Tackling Tough Product Decisions – Tech, Team, & Features with Kumar Erramilli

Tackling Tough Product Decisions

David Abramson, Chief Technology Officer at Qrvey, hosts a podcast, “Building Better SaaS.” Our latest episode featured Kumar Erramilli, Chief Technology Officer at ACTO, the #1 learning and insights platform for the life sciences industry. 

You can watch or listen to the podcast here and we’ve covered some highlights of their discussion below.

How do you allocate budgets & justify what new features to build?

You have to prioritize and see what is the biggest mover and shaker for your organization on the product roadmap. Because you’re going to have limited resources, you cannot deliver everything. You have to really pick and choose.

“And that’s where your product marketing and product managers come in with scrutiny to determine where R&D investments have to go, and what dollars are going to yield a given output and move the company forward. And you’ve got to have the conviction and the ability to say no. That is the hardest thing to do. Because for the customer, a sales rep, or a CSM, every feature is the most burning feature. Discipline around product roadmap, saying no to things and ice-boxing is the key to, essentially, cost cutting and ensuring that your resources are being put to good use.”

How do you balance existing customer requests & innovating for the market?

“I think it comes down to how mature your product is. If your product is mature enough where the customers that are already using the platform are requesting more bells and whistles versus the actual core capability, then you know that you have a bit more luxury and freedom to deprioritize some customer requests. But if your product is missing some core capabilities that are essential for some customers, and the customers signed on because they are early adopters, then you want to lean in more and definitely listen to them.

“A lot of founders want to beat around the bush about the fact of the disparity on who brings the most revenue. Your largest customers will naturally have a pull on the roadmap. Do not fight it. If you fight it, you’re fighting a lost cause because you don’t want to cause a friction where the largest customer is at the risk of churn, because they know and believe me, even if you have 100 customers, your largest customer will know that they’re your largest customer.”

“We decided to not fight the force and instead, try to keep our large core customers happy. We also adopted more of the market-driven model on the product side, with market research through analysts, including Gartner and Everest Group. They give us a real lens of how the market is reacting to certain capabilities and willingness to pay.”

Gamification of customer requests

“Another thing that we do is at our annual customer summits, we run a product feature monopoly game with our customers. We give them fake money and a list of new innovation capabilities and ask which they would invest in. 

You’ll see a pattern where most of your customers are thinking they’ll spend money. You might be surprised that, for example, it’s not an AI feature that excites them, but what they actually want to pay for is a little admin functionality that just saves two hours every day. Those are the things where we’ve learned a lot more insights during those summits.”