Category Archives: SaaS

SaaS Product Power Breakfast 4/22/21 with Norwest Partner Scott Beechuk

Thomas Otter and I are having a great time running our series of enterprise SaaS Product Power Breakfasts on Clubhouse on Thursdays at 8:00 AM Pacific time.

Thus far, we’ve had sessions with guests:  Thomas; Dave; ex-Oracle and ex-Planful EPM product leader Mark Bauer; and ex-Oracle, ex-Salesforce product leader and Skyflow founder Anshu Sharma.

In response to both our experience and listener requests, we’re now starting to conceptualize these sessions as “podcasts recorded in front of a live studio audience” so we can get the best of both live audience engagement and Internet-scale reach.  Ergo, we should shortly (hopefully starting with Anshu’s episode) be posting (potentially lightly edited) recordings of the sessions in podcast form.  More later on that.

Which brings us to our next session, 4/22/21 at 8:00 AM Pacific,  where we’ll be interviewing special guest, entrepreneur, ex-Salesforce product leader turned venture capitalist, Scott Beechuk, of Norwest Venture Partners.  Scott and I worked together at Salesforce almost a decade ago and work together today with Bluecore.  This should be a great session!

Areas that we plan to touch on:

  • What VCs look for in product teams
  • How to hire top product talent
  • How to accelerate the roadmap
  • How Scott made the transition from product leader to venture capitalist
  • What Scott takes from the world of music to the world of product

Product Power Breakfast: Mark Bauer on Product Management in Early vs. Late-Stage Companies and More

Join Thomas Otter and me for Product Power Breakfast #3 this Thursday, April 8th at 8am on Clubhouse.

Our special guest is Mark Bauer, a career product leader who started on the end-user side as a business planner at Pepsi, flipped to the vendor side at OLAP category creator Arbor Software, which was acquired by Hyperion Solutions which in turn was acquired by Oracle, and then quit a perfectly good job at Oracle to do it all over again as one of the earliest employees at Host Analytics.

In the middle of Mark’s tenure at Host, he took a sabbatical to lead a non-profit (LaunchCode) which provides free education to help people launch their careers in technology.

So Mark really has  done it all:  from Pepsi to Oracle, from behemoths to ten-person startups, from category leaders to category creators, from corporates to non-profits, Mark’s been there and done that.

In this episode, Dave and Thomas will talk to Mark about topics including:

  • What makes for success in product management?
  • Scaling an organization with proper PM ratios
  • The biggest differences between PM at small and large companies
  • Working effectively with offshore development and PM teams
  • Difference he’s seen in PM across different countries (e.g., US, India, Israel, UK)
  • How to best serve the constituents of PM?
  • Inbound vs. outbound PM?
  • Maybe we’ll even sneak in a conversation about technical debt

I look forward to seeing you there!

Product Power Breakfast: Thomas Interviews Dave

(TLDR — Link to Episode #2, Thursday, April 1st at 8 am pacific.)

Well, we just finished the first episode (“Dave interviews Thomas“) of our Enterprise SaaS Product Power Breakfast series and wow, was it crazy.  In addition to our regularly scheduled interview on product management with Thomas, we had:

  • A guest appearance from the ever-brilliant Jason Lemkin, EchoSign founder, VC, and creator of SaaStr — thanks for coming!
  • A surprise cameo from Dharmesh Shah, cofounder and CTO of HubSpot (who I think Jason pulled up [1]) — thanks for coming!

While it was definitely a romp in terms of structure (or lack thereof), it was high energy, full of great content, and fun.

So, we’re going to try it again next week with Episode #2:  Thomas Interviews Dave. Topics on the agenda include:  product management, product strategy, product positioning, and product roadmaps.

Maybe he can control the room better than I did.  See you there!

# # #

Notes

[1] I was following the “it can’t be that Dharmesh” and the “let celebrities be audience members in peace” principles.

