Wyatt Jenkins, SVP at Hired shows admirable foresight when he says, “A common journey for many startups is moving from a single customer product to multiple products where shared components exist. Another journey is one where the core product becomes so successful that a level of abstraction between the underlying technology and the customer facing product is required to scale, but there’s very little written about the shift in the product management organization that drives this.”
I believe he efficiently brings to point how very less time is spent talking about the whole product stack needed, including the backend (often a proto-platform) while too much time is spent on the channels part of the discussion; will it be apps or will it be a website?
It is imperative that sufficient thought goes into the development of a product’s backend. And the final session of the working model digs deep and asks leading questions that get the product owners to start getting into the platform thinking frame of mind.
For the last part of the model, I use a mix of the Product Stack Template and Product Management Canvas, both being my designs. I begin with Product Stack which is designed to plan the approach for the choice of channels, third party products and tools and the tech stack to build a robust and scalable backend platform. This is also when a basic set of value propositions are identified, alongside the basic set of products that will deliver them.
The Product Management Canvas was based on my startup experience, when I founded what is now called RooKidsApp.com, not to mention several conversations with Thoughtworks’ clients. This canvas motivates the description of a product with the highest return on investment in comparison to the risk involved. The Product Management Canvas relies on an in depth understanding of the specific product, which puts a lean and meaningful MVP (or Minimum Viable Product) in hand.
The Product Management Canvas helps describe - what needs to be built, in what order and with what features. This not only puts technology at the core of the product’s successful journey but also emphasizes how product organization needs to come together, to build the product, the right way. Andy Singleton, CEO of Assembla calls this Continuous Agile and augments stating that “The technology world is a cult of innovation. We see that innovation drives success in business, and in the larger economy. Software is an almost-pure form of innovation. We call it ‘soft’ because we can change it and reshape it easily.”
Given the fluidity of the market and technology space that we live in, it has been an exciting journey - coming up with this continuously evolving working model on product management. I have found that a lot of the founders and sometimes seasoned product managers have benefited from revisiting their product vision and associated assumptions - in my 'back to basics' approach.
The initial sections of the model are usually the toughest, and involve a lot of time in phrasing. I have found the best tackle is to just start writing and fill the blank spaces on the work sheets. Another trick is brevity because it makes everything that much simpler.
Reading aloud and hearing what has been written and watching others’ respond to what is read, almost always leading to better articulation. And maybe not so surprisingly, discussions around the cost structure are where the most number of presumptions made. I have been conducting these sessions or workshops regularly, and have come to understand that the likes of Commut, Dryve, HopOn, Next2Metro continue to find a use for the working model outside the context of the workshop as well. Those who have kept in touch with me, keep me updated of their progress and it’s always a fulfilling when I hear of startups that began as an idea, grow from strength to strength.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.