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Peacetime CPO VS. Wartime CPO

Ben Horowitz penned an article of Peacetime CEO vs Wartime CEO, in which he called out different approaches needed in leading companies during different times. 

As we know, when product wins, business has a chance to win; and when product fails, business will fail soon after. It’s not too far of a stretch to apply the same framework of leadership practice for Chief Product Officers (“CPOs”). That is, there are styles and techniques for a Peacetime CPO and for a Wartime CPO. 

What Does Peacetime Look Like?

According to Ben, “Peacetime in business means those times when a company has a large advantage vs. the competition in its core market, and its market is growing. In times of peace, the company can focus on expanding the market and reinforcing the company’s strengths.” For example, Google has enjoyed a very long peacetime where Google search dominates the market with very high return. 

What Does Wartime Look Like?

“In wartime, a company is fending off an imminent existential threat. Such a threat can come from a wide range of sources including competition, dramatic macro economic change, market change, supply chain change, and so forth.” An example is when Steve Jobs returned to Apple when it had only a few weeks of cash runway. 

What Time Are We In Now – Peacetime or Wartime?

By default, all startup CPOs are wartime CPOs – you are competing with big established players. You have a limited run way. If you are a CPO or head of product in a startup, you are a wartime CPO.

In today’s fast evolving technology landscape and post 0% interest rate era- peacetime has turned into wartime. 

There is hardly a company not in wartime now. Even for Google or Facebook, both had for decades enjoyed a major lead against competitors in an expanding market. And now both fighting their existential threat from AI and newcomers. 

How Do You Transition Into The Wartime CPO Practice?

Assume you are already in wartime mode or you are moving into wartime mode, how would the CPOs operate differently?  

First, let’s see the two styles in more detail. 

How Does A Peacetime CPO Lead?

  • Set BHAG – big hairy audacious goals 
  • Encourage more exploring, debating. 
  • Explore market opportunities. 
  • Give broad autonomy to teams. 
  • Not rushing. Efficiency is not important. Team can use any tool or process, from spreadsheet, slides to any bottoms up individually selected tools as decision speed is not a high priority. 

How Does A Wartime CPO Lead?

Wartime CPOs ask lots of questions and evaluate much closer on the changing landscape. Here are some of the key characteristics. 

What Changes Should You Make?

Transitioning from peacetime CPO to wartime CPO requires much more than just leadership style change. The entire organization must adjust too. How do you make it happen quickly without “burning down the house”? 

Here are some tips and learnings from CPOs who have done this before. 

Communicate The Change

Not everyone recognizes the change or needs for it. Leaders must communicate to align the team on the “why”.  So they are not blindsided by the changes, or resist them.  

Have The Right Process And Cadence In Place

  • Change your PDLC or roll out one if you don’t have it defined “on paper”. PDLC outlines how everyone in the product org, and those in GTM collaborate. (Check out  PDLC playbooks for outcome focused CPOs)
  • Have a more repeatable cadence of planning and communication. Speed and focus requires repeatable operating cadences. Everyone needs to know what’s expected and where to find information. 

Have The Right Platform 

When speed and focus are required in the collaboration across many teams and functions, an integrated platform is essential, not a nice to have. 

Moving fast should not be the reason for “(having) some babies thrown out with the bathwater” like what has happened at Twitter. 

Using a platform like Dragonboat, you will have immediate visibility on how to make shifts in allocation quickly with data to preserve the most critical talent when adjustment is unavoidable. 

With Dragonboat run your product operating system to orchestrate the cross functional teams to:

  1. Make effective, focused product investment decisions to drive revenue or lead competitors
  2. Watch outcome closely to adjust roadmap and priorities swiftly
  3. Manage your resources effectively to reduce bottlenecks and blocking dependencies.
  4. Still invest in the future, quarters or years out, just not decades out. 

To learn how Dragonboat helps CPOs and product leaders from both startups and Fortune 100 to complete and succeed effectively, schedule a call with our experts

Product Leadership: What Makes a Good Product Leader Great?

As a product leader, you are responsible for the high-level product strategy of your organization. But how do you jump the chasm from good product leader to great product leader to ensure that your team wins long-term? That’s exactly what we asked 12 seasoned product executives in last summer’s Chief Product Officer Webinar Series. Follow along as we break down the product leadership advice of CPOs, VPs of Products, board members, and more as they discuss the tips that helped them make the transition.

Below we provide context on product leadership, but feel free to skip straight to the advice if you are in a hurry.

What is Product Leadership?

Product leadership is one’s ability to develop and manage products that meet customer needs while driving business growth and innovation. It involves having deep domain knowledge and business acumen, and using that knowledge to develop processes and make informed product decisions about strategy, development, and launches.

There are several different product leadership roles, including product manager, product portfolio manager, product owner, chief product officer, head of product, and VP/director of product. These roles have varying levels of responsibility, from overseeing a single product’s development to managing an entire product portfolio. They may also differ at every company in terms of the scope of their responsibilities, such as customer research, product strategy, product development, and team management.

The product leadership structure can differ significantly between large and small companies. Large companies often have a dedicated product organization with several layers of product management leadership. Each layer of product leadership is responsible for managing a specific area of the product organization and has a defined scope of responsibilities. 

In contrast, small companies may have a flatter product leadership structure, with fewer layers of management and a greater emphasis on cross-functional collaboration. A product management leader in a small company would have broader responsibilities and work in a fast-paced environment.

What Does a Product Leader Do?

