Prioritisation and rallying your organisation at Pleo

Prioritization is a recurring activity that requires balancing stakeholder needs, company direction, and key priorities while considering various variables and context, and must be effectively communicated to a diverse audience using tailored approaches.

Talk transcript of Kasper Kure Larsen – recorded on 8 Feb 2023 Prioritization

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Prioritization Process Product management Team collaboration Stakeholder management Planning Data informed decisions Risk management Personal growth Change management Soft skills

Who is Kasper Kure Larsen?

Kasper serves as the Product Director at Pleo. He has been with the company for over two years, sitting on the product management and leadership teams. He has extensive experience in various industries and have dedicated a significant portion of my career to building both B2C and B2B products.

In his role, Kasper works closely with the engineering team and is responsible for ensuring that product managers and designers are set up for success. This area of the business is often referred to as the “platform” area. Kasper plays a vital role in product operations as well.

What is Pleo?

Pleo, for those who may not be familiar, is a Danish fintech scale-up that has been growing rapidly in recent years. The company was founded in 2015 and is now present in ten countries with around 800 employees. Pleo’s primary mission is to become a go-to spending solution for businesses everywhere and to make employees feel valued at work.

The Contextual Nature of Prioritization

Prioritization is a complex and ever-evolving task that requires careful consideration of various variables. It is crucial to recognize that the methods used to prioritize tasks and opportunities can vary greatly based on the stage of the company, its goals and objectives, and its unique circumstances. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to prioritization and that the most effective approach can differ greatly depending on the specific context.

The task of prioritization presents many challenges, including the need to balance a variety of factors such as accessibility, customer satisfaction, and the potential for serving multiple markets and segments. To successfully prioritize tasks and opportunities, it is essential to continually evaluate both the variables that are being taken into account and the weight given to each of these variables in order to maximize business value.

Prioritization is not a one-time affair

Prioritization is not a one-time affair but rather a recurring activity that must be performed regularly in order to stay informed and adapt to changing circumstances. Whether this is done on a quarterly basis, a weekly cycle, or through ongoing processes, prioritization is an essential task that must be performed continually.

One of the greatest challenges of prioritization is evaluating whether or not the decisions being made are the right ones. This can be particularly difficult when it comes to determining the efficacy of a prioritization framework, as there may be many variables and factors to consider. Despite this challenge, it is important to continuously assess the effectiveness of one’s prioritization processes in order to make informed decisions and identify areas for improvement.

Minimizing unnecessary friction

In order to prioritize efficiently, it is important to minimize unnecessary friction in the decision-making process. This can be achieved through the use of automated reporting, streamlined processes, and the development of a prioritization framework that is designed to empower teams to move quickly and make informed decisions. To set teams and organizations up for success, it is essential to empower individuals to make great decisions in their specific contexts, while also ensuring that processes are designed to allow for swift and efficient decision-making.

Balancing Priorities in Product Development

Prioritization is a critical aspect of product development, as it helps determine what work is done first and ensures that resources are used effectively. The following is a summary of key considerations for product teams when prioritizing their work.

Stakeholder needs and the company direction

It is important to not let the loudest voice dictate priorities and to keep the company’s direction and ability to tie work into it in mind. The time it takes to truly understand the customer should not be underestimated, as it requires spending time with them to understand their pains and problems. Communication and buy-in from stakeholders is also critical in prioritizing work.

When prioritizing, product teams should take into account the company values, vision, mission, and strategic direction. They should also consider product development principles, KPIs, and strategies. Other factors that should be taken into account include customer needs and feedback, marketing and competition, resources and constraints, deadlines, technical debt, sustainability, scalability, stakeholder needs, risks and uncertainty, and data.

Dependencies and Ongoing Prioritization

It is important to consider dependencies between teams and to review ongoing risks, uncertainty, and data. Reviewing data on customer feedback, sales data, and existing work is also crucial in making informed prioritization decisions.

Product development is a complex process that requires careful consideration of a range of factors. By balancing stakeholder needs, company direction, and key priorities, product teams can make informed decisions that drive their work forward and help them achieve their goals.

