Are We There Yet? – A Business Simulation to Learn How Cross-Functional Teams Can Contribute to Improved Product Performance

July Event Review: “Are We There Yet?” – A Business Simulation to Learn How Cross-Functional Teams Can Contribute to Improved Product Performance” with Steven Haines, founder of Sequent Learning Networks

By Tej Ravindra

July 2016 Event

July’s SVPMA topic was a fresh look at how the role of the product manager is to drive the thinking of the product as a business.  The phases to think about while viewing a product’s business across its lifecycle are:

  1. Discovery & Innovation
    1. Market Insight
    2. Strategy
  2. New product planning
    1. Concept
    2. Feasibility
    3. Definition
  3. New product introduction
    1. Development
    2. Launch
  4. Post launch product management
    1. Performance Management
    2. Growth, Maturity & Decline

Research shows that most product managers spend a lot of time in Phases 2 and 3, and activities involved in these phases.  If one were to take the perspective of the product as a business, most of the time in the product lifecycle is weighted heavily toward “cashflow negative” activities.  Why does this matter?  We need to ask the following questions regarding our product & our business to have sustained success in the product lifecycle.

  1. Are we making money?
  2. How are doing vs. plans?
  3. Are our costs going up or down?
  4. Are we delivering the promised experience to our customers?
  5. What are the usage patterns?
  6. Is product quality where it needs to be?

The speaker shared examples of how teams are structured at successful companies like Amazon, Corning and WSJ Digital.  Autonomous cross functional product teams are collectively held accountable for the product’s business performance.  To further illustrate this point, the speaker created a role play panel with stakeholders from product, engineering, marketing, quality, design, sales, and project management.  The panel was given 20 minutes to come up with a 90 day product business improvement plan to address a very specific issue around product revenues and competitive pressure.  The audience, which was given the business problem and context ahead of time, was also included as a keen observer, and there was a Q&A session that followed.  It was a really interesting exercise as the dynamic of the team shifts when the goal is the same and every stakeholder in the cross functional team is accountable for the product’s business success.  The success of the product and the business is not just a KPI for a product manager but for the cross functional team, and we need more investment in post launch product management to truly drive business success.  This is a key learning that companies and product teams can take away from July’s SVPMA event.

Tejaswini Ravindra is an experienced product leader who has worked on consumer internet, mobile and SAAS products.  She has worked at eBay, Fair Isaac, IBM in product and engineering roles.  Her interest areas range from Analytics to Fashion and her passion is end user experience.