 

Ground Rules for our Clubhouse Product Power Breakfasts

As recently announced, Thomas Otter and I are starting what we hope will be a series of Clubhouse Enterprise SaaS Product Power Breakfasts, Thursdays at 8 AM Pacific time.  The link to the first one is here and the Slido Q&A is here.

In order to keep things flowing smoothly, and in response to my experience on Clubhouse thus far, I started writing a ground rules document for Thomas and me, but decided it could be useful for everyone who joins us — particularly because I’m suspecting many of us are pretty new to Clubhouse.  So here goes.

Moderators

  • Keep the room on topic = enterprise SaaS product.
  • No soliloquies = back and forth makes Clubhouse interesting.
  • Let other moderators talk. (Hint:  we’re all type A.)
  • Answer the question for the room, not just to the person.
  • Answer the question you thought you were asked.  (So audience please make questions clear!)  We want to avoid triple restatements, which are sadly fairly common –> The question is X.  Was your question X?  Yes, my question was X.
  • Go on mute when you’re not speaking (particularly if you see the grey outline flickering; it means you’re picking up noise)
  • Come off mute to indicate that you want to speak
  • Flash mute on and off to “clap” when someone else is speaking
  • By default, avoid what I’ll call Clubhouse Verbose Protocol (e.g., “Hi, this is Dave speaking, the answer to your question is no, this is Dave and I am done speaking.) [1] [2].

Those Moved Up to Stage

  • Ask your question clearly as possible.
  • Do a brief, one-line self introduction (e.g., “my name is Dave, I’m a PM at Zendesk, and my question is …”)
  • Please try to keep questions reasonably brief and of general interest.
  • Don’t be bothered if we put you back to the audience after your question.  We’re just tidy.
  • No self or company promotions please (i.e., please don’t try to use this forum as a way to market your goods or services).

Audience Members

  • Ping people into the room if you’re enjoying the content!
  • Raise your hand to ask a question; we love questions.
  • Use Slido to ask questions as well.  The event code for our first event is 569975.
  • Please fill in your bio so we know who you are.
  • Mute your phone when you’re moved up on stage (bottom right of screen); it’s not muted by default.
  • We’ll try to answer all questions from those we pull up on stage; if we’re near the end of the session, please be sensitive to that as we want to end on time.
  • We reserve the right to promote special guests and bring them up on stage out of order.
  • While we have not (yet perhaps) created a club and ergo have no Club Rules, normal rules of business and social media decorum apply.
  • I’ve had requests to record these sessions and make them available in other media (e.g., podcasts) but have not figured out how to do that yet.  Once we’re not total noobs on Clubhouse, we’ll explore doing so, in accordance with Clubhouse norms.

# # #

Notes

[1] Typically used in my experience in rooms with a large number of moderators and/or people on stage.

[2]  We will do so by request if members of the audience desire it, for any reason, in order to better follow the conversation.  For example, visually challenged people sometimes request this, particularly if all the speakers have similar voices and/or accents.  In our case, Dave has a New York accent (and accompanying pace) muddled by years of living in California.  Thomas has a South African accent, perhaps muddled by years of living in Germany.

SaaS Product Power Breakfasts, Thursdays at 8 AM Pacific on Clubhouse

Interested in all things product?

Then please join me and my friend and esteemed colleague Thomas Otter on Thursday mornings at 8 am pacific for what we’re hoping will become a series of Enterprise SaaS Product Power Breakfasts where we will talk among ourselves, with invited guests, and with the audience about all things product, including:

  • Product management
  • Product strategy
  • Product marketing
  • Product design
  • Product positioning
  • Product roadmaps
  • Product requirements (to generalize or not to generalize)
  • Application / platform dynamics
  • Product input and feedback processes
  • Pricing strategies
  • Product portfolios
  • Product-led growth
  • Managing new vs. existing products
  • The transition from 1 to N products
  • Product development processes (e.g., agile, scrum)
  • Minimum viable product
  • Managing product managers
  • The transition to general manager (GM)
  • And much more

For those on Clubhouse, here’s a link to the event.  If you’ve not tried Clubhouse yet, well here’s a great reason to join — ask a friend for an invite if you need one.  In a real pinch, ask me or Thomas via DM on Twitter (we each have a few).

