Dilemmas in Scaling Up

Q&A With Ben Foster, VP of Product Management at OPower

Harvard Business School’s “Product Development at OPower” case study elaborates on the dilemma faced by a start-up product firm as it tries to scale up. Coping with the pressure for customization is a central challenge faced by many start-ups as they try to become more professionally driven and process oriented.

OPower faced the difficulty of following its own roadmap due to continuous pressure to develop custom solutions for its large and diverse customers. The sales team, in order to win new accounts, would promise as many features as possible to clients; while the product team tried to maintain discipline and deliver products and features that were optimized for all customers over the long term. This resulted in tension between the sales and product teams.

In a freewheeling Q&A with students of the EMBA 2016-B batch, the protagonist of this case study, Ben Foster, VP of Product Management at OPower, shares his wealth of experience in the area of Product Management and the problems faced by product managers.

Ben shared several tips for product managers and highlighted the differences between a service driven company and a product company – in the previous case, project managers are trying to meet the known requirements of a customer whom they have met. However in product companies, product managers face unique challenges in trying to build a product to meet the needs of a customer whom they have probably never met !

The students got the unique opportunity to interact with one of the protagonists of a case study they were analysing, thanks to Prof. Rahul Abhyankar.

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