The idea here is that you should seek out exposure to a variety of product cultures so that you can learn to flex the various product muscles that each strategy necessitates, as well as discover the relative strengths and weaknesses of each method. After you've been exposed to a variety of product cultures, you'll have a better understanding of what kind of product culture you prefer, and you'll be able to choose future opportunities based on how well the company's product culture aligns with your preferred approach.
I've noticed that four distinct product cultures dominate tech organisations: engineering-driven, data-driven, design-driven, and sales-driven product cultures. A dominating product culture, as well as characteristics from a secondary product culture, are common in individual organisations.
Product cultures are frequently founded on a unique technical understanding that serves as the foundation for their products. The Page Rank algorithm, for example, was the original insight that enabled Larry Page and Sergey Brin to create the world's most successful search engine. Given Google's early success in using such technological prowess to create a market-leading product. Microsoft is also a good example.
Being an effective product manager at these firms demands a high degree of expertise knowledge. This derives mostly from the requirement to command the respect of the highly recognised engineers with whom you collaborate, but it also emerges from the desire to be able to figure out how to use complex technology to produce unique product differentiation.
One of the difficulties with an engineering-driven product culture is that everything appears like a tech problem when you use engineering brain. You can find yourself looking for technological solutions to situations that aren't technically related. It's no surprise that despite numerous attempts, Google struggled to establish Google+, its attempt at a social network, or a viable messaging software.
Data-driven product cultures thrive off of the insights they can derive from product metrics. What's fantastic about a data-driven product culture is that your product's definition of success is extremely clear, so you always know how you're performing in relation to the goals you set for your team. At the same time, there are numerous advantages to metrics being the final determinant of product decisions rather than the individual opinions of people within your company's four walls.
The disadvantages of a data-driven culture stem from the fact that not everything can be measured with a metric, either because the time required to measure the right metric would be too long to make a product, or because the time required to measure the right metric would be too long to make a good product. LinkedIn and Instagram are good examples for data driven culture.
Design-driven product cultures obsess over every detail of the user experience. Apple is certainly the canonical example here. The nice thing about design-driven product cultures is that you are given the time and space to build a thorough understanding of every single detail that your users interact with. You'll love this product culture if you enjoy investing your time as a PM in detailed design talks with your team. The disadvantage of design-driven product cultures is that product taste can be highly subjective, resulting to decisions being made by a select group of trusted tastemakers within the company. Because testing is rarely used to make key product decisions, it's also difficult to gain traction for your divergent viewpoint by merely testing it with your users.
In a sales-centric product culture, Salesforce is a great example. In an organisation like Salesforce, each individual customer can be worth millions in annual contract value and with strong retention, will likely continue to generate that for years to come once acquired. Given this dynamic, it creates a strong incentive to deeply understand exactly what it's going to take to win each of the large customers in your sales pipeline, build your roadmap to satisfy their needs, and continually investigate and understand their future needs to upsell them to your new offerings.
A serious challenge during a sales-centric product culture doesn't apply to existing or future customers, or distracts you from the vision of where you ultimately want to possess your product, making it easy to make a one-time solution for your largest customers.
At the end of the day, every culture has its own pros and cons. Also, a company can follow a hybrid culture where more than one culture is in place. Which Product culture fit is your company following?