The typical responsibilities of a product leader include:

  1. Defining and communicating the product visions and strategies to stakeholders.
  2. Conducting market research and gathering customer feedback to inform product decisions.
  3. Developing and maintaining the product roadmap, including feature prioritization, release planning, and resource allocation.
  4. Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as engineering, design, product marketing, and sales, to ensure successful product development and launch.
  5. Ensuring that the product meets customer needs and delivers business value, as measured by key performance indicators.
  6. Managing the product development life cycle process, including product updates, enhancements, and retirement.
  7. Identifying and mitigating portfolio risks to the product’s success, such as competitive threats or changing market trends.
  8. Leading and developing a team of product managers

Overall, product leaders are responsible for driving product success and growth while balancing the needs of the customer, the business, and the market.

What Makes a Good Product Leader Great?

Now that we know the working mechanisms of a product leader, let’s get into what truly makes a product leader great. Check out the overlying themes from the advice of 12 trailblazers of the product and tech industry.

1. Storytelling

Storytelling is essential for great product leadership because when creating a product, leaders need to be able to communicate the value and vision in a compelling way that resonates with their audience. By telling a story, product leaders can create an emotional connection with their stakeholders and inspire them to take action, whether that means investing in the product, buying it, or contributing to its development.

Here’s what some product leaders had to say on storytelling:

“[Being a great product leader] is being able to manage up to the board and talk about really hard things in a diplomatic way. Great CPOs will tell their story in a way that will create clarity and visibility so that your board can have confidence in you. You can have really hard conversations about what you need to do and need to not do, but you keep the faith throughout it.

If you have a great CPO, they can get the board and CEO on board with their plan, and they work as a partnership with humility to admit mistakes and build those relationships with people.”

Melissa Perri, CEO @ ProduxLabs and Author of Escaping the Build Trap

“ What differentiates great Chief Product Officers is that if you talk to a board or you talk to a C-suite, or you talk to their team, each one of them will describe that individual in a very different way. They will describe them as having strong business acumen, good presentation, and a lot of charisma. The C-suite will say they are a team player, willing to give, understanding of my pain. And their team will say they are a good mentor, helping me understand how to advance my career. 

And so you have to be a chameleon. And you have to represent yourself differently, not disingenuously, to the stakeholder group you’re in. And as a product person, you are the glue; therefore you interact with a lot of different groups. Make sure you’re adjusting your presentation style for the empathy of those stakeholders. That’s what makes a great Chief Product Officer.”

Shelley Perry, Operating Partner @ Scalelogix Ventures

2. Clarity

Clarity helps great product leaders build great products by effectively communicating their vision and strategy, aligning stakeholders around common goals, and making informed decisions based on data and insights. Without clarity, product leaders risk confusion, misalignment, and lack of buy-in, which can lead to missed opportunities, wasted resources, and product failure.

Here’s what some product leaders had to say on clarity:

“A really great head of product is a highly facilitative leader that brings systems into place to allow the leadership team to get visibility to make decisions. That is somebody who understands they don’t own the decisions. However, they know that the more they can bring data to the leadership team so they can make tradeoffs, the more they can control those decisions in the right way.

In the end, a great chief product officer doesn’t lose that facilitative mindset. They focus on the system and put it in place so others can make those decisions. And really great CPOs will make the whole leadership team feel like they were a part of the decision-making process. These folks need to believe in the roadmap you’re creating. So don’t lose that ability to bring them along, as you move up the ladder from being a great head of product to a great CPO.”

Ryan Polk, Operating Partner @ Insight Partners

“A good Chief Product Officer focuses on the how and the what, but a great Chief Product Officer focuses on the why. They figure out how to communicate and frame the problem and align success metrics to scale and grow the business.”

Lydia Varmazis, CPO @ Lydia & Co.

3. Outcome-focused Teams

Building outcome-focused teams ensures that product development efforts are aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the business. Rather than simply focusing on outputs or features, outcome-focused product teams prioritize delivering tangible results that create value for customers and drive business growth.

Here’s what some product leaders had to say on building outcome-focused teams:

“The value the product leader can unlock in their people and in their teams is a true indicator of a good vs. great CPO. It ultimately comes down to the depth and breadth of how they can show their impact. It is also luck, right time, right place, right ideas. There are some things out of your control that go into great outcomes and becoming a great CPO.”

Aniket Gune, CPO @ SmartAsset

“A good CPO delivers on business outcomes, and that is a given. But a great CPO is transformative with their outcomes. They are 10xers across business impact, team impact, and they make the org product-led. Hitting the goal is good, but transformative is hard.”

Ketan Babaria, CPO @ M1 Finance

4. Alignment

Building a framework for alignment is essential for great product leadership because it helps to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal. When everyone is on the same page, it is much easier to make informed decisions, prioritize effectively, and execute the product strategy with focus and clarity.

Here’s what some product leaders had to say on alignment:

“From good to great, it’s having that simple and easy-to-understand framework where you can align your PMs, product ops team, and your stakeholders so you can align how you and your product team is enabling those outcomes on the product, strategic, and company level. It’s being able to tell that story with a simple framework.”

Denise Tilles, CPO @ Grocket

“You need to have a product vision and sell that vision to everyone (sales team, board, CEO) to get aligned on the vision and strategy on achieving the goal. Great CPOs can craft a vision to get other people to feel they play a role and are important to that vision.”

Wyatt Jenkins, CPO @ Procore

5. Culture

Building a good culture is essential for great product leadership because it creates an environment for product teams that fosters creativity, collaboration, and innovation. A positive culture can motivate team members to do their best work, take ownership of their roles, and work together towards shared goals. This is particularly important in product development, which often requires cross-functional teams to work together to deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs.

Check out what product leaders had to say about building culture:

“The biggest thing is execution. That’s quantitative. But the key sub-piece here, which makes a great product manager, is ego.

Being able to manage ego. Egos of your executive team, of your product team, of everybody, period. That is the most important thing. Because you are not the most important. The product person is not the most important thing. The collaborative effort is the most important. And that’s what, I think, makes a great chief product officer.”

– Avin Arumugam, Operating Partner @ Struck Capital

“At the end of the day, going from a good to great product leader comes down to how you delight the customers and business growth.

