Behind Great Tech Products

Preet Morato

nov. 22º 2021

How do great companies translate the creation of big tech Products into a day-to-day routine?

The word “Product” has many meanings in the tech industry. We relate this discipline to leadership, business vision, creativity, and so much more.

But have you ever wondered what “Product” means to the top tech companies around the world? How do they translate the creation of great tech Products into a day-to-day routine?

Latin America’s tech startups are growing exponentially, and they are all looking for a recipe for Product success. Trying out new techniques and tools to achieve it is a natural process for a startup Product team.

Ahhh, Product success, such a mysterious and magical concept. We all want it, but how do we make it happen?

In Nowports, we take pride in learning from the best, we have had the privilege of being supported by international organizations and great mentors along the way. We know we have to understand how our role model companies work and make their insights our own.

To achieve this, we constantly learn from the best Product management content out there (to be honest, there is little available specifically for PMs to take from).

I’ve been especially taken by Marty Cagan’s book: Inspired — How to create tech Products customers love. This book is THE go-to resource for many Product-focused professionals, which makes sense, considering that Marty is one of the best Product minds of our time!

This article will walk you through some of the key concepts and main ideas presented in the first part of “Inspired.”

I think this part of the book contains the perfect ideas to start with when you are new to Product or when you are seeking to understand the modern approach to this discipline.

Before understanding the roles that make up a Product team or their process, you need to grasp the greater context of how it should be done and why.

My goal is to bring you a step closer to understanding the meaning of modern Product management and provide some basic insight into the culture behind Products customers love, as proposed in this literary jewel.

Let’s start by defining some of the key concepts related to the area and its most important processes:

  • Product (a holistic definition): The concept includes the functionality (features), the technology that enables this functionality, the user experience design that presents it, the monetization strategy, how it achieves user and customer acquisition, and also the offline experiences that are essential to value delivery.
  • Product discovery: The intense collaboration of Product management, user experience design, and engineering focused on tackling the risks associated with the functionality before writing production software. It includes problem framing, user research, story mapping, and more.
  • Prototyping: The process of running a series of experiments quickly and inexpensively to learn fast and cheap about a feature. These experiments are NOT something your company would try to sell or stand behind, so they are not considered a Product. The purpose is to provide evidence that the functionality is worth building.
  • Product delivery: To build and deliver production quality technology Products, something you can sell and run a business on. It includes the release strategy, backlog management, and more.
  • Product/market fit: The process of creating the smallest possible actual Product that meets the needs of a specific market of customers.
  • Product vision: The longer-term objective of the Product, 2–10 years out. It is how a Product organization intends to deliver on the company’s mission.

Now let’s go through how most companies and how best companies do “Product.”There are many companies developing Products, but only a few have achieved true success and value delivery.

This comparative list of behaviors aims to provide you with perspective and understanding of the practices that have proven ineffective (most companies) and those that have driven successful Product management (best companies).

Product culture in most companies

  • Product development is driven by sales and stakeholders. Unfortunately, these are not the source of the best Product ideas. There is so much more to consider than stakeholder needs and profit objectives to achieve product success. Many teams are reactive to these internal needs and have no broader strategy.
  • Product development is based on business cases. These aim to understand how much money the Product will make and how much it will cost to build it. The fact is, we can’t know at this stage of Product development. Business cases can become misleading and create false expectations around the results.
  • Product progress is measured by roadmaps. In most companies, roadmaps are, in essence, a list of prioritized features and projects. The unfortunate truth in Product is A) Half of the ideas on the roadmap are not going to deliver what you hope, and B) Even the ideas that prove to have potential will take many iterations before delivering the necessary business value. Achieving an output on a specific date without a wider vision is not enough.
  • The Product is limited by the Product manager. If the manager only gathers requirements and documents them, the result will be far from the best Product management practices.
  • Design steps into the Product process too late. The result is a tendency to the “lipstick on the pig” model. When Design comes in too late, it has little opportunity to deliver real design value. In this situation, Design tries to improve a Product that is ineffective since definition.
  • Engineering potential is being wasted. Engineers are the best source of innovation but are often not invited to the Product party. They get to interact with the Product after Design, so they don’t have much input in creating the solution. When engineers only write code, half their potential go to waste.
  • There is a strong focus on projects rather than Products. Projects are all about output, and Product is all about the outcome. When results from a project are finally released, they don’t meet business or user experience objectives.
  • Risks are faced at the end of the Product process. Customer validation happens after designing, building, testing, and deploying the Product. Which means production software is made without evidence.

Product culture in the best companies

  • Risks are faced in the initial stages of the Product process rather than at the end. The Product team focuses all its energy on understanding many risks BEFORE they decide what to build. These risks cover value (whether customers will buy it), usability (whether users can find out how to use it), feasibility (whether engineers can build it), and business viability (whether this solution works for the company).
  • Products are defined and designed collaboratively rather than sequentially. In solid teams, Product, Design, and Engineering work side by side, in a give-and-take way, to develop technology-powered solutions that customers love and work for the business. They are all involved at the same time in framing the problem, researching, proposing a viable solution, prototyping, and creating a release strategy.
  • The focus is always on solving problems, not just implementing features. Strong teams know it’s not only about implementing a solution. The team must ensure that the solution solves the broader issue. The result must be a Business, User experience, and Technology solution.

As a Product Owner in the early stage of my career, I find these to be the most relevant pieces of knowledge I’ve encountered related to the product discipline at large.

Of course, there is much more to learn about specific tools and frameworks. You can find information about these in the following chapters of “Inspired.” This is a must-read for POs, PMs, CEOs, CTOs, and every person interested in modern tech products.

When being a part of a startup product team, the everyday reality is that you are in a race to scale product/market fit. Nothing else much matters but to grow a strong product that meets the market needs.

A wider understanding of today’s product culture can provide an aspirational guide to who you want to be as a team. An INSPIRED team will always achieve amazing results.

Behind Great Tech Products was originally published in nowports tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.