The SaaS business paradigm is so fundamentally different that it requires a “re-think” of every strategy, whole product, technical and operational construct. And with today’s powerful focus on the product driving trial, user experiences and adoption, no functional area of your SaaS business is more vital than Product Management.
INSTEP has developed a purpose-built model for SaaS Era Product Management that we call theFive Movements: Strategy, Planning, Development, Marketing, and Operations.At a time when the industry is talking about product led growth, it has never been more important to ensure that your Product Management team is optimized for SaaS success. We believe effective Product Management can literally become the flywheel for revenue growth through realization of our Ten SaaS Product Imperatives . However, establishing the capability can be particularly challenging for emerging companies that are transitioning from the Founder/CEO as Chief Product Officer.
INSTEP can work with PM executives and their teams to:
Assess the current level of performance in each movement, as well as the strength of key operational partnerships (software development, customer success, etc.)
Assess the level and appropriateness of product management tools used across the five movements based on the INSTEP 5PMM Tools Taxonomy
Account for necessary aspects of current category life cycle adoption stages (early market, rapid adoption, etc.)
Review and modify roles and responsibilities in the PM function to ensure alignment with the SaaS paradigm
Design a SaaS-driven product management life cycle, tools, and artifact templates to improve product management performance based on best industry practices
Create an organizational roadmap for the PM function to achieve higher levels of performance in line with executive expectations
Equip the team with the necessary tools to succeed in the SaaS operating paradigm
Provide coaching and assess progress along the journey.
While The Economist once famously declared that “no one really knows what strategy is,” we believe that there are specific elements of strategy at both the corporate and product level that must be expressed clearly, compellingly, and broadly in order to create market momentum, customer success, and shareholder value.
The evaluation, refinement, or creation of a synoptic strategic narrative is foundational to the majority of our engagements. A comprehensive strategic narrative accounts for industry trends, technology category life cycle assessment, SaaS whole product definition and assessment, persistent and opportunistic competitive differentiation, ecosystem partnerships, target segments and sequencing, and critical go-to-market initiatives.
The creation of a singular strategic narrative, inclusive of the elements above,
Ensures coherence across the spectrum of strategic elements
Forces explicit expression and alignment around critical assumptions that often otherwise remain implicit and unshared
Enables resource realignment around critical priorities
Compels and empowers functional managers to execute on the strategy.
The concept of Whole Product (i.e. what is necessary in addition to core product to fulfill your value proposition) has been vital to the software business for decades, and remains so today. But the nature of SaaS, compared to legacy models, is so different and language-specific that we have developed a SaaS-specific whole product model.
SaaS-Specific Whole Product Wheel
The INSTEP model explicitly accounts for unique dimensions of SaaS, such as self-service trial, enrollment, and expansion of use; visibility into user adoption of new features; customer success management; deployment optionality; and more.
We install this SaaS whole product model in client engagements by
applying it in the context of the client’s offering/portfolio
understanding the implications for change using this model
assessing the current state of maturity of whole product elements
developing a plan for moving forward on the maturity continuum
ensuring broad organizational and operational alignment
INSTEP brings an unabashedly Product Management-centric viewpoint to our engagements, and two of the Five Movements of SaaS Product Management – specifically, Strategy and Planning – fall specifically under the responsibility and functional domain of Product Management.
However, effective SaaS Product Management requires extensive and systemic collaboration with the software development, product marketing and customer success organizations – where product managers may have no formal authority, but have implicit responsibility in terms of delivering whole product and creating customer demand, customer success, and shareholder return.
INSTEP works with cross-functional client teams in Marketing, Software Development, and Operations to assess relationships and practices for optimal SaaS performance. In the case of product marketing, product management must collaborate with marketing in creating qualified demand for new customers and broader product adoption within existing customers via effective thought leadership pieces, compelling demos and related social media product content. PM collaborates with software development in a dynamic, agile release cycle by bringing its perspective of whole product maturity and customer/market needs, while the development organization must account for technical capacity, manage technical debt, and ensure a high quality customer experience. Similarly, SaaS enables deeper engagement and understanding of customer behavior, necessitating very close collaboration between PM and the customer success organization in all its dimensions, but with a special focus on customer experience and customer value realization.
INSTEP provides assessment of these relationships and identifies opportunities to clarify roles/responsibilities and improve processes. Frequently this includes the identification of the appropriate tools to facilitate processes and information sharing, improving transparency for both day-to-day contributors as well as managers and executives. In this broader operational context we often co-design new performance metrics for the organization to move beyond silo’d, functionally-driven perspectives.