In the tech arena, it's common for companies to tout themselves as product-driven - whether that’s startups, scaleups, or large corporations. However, often this just means they rely on their product to function, rather than actively using it to guide their strategic decisions and drive long-term business success.
I joined Job&Talent in 2022 with a vision to spearhead the company's transformation into a truly product and tech-driven organisation. The company is more than just a job marketplace - it’s a comprehensive platform that connects job seekers with businesses and supports both sides throughout the entire process, from hiring to onboarding and ongoing administration.
Since 2009, Job&Talent has been pushing to tear down the barriers to job searching and hiring. On the back of their product, the company achieved tremendous growth, generating over 2 billion USD in revenue in 2022. But in an industry that is very traditional and usually known for lagging behind in tech innovation, Job&Talent’s founders Juan Urdiales and Felipe Navío realised the huge potential for building a product that is exceptional and removes many of the frustrations that are connected with finding jobs, hiring, and workforce management.
That's where I came in and where we began our journey to becoming a fully product-driven organisation. Less than a year later, I’m proud of the progress we made and happy to share my thoughts on what it means to be product-driven, and why it matters.
Being product-driven versus product-dependent
To be product-driven, you need to quantify the impact of any malfunction and manage your product in a financial way. If the system is down for 2 minutes, you need to understand the impact on costs and work fast to fix it. You know you work in a product-driven organisation when even the slightest thing not working in your product causes panic because it affects the bottom line. When a feature is down, my phone needs to ring instantly because the company is losing money and we need to understand the issue and fix it. That is a clear indication that the business is run by technology, and not the other way around.
There's a difference between the functionality of the product and its purpose for the business, In order to be truly product-driven, we need to move away from asking what kind of features we
need to build, and instead start asking what kind of business metrics we need to drive and how this will impact the company’s financials. Being product-driven means not only relying on our technology, but using it to inform every aspect of our business. By doing so, we're able to create cutting-edge digital products that cater to every stage of a user’s lifecycle, while also maximising operational efficiency of the company and enhancing the financial returns. Being product-dependent doesn't mean that you're truly product-driven.
Being product-driven versus sales-driven
Being product-driven is also different from being sales-driven. This might sound counterintuitive, but by developing unique features for specific clients’ needs, you might be putting the company at the risk of death by a thousand cuts. A more mature organisation balances the immediate needs for sales with the long-term value creation for the company, actually generating more revenues as it looks at the big picture. This requires a deep understanding of the business and industry as you have to anticipate what clients (that you might not even have yet) might need in the future (before they even know it themselves).
Let’s get to the most important question: Why does it actually matter? One of the main reasons to transform an organisation into being product-driven is that you don't really know your business until you know your product. You may have invested a lot of money in product development, but how do you know if you are using it efficiently? How do you know if you chose the most promising potentials of your product to tap into? Being able to map product opportunities against their financial value helps you create excellence in your choices. Consequently, it leads the company to being run more effectively and ensures that investments generate much higher returns.
Another key reason is talent: it’s only when you put your product at the epicenter of your business that you’ll be able to attract and retain the a-players you need to truly be successful. This is what motivates and inspires them — it’s the value you can offer to them.
What’s required on the journey of transformation?
The first and most important step is to create a DNA for the organisation. At Job&Talent, extreme ownership is one of our operating principles and from my perspective, it’s the most important one for the transformation into a product-driven business. I always ask my team: what would you do if it were your own company? That alone resolves many unnecessary discussions.
Another operating principle of ours is being analytical, and this is key for our journey as well: We have to make decisions that are as measurable as possible. Through that, you can also foster a culture of innovation within the organisation. This means encouraging creativity and experimentation based on the ambition to positively impact business metrics.
The second step is to have high requirements for your leaders and everyone in the organisation. They need to be skilled across a variety of areas, not only as managers but also with great technical and business skills. For example, if you ask someone “what would you do if it were your own company?”, you probably won’t get a meaningful reply from someone who is passionate about tech but doesn’t care so much about the business.
Lastly, you need to create a sustainable architecture that you can build on. You don’t want to spend time today developing a lot of things you don’t need yet, but you also don’t want to rebuild every time you need a new feature either. Building for, and anticipating, scale while being as lean as possible in development is the balance we have to strive for.
In conclusion, transforming a company into a product- and tech-driven organisation is a complex and challenging process, but one that can yield significant benefits in terms of innovation, efficiency, and profitability. It’s a journey that requires a strong organisational DNA, versatile talent, and a sustainable architecture. Only then we can tap into the opportunities that really matter for our business.