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How Data Made Me More Confident to Drive Big Decisions

Product
Impact
Strategy

2 March, 2021

Dr. Amit Sawant
Dr. Amit Sawant

Chief Operating Officer at Somatix

Amit Sawant, Director of Product Management at Dell Technologies, tells how adhering to a data-driven approach gave him more courage to pursue bold ideas and, more specifically, postpone the launch of a next-generation product for six months.

Problem

Six years ago, Dell acquired EMC, and it took a while to attain genuine convergence and have the two engineering teams come together. The product we were building at that time was meant to embody our unification in terms of building unique data protection products merging Dell with its PowerEdge servers and EMC with its own distinct technology.

We were to announce the launch of our next-generation product when senior executives proposed a new launch date that I thought was too early. I had a number of legitimate reasons to ask for the deadline to be postponed by six months. We would not necessarily lose out on the revenue, and there was much more to gain. If we postponed the product launch, we would benefit from the integration and be able to go with a marketing strategy that would make the most from our collaboration.

Actions taken

First off, I gathered all the financial data and compared the revenue of our past-generation and potential revenue from our next-generation product. Typically, we would allow for a six-month long overlap when the old product would be ramping down, and the new would be taking off. In this particular case, we would extend the old product for a bit longer and only start to build the new product after our two companies would be entirely integrated.

In the meantime, I made sure that we would keep building other products too, because the supply chain of hardware could be rather critical in terms of obtaining all necessary raw material. Simultaneously, I had engaging conversations with all the stakeholders, including Supply chain, Engineering, Sales and Business Operations, and was confident to conclude that we would not lose out much of the revenue by delaying the launch for six months. We would have a three to four percent dip in revenue, but would be able to make it up because, after the merge, our engineering teams would come together, and we would save significantly on engineering resources.

Also, Dell and EMC joining forces would create a distinct buzz in the market and that itself would help increase revenue. I forecasted that we would increase our revenue by five percent merely because we would be merging together to build the next generation product. I did an in-depth financial impact analysis that I presented to the executive team.

The executive team was fairly skeptical. I had to have separate meetings with individual executive leaders to make sure that they understood the data behind the analysis I conducted and that none of their concerns would go unaddressed. That was enough to convince them, solidify consensus and consequently delay the launch for six months.

Engineering did a great job and managed to complete their share of work in four months only and we were able to deliver the product two months ahead of schedule. All those efforts not only resulted in multiple improvements but also increased revenue.

Lessons learned

  • Always apply a data-driven approach. It will give you the confidence to pursue bold ideas, the courage to stand for your products, and the conviction to keep with the hard work.
  • Make sure to get all the stakeholders on the same page. While I was putting the numbers together I initiated a series of conversations with all the stakeholders and managed to secure their buy-in. That allowed me to go before the executive team with a data-driven proposal backed by unanimous support by all stakeholders.
  • A Product Manager of a product line should act like a CEO for that product. You will be responsible for making the right decisions for your product, but also you will need to convince the executive team that this is the right decision to go.
  • A Product Manager should need to have a spidey sense, a gut feeling about their product. There is a subjective part of the equation, but solid data and meticulously conducted analysis are at the fundament of any credible initiative. As a product manager, you will have to constantly balance between being risk-averse and being a maverick. Sometimes you will have no data or, at best, half-baked data, and this is when your gut feeling comes into play.

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