The Importance of the Core Product
Any job that you are passionate about consumes you. You think about it all the time and are constantly creating hypothetical situations in your head that revolve around your work. My girlfriend recently brought this to my attention and even accused me of becoming boring due to my new lack of variety in conversation. Of course, being mortally offended, I endeavoured to try to and shut up shop on our weekend away to Rome and to enjoy the outstandingly culturally and historically rich city I now found myself in.
However, due to the journalistic prowess of the Easyjet inflight magazine the ‘Traveller’ a mere 30 minutes into a work free weekend I found myself (through no fault of my own) reading a truly interesting article about Patrik Arnesson, the CEO of Forza Football and his product journey. Those un-aware of the powerhouse app that is Forza Football, it’s essentially the all encompassing go to guide for football fans, providing in depth info and content from 800 leagues around the world. The core message of the article: ‘get your core product right before adding fancy stuff’.
My mind was racing, this was an issue recounted to myself over a number of coffees and lunches with product people across a number of different industries in different levels of seniorities. Client and candidate side most couldn’t deny or fight the almost seductive nature of the early stages in the Product lifecycle.
Candidates were looking for new opportunities because the company they had worked with from ideation to fruition, were now at the stages of maintenance and improvement. ‘Where was the fun in that?’. My understanding of this dilemma was that those early lifecycle stages provided a real opportunity for creativity, an open road that could and would change. When I ask candidates what they want from their next role the most common answers I hear are: ‘I want to make an impact… I want to be able to learn and grow with the product… I want to work in a truly innovative and agile environment’. I believe these characteristics are very much definitive of a product manager, I’ve never had a client ask for a slow-paced product manager with a distinct lack of creativity. That being said, those innate characteristics create the very problem being discussed, the best and most prominent product people were those who wanted out when the product got ‘boring’. A period that is crucial in determining the success of the product as a whole.
The article touched upon a number of blunders and the consequences that arose from the company chasing the glitz and glamour of creating new features and ‘fun stuff’ over choosing to continue the build on the core product. Essentially, they wasted a huge amount of time, manpower and effort creating things that it turned out the public didn’t want. Their numbers didn’t go up, and they realized after 2 years of creating these new features the true value in getting the core product right. Fortunately for Forza, the app was successful enough to survive those 2 years and is now the second largest football fan app in the world. As I mentioned the article reflected many of the opinions and feelings of my own clients. However, it did make me wonder, how many products don’t survive? How many don’t realize the importance of getting the core product right in time or even at all?
Warren Buffet said it well when he said “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” But maybe Jim Rohn said it best when he agreed ‘it’s good to learn from other’s mistakes’ and added ‘it is BEST to learn from other people’s successes.’ If a Product team find themselves at the crossroads, one way leading to Core Product (a well maintained and fairly straight road) the other winding out of sight towards new features and possibly adventure. My advice, listen to Warren Buffet, listen to Jim Rohn, learn from others who have also found themselves at the cross roads. Chose the core product path, build a home, resupply, and if/when the time is right the pathway to new product functions and excitement will still be there for you to explore.
If you are a start up with a new idea, you are working passionately and furiously to create a new product that is attempting to solve a problem, therefore it’s so important to make sure you remember the problem you set out to solve and that the solution for that problem was your core product. Not the extras you want to add. If all the hard work pays off and the product takes off successfully, the core product is the reason why. It works, the consumer likes it, you are getting sales, downloads, hits, whatever the success metric maybe. Whilst that initial success feels incredible (and quite rightly too) it will count for nothing if the success isn’t sustained. That’s why ensuring your product is scalable, stable and continually satisfying the market’s changing needs must be the overarching goal for any product. Without that stability and sustained success, you don’t have a working product and certainly won’t be excited about going back to the drawing board to make it work again.
For a candidate in this position my advice is fairly simple, although it may seem as though you have achieved what you set out to achieve, you paid your dues and have now seen the fruits of your labor. The real challenge may come from ensuring that your now successful product remains on course and reaches the trajectory. Don’t jump ship, it’s almost like spending two years toiling to build a house and then not sleeping in it. The product will again reach a place where you can afford to consider new features and other shiny addons.
And there you have it, a humble Product recruiters’ opinion on a prevalent issue in the Product Market. I hope it resonated with you in some way, and would love to hear about your own experience with this situation.
Thanks for reading. Please don’t hesitate to connect and see how we could work together or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.