Product Teams

How We Make Products Better

Published Jan 21, 2015

The art of building products

Much of the lore around creating great products focuses on great product leaders who are viewed as artists.  Steve Jobs is now seen as a one of these people and there are others.  While I certainly agree that there is some art to building products, the best products are built by teams who treat the process as a science.  Art is unpredictable, so it’s hard to build a lasting company betting on art.  Whereas science incorporates process to deliver repeatable results and should actually improve over time.

Show me the data

So what can you do to start applying science to your product development process?   It’s simple — get data.

Analytics is transforming how businesses are run more than ever.  Marketing teams employ data scientists to optimize spend to maximize lead generation and conversion.  Sales teams are using data to optimize calling and forecasting.   There are examples in nearly every part of a business, except for the product organization where leaders are seen as visionaries and artists — not data geeks.

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics

Of course data is not a panacea.  The primary challenge with data is incomplete data.  Robert Austin writes about metrics dysfunction in his book Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations.   Metrics dysfunction occurs when you start making decisions on incomplete metrics.  For example, incentivizing recruiting teams solely on interviews could ultimately lead to an organization wasting time interviewing inappropriate candidates.   Incomplete metrics are tantalizing to use since the cost of collecting metrics varies greatly, and the “right” metric may be considerably more expensive than others.

Pendo’s vision is to dramatically reduce the effort and cost to get a complete set of data about products.  With a complete set of data, product teams can confidently transition their organization from art to science without the risk of metrics dysfunction.   This is ultimately how we will help organizations make great products.

If we have data, let’s look at data.  If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.

Jim Barksdale