Products Are Like Iceberges

The more I study products the more similarities with icebergs I observe. Very little of the total product is visible to a casual observer, products float around, and just like icebergs products have a limited life span. And all these properties of products make them very dangerous to the companies developing them, just like icebergs represent a great danger to ships.

The fact that functionality used by users is only a small part of the overall product means that this tip of an iceberg must provide enough value to end users to justify the costs of marketing, system operations, business operations, financing, and profits for the shareholders that together represent 90% of the price of the product. Business owners should realize that finding a product-market fit is only 10% of the job and building a business around the product requires enormous amount of additional work and effort beyond the initial product engineering.

Just like icebergs most of the products start as a part of bigger plans. But as they encounter users and other stakeholders, products crumble into separate use cases, spread thin, and float towards the needs of the most important customers. It takes a constant effort to keep product focused and prevent it from fragmenting into something for everybody.

Finally, products have a limited life span and if a company developing the product wants to be more than a one hit wonder it must become a product organization capable of continuous delivery of new products. Unfortunately most of the companies become 100% consumed with execution of their existing product, thus loosing along the way capability for developing new things.

Photo by Christopher Michel