April 30

Product Strategy When Scaling a Company

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Des Traynor of Intercom @destraynor. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

A good idea can carry a company through one cycle of tech innovation but building a company that lasts and thrives in a fast-growth environment is another thing entirely. And it all comes down to the team behind those ideas and products.

To set your organization and products up long term, focus your team around the value that your products bring to customers, rather than simply “innovation”. Make sure that your team understands the overall mission and vision of your company — as understanding that empowers members of the team to make decisions.  If everyone has the right framework and understanding, then all of the debates and differing opinions that come up will sort themselves out.

Strategy can be both actionable and philosophical. The plans aren’t just about creating a roadmap. Instead, strategy can help companies find and focus on the most valuable product.

When it comes to executing that strategy, your focus will turn on building the products.  And when designing a product, focus your scope to the smallest viable part of a critical business process. If your product is too big then no one will adopt. If it is too small, it won’t be useful. Build to solve aspects of large, frequent problems rather than rare, small problems.

Adding new features to close deals is easy, but it leads to overly complicated consulting software in the long run. So stay away from this trap.  Think of each feature you consider adding as something that needs to be defended.  When you and your team take the mindset of needing to defend every single feature, you’ll be able to start to see which areas can simply be left alone.

When designing a new product, make it like a cupcake rather than a wedding cake. With a wedding cake, you master each part —  assembling the base, topping it with frosting, placing decorations, etc.  But when you put it all together, the cake may still taste awful if the parts don’t compliment each other.  Then, you have an entire, horrible wedding cake.  However, if you make a cupcake first — a smaller version of the cake that you can sample first — the risk of failure is smaller.  Sure, that cupcake might be terrible, but you’ve only wasted a little bit of time (and cupcake).  You can iterate to a better version much easier.

Finally, ensure that your product team builds what you sell, and your sales team sells what you build. If either part of the process is out of sync, problems arise. In that case, product teams could build software no one wants, and your sales team could make unreasonable promises.  It sounds like common sense, but all too often product teams and sales teams get out of sync, especially as organizations scale.  So as your company grows, make it a point to be sure that these teams are on the same page.

To view Des’s full presentation, visit:


Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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