The SaaS model had tremendous impact on various business roles and functions over the past few years. New financial models, sales methodologies, the rise of customer success and the widespread use of the agile development model are just a few examples.
The transformation of product management’s role in SaaS , on the other hand, is not discussed as often although it deeply impacts both business operations and strategy.
In addition to traditional PM skills, great SaaS product teams must be intimately connected with more stakeholders than ever and are required to be much more involved with the day to day operations of the business. This requires different skill sets from PMs and additional leadership and strategic skills from product leaders.
With SaaS your customers are not really buying a product in the traditional sense of the word — they’re subscribing to a service.
Product features and capabilities, training, professional services, support, customer success, etc. — your customers expect a single comprehensive service and a coherent vision for its evolution.
For me, this is the core of Product leadership in SaaS and this is why it’s imperative that your PM team owns more than ‘just’ defining and delivering your roadmap. They must own the overall customer experience across all functions that interact and deliver value to your customers, requiring product managers to work closely than ever with every department in your business.
Delivering high quality features on time is hard, but it’s just not good enough anymore. The bar is so much higher in SaaS. To be successful product teams also need to help educate customers to get the most out of every new product capability, work with sales and marketing to help close more deals, train the support team so they can solve issues quickly and get feedback from all your customers and internal teams to ensure you’re addressing ever changing market needs. And you have to do all this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis while maintaining course toward your strategic business goals.
The cross-functional nature of SaaS service delivery, the intense level of interaction with a large number of stakeholders and the multi-faceted nature of the SaaS business require product teams to own the vision of your entire service delivery and to be deeply embedded in your business operations across sales, marketing, support, customer success, professional services, etc.
If you’re in the SaaS business, build your product team from the ground up to be up for the task.