In one of my previous blogs I wrote about building a security startup. Here I would like to elaborate on the product management aspect of a venture.
There are many businesses springing up in the cybersecurity space at the moment. A lot of them are developed by great technologists yet still struggle. The market conditions might be right and the product itself can be secure but it often fails to get traction.
When I’m asked why this might be and what to do about it, my immediate response is to dive deeper and understand the product management function.
In truth, it’s not enough to have a technically flawless solution, it has to align with what your customers want. Moreover, the bar in new product adoption is high. As Nir Eyal famously pointed out in his book Hooked, “for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better … because old habits die hard and new products or services need to offer dramatic improvements to shake users out of old routines. Products that require a high degree of behaviour change are doomed to fail even if the benefits of using the new product are clear and substantial.”
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are things you can do to overcome this challenge.
Depending on the stage of your venture, the most important question to answer is: are people using your product? If not, get to the point where customers are using your product as fast as you can. Then talk to them and learn from them. Find out what problem they are trying to solve.
Provide that solution and measure what matters (revenue, returning usage, renewal rate) and build measurement targets and mechanisms into your specifications.
Disciplined product management is there to bridge the gap between business (sales and marketing) and technology teams. As a product manager, you should support these teams with market analysis, planning, prioritisation, design and measurement based on customer feedback.
Knowledge of the customer and their needs will help define your strategic position and overarching guiding principles to support decision-making in the company.
That strategy in turn should be supported by tactical steps to achieve the vision. We are now beginning to shape actual work deliverables and help the technology teams prioritise them in your development sprints.
Principles described here are applicable in any type of organisation, it doesn’t have to be security specific. The industry you are in matters less than the company culture.
People often focus on tools when talking about product management or adopting agile development. The reality is that it’s often about the culture of collaboration. Break the silos, make sure customer feedback is guiding the development and don’t lose sight of the strategy. Your customers will love it, I promise.