And for me, that comes down to how you create the right culture in product teams because no matter how good a CPO is, if you can’t create the right culture that allows teams to get customer feedback, and deliver products quickly, you can’t build great products.

Once your dev and product managers are cooking with gas, the rest of the organization comes along because you start getting more predictable in terms of when things are going to be released. The sales and customer support team is no longer frustrated that it’s taking so long and there’s no visibility. So the transparency that comes with speed is typically what I think drives a great Chief Product Officer to help a company grow and delight customers.”

– Spiros Theodossiou, CPO @ Dext

“What makes a great product leader is putting your company first and your people first. That means that it’s not all about the product. It’s really about spending enough time with my peers so that I put in the effort to make sure my company and people are successful, not just my specific team.

All being on the same page as a leadership team is so vital. Creating this leadership view and rowing in the same direction makes a great leader. Then in terms of product, it’s being data-driven, customer-focused, and really building a culture where people want to work together. It’s a team sport.”

Trisha Price, CPO @ Pendo

6. Customer Focused

Being customer-focused is essential for great product leadership because it ensures that the product is designed and developed with the needs and wants of the customer in mind. When a product leader is customer-focused, they take the time to deeply understand the customer’s problems, needs, and preferences and use that understanding to inform product decisions.

Here’s what some product leaders had to say about being customer focused.

“Be extremely customer focused. This is not to be confused with customer responsive, meaning, I’m not going to just do what you think you want me to do, but I’m going to get behind what it is you’re trying to accomplish and solve for. I’m going to come to you with an innovative and differentiated approach to solving that problem.

That means you have to know your customers inside and out. I think those product managers that have a pulse on the emotional, contextual, and functional things their customers are trying to solve for are usually ahead of the game.

So my mantra is, if there’s a debate internally or any uncertainty, come back to, what do you think that customer really wants? Hopefully, you know the customer well enough that pretty much anything you come out with would be accretive to that customer’s life.”

Cory Gaines, CPO @ BlackHawk Network

Great Product Leadership: The Bottom Line

To make the transition from good to great, product leaders must be expert storytellers, customer-focused, and culture driven. They must be able to tell a story in a way that creates clarity and inspires stakeholders to take action while also maintaining alignment in communicating their vision and strategy. And all the while having every action line up with their ultimate business outcomes. It is the combination of these qualities and traits that can help a product leader move from good to great and drive the success of their organization.

How can a product leader encompass all of these qualities?

The right tool transforms how product leaders work, enabling organizations to run more efficiently and effectively while also providing new insights and opportunities for innovation.

Ready to transform your product leadership from good to great? Dragonboat helps great product leaders build products that drive success and balance the needs of the customer, the business, and the market. Schedule a demo today to learn more.

Using Data-Driven Decision Making: How a Causal Forecasting Method Can Benefit Product Development and Business Outcomes

You’re not selling used cars

Some years ago, I was a middle manager attending my company’s annual kickoff. It began as so many all-hands meetings do about all that we accomplished the year before, followed by industry trends and a distant 10-year vision for our company. The finance team then closed the meeting by presenting a revenue forecast based on a model that accounted for seasonal trends, inflation, the number of salespeople we planned to hire, and the impact of marketing spend on revenue. At the end of the presentation we were provided with a final revenue number we were all told to work towards and then encouraged to work with our leaders on our OKRs, because, after all, our bonuses depended on this.

But here’s the rub – we were a software company that made more money the more customers used our platform. Yet I couldn’t understand how my activities were relevant to the company strategy. As a member of the product team, I couldn’t influence seasonal trends or economic tailwinds like inflation. It seemed strange to me that hiring more salespeople would generate more sales indefinitely. After all, wouldn’t we eventually run out of potential customers to sell to if we didn’t build new features to increase our total addressable market? Similarly, though we had a marketing plan that allowed us to get more than a dollar back for every dollar we spent, I realized that at some point it wasn’t going to work anymore. Our revenue model sounded like it could have applied to a used car business – but we were a software company! We needed an effective SaaS revenue forecast method, taking tech trends into account.

The truth is that the work we did in product development did matter, but much of our impact was guesswork. Our organization did not have a way to correlate behaviors on our platform as leading indicators that drove lagging indicators to the business, such as revenue. Perhaps this sounds like a familiar story to you, too. In the absence of this, the business built a model that was generally applicable to most businesses, but it didn’t capture how new features introduced on our platform improved the business. Product development teams love to celebrate the fact that they make data-driven decisions, but are you measuring the right things that are driving the right decisions?

Product development teams love to celebrate the fact that they make data-driven decisions, but are you measuring the right things that are driving the right decisions?”

If you find yourself relating to this tale of corporate woe, there is hope! In this article, we’ll provide a brief primer on business forecasting models, zero in on causal forecasting methods that incorporate product development, and then conclude with a few examples showing the benefits of data-driven decision-making to inspire you to action.

Business Forecasting Models

Forecasting, the business activity of projecting future revenues and expenses, is a critical activity that nearly all growing technology companies do. Without some sense of what will happen in months and quarters ahead, decisions about how to invest in the business become guesswork. While it may seem daunting to foretell the future, forecasting approaches are surprisingly simple, in large part because it is not meant to be a precision activity. At best it sets expectations for the investors and employees of the company regarding what they can expect for their contribution to the company within a margin of error.

Historical vs. Causal Forecasting Method

There are two types of financial forecasting methods commonly used by companies. One approach, historical forecasting, involves analyzing patterns and trends from historical data to make predictions about future results. This forecasting method assumes that the future will be similar to the past in terms of events and trends. On the other hand, causal forecasting method looks at the cause-and-effect relationships between variables to make predictions. This forecasting method assumes that changes in one variable will affect another variable in a predictable way. For software companies, a causal forecasting method is a formula that equates to revenue or net income (if the company is profitable).