Prioritization frameworks

Prioritizing work can be a challenging task, particularly in the absence of a clear framework. However, it can also be an opportunity to establish a structure that works best for your organization. The method outlined in this post is based on a mathematical calculation of the variables, which are weighted according to their perceived importance.

This prioritization exercise can be performed simply by writing down the variables and assigning a weight to each one. The weighted scores for each project can then be calculated and used to determine their priority. This method was created by product operations and is easily customizable to fit the needs of any organization.

There are software tools available, such as Productboard, that can help with scoring. These tools allow for the assignment of different weights and the calculation of user impact scores based on variables such as criticality and urgency. While these tools can be helpful, they can also be expensive. It’s important to consider your organization’s needs and budget before deciding to use one of these tools.

In order to effectively prioritize, it is important to have a clear and detailed understanding of your problem and solution. The further you look into the future, the less certain you will be about what you will be solving, so it is necessary to have more clarity and detail about your problem and solution as you get closer to the present day. Teams should be able to articulate this when making prioritization decisions.

Rallying Your Organization

One of the challenges of rallying your organization towards a shared prioritization is the diversity of your audience. Balancing the level of detail with high-level ambitions can be difficult when communicating with a diverse audience. Despite this, it is important to consider the best way to communicate your product prioritization to your team.

The art of rallying is about bringing people together to share a common goal. However, the same approach may not work for all audiences. As a leader, it is important to understand the complexities of your audience and tailor your approach accordingly. For instance, when addressing a team of engineers and senior managers, you may need to present your message in different ways to effectively engage each group.

The Power of Storytelling

The capability to craft compelling stories is a crucial aspect of organizational leadership, particularly as companies grow and become increasingly complex. The nature of what constitutes “good” leadership is highly contextual, and one size does not fit all. A simple yet effective tool in rallying an organization is storytelling.

As organizations grow, the complexity of their audience also increases, making it increasingly difficult to rally everyone around a single goal. This is particularly true when the message concerns technical projects like infrastructure upgrades, which may not be inherently exciting to everyone. To overcome this challenge, leaders need to package technical projects in a way that resonates with their audience and highlights the business context.

An Example: Upgrading Infrastructure at Pleo

Let’s take the example of Pleo, which is investing in upgrading its infrastructure by leveraging GitOps. This project has the potential to improve the company’s testing and production environments, but to the average person, it might sound unexciting. However, by framing the project in the context of the business problem it solves, leaders can make it more relatable and exciting.

In this case, Pleo is losing revenue due to subpar customer experiences caused by too many bugs in production. Additionally, the limited test environment used by sales and customer success teams is reducing the company’s ability to close deals and grow revenue. Solving these problems is crucial for Pleo’s business and organization, and the investment in Githubs can help achieve that. By presenting the technical project in the context of the business problem it solves, leaders can turn what might otherwise be an unexciting project into something that is meaningful and relevant to everyone.

The Importance of Intuition in Product Management

Intuition is an often underestimated aspect of product management. Despite this, it can play a crucial role in the prioritization process, particularly for those who have become experts in their respective areas through regularly speaking with customers, internal stakeholders, and keeping abreast of market trends and developments. However, intuition should not be relied upon solely, and must be backed up by a solid case or roadmap.

Intuition can be valued differently across different parts of a business. It is important to make a case for why intuition is being given a certain weight, and to be prepared to answer questions and provide supporting evidence when necessary.

Trusting Teams to Make Decisions

At Pleo, they have invested in autonomous teams and decentralized decision-making, which has led to a lot of trust being placed in their people. This can be both a good and bad thing, and those who make recurrently poor decisions must be held accountable. However, just because a higher-level person suggests something, it does not necessarily mean it is a bad idea. Product managers must have the expertise to build a strong case for why a particular feature or decision may not be the best for the ecosystem, and ultimately, there may be a chain of command that can overrule their objections.

Balancing Autonomy with Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility. Teams must balance the autonomy they have been given with the responsibility to make good decisions. In cases where a product manager believes a particular feature is not the right decision, they must build a compelling case for why it should not be pursued. Ultimately, the chain of command may overrule their objections, but the process of building a solid case can ensure that all perspectives have been taken into account.

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