Episode #268: How to Build Tech Products That Customers Love with Marty Cagan

Before founding the Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG) to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching, Marty Cagan served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.

Marty is the author of Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, which explores lessons from top tech companies, how to get the right people on the bus, product management and development, and how to build a culture that underpins success.

During his career, Marty has personally performed and managed most of the roles of a modern technology product organization, including product management, software development, product marketing, user experience design, software testing, engineering management, and general management.

Marty speaks at major conferences and top companies across the globe and brings with him a wealth of knowledge from more than three decades in the industry.

After spending the first half of this conversation riffing on what companies, in particular established incumbents are doing wrong, when it comes to building a truly innovative culture and taking new products to market, we spent the second half exploring several case studies and some techniques that people in the industry can begin to employ to start breaking the inertia, that, almost ten years after concepts like agile and the lean startup started making waves, seems to still be all too common in the modern organisation.

This is an incredibly worthwhile conversation for anybody involved in building new products, or trying to build new products in an environment that perhaps isn’t all that conducive to doing a good job of it.

So please, sit back, strap yourselves in and enjoy my conversation with Marty Cagan.

Topics discussed:

  • What people can learn from Inspired
  • Marty’s early days at HP in the 80s and the fundamental lessons he learned about product
  • development early in his career
  • The importance of aligning culture, process and people
  • Why average talent + great culture and leadership = better results than top talent
  • Pushback on lean startup and agile: is it warranted?
  • Inertia in the modern organisation
  • How to get buy-in from sales and engineering teams
  • Great companies lead academia, they don’t follow it.
  • The tendency of executives to look for silver bullet solutions like ‘design thinking’ or ‘lean startup’ instead of thinking holistically about what’s really required to drive innovation at a firm
  • Case studies from Netflix and Google on getting stakeholder buy-in and supporting disruption
  • The role of the product manager and why the role has lost its way
  • Should the product manager be involved in all customer usability and insight gathering activities?
  • Whether ‘agile-but’ or ‘scrum-but’ are effective applications or a bastardisation of the spirit underlying these methodologies
  • High integrity commitments
  • Parallels between the 90s and today insofar as technology is concerned and Marty’s views on AI and blockchain
  • Show Notes:
  1. Get Marty's book “INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love”: https://amzn.to/2MRJgLR
  2. SVPG: www.svpg.com
  3. Marty on Twitter: @cagan
  4. Bill Campbell’s ‘Stratechery’: https://stratechery.com/

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