Diagram of Historical Forecasting vs Causal Forecasting

For many organizations, a historical forecasting method is appealing for the following reasons:

  1. Historical forecasting is often easier to use and can be quicker to generate results because it relies only on past data.
  2. Historical forecasting only needs data to make predictions, while causal forecasting requires a deep understanding of the relationships between the parameters of the formula.
  3. Historical forecasting deals well with stable systems where the underlying relationships between the variables remain relatively constant over time.
  4. Historical forecasting can help uncover trends or changes in behavior over time that may be useful for identifying areas that need improvement or investment.
  5. Historical sales forecasting can be helpful in creating a baseline for performance that can be useful in setting goals, especially for variations based on seasonal or market changes.

However, a historical forecasting method is almost always the wrong approach for the technological industry because changes in our industry happen frequently, and past success is no guarantee for future returns.

According to a study conducted by Small Business Trends in 2019, only 50% of start-ups survive their first four years in business. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum also stated in a report that around 90% of start-ups fail within their first year of operation. This highlights the high-risk nature of running a software start-up and just how short of a time horizon most start-ups operate. The story isn’t much better if you’re an established company. According to a report published by the Statistic Brain Research Institute in 2016, the failure rate for all U.S. technology companies after 10 years was 71%.

Our field is incredibly dynamic, so if your company relies heavily on historical forecasting approaches, advocate for a causal forecasting approach instead. A causal forecasting method addresses these shortcomings in the following ways:

  1. Causal forecasting can provide a more accurate prediction of future outcomes because it takes into consideration the causal relationships between variables.
  2. Causal forecasting can help identify which parameters have the greatest impact on the outcome being forecasted, which can be helpful in making decisions of where to focus efforts to maximize results.
  3. Causal forecasting can be especially helpful in identifying the impact of new trends, innovations, or competitive pressures on business outcomes.
  4. Causal forecasting can help businesses anticipate potential future changes in the market or environment, giving them an opportunity to adapt before the situation changes.
  5. Causal forecasting can help businesses optimize their resources by focusing on the most impactful strategies and tactics, leading to better decision-making and potentially better financial performance.

Causal Forecasting Method Examples

Example 1: Using a Causal Forecasting Method for Simple E-Commerce

To help you wrap your head around what a causal forecasting method looks like for a simple e-commerce business, consider the following:

Net Income = (Number of Visitors * Conversion Rate * Average Cart Value) – Fixed Costs – Variable Costs


  • Number of Visitors = The total number of visitors to the e-commerce website
  • Conversion Rate = The percentage of visitors that make a purchase on the website
  • Average Cart Value = The average value of purchases made by customers in one transaction
  • Fixed Costs = The fixed expenses associated with running the e-commerce business, such as rent, salaries, and insurance
  • Variable Costs = The variable expenses associated with each sale, such as product costs, shipping costs, and payment processing fees

Having the business described in a formula is useful; it highlights the parameters of the business within the team’s control that are possible to predict, such as fixed costs, and which parameters the team can influence. In this case, there’s a role for product development to play with conversion rate and average cart value.

For example, a product team with an idea for a feature that could improve the conversion rate by 20% can use this prediction as part of a pitch to justify the potential revenue impact of their invention. Rather than having teams be goaled on revenue, we now have an opportunity to create a game for our team where we decide if we’re winning or losing by keeping track of conversion rate. In my experience, when teams understand what score they can influence, they naturally develop the strategy to come up with game-winning tactics!

Example 2: Using Causal Forecasting Method for Advertising E-Commerce

Causal forecasting methods are unique to each business, and there are many models one could surmise. Another potential model for an e-commerce site that doesn’t have a shopping cart and generates most of its traffic from advertising could be:

Net Income = (Product Page Views * Conversion Rate * Average Order Value) – (Cost of Goods Sold + Marketing Expenses)


  • Product Page Views = Number of times the product pages are viewed by visitors
  • Conversion Rate = Percentage of product views that result in a purchase
  • Average Order Value = Average amount spent by a customer per order
  • Cost of Goods Sold = Cost incurred in producing and delivering the products sold
  • Marketing Expenses = Cost incurred in advertising and promoting the e-commerce site and its products

Instead of factoring in visitors, this model assumes that higher product page views, conversion rates, and average order values lead to increased sales and revenue for the e-commerce site.

Note that the details of the models may change the behavior of your team. In this case, a focus on product page views versus all site visits will encourage your team to think through ways to encourage people to view products and not just focus on increasing visitors. Furthermore, what you choose to add to your model may require some thought. Different people visiting the e-commerce site may inherently have different conversion rates, so the model may not work if there aren’t guardrails around what types of users are considered valid visits.

World-Class Product Teams and Their Success Stories

To motivate your causal forecasting journey, which is a keystone to developing a strong product operations muscle, here are three examples of world-class product teams who have used this approach to great success; true data-driven decision making examples using causal financial forecasting modeling.


Components of the causal model: Amazon’s causal model includes factors such as product selection, pricing, customer ratings, customer reviews, and shipping options.

  • Metric improved: Conversion rate
  • Feature introduced: Amazon’s “Buy Box” algorithm, which uses machine learning to determine the optimal seller and price for a product, improving the likelihood of a purchase.
  • Revenue impact: By improving conversion rates, Amazon has been able to increase its sales 


Components of the causal model: Netflix’s causal model includes factors such as subscriber growth, content library, content cost, user experience, and engagement metrics.

  • Metric improved: User retention rate
  • Feature introduced: Netflix’s recommendation algorithm, which leverages machine learning and user data to recommend content personalized to each user’s preferences.
  • Revenue impact: By improving user retention, Netflix has been able to sustain growth in its subscriber base, which is a key driver of its revenue growth.