My interest in product stems from my overall fascination with strategy and my experience in product marketing at Ingres (RDBMS), CMO at Versant (ODBMS) and Business Objects (BI/analytics), SVP/GM at Salesforce.com (Service Cloud), and CEO at MarkLogic (NoSQL) and Host Analytics (Planning).  That’s not to mention lesser involvement in strategy working in board and/or advisory mode at companies including Aster Data (NoSQL), Nuxeo (ECM/DAM), and Alation (data intelligence).

Thomas’ interest in product stems from his infinite curiosity about the intersection between technology and people.  Thomas was part of the leadership team that scaled SuccessFactors to over 50M end users, managing not only product but literally scores of product managers.  Prior to that Thomas was an analyst at Gartner where he drove the HRTECH research agenda that helped shape the industry.  Truly a multidisciplinary thinker, Thomas’ PhD dissertation “sits awkwardly at the intersection of IT, law, and business.”  He’s thus a heck of an interesting guy to talk to.

See you there!

What a Pipeline Coverage Target of >3x Says To Me

I’m working with a lot of different companies these days and one of the perennial topics is pipeline.

One pattern I’m seeing is CROs increasingly saying that they need more than the proverbial 3x pipeline coverage ratio to hit their numbers [2] [3].  I’m hearing 3.5x, 4x, or even 5x.  Heck — and I’m not exaggerating here — I even met one company that said they needed 100x.  Proof that once you start down the >3x slippery slope that you can slide all the way into patent absurdity.

Here’s what I think when a company tells me they need >3x pipeline coverage [4]:

  • The pipeline isn’t scrubbed.  If you can’t convert 33% of your week 3 pipeline, you likely have a pipeline that’s full of junk opportunities (oppties). Rough math, if 1/3rd slips or derails [5] [6] and you go 50-50 on the remaining 2/3rds, you convert 33%.
  • You lose too much.  If you need 5x pipeline coverage because you convert only 20% of it, maybe the problem isn’t lack of pipeline but lack of winning [7].  Perhaps you are better off investing in sales training, improved messaging, win/loss research, and competitive analysis than simply generating more pipeline, only to have it leak out of the funnel.
  • The pipeline is of low quality.  If the pipeline is scrubbed and your deal execution is good, then perhaps the problem is the quality of pipeline itself.  Maybe you’re better off rethinking your ideal customer profile and/or better targeting your marketing programs than simply generating more bad pipeline [8].
  • Sales is more powerful than marketing.  By (usually arbitrarily) setting an unusually high bar on required coverage, sales tees up lack-of-pipeline as an excuse for missing numbers.  Since marketing is commonly the majority pipeline source, this often puts the problem squarely on the back of marketing.
  • There’s no nurture program.  Particularly when you’re looking at annual pipeline (which I generally don’t recommend), if you’re looking three or four quarters out, you’ll often find “fake opportunities” that aren’t actually sales opportunities, but are really just attractive prospects who said they might start an evaluation later.  Are these valid sales opportunities?  No.  Should they be in the pipeline?  No.  Do they warrant special treatment?  Yes.   That should ideally be accomplished by a sophisticated nurture program. But lacking that, reps can and should nurture accounts.  But they shouldn’t use the opportunity management system to do so; it creates “rolling hairballs” in the pipeline.
  • Salesreps are squatting.  The less altruistic interpretation of fake long-term oppties is squatting.  In this case, a rep does not create a fake Q+3 opportunity as a self-reminder to nurture, but instead to stake a claim on the account to protect against its loss in a territory reorganization [9].   In reality, this is simply a sub-case of the first bullet (the pipeline isn’t scrubbed), but I break it out both to highlight it as a frequent problem and to emphasize that pipeline scrubbing shouldn’t just mean this- and next-quarter pipeline, but all-quarter pipeline as well [10].

# # #

Notes

[1] e.g., from marketing, sales, SDRs, alliances.  I haven’t yet blogged on this, and I really need to.  It’s on the list!

[2] Pipeline coverage is ARR pipeline divided by the new ARR target.  For example, if your new ARR target for a given quarter is $3,000K and you have $9,000K in that-quarter pipeline covering it, then you have a 3x pipeline coverage ratio.  My primary coverage metric is snapshotted in week 3, so week 3 pipeline coverage of 3x implies a 33% week three pipeline conversion rate.

[3] Note that it’s often useful to segment pipeline coverage.  For example, new logo pipeline tends to convert at a lower rate (and require higher coverage) than expansion pipeline which often converts at a rate near or even over 100% (as the reps sometimes don’t enter the oppties until the close date — an atrocious habit!)  So when you’re looking at aggregate pipeline coverage, as I often do, you must remember that it works best when the mix of pipeline by segment and the conversion rate of each segment is relatively stable.  The more that’s not true, the more you must do segmented pipeline analysis.

[4] See note 2.  Note also the ambiguity in simply saying “pipeline coverage” as I’m not sure when you snapshotted it (it’s constantly changing) or what time period it’s covering.  Hence, my tendency is to say “week 3 current-quarter pipeline coverage” in order to be precise.  In this case, I’m being a little vague on purpose because that’s how most folks express it to me.

[5] In my parlance, slip means the close date changes and derail means the project was cancelled (or delayed outside your valid opportunity timeframe).  In a win, we win; in a loss, someone else wins; in a derail, no one wins.  Note that — pet peeve alert — not making the short list is not a derail, but a loss to as-yet-known (so don’t require losses to fill in a single competitor and ensure missed-short-list is a possible lost-to selection).

[6] Where sales management should be scrubbing the close date as well as other fields like stage, forecast category, and value.

[7] To paraphrase James Mason in The Verdict, salesreps “aren’t paid to do their best, they’re paid to win.”  Not just to have a 33% odds of winning a deal with a three-vendor short list.  If we’re really good we’re winning half or more of those.

[8] The nuance here is that sales did accept the pipeline so it’s presumably objectively always above some quality standard.  The reality is that pipeline acceptance bar is not fixed but floating and the more / better quality oppties a rep has the higher the acceptance bar.  And conversely:  even junk oppties look great to a starving rep who’s being flogged by their manager to increase their pipeline.  This is one reason why clear written definitions are so important:  the bar will always float around somewhat, but you can get some control with clear definitions.

[9] In such cases, companies will often “grandfather” the oppty into the rep’s new territory even if it ordinarily would not have been included.

[10] Which it all too often doesn’t.

Congratulations to Nuxeo on its Acquisition by Hyland

It feels like the just the other day when I met a passionate French entrepreneur in the bar on the 15th floor of the Hilton Times Square to discuss Nuxeo.  I remember being interested in the space, which I then viewed as next-generation content management (which, by the way, seemed extraordinarily in need of a next generation) and today what we’d call a content services platform (CSP) — in Nuxeo’s case, with a strong digital asset management angle.

I remember being impressed with the guy, Eric Barroca, as well.  If I could check my notebook from that evening, I’m sure I’d see written:  “smart, goes fast, no BS.”  Eric remains one of the few people who — when he interrupts me saying “got it” — that I’m quite sure that he does.

To me, Nuxeo is a tale of technology leadership combined with market focus, teamwork, and leadership.  All to produce a great result.

Congrats to Eric, the entire team, and the key folks I worked with most closely during my tenure on the board:  CMO/CPO Chris McGlaughlin, CFO James Colquhoun, and CTO Thierry Delprat.

Thanks to the board for having me, including Christian Resch and Nishi Somaiya from Goldman Sachs, Michael Elias from Kennet, and Steve King.  It’s been a true pleasure working with you.