team by building trust with execs
- Often one of the hardest aspects of any product manager is to develop trust with your executives in terms of comforting them that your strategy, bets, roadmap and (perhaps costly) team of resources are working on the right things.
- Just like your team, understand what lens your executives / sponsors take in terms of detail, personal interests or influence and concentrate your storytelling skills there. Know their personality type and their decision making style be it off the cuff, via committee or if they need to digest information and make a decision later.
- Involve executives often, particularly with showcases but manage the level of exposure to the product delivery process so that they don’t become overwhelmed, start suggesting random features or worst case, unleash their inner Hippo.
- Once you have attempted the above, work “sponsor” success measures into your thin slice releases to ensure you have structured the right outcomes for execs and their higher level KPIs. By proving you have delivered aligned value early and often, it will hopefully enable the trust and independence you ultimately seek to deliver on the company’s purpose or vision.
It’s noted that many of the above tips definitely aren’t “overnight miracles” but by incorporating even just a few of the above tips, you’ll hopefully reap the reward of accelerating your organization’s product led growth mindset.