Is Product on your board?

The transformative Triangle

Where does Product fit with your business? Is there someone who is responsible for Product on the leadership board? When I work with scale ups I find it often sits in on of three places:

  • with the CEO because ‘this business was my idea, wasn’t it?’
  • with the CTO because ‘the product is technology isn’t it?’, or
  • with Marketing because ‘it’s all about getting the product to market?’

And then things fall over. The CEO doesn’t have enough time to devote to building investment, building customer relationships, driving the business AND managing the product backlog. The CTO focusses on build and forgets that the product has many other components, such as packaging, sales experience, marketing resources, and ancillary services (Thus think about the packaging with the Apple Phones, or the Apple store experience). Lastly Marketing or Sales drive the product and this can become short term focussed on what’s going to work next quarter.

Instead – consider Product as a hub that connects these three elements together with finance and operations – what I call the ‘transformative triangle’

With product, and product responsibility, here the role of the product director is to marshal and co-ordinate the skills and resources of each team to create the overall revenue, product backlog, ROI and results of the product.

With one client, their Founder was full of great ideas, and was driving many products, but the Operations Director was becoming more frustrated as these ideas kept chopping and changing, particularly when the Founder needed to close sales. When I got involved, the first task was to understand the product set, where they sat in the lifecycle, and how they flowed together. Then we looked at the business targets and explored what key features and benefits would help drive the sales. With this we could sequence the development of the product. In this way we discovered a set of ‘a-ha’ moments – such as how to trigger investment on a product, and how much functionality would be required for each up-coming sale.

Most of the knowledge lay with the Founder, the deep specialist knowledge in the development team, and the finance director – but by placing Product as the hub between them, we were able to move from a level of analysis paralysis, and disconnect to each team knowing exactly how they contributed to targets.

With these product deliverables in place, we are now ready to put product governance into the business, to check that the product is being developed in time, marketing can promote it with the web-site, and sales know what they have to sell.

We now have a transformative triangle – time to go to market.

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