Product Thinking
Episode 115: Answering Questions About Navigating the B2C to SaaS Transition, the Cultural Change Challenge, and Comforting People With Product and Legacy Business
April 19, 2023
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa Perri answers subscribers’ questions about moving from B2C to SaaS companies and how we can do it effectively, getting people comfortable with product and legacy businesses, and understanding the right time to move on to another company and stop fighting the cultural change. Q&A: Q: I've been in the product space for about eight years in Cape Town, South Africa. The opportunities for SaaS companies here are super limited, and I've only ever worked on B2C products. We are now moving to Europe, where there is a plethora of SaaS companies, and I'd really love to get into that space. My question is, how can I get into that space without experience? Do you have any advice for SaaS product management-specific courses I could highlight on my LinkedIn or CV to convince potential employers I can adapt? A: The thing about SaaS and B2C product management is that our fundamentals are pretty much the same, but we use different techniques. For example, if you are in B2C, you will be doing lots of AB testing. In B2B, we're gonna do things that mitigate risk by doing beta testing or getting small groups of customer advisory boards together. So I want you to concentrate on the fundamentals of product management. Let that shine through in your resume and in your LinkedIn. Q: I'm a product manager at a financial institution that is introducing products to the organization. My question has to do with incorporating the product into a legacy business that is used to making decisions based on a need to put out fires rather than being strategic in decisions. How do I bring the executive level along to start crafting product strategies and still show that the department heads are ultimately making the decisions on what to move forward with? I'm starting to see some folks worry about losing their control over the area, which could lead them to miss targets, but that isn't what the product aims to do. Seems to be a lot of sentiment toward not wanting to do the work, to think through a problem, and instead move forward with what they think is most important on an individual level. A: Here's a situation for legacy businesses that we have to take into account. A lot of people who've been working there have been doing so for a very long time, and they may actually have things that they know to be true that could be proven by fact. Sometimes when we jump straight into product processes and start talking to people about, "Hey, we need to put the strategy together" or "We need to experiment. Hey, can we get together to figure this out?" They respond with, "But I already know. So why do you need me to figure it out? Just do what I'm telling you to do." So, one technique that I found works well is to get everybody together and start listing out your assumptions. You do want to start from the perspective of how we make sure that these GMs or the people in charge of these businesses understand that by working with product, they're actually going to get more results, more money. Q: I recently left a mid-size company where I had great product leaders because, after the company was acquired, I was no longer passionate about the mission. I didn't think I'd be able to move from a PM role to a Director of Product position without a stop at another company on my resume. I joined an internal product team at a company where I'm very passionate about the mission. The team is only two years old and took over the technology solutions from an IT leader. I took a PM role because of the mission and the opportunity to help shape an organization, which I thought would help me hone my skills for a future Director role. Now, what I'm finding is that the leaders of the product team say that they want to move towards being a product-led company but rarely take the steps to get there, and we're always too busy to. I knew that it wouldn't be easy, and I'm trying to do things like bring in product analytics tools to help drive more data-informed cultures, set up monthly forums for discussions around products, and best practices for the team to discuss how we can get better, and create interview guides that help ensure we're hiring the right type of product people. Well, you've talked about how hard this type of work is, and I understand that this type of cultural shift takes time. At what point should I start thinking about whether I've done enough to gain the skills I need to move into product leadership at another company where I can start fresh without having to convince my own team, let alone others? A: Cultural shifts take a long time, but they can set you up nicely to gain some of the skills you need as a Director of Product. But for you to think about whether it is the right time to leave, you have to consider the Director of Product skills. So, ask yourself, can I steer a team toward a larger product vision and have them execute towards that? Can I handle crafting more complicated product strategies and oversee a much larger scope? Can I effectively coach them to be great product managers? Can I set up the infrastructure that they need to succeed? Can I manage up to executives and other people in the organization and communicate my points clearly and confidently so that they have faith in me? That's the last skill that you're really working on here during that cultural change. So, if you do want to stay, here's what I would advise to try and open up the conversation a little bit more and see what could happen.

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