Business Leaders look to Product Culture

Conference ideas

By Bruce McCarthy – I was completely wrong about the Business of Software conference. Friend and Co-Founder of Sense and Respond Press, Josh Seiden, told me it was great, but when I went the first time last year I think I was expecting an event for the CFOs and financial analysts of large companies all trying to impress each other with their numbers. Frankly, I thought that might be a little dull.

Instead, Mark Littlewood used his deep personal network to curate a boutique event, limited to a few hundred leaders of software companies from around the world. With this intimate group, he’s cultivated an informal, very personal event that encourages conversation. (They even highlight what they call the “hallway track” — the multiple ways they work to help you meet other great people.

When BoS came to Boston in 2017, I met CEOs, CTOs, and heads of Product from several software companies; I had the chance to talk one-on-one about the challenges they are facing and how they are tackling them. The presentations were of the same intimate nature — personal accounts of things that worked and those that did not — for these very human people in this technology-driven business.

Peldi Guilizzoni, CEO of Balsamiq, told me how challenging it was to let go of product design and direction decisions he had always made. (He’s speaking this year on lessons learned. I can’t wait to hear how that one is coming along.)

Chris Savage, CEO of Cambridge-based Wistia, told me how hard it was hiring great product people. Natalie Nagele, CEO of Wildbit, and her husband and co-founder, Chris, shared amazing insights into how their 14-year-old startup overcame business setbacks by focusing on their team’s culture.

At BoS Europe in May, CEO Tim Barker of Datasift got Mark to turn off the cameras as he shared the gut-wrenching decisions he had to make to save his company when their largest partner (Twitter) decided to shut them off. I just don’t know where else you could hear these sorts of stories shared among trusted colleagues.

If there is a theme to all the stories I’ve heard at this conference, it is that a lot of tough situations come down to having the right team in place and the right leadership. In other words, success comes down to culture.

And I am witnessing an increasing recognition among CxOs that product management is the sort of leadership role that can pull the right team together and get them moving in the right direction. Execs at growing companies see product people as their surrogates, the “adult in the room,” as I’ve heard more than a few say.

If you’re a head of product (or want to meet those folks), these are the conversations worth having. BPMA is partnering with Business of Software to make it easier for community members to attend. Use the discount code “BPMA” to get 20% off your ticket price.

Added incentive — I’ll be speaking at BoS about setting priorities and saying no. And I’m facilitating a half-day workshop on product roadmapping based on my book. I’ll also be checking in with Peldi to see how he is doing with delegating to his team!


Bruce McCarthy helps companies like Vistaprint, Localytics, Huawei, Nuance, and Zipcar achieve their product visions through workshops, mentoring, and team coaching. Bruce founded Product Culture to help communicate the key principles underlying consistently successful product-focused organizations. Bruce is a serial entrepreneur, prolific writer, organizer, and sought-after speaker at product management, agile, UX, and innovation events around the world. He leads the Boston Product Management Association and is a head judge at the annual Harvard Business School New Venture Competition. Bruce’s new best seller, Product Roadmapping Relaunched: How to Set Direction While Embracing Uncertainty is now available from O’Reilly.

One thought on “Business Leaders look to Product Culture

  1. Pingback: ONE THING... Culture Conversations - Product Culture

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