SaaS Approaches: Product First

September 15, 2017 Saas & Platforms
By Owen Linderholm, Senior Content Strategist
By Owen Linderholm, Senior Content Strategist

product focus

The last time we took a look at building out a SaaS company and product we examined the user-first approach to SaaS thinking. It’s worth pointing out that this approach is pretty standard across the industry. Nobody really suggests that you go into a SaaS product WITHOUT thinking about users!

But there are some insights to be gained by focusing on the product aspect as well, even though it is often informed by the user-first approach. There are different approaches to product thinking for SaaS businesses when compared to other technology businesses, not least because of the constantly iterating nature of SaaS businesