At Products That Count, we spend countless hours digging into the pain points of product managers and leaders. Due to the impending recession, product leaders are thinking about how to do more with less and what to prioritize. So, what are some strategies and best practices for product management during a recession? In this exclusive Fireside Chat, Products That Count Founder & CEO, SC Moatti, and Chief Product Officer, Renee Niemi, share key insights on best product practices during a recession and implementing a product-first culture. 

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On the recession’s impact on product managers

Technically, we are not currently in a recession. But it is expected to hit sometime in 2023. And with the monumental impact the pandemic had, we want to be prepared. So, how could the recession impact product managers? Check out what our founder SC Moatti had to say: 

“In 2023, it’s really going to be about, less is more. It’s going to be focused more on the must-haves, and less on the nice-to-have. Thinking about, how is the product I’m building, and how are the features, impacting the strategic KPIs of the organization? Is what I’m working on every day, going to increase revenue, reduce costs, and boost productivity?

Last year and during the pandemic, there was a focus on just driving revenue and growth at all costs. The conversation about reducing costs, and boosting productivity wasn’t so much part of the product conversation. What we’re seeing over the past few months is that it becomes increasingly top of mind for product managers who want to build great products.”

“We’re seeing increasing product teams, using a lot of low code and no code tools. With fewer resources, product managers have to be more creative with the way that they pitch, prioritize, and execute this development.”

On the recession’s impact on Chief Product Officers

So. what about from the CPO perspective? Is there a similar impact for product people in the c-suite? This is what our CPO Renee Niemi had to say about the recession’s impact in the c-suite:

“The fundamentals don’t change. You still have to prioritize, you still have to use your superpowers and lead your team, and your stakeholders. What has changed, potentially, is the what.

Senior leaders are starting to think that if we still have to achieve our objectives, with fewer resources, there are really only two levers.  It’s either be more efficient with the resources you have or rethink the priorities and how those priorities are going to impact the business. 

We like to think of business impact, in terms of growth. But in these times, sometimes the business impact is actually in cost savings. So, especially in product-led organizations, I see CPOs shifting the priority to a feature that is lower risk but can help save cost. Rather than prioritizing a higher risk feature, that may have higher growth potential.”

On building a product-first culture

A product-first culture means putting value into user experience and product strategy and adaptability above all else. The goal is to create a more cohesive and aligned organization that is focused on building the best possible product for customers. Here is what SC & Renee had to say about a product-first culture:

Renee Niemi

“A product-first culture is distinctly different than product-led growth. Sometimes a product-first culture has product-led growth as an element of it. However, it’s about how the company makes decisions and who’s driving the conversation. Who’s driving the strategy? The best product leaders are the ones driving towards product-first culture and driving the budget conversation.”

“The challenge that you have during normal times is that your priorities are getting pulled by customers. My favorite saying is urgent always trumps strategic. What’s interesting in these times is the volume of urgent can slow down. So, what you can do is really double down on some of these strategic initiatives. 

So, let’s say product-led growth was one of these strategic initiatives, use that extra cycle, whether it be 10% extra cycles that you have because urgent has calmed down. And really think through the highest impact, both short term and long term.”

SC Moatti

“I love that example. It reminds me that when we talk about product-first culture, the very natural jump is back to driving revenue. I have a lot of mixed feelings about product-led growth. I think it only works in a very clearly defined set of companies.

Where I see it work is in companies that have a product that is viral and sticky. If you want to drive growth, with just your product, first, you need the product to be viral. You need the product to naturally require someone else to get on board, in order to be successful.”

“I think of product-first culture as more than just product-led growth. You also have a framework to prioritize, based on the lifecycle of a product. Are we going to keep all sorts of products in our inventory? Or should we retire them? 

There’s an opportunity for product teams to exercise a growth mindset and say: how do I learn to retire some product? Or, how do I learn to build products that have fewer features? How do I remove features from my current product offering?” 

On tech layoffs and solutions

Massive waves of layoffs have hit the tech industry. Product managers and leaders across the globe are at a crossroads. But, there is an opportunity for growth. This is what our founder and CPO had to say about the layoffs in tech due to the impending recession:

SC Moatti

“If you’re a product manager or leader, and you’re in transition right now, one of the things that we recommend is to think about becoming a part of the product conversation. 99% of folks will be entirely focused on their jobs and heads down. And then there’s about 1% of folks who will lift their head up and say, there’s a lot of things that are happening in the product right now.

There’s a huge growth in that function. What if I became part of the product conversation? What if I made my voice heard and said, this is what makes a great product, or this is what makes a great product manager? All of a sudden, by doing that transition, by becoming part of the conversation, you raise your profile to become more of a thought leader.” 

Renee Niemi

“There may be product managers out there thinking, I’m only a product manager. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation. That is not true. Product management is very much a set of experiences that you bring to the table. You have those experiences. You know what works, and what doesn’t works. However, it’s also a really great opportunity for you to learn.”

Watch the complete Fireside Chat for exclusive insights from two of product’s top thought leaders.

About the speaker
Renee Niemi Mighty Capital, Partner Member
About the host
SC Moatti Products That Count, Founder & Board Chair

SC Moatti is the Founding Managing Partner of Mighty Capital, a Silicon Valley venture firm, and chairs the Board of Products That Count, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps everyone build great products and inspires 500,000+ product managers. SC earned her reputation as a product visionary and technology investor during the mobile era, when she built products that billions of people use at Meta/Facebook and Nokia, won industry awards and nominations from the Wall Street Journal and the Emmy's, and wrote an award-winning bestseller on what makes a great product. She has been called “a genius at making products people love” and named a Top Voice in venture capital on LinkedIn. SC frequently speaks to product and investing trends, including a recent keynote at TheNextWeb, a fireside chat at Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, featured articles in the Harvard Business Review and TechCrunch, and interviews on NPR (Tech Nation) and CNBC (Closing Bell.) She serves on the boards of public and private companies, lectured on product and investing at the executive programs of Stanford and Columbia Universities, earned a master’s in electrical engineering and a Stanford MBA, and is a Kauffman Fellow and member of YPO.

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