About the Author: Stepan is Chief Product Manager at SaaSJet. He’s been with SaaSJet since the early days, when it was a team of only five. Today, he manages the Product Management department at SaaSJet, which includes PMO, UXers, R&D, and BA. Stepan lives in Brussels, and you can connect with him on LinkedIn.
Is your product management team structure efficient? As a product manager, it's the first question to ask yourself. At SaaSJet, we recently saw an opportunity to rework our product delivery model, resulting in a more streamlined organization. Doing business in the Atlassian Marketplace requires adaptation as product companies grow. We're sharing our story to help other companies who are experiencing similar challenges.
Identifying points of friction
The process began a few weeks ago, when I created a table to help us understand the scope of our operations. It included all of our products, their marketing plans, competitor assessments, sales plans, roadmap, etc. It soon became apparent that we have more than twenty live products on different Marketplaces.
Some products have been in maintenance phase for a long time, so no product managers are currently assigned. Only a small number of customers still use these apps. Despite the relatively small revenue these products generate, they still take up our team's time and effort. We gather feedback, release features, present the results to leadership, check dashboards. Why do these products take up so much energy, you might ask? Well, it's fair to say that many organizations go through similar issues. With greater maturity, companies start to enforce a more strict approach to product success criteria. Nevertheless, we are on the way.
But back to the original question. To determine whether your product management structure is efficient, ask yourself:
- Do all team members’ roles and responsibilities have clear definitions?
- Do engineering, marketing, sales, and other departments have effective lines of communication with the product management team?
- How successfully can the team adjust to new objectives or changing market behavior?
- How many products with low customer engagement do you have?
- How well does the team oversee the complete lifecycle of the product, from conception to end-of-life?
Forming our new product management structure
We have ambitious plans for the upcoming year, and to achieve them, we knew we needed to change how we operate at the core – our product management.
So, I identified two elements we should change:
- Product managers should focus more on our top products instead of those with low adoption.
- We should have a fast and separate process to conduct research and release new products.
As shown above, each product line had its own team working on a few products in parallel. The problem is that all activities are mixed, so the same people maintain the product, market it, look for new niches, and research new products.
This creates two problems: less focus and a lack of activities that lead to future growth. That brought us to the following decisions: First, if a product line has two products that perform well, they should be divided, so new product lines should be created. That way, we can multiply their success by devoting more effort and focus. Second, close the products that don't have customer interest: "If the horse is dead, get off". It's better to concentrate on products that work.
These changes freed up several team members, which meant we were able to start a separate research and development department. This department will develop new initiatives, and the most successful projects will be moved to the product line. We also expanded the lineup of UX designers, so each high-performing product has an assigned designer.
Now, our product management structure looks like this:
With this structure, we can achieve both strategic goals: better focus and releasing more new products at scale. The new R&D function helps the speed at which we can innovate because they intake new ideas and requests, prototype new products, and then release them to existing or new product lines.
The low-performing products will be closed or moved to maintenance.
These changes took a few months, since many people had to change how they had been working before. However, doing business in the Atlassian Marketplace means adapting quickly, focusing on top products, and striving for operational excellence. We hope that SaaSJet's insights will be helpful for everyone who is considering a product management team reorganization.
Find out more about our team and products at saasjet.com.