Launching a Successful Product through an Acquisition
Technical Program Management at Apple Inc.
Leading an Acquisition
Two years ago, my company assigned me to lead the acquisition of two startups. It was a strategic decision because my company began to grow into an enterprise of a specific domain. Both of these startups were a good size, with 230 new members joining our company in total, but they were based out of different locations and had completely different cultures and processes.
During this acquisition, my goal as a Program Manager was to launch a new product to market. I began my process by contemplating why we're releasing a new product, the success metrics, and cross-sell opportunities.
Launching the Product to Market
With the goal set and acquisition finished, our team had to release a new product within six months. Being a public company increased our time frame since the stakeholder's and investors' eyes were on us.
I noticed a few challenges when we began talking about the new product: the first was that our roadmap for the product was not clear on a tactical level. The second was technical; since we were combining two products on a unified platform, there were two of everything – technologies, process, and integration. On the Go-To-Market side, we were unsure how to launch the product itself as the strategies would be different for each startup.
To address these challenges, I focused on two main areas: cross-functional collaboration and transparency. Since we were talking about two different cultures, teams, and products, it was difficult for each side to understand the other. I focused on team cohesion by building a central hub where information could flow for learning purposes.
As part of this collaboration, I wanted to ensure that the product-dev and other teams were not working in silos. As we worked through the product development process, I communicated our procedure to the sales and Go-To-Market teams.
The teams' differences caused a need for visibility to management to monitor the efficiency of time allocations. I brought in an agile framework that involved cadence check-ins every two weeks with core teams and the larger teams.
Launching this product was done completely remotely, making communication and collaboration difficult. I had to be very mindful of each team member's time – since the startups were used to having strictly local meetings.
To act as an empathetic leader, I had to build strong relationships, trust, and share our larger vision. Initially, though, the process was focused more on getting to know the team, understanding their challenges, and being there for them.
Another aspect I focused on was communication. With such a large vision and product, the entire company was focused on it – heightening the importance of communication strategies. When executives made decisions, I needed to ensure that the information was cascading through the levels and reaching each team member. I was driving town halls and steering committee meetings to keep members informed without uncertainty.
At the end of the process, the team managed to successfully launch the product to market within six months. It was a hard time for the organization, but we met some of the metrics that we had previously planned. We ended up increasing our customer base and traffic.
Lastly, the CEO appreciated our work on this product. On top of the pandemic, launching this product with two newly acquired startups was a unique and difficult experience.
Navigating Team Dynamics
- I contribute the success of my product to the relationship I built with my team. As long as they trusted me and saw the value of our product, they were motivated to push forward. To build this trust within a team, it is essential to listen and be available for team members – even with small things.
- There is a fine line when being too prescriptive and focusing on the process. It is important to gauge the situation, understanding the maturity of a team, what works, and what makes sense at a specific time.
- When there is a lot of pressure, it is very easy for teams to get frustrated. Continuing to communicate the goal and how they are contributing value is essential to increase the team's health.
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Technical Program Management at Apple Inc.
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