Exactly what is a “Product Rescue”?
There is nothing that puts a knot in the gut of an entrepreneur than the struggle to scale a product solution. The Founder has received both market and technical validation by selling and delivering small scale solutions – whether a pilot, a MVP or an actual commercial sell – so they know the idea is needed and the technology is there to support it!
But moving to the next step in scaling the product to meet a broader market, creates new pain-points, and causes new problems. It is in this phase of growth where I frequently see either execution issues or product that needs to be rescued.
It is in this Product Rescue scenario, where the Founder or Investor begin looking for more experienced interim support, where the TechCXO Product and Technology team are called. I apologize if this sounds like Ghostbusters, “Who ya gonna’ call” but to many this is exactly what it feels like – chasing Ghosts!
How to Scale
Without an organized, strategic approach to scaling a product solution the whole organization can become very chaotic, and this is a key characteristic of what I am calling a Product Rescue.
Fear begins to set in as you worry that the beach-head that has been hard fought and won in the early days is going to slip away if the Product Execution does not step-up. While there are no cookie-cutter answers, experience shows the problems of scaling a tech solution usually requires addressing three areas simultaneously: People, Process, and Product-Technology.
We all know that our team-members are one of the greatest assets of an any organization, but the challenge is how much do we let our team members learn on the job verses bringing in new, more experienced talent?
As the organization grows, roles need to be defined, and communication methods need to be tighter. As Jim Collins, stated in Good to Great a Level 5 Leader understands how to evaluate the people in the org and understands how to get the right people, in the right seats, doing the right things.
Adding and evaluating people while not disrupting the culture is critical to scaling a solution. An interim TechCXO CTO / Product and Tech leader not only understands these challenges but has been through this evaluation multiple times.
Of course, another reason for a Product Rescue, could be a lack of process, and this could directly effect the Team’s (i.e. People) ability to get things done.
While almost all of us get a little throw-up in the back of our throat thinking about our orgs becoming bureaucratic and bound by process, none of us can thrive in chaos.
Typically the process gaps are found in areas around portfolio management (prioritizing the Development work) so we don’t get stuck in the incremental improvements while also keeping the product fresh; managing change control so post-sales support can react to field issues faster; and strengthening the product plan so that we can plan out the path forward, and our “No” becomes clearer.
Typically the process gaps are found in areas around portfolio management (prioritizing the Development work)
Finally, if there is one area that seems to come as a surprise it is the product-technology area, where the Founder either has technical debt or needs new tools to help keep up with scaling the product-solution.
This is another area that will impact the team and need process support to implement effectively.
Just the other day, I was working with a company that has hired three new sales-and-marketing people because they have to scale the client engagements. The problem is they do not have a CRM Tool – they are not ready for a large enterprise tool, but they need a way to reach prospects quickly, consistently, and make sure the same prospect is not getting hit with the same message from different team members.
Obviously, you can just implement a tool without having a process to organize team members input. While this simple example illustrates one type of product-technology problem in a product rescue, the technology challenges can pop up in many form factors that are ultimately affecting the customer experience. The key to recognizing and solving this problem is having the experience to know what needs to be addressed and what can wait.
Determining how the people, process and product tech areas work in harmony is key to experiencing not only growth but a culture where employees thrive and customers want to continue to use the product over-and-over again.
John Murray is a TechCXO partner and Product expert. See his full bio here.