The art of product

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The 7 C’s of building a product for global scale

The 7 C’s of building a product for global scale

I thought about this question a lot in my current company. To be able to scale to a truly global size tomorrow, what do we need to be doing today. What type of things must be true if the product successfully scaled to millions of users?

As I reflected on the list, I thought it was something worth sharing. I think it reflects who we are and want to be as a company but it also highlights some core competencies that we have some of today and will need more of tomorrow.

From my time at Yahoo! I saw why many of these are important. When your company size is over 15k people, you cannot communicate with everyone each day. Rather, a way of thinking, interacting and behaving must be embedded through what is valued and celebrated.

  1. Culture — As you grow beyond a certain size, the way new members are onboarded will determine how they behave. As you scale, this culture will be vital to ensure new staff work according to the values and beliefs of the company.
  2. Code — It is advisable to have a single code base that is extended for different regions. It is also important to think early about how to handle huge volumes of data.
  3. Community — If your site has a community of users, the people who manage this community make a huge difference. One of their key contributions will be to keep power users engaged, but also to encourage them to help newer members.
  4. Constant Focus — Maybe you can do it all but you can’t do it all today. Products evolve through stages; empathy, engagement, virality, monetisation, scale (or potentially scale then monetisation). Normally the right metrics to aim for will depend on where you are in the life cycle, what your competition is doing, what the market is like etc. A step jump in one of these dimensions is a good month or even quarter.
  5. Communication — Some product managers have an excel sheet of enhancement requests and haphazardly pick from to it to build a roadmap. But it leads to stakeholders getting tired of hearing no. There has to be a robust input process, a common decision-making mechanism and access/visibility to the list and process. This drives real participation. You can say no, but people can understand why. All leaders should share their reasoning process.
  6. Contingency — What’s the worst thing that can happen? I mean really bad. Are we prepared today for how we would handle that? The site going down isn’t the worst thing ever; Dev Ops probably monitor all of that. But if working with young people, what are our duties there, how do we protect them? If we work with financial data, how do we know it is secure? How do we prevent against and prepare for such events should they happen.
  7. Coaching — Companies beginning to scale need to find people with great potential and develop them. This has to happen against a backdrop of huge growth and hectic schedules but you have to mentor people and ensure they have what they need.

If you can agree with this list, feel free to share it!

About Patrick O'Malley