Components of the causal model: Salesforce’s causal model includes factors such as lead generation, lead conversion rates, sales team performance, customer satisfaction metrics, and competitive landscape.

  • Metric improved: Sales team performance
  • Feature introduced: Salesforce’s “Einstein Analytics” platform, which uses machine learning and data analysis to provide insights into sales team performance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Revenue impact: By improving sales team performance, Salesforce has been able to increase its revenue growth and customer satisfaction metrics.

Wrapping up

For software companies, forecasting with dynamic causal modeling that incorporates product development can provide a more accurate and actionable prediction of future outcomes. It can help identify the parameters that have the greatest impact on business outcomes and allow teams to focus on where to make the greatest impact. The causal models will not be the same for all businesses and will need to be tailored to your specific industry and business model. By looking at examples of world-class product teams, you can see how they have leveraged causal forecasts to achieve success. So if you want to start making data-driven decisions that drive real business results, it’s time to embrace causal forecasting.

How to Lead Your Team to Success After Big Organizational Change

Layoffs are hard and they affect everyone, both those laid off, and those who stay. For those who were laid off, there are huge mental and financial implications. We feel for them. For those who stay – they are the future of your company. And they also experience mental and work-related stresses. The potential negative impacts should not be overlooked. 

There are many questions and doubts that will arise, such as: 

  • Am I safe? Will there be more layoffs?
  • Should I go look for another job that’s more secure?
  • So and so are top performers and they are impacted. This does not seem fair. What does it take to succeed here? 
  • The company is making good profits and even growing. Why is this happening?

Guiding Your Team to Success After a Layoff

Let me put it bluntly: companies that are “doing well” and are also laying off employees should attribute this to a management failure. However, managers can make smarter decisions if they are operating and making decisions in the fog. That can only lead to poor outcomes and bad consequences. 

After the layoffs, the leaders of a company must handle the situation very differently – no one wants to experience what happened at Twitter. 

What changes should you make?

Here are some considerations and a 3-phase process for your remaining team: 

Phase 1: What to do immediately or within the 1st week of the layoff announcement. 

After the news, act quickly to have one-on-one meetings with your team. Do that within the same day or no more than a few days later. Listen actively to the conversation and take notes for future action plans. Be honest and transparent about addressing their concerns.

Phase 2: Challenges to address in a few weeks

With fewer people, there will not be immediate less work. Customers are still there. So are projects, even winding them down takes time. Who will cover what? How not to create burn out, or drop the ball that negatively affects business or customers?

  • Solution 1: With a leaner team improving focus and prioritization becomes a must. This includes connecting the different initiatives with the overall business objectives and regularly shifting as needed.
  •  Solution 2: Reduce overhead work (like reporting, stakeholder updates, etc.) via automated, customized real-time roadmap and updates, using tools to improve efficiency. 

How do we create a plan forward after a layoff?

The first step after a layoff is to get everyone on the same page. All the teams need to be aligned and working towards the same goals. A good way to do this is by including other teams in the planning process. This way, everyone knows what’s going on and can work together to make sure that the initiatives have the necessary resources.

Any roadblocks should be called out early. This way you have time to adjust your plans and avoid any nasty surprises later on. And, if you want to make sure everyone is on the same page, use tools to help with alignment and communication. They can be a big help in keeping everyone in sync.

Phase 3: Review and revamp how you will work for future success 

Currently, the idea of acquiring a new tool may not be top of mind, however, it’s worth considering from a different perspective. The right tool can help a business do more with less: 

  • Want to boost revenue? Connect features with revenue and retention goals. You’ll always know where the needs vs the resources and the current plans, making it easier to make adjustments.
  • Want to save money? Cut down on all those spreadsheets and decks. It’ll be like having an extra person for every 5 PMs. 
  • Want to get the most out of your resources? With easy planning, you can avoid wasting engineering resources on waiting or getting blocked by cross-team dependencies.

Dragonboat has helped 3,000+ product teams deliver better business outcomes. If you want to find out more about our solutions, book a demo today.

5 Tips for Chief Product Officers to Nail Board Presentation

There comes a time in every chief product officer’s executive life, when she is asked to interact with the board. Shelley Perry, CEO and founder of Scalelogix Ventures, multiple-time board director, and former Chief Product Officer (CPO), joined Dragonboat’s CPO Series to talk about why new CPOs should adopt a board practice to be ready for the inevitable and tips to ensure you nail your board presentation. 

Effective communication with the board increases board member confidence in the entire executive team, and speaking as a member of many boards, Shelley wants new Chief Product Officers to be successful in their new role. 

In this webinar, Shelley offers five tips to help CPOs be ready for working with their board.

Tip #1: Understand Your Audience (the Board Members)

Product teams are great at understanding customer jobs, pains, and gains. It’s how they can build great products that create value for customers.

Shelley recommends that CPOs should leverage this capability for knowing customers to understand board members. Board members are stakeholders of the business. They have jobs to do, pains to resolve, and gains they want to help the company achieve.

Chief Product Officers should dig into board member profiles, so they can better understand what they are trying to accomplish as a board member of the company. 

Tip #2: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

“You lead product, but your team is the c-suite,” says Shelley to new Chief Product Officers. The product team is no longer your first team, so you need to stop thinking that way. Boards expect the executive team to be solving for the whole, not advocating for their respective functions. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is required reading for all new CPOs (any new CxO) because it will accelerate your mindset shift to first-team thinking. 

“You [Chief Product Officer] lead product, but your team is the c-suite.” 

Shelley Perry, CEO and founder of Scalelogix Ventures & former Chief Product Officer

Tip #3: Your Product Section [of the Board Deck] is Part of a Larger Narrative

When a Chief Product Officer is asked to create the product section of the board deck, the board is not looking for the right product roadmap or update on the status of product initiatives. The only purpose of the product slide is to support the CEO’s narrative for the entire company strategy.

