SI1 - Product-Led Impact
The best things come in threes...and sometimes a newsletter
👋 Welcome to Shipping Impact
A newsletter for those creating good and delivering impact
I believe the dawning of a new era in tech development is upon us. For the last 30 years, we've had a great deal of technological advancement - specifically in software, data, and IT. These advancements have increased access to tech benefits for more people. Tech and tech-enabled services have altered how we interact with the world, created new economies and jobs, and connected us like never before. Yet, we still have so far to go - especially regarding equitable and sustainable technology.
As spider-man says - "with great power comes great responsibility." In this era of apps, smartphones, and ubiquitous software platforms, we haven't always created tech with an eye toward responsibility for the greater good. Instead, sometimes undesirable outcomes outweigh the desirable ones resulting in more inequality, waste, and more divides. Was this intentional? Mostly, no (and it depends on who you ask). Has a new focus been forged for these platforms and their impact on society? Absolutely yes.
A wave of people and organizations have recognized the time is now for us to look at our technology and venture efforts differently. These folx aspire to outcomes that drive positive changes in communities and all the people who make up those communities - not just revenue growth at all costs. These folx seek to balance the long-term impacts of their efforts with the lean, iterative nature of their current plans. They also adopt people-centered, purpose-driven practices to derive more positive change with their ventures.
Product thinking helps establish this needed balance. Effectively balancing broader impacts with necessary business outcomes while maintaining focus on users will require the wider adoption of a pivotal discipline - product management. I also advocate as a product leader that product management practitioners play an essential role in evolving the definition of success for a product to include positive, measurable social and environmental impacts alongside financial progress. We should use product thinking and roles in product to help us identify problems to solve and to help steward solutions into the world with an eye towards sustainability and equity.
Today I want to introduce you to Shipping Impact
A newsletter* I am rolling out that will highlight impact-driven people and ventures and how they approach product and service delivery differently. I will also provide advice and recommendations for applying product thinking and product management to purpose-driven, for-profit ventures and public benefit efforts.
*Note: This newsletter is not written by an academic. I do not claim to be an expert in social impact, sustainability, equity, or impact investing. I DO believe deeply in people mobilizing to create good in this world by solving hard problems. And when it comes to using tech to help this effort, I believe sharing my experience in product management can help impact-focused product managers, founders, and public benefit organizations.
In Edition 1️⃣ of Shipping Impact, we'll kickoff with:
Three Beliefs about product management's role in impact
Introducing Product-Led Impact
Shipping Impact - Q&A
1. Three Beliefs About Product Management & Impact
#1 - I believe product thinking and the product management discipline are central to helping prioritize social and sustainability outcomes alongside business goals for organizations.
#2 - I also believe that organizations and people already working on impact-driven ventures could benefit from the practice of product management to help them achieve an even greater impact with their products and services.
#3 - I believe current and future product managers have a responsibility to help their teams and organizations think more systematically, holistically, and intentionally about solution development and impact. Product folks have an essential role in altering the conversation of what outcomes look like for a product beyond - but still inclusive of - revenue. And... I see product managers wanting companies to think like this - now.
#2 Product-led Impact
I am coining a new term - I know, yawn - but I think it's vital to the conversation of bringing product practices into impact-focused environments. Product-led impact is a concept that I plan to write about - a lot. So today, I'm introducing it at a high level. The term itself might not fully resonate with everyone, but I am hopeful the concept as a need and mental model will take hold over time. But for today, let's break down product-led impact.
What does product-led mean?
In its simplest definition, product-led means - your product (a solution that solves a problem) is the main driver for how you engage, support, and provide value for your customers.
Every facet of an organization revolves around the product - from onboarding and support to messaging and metrics. And everything about the product revolves around the customer and end-users. In practice, this means teams across an organization are touching the product somehow and focusing on creating a shared understanding of the evolving needs of their customers. These teams work cross-functionally with other disciplines to consider every facet of the customer and product experience. Here's a great write-up by Corinna Stukan and another by Pendo in ebook form if you're interested in reading more about being product-led.
What do we mean by impact?
Measuring the impact of a product in terms of revenue and growth is much more straightforward than measuring the social and environmental effects of the product (and organization). I like the Impact Management Project (IMP) framing for defining impact - "a change in an outcome caused by an organization. An impact can be positive or negative, intended or unintended." This definition directly maps how good product-based approaches to tech should operate - where outcomes instead of outputs define success. The five dimensions of impact described by IMP can easily tie back to the definition and strategy of a company's product or services.
A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article highlights that companies' current management for social and environmental impact assessments focuses on internal or external measures, but not both. Instead, the article suggests a new, more integrated framework similar to my own 'working' mental model for defining and measuring impact - using the UN's Sustainable Development Goals as a guide to identifying impact areas relevant to your product and organization.
So - what's Product-Led Impact?
Product-Led Impact graphic
Putting it all together - organizations and tech teams shipping products and services with a purpose will also include outcome measures of success towards key social and sustainability impact areas. Organizations will use their product as a main driver for helping achieve these impact outcomes the same way they use their product to achieve customer and revenue outcomes.
The product they offer will be at the center of understanding their contributions and successes - as well as failures - in helping move the needle on larger, longer-term social and sustainability impacts.
#3 Shipping Impact - Q&A
I have a list of topics I'd love to cover, but I want to know what questions and topics most interest you. I'll respond with my thoughts and advice or the thoughts and advice of others more equipped for the topic. This Q&A is about creating conversation and sharing experiences! I'll pick a few topics for each newsletter and keep your name anonymous.
How to share your question or topic
Just reply directly to this email (if you received the newsletter as email)
Impact Job Board
Are you interested in some product roles that are with impact-driven orgs? We'll use this Newsletter to highlight a few we're aware of. If you've got a product role open and you're an impact-focused organization, please drop me a line.
How'd you find Issue 1 of Shipping Impact? Let me know - reply to this email or drop me a note here.
Cheers and happy shipping!