Becoming a Part of the Ecosystem of Your Industry
17 May, 2021
A company is represented by what it produces. In one of my previous roles, in the construction management sector, we produced a suite of digital tools that worked together to provide a cross-functional platform for construction project managers to maintain the states of their construction projects.
Some of our offerings were not hitting the mark because they weren’t as good as individual point solutions. Comprehensively, our solution was greater than the sum of all its parts, so there was still value. Clients wanted more choice and flexibility to take advantage of the pieces they liked alongside best of breed solutions. This was right around when we first broke into enterprise-scale levels of business, so we found ourselves to be a supplement to more established systems seeking to meet the same needs as we were.
The question became: how can we work alongside these other tools that may be better point-solutions for our customers? How could we make a name for ourselves in the areas that we truly excelled in?
My business case was built around how to cohabitate with all of these other companies in the ecosystem that we were ourselves a part of. Giving a third-party developer the API needed to create some cool new feature may address the need, but doing so would not necessarily produce the comprehensive experience that we were interested in giving our customers.
We wanted to avoid an us-versus-them mentality — instead, we wanted to develop an us-plus-them type of attitude.
I developed a hypothesis that involved taking a more platform-oriented approach. I wanted to create a cohesive experience for users across the entire construction cycle. In order to break into the parts of the cycle where our presence was not as strong, we considered how we could integrate ourselves with some of these longer-standing brands who had been in the industry for longer than us.
This included pre-construction software that would come pre-loaded with all of the information and contacts for each contractor along with everything else that a site manager would need before beginning their work on day one. All of the information would be allowed to flow appropriately from one phase to the next.
We ended up writing a plan that covered several key areas like data reporting, developer experience, an in-app marketplace and identity management services. This culminated into our core platform strategy. Over the following year, I had effectively created a new division within the company, hiring team members to chip away at the platform strategy. One of the highlights that came out of it was an API platform that other companies would be able to build their own implementations specific to what they produced for the industry, all tying into this cohesive customer journey that was our ultimate goal.
- The best work began when we started to think about how all of our different products would eventually end up working together.
- Before, we had competitors in our space who were closed walls. If we want to improve the industries that we support, we all need to work together. The pie is more than big enough for everybody.
- When you think about the role of product management, progressing from tactics to a bird’s-eye perspective on the situations that they’re responsible for, this type of progress happens when you take a pause in order to guide yourself further. I take a day to myself to just look at the market and the opportunities in front of me. What is out there? There is more to the problem than what you’ve been working on. A personal retrospective will show you what you’ve been doing well and where you can potentially improve. There should always be an underlying theme that you’re solving for. If this theme is not being served through your overall product portfolio, it may be a good time for you to explore.
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