Shelley suggests that the Chief Product Officer first understand the CEO’s narrative, then build the product slides with that context. 

Tip #4: Learn to Talk Financial Speak and Leave Product Speak at the Door

As much as you want to, you cannot use any of the following language in board meetings: new UX, code refactor, technical debt, jobs-to-be-done, next release, PRD, Horizon 1, 2, OR 3, framework, prioritization, double diamond strategy.

Leave these terms at the door.

In order to nail your board presentations, translate product changes into language that furthers the business. Use language that communicates how the product will increase sales, retain customers, increase EBITDA, expand into new markets, exit low-growth markets, or otherwise, increase go-to-market velocity. Chief Product Officers need to learn the board’s language, not teach them products.

Tip #5: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Shelley will tell you that her pet peeve as a board member is a slide that shows current state, which begs the question, “Is this better or worse than last month/quarter/year?”

Don’t make board members go back to previous decks to piece things together. Show dashboards with trends or data over time to spark a conversation about what can be done to make a change. You cannot put a thousand words on a slide, but the right dashboard and spark a 20-minute strategic conversation about how to move the entire business forward. 

How to Do This in Dragonboat

Chief Product Officers can use Dragonboat to help make the transition to the c-suite easier by relating the progress that the product team is making to the results the company is achieving. The key is to report initiative progress side by side with company results. In Dragonboat, when you display OKR progress next to initiative progress, you can have data-driven, productive discussions in your executive team meetings about strategic investments, resource allocation and strategic initiatives that are moving the business forward. 

Such discussions go well beyond what the product team is contributing. The entire c-suite discusses results and initiatives contributing to the results, not going around the room with function-by-function updates. Chief Product Officers who bring this kind of data to executive meetings are living up to Shelley’s advice.

Learn more about how Dragonboat can help you level up your board conversations

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Taking Product Operations from Forming to High Performing | PLA Product Ops Festival

Transforming Product Operations Effectiveness From Forming to High Performing Product Ops

So… you’ve got a product ops team. Maybe it’s just you, or maybe it’s a few people. You’ve got the buy-in from your company on the importance of your role and function. You’ve initiated the start of some transformational changes for your org.

But now what? What’s next for the team?

Dragonboat CEO Becky Flint joined the stage at PLA’s Product Ops Festival on September 28th to share learnings and tips for taking product ops from forming to high performing based on her 20+ years of experience as a product professional and career building with world-class leaders and product operations teams every day at Dragonboat.

Fill out the form below to get access to the recording and download a copy of the slides.

From Forming to Performing

Check out some of Becky’s previous Product Operations talks below: 

🚀 How product ops can drive portfolio outcomes:

  • Product ops must enable teams with greater consistency, vertical alignment, and cross-team collaboration.
  • When getting started with product ops, create an “MVPI”, and roll out incrementally. To make the greatest impact out the gate, focus on the PDLC, connect OKRs with initiatives, and provide stakeholder visibility.
  • The foundation of successful product ops is built on a responsive product portfolio management platform and an outcome-driven culture.

🔎 Is product ops a force for good or evil?

  • There’s good and bad in every function, not just product. Product ops helps not only product managers, but also product leaders make better decisions with a shared process and relevant data.
  • The product ops role is often misunderstood. Their mission isn’t to simply create processes but to accelerate revenue and thus, the organization’s collective success.
  • To distinguish between the good and the bad, product ops measures outcomes with the right KPIs.

Additional resources

Can’t wait until the festival to hear from Becky? Check out the resources below, or book a time to hear from one of our experts on how you can move from forming to high-performing product ops!

Product Ops 101


Customer Stories

product ops roadmap to success webinar

Driving Portfolio Management (Podcast with Melissa Perri)

Many outcome-driven product leaders are calling portfolio management the latest iteration of agile, but what’s the key to driving portfolio management within your organization?

Find out from the latest episode of Product Thinking with Melissa Perri where Melissa welcomed Dragonboat CEO, Becky Flint. Becky and Melissa discussed the rising need for portfolio management and Becky’s experience building and scaling portfolio management at Paypal, Shutterfly, Feedzai, and BigCommerce.

Here are some highlights from the podcast:

  • The growing need for portfolio management tools like Dragonboat
  • Why any size team can adopt portfolio management
  • Common pitfalls in early portfolio management
  • How to drive portfolio management at any organization

The Growing Need for Portfolio Management Tools

Becky never thought she would start a company. She was pushed into it as it became clearer and clearer to her that there was a growing necessity for a product portfolio management tool.

Becky’s eyes were really open to a gap in the market while building the product portfolio management function for fast-growing companies like PayPal, Shutterfly, and Bigcommerce. She tried dozens of PM and PPM tools but none supported the needs of an outcome-focused product organization. 

“While I was at PayPal, we were starting our product launch internationally, and alongside it, our product team was scaling from fitting in one conference room to dozens to hundreds. And those growing pains were when we started to realize that the way we ran product wouldn’t sustain us much longer.

We had to learn to run product at a bigger company, for all different types of customers, and in a way that allowed us to adapt to our ever-changing needs. That was what really started the conversation around product process transformation.”

Becky Flint

The traditional way businesses are taught to organize product processes doesn’t work long-term because there are so many facets to a product — e.g market, time horizons, type of investments, etc. Therefore based on Becky’s new-found learnings and her finance background, she proposed portfolio management to the product VP to bring different ways to look at product and create the clarity to make better business decisions. 

There was no tool at the time that could fit the needs of outcome focus product portfolio management. As a result, Becky and her team had to build make-shift tools internally. This was the beginning of product portfolio management at PayPal – and about 15 years before it became more well known in the tech industry.

When Becky moved to different companies that is when she realized this need wasn’t unique to PayPal. Thus, portfolio management and portfolio management tools were born.

