Product is the connective tissue of an organization, it’s what drives innovation and the business forward. Today, Steve Won, 1Password’s CPO, walks us through the key three principles for building a successful multi-product roadmap. 

First Principle: Create a Virtuous Feedback Loop

It’s easy to think of product as an ivory tower, telling our teams what should be built, how it should be sold and how it should be packaged. The most effective product organizations are the ones that get rid of the concept of an ivory tower and deputize the rest of the organization to contribute to product.

So how does that actually work? Everything starts with the customer.

Today, we have more access to data than ever, and we need to use that to our advantage. Many of us consider Steve Jobs to be the ultimate product person. He wasn’t ultimate product person because he was a hundred percent right about his convictions. Steve Jobs did something we can all be capable of doing: making better decisions with better data. That’s the goal of product. 

If you’re looking at the chart below, the top half highlights R&D efforts and the bottom half highlights GTM efforts. Together they create the Virtuous Feedback Loop

GTM heavily involves talking to customers, prospects, frustrated customers and the overall market. R&D’s main form of communication with customers is shipping products and internal roadmaps. 

You need to create a feedback loop that connects everyone — customer success, support, sales, and marketing — bringing in quantitative data from customer conversations and marrying that with qualitative feedback your designers and engineers get daily from customers. Together, this gives you a better understanding of the customers and their problems over time. 

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Customer Feedback 

Quantitative is usually metric-based and allows you to keep your head smart. Qualitative enables you to understand the customer’s motivation on a deeper level. Both are relevant when you’re thinking about iterating on an existing product. They give you a good idea of what your customers need. 

But, as you think about a net new product, you need more of a qualitative approach. Share the benefits of a new product and the problem to be solved. In the case of 1Password, people aren’t coming in saying we need passkeys. They’re saying passwords are hard. That’s a qualitative insight. 

Your product will never scale without the foundation of a virtuous feedback loop. You need the qualitative and quantitative feedback of customers, especially, as you’re building a net new product. You have to understand customer motivations to build new products. 

Second Principle: Does Structure Help or Hurt?

For the serial founders, serial leaders and serial individual contributors, you know that what makes you successful in one context may make you weaker in another. 1Password started off with a Swiss Army knife of people doing many roles every day. Now, at about 1,000 people, they have grown their team of specialists and experts. 

When you’re building and iterating on a new product, you need to be mega-flexible because goals change week by week. This is why many companies struggle to innovate, because the incentive structures that exist are driven by revenue. So, how do you create an environment to foster creativity and utilize folks who are flexible to figure out net new products and initiatives? 

Late last fall, 1Password realized they weren’t making the progress they thought they should. Steve and 1Password’s CEO, Jeff, realized that structure was actually hurting them. Their PMs and designers had their own roadmaps and incentive structures, and when asked to trade off for a non-revenue driving area, they didn’t because it wouldn’t help them reach their specific metric or growth goal. 

Here’s how the 1Password team remedied the situation. 

  1. Set a very explicit goal of “Let’s be first.” First to market and first to share of voice. 
  2. Designate a directly responsible individual, like a VP, as an ‘enabler in chief.’ This is someone who can cut through structure and say, “This is a top-level company objective that isn’t tied to revenue, but will help us succeed in the long run.”
  3. Be comfortable with the fact that the goals will shift over time, and the roadmap needs to be open-ended. 

Freeing yourself from revenue goals gives you the flexibility to execute.

Control the Controllable

1Password was going to do a launch over the summer before learning some news that encouraged them to launch earlier. The advantage of connectors is you can keep a pulse on what’s happening and use it to your advantage. The company cut off the roadmap to get one feature out before everyone else. 

But that’s not always possible if you don’t already have an established $150M product. For 1Password, they didn’t know what the adoption curve would be because it depended on the Amazons, Googles, and TikToks switching to a new authentication method. 

So, what could they control? 

Perception in the market. They couldn’t control customer adoption, but they could be the first to market and the first to have a share of voice. They could also stand by their convictions that this was the future of the business, which is essential when you’re building a product that the market might not be ready for yet. 

Third Principle: Rally the Organization 

How do you have a company-level goal that’s not revenue-related? How do you continue to drive excitement around it? People with a day-to-day paycheck rely on the roadmap delivering to get excited. To get them excited about a non-revenue-related goal, you have to make champions across the business. 

Show them the shift isn’t something to fear, like the end of the password, but an exciting opportunity where you can lead and provide the best user experience.

You also need to understand what checkpoints you have to change course, even if there isn’t a revenue goal tied to it. Is it successful based on the goals you’re trying to achieve? Are you successful with share of voice goals, adoption, and customer satisfaction? 

1Password spent a lot of time building external and internal communities of early adopters. 

A final way to rally the organization is to celebrate your wins, whether it’s a delighted user or a news article publication. Steve remembers how exciting it was to be in the Wall Street Journal in back-to-back Sunday issues. That’s what you have as a leader to take advantage of to drive new excitement around initiatives.

Key Takeaways

  1. Create a feedback loop around the customer. Your job in product is to galvanize the business, obsess about the customer and their motivations, and deputize the whole organization to feel like they’re contributing to better understanding the customer every day. 
  2. Consider your team and company structure. Is it helping or hindering innovation and progress? Don’t be afraid to have candid conversations with your leadership teams.
  3. Rally and excite the organization. This isn’t something you can do solely as a leader. Be flexible with what the outcomes will look like, yet crisp about the goals. Celebrate your wins, big and small. 

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