The Method behind the Madness

Product roadmaps for B2B technology companies

You might wonder: how are product roadmaps designed, or, as some may jest “is there a method behind the madness?” While the method is different for B2C products at any company, in B2B there are clear principles to follow when building for and selling to large teams. Here’s a template that has worked for some companies in a high-growth phase:

#1. Refocus to acquire new customers from ecosystems. The first goal of a great technology product is to acquire more customers, faster and cheaper than the competition can. Assuming that we’ve passed the first phase (which could be years) of viral, user-to-user adoption, we start strategizing about acquiring prospects from various user populations. This usually means: amazing integrations. There are Microsoft Teams, Slack, HubSpot, Salesforce, Okta, Azure AD, Gmail and Outlook populations. Start with asking the question, like Okta’s CEO just asked me on Twitter, “How can we make the Dropbox integration better?” We go where the customers are, not where we think we want the customers to end up. Ex. if you work for a collaboration software company like Asana, Dropbox or the like, think about the incredible amount of time you spend on email or Slack, maybe even way more than in your own product.

#1. Fortify the core technology. The underpinning of a collaboration product like Dropbox is “Sync”. As teams grow larger, the technology gets stressed. In our target market, large teams proliferate. Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Professional Services are just a few examples of teams that collaborate daily. Federation (the action of forming organizations into a single group with centralized control) means that the volume of documents and conversations multiplies exponentially. Limits appear, and they must be removed within a reasonable cost. Admin Consoles need to be enhanced, continuously. Search needs to be added, sharing to be improved. The trick is to know when to stop: set a budget limit on keeping the engine running.

#2. Expand to teams across functional boundaries. This is what the best enterprise salespeople do–land and expand. Can our product do that, instead of a human being? The opposite of a Federation-first approach, expansion across a company starts with the notion that teams are independent bodies that will communicate, collaborate, and share information. Teams can be internal or external, yet we start with a deeper understanding of the people in these teams. Who are they? Creative teams? Salespeople? University students? Medical professionals? Construction workers? Pick a few verticals, find the products they like to use to collaborate and extend Dropbox to meet these needs.

These are the first principles of product roadmaps, it’s where you start the redesign. Everything else is a second order of detail, which is as important as first principles.

Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.