Why Any Size Team Can Adopt Portfolio Management

Portfolio management is not just for large companies. The biggest lesson Becky took away from her decades working in product is that product today is multifaceted. Even as a product manager of a small team, you need to think of product in different lenses and be able to support every level. That’s where portfolio management comes in.

Portfolio management is about making decisions across the product organization to support various needs and lenses of the business.

Even for smaller teams, you have to think about what is really helpful for product teams of all sizes to be truly effective in driving the outcomes.”

Becky Flint

Understanding the needs on every level of the organization is the key to creating a successful portfolio that creates solutions for your various customers and shareholders.

Common Pitfalls in Early Portfolio Management

One of the biggest misconceptions around portfolio management is that people tend to think about the portfolio as a hierarchy.

The challenge with hierarchy is that it’s static – once your business changes, you’re stuck. People forget the problem they’re trying to solve when they spend so much time trying to figure out a hierarchy. 

This leads to companies making the process too rigid. You don’t need to define every step of the process. Think of a portfolio as a cadence and rhythm that will allow you to look back on.

When companies started out trying to do agile and Scrum purely by the book, they encountered many difficulties. There was just so much learning, evolving and adapting involved in those processes. People finally realized there is the principle and then there is the execution that should follow it. However, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same. This principle is the same with portfolio management. 

When driving portfolio management, there’s an even bigger impact than agile because it touches more than just the scrum team. The key to successful portfolio management is being able to iteratively roll out and constantly adapt your process as your business changes. There are problems that are important and there are problems that are urgent. Focus on the problems that are urgent. By doing this, you’ll be able to create a successful portfolio that meets the needs of your company today and into the future.

“You don’t need to roll out portfolios in every facet of your company — that would be way too time-consuming and tedious if you have multiple products. Rather, you can start in a few product areas. Take one or two teams who are ready for change and start to apply portfolio management to areas that are somewhat independent.”

Becky Flint

This “agile roll-out” takes into consideration the areas and opportunities that need to be explored. This also gives you an idea of what portfolio management looks like in one area so you can expand to broader areas with more knowledge.

The last pitfall is not having the right people to drive the internal thought process change. For instance, you needed a change agent and a scrum master to roll out agile. This is the same with becoming outcome-focused, which is why product ops is such a fast-growing and important role.

How to Drive Portfolio Management at Any Organization

There are a few components to properly driving portfolio management. It all comes down to finding the right tool and securing the right roles to drive the right process.

Drive Portfolio Management with Product Operations

Product leadership roles used to require multiple hats, but at a certain point, the team grows and the role becomes too big. That’s why you need product operations driving portfolio management.

Product operations enables effective decision-making. No product can be built by one team, it requires multiple teams. Having product operations partner with product leaders gives you vision, strategy, process, and most importantly data. This allows you to make the best product decisions at all levels.

Product operations allows teams to scale and build upon what they are doing really well and creates new areas to grow. This is essential for teams to not only succeed today but succeed tomorrow.

Chief Product Officers typically hire product operations as their right hand to succeed in driving portfolio management strategy forward. Having a leader focused on the vision and strategy, with product operation focused on the operating framework allows the team to innovate and create new ideas while also iteratively delivering. 

Drive Portfolio Management with the Right Tools

Once you realize the problem you have and determine the way you want to work, that’s where a portfolio management tool comes in.

“I got really excited when I met you and I saw Dragonboat because this is something that we manually would try to put together for so many companies for years. We would have analysts spend 40+ hours a week trying to get all the information out of the system, slice and dice it in the right way, and add it to the different pivot tables to do different lenses on it. 

But we still had the bigger issues of how do we monitor it after gathering that information? At AthenaHealth, we tried to create a backlog of all the OKRs in Jira to measure the progress that way, but that information wasn’t being tracked systematically. Overall it just didn’t work that well since we had no idea what to use and no products to see our investment in each product across the portfolio, tracking towards OKRs, and the strategy that we had just built and deployed. It was a big struggle to do. That’s what I really love Dragonboat because that’s what you guys are pulling together.

Melissa Perri

Tools play a big hand in shaping the way you work and creating a process. That’s why the key to successfully driving portfolio management falls on enforcing the process with the right tools and right roles to empower the whole company forward.

Dragonboat – The Responsive PPM Platform for SAFe Lean Enterprise

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a way for enterprise companies to implement agile delivery at scale. SAFe promotes alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of agile teams and includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, and how to plan work. SAFe for Lean Enterprise “integrates the power of Lean, Agile, and DevOps into a comprehensive operating system” that helps organizations achieve business agility.  

Companies that practice SAFe typically lead a portfolio, or portfolio of portfolios, and need a responsive Product Portfolio Management platform for SAFe lean enterprise to manage the integrated workflows.  

Dragonboat is the Responsive PPM Platform for SAFe Lean Enterprise 

Here’s how Dragonboat’s Responsive PPM (RPPM) platform supports and enables the key elements of the SAFe Lean Enterprise framework:

  • Continuous learning – Dragonboat’s Idea module allows you to continuously collect, organize, and prioritize feedback, insights and requests from various stakeholders including customers and internal teams and provide input to formulate product and portfolio backlog and planning. 
  • Outcome based product portfolio management (PPM) – Rather than focusing on delivering features, product organizations can plan and prioritize product portfolio roadmaps in Dragonboat which enables teams to focus on business outcomes, customer outcomes, and portfolio outcomes.
  • Organizational agility – Dragonboat enables organizational agility via top down alignment of goals and strategies with our dynamic portfolio hierarchy, bottoms up ideation, prioritization and innovation, and cross team collaboration. 
SAFe for lean enterprise framework

SAFe Program Increments (PI) Planning with a Responsive PPM Platform

PI planning (or big room planning), synonymous with sprint planning in the scrum practice, is one of the most recognized elements of SAFe. In PI Planning, various product teams gather to map value streams, identify dependencies, and synchronize PIs.

