Product company maturity – a simple way of assessing where you stand. Editor’s note: This post picks up an older post from 2013 :
Almost six years later, this topic is still very relevant. Perhaps it is slightly more appropriate to describe this from a product company angle. In contrast to the 2013 analysis, where the focus is on the product manager role. To clarify what a product company is: “A product company invests a large share of the P&L in IT and product. Such a company depends a lot on product roadmaps, technical talent, etc.”
In times of uncertainty, product leaders should step up. In other words, their mission is to lead product companies. If they want it or not. If you are responsible for a product company and you would like to learn more about how to lead a product company effectively and efficiently, this SPLSG company service might be interesting.
The Five Levels
Let’s have a look at the five levels on the picture above. From “no awareness” to “competitive advantage” there are five levels a product company can be on.
The lowest level is simply described as “no awareness”. This means, in that company, no one actually even knows that they are a product company. There is not even the function product management. Please keep in mind that we are not talking about product management in a marketing context. As per SPLSG vision, we are defining product management as defining, building, launching and operating digital products.
The second lowest level can be described as “pretended awareness”. In this type of organization, there is at least one product leader and product management team. But the person/team is not working as a state of the art product leader, but much more as a project manager or coordinator. In other words, everyone dumps
“Tactical awareness” is the maturity level or organizations who have installed product management on a tactical level. However, the responsibility remains with the upper organizational levels of the company, but the product leader steers product development on a daily basis. For example, a typical characteristic of this type of company would be that the product leader has to ask for approval before launching features. Or his/her product roadmap needs the blessing of people who don’t have a product background or at least a product understanding in the sense of the SPLSG vision.
Organizations who have established product leadership on the executive level can be named “executive awareness”. Here, the product leader is reporting to the CEO and is a member of the management team. Product managers in these organizations have a sponsor on the highest management level. There is an enabled product management organization. Please note that having a formal product leader (e.g. “CPO” or “VP Product”) might be possible without being on this maturity level. However, the job title sometimes is misleading. Criteria must be an enabled product management organization as described in the three lower levels above.
The most mature level is having a “competitive advantage” as a well-managed product company over others. That is to say, organizations of this type have a clear product vision and product strategy that have been facilitated by a product leader. Consequently, all executives are supporting the product leader define, build, deliver and launch products customers will love. The CDO/CPO/VP Product will support the CEO and the CXO suite. Above all, they all align towards a clear product company vision. The product leader would have a major influence on the direction of the company.
To be frank, during my career I have met only very few mature product companies. Despite the fact, that many people are talking about “digital transformation.” Certainly, we can still observe many companies on levels two or three. Achieving product company maturity is hard. Above all, please acknowledge that being a product company without properly managing it is kind of “digital suicide” (thanks to Daniel Tyoschitz for bringing up this word)!