Dragonboat’s 3D Roadmapping can be used for value stream and big room planning. Teams can prioritize within their own stream, align on goals, and visualize dependencies to plan cross-functionally.

SAFe PI Planning with Responsive PPM
Source: Dragonboat app

Agile Product Delivery via Jira, Azure DevOps or Other Agile tools 

After PI planning, teams can push plans to engineering tools for agile product delivery.

Dragonboat’s PPM Platform is seamlessly integrated with agile tools including Jira, Azure Dev Ops, and Shortcut to connect strategy with execution, while automatically rolling up progress, and using smart forecasting to provide visibility while eliminating manual tracking.

Measure and learn by connecting outcomes to goals and adjusting allocation and prioritization to best achieve portfolio outcomes. 

Connecting Strategy with Agile Execution

Dragonboat is a complete product portfolio solution that enables top down, bottoms up and cross team collaboration, along with iterative resource planning. The workflow starts with aligning and allocating strategic goals/ OKRs/ themes, with idea capture and prioritization, then enabling collaborative planning between product and engineering teams, as well as across product teams to best design a portfolio roadmap. Then, integrating with agile tools for team execution.

The PPM tool stack of Dragonboat + Jira/ ADO/ Shortcut, is perfect for portfolio planning and alignment connected to Agile execution. This forms a complete double-diamond workflow connecting strategy with execution.

Continuously Learn >> Build >> Measure

Product teams use Dragonboat’s Idea module to collect and organize feedback, requests, and insights from customers and cross-functional teams. These ideas are a key part of product discovery for teams to learn about customers and build the right products.

Product teams also use Dragonboat to align product goals with strategies and measure actual outcomes to influence future portfolio iteration and allocation.

Dragonboat’s Responsive PPM Supports a Variety of Product Management and Delivery Frameworks

In addition to SAFe, Dragonboat supports a variety of Agile practices, including fuzzy planning (e.g. this month, this quarter, next quarter), lean roadmapping (Now, Next, Later), duo-track agile (discovery + delivery), strategic planning on-demand, and quarterly planning. Product and program managers can easily pick up and integrate Dragonboat into their current product management and delivery processes.

When it comes to implementation, Dragonboat enables agile rollout (aka MVPC – minimum viable process change). It takes only a few minutes to get started and requires no changes to existing team practices.

Teams may continue to work within their existing workflows which might include standard scrum and sprints, scrumban, kanban, classic + next gen Jira, or even traditional/ waterfall. 

Dragonboat supports the portfolio of portfolios – which means each organization may start with one instance or multiple and easily scale their Responsive Product Portfolio Practice across more teams as needed.

Responsive PPM CTA

How to Run Outcome-Focused Strategic Planning

You heard it right – effective strategic planning is essential to outcome-focused product teams. But how do you conduct annual strategic planning and integrate it with agile product management? In this post, we’ll walk through how to run strategic planning in 4 steps. We’ll also cover how to connect strategic planning with responsive re/alignment and re/allocation to achieve portfolio outcomes.

First, let’s do a recap on why effective strategic planning is so essential to outcome-focused product teams.

You may have heard from product management best practices that empowered teams build the best products. According to Marty Cagan, the author of “Empowered”, there are 2 key elements from leaders to empowered product teams:

  1. Give product teams problems to solve, not features to build
  2. Enable them to have the necessary strategic context to understand “the why” to make good decisions. 

The output of strategic planning enables the strategic context from leaders to their teams.

Step-by-Step Guide to “Annual” Strategic Planning 

Strategic planning is the exercise for executive teams to align as well as define the strategic context for the company and the product teams. Let’s jump into the 4 steps of how to run effective “annual” strategic planning.

Step 1 – Align on Strategic Product Initiatives 

First, executive teams must set out key business goals for the coming year. They may include doubling revenue, increasing existing customer adoption, and so on. How to achieve these goals depends on many factors, including the state of the business, market, product, technology, etc. 

Additionally, hold a brainstorming session (or sessions) with leaders of all functions to create strategic bets or initiatives to achieve these business goals. These initiatives should not be “build XYZ feature”, but rather, “how do we achieve XYZ goal”. They should also be evaluated based on a variety of factors, from simple benefit/ cost to schematic patterns and balance between core vs. expansion vs innovation, etc. 

Step 2 – Align on Budget Allocation

Secondly, to ensure sufficient resources for product teams, high-level T-shirt sizes are provided by functional leaders to understand the teams or skills needed. This can be based on staff month, or staff month by skills (design, mobile engineer, etc.) This allocation may also lead to additional juggling of step 1 if the budget is not feasible or too skewed. 

Step 3 – Evaluate Business and Product Dependencies 

This next step is conducted at a broader scope and is essential especially if some initiatives require longer-range planning, e.g. legal-related, licensing, partnership, etc. The portfolio level of visualization is by no means a committed plan, but rather a directional map for the correlated teams on the ecosystems and portfolio context they operate internally. 

Step 4: Align on Roadmap 

Lastly, you need to define the product plan for each of these bets and map them to intended outcomes and associated metrics. The outcome of the product changes should influence future iterations of product planning. So planning becomes continuous and responsive monthly and quarterly, not just set in stone from the annual planning session. Make adjustments on focus and allocation based on product outcomes. Re-evaluate product prioritizations based on new inputs.

Why Switch From Annual to Continuous Strategic Planning?

Outcome-focused teams must connect long-term vision and near-term action iteratively as well as collaborate across teams to achieve shared goals. Outcome-focused teams review and reassess “annual” strategic planning continuously. Hence a responsive product portfolio platform is essential to keep both strategic and outcome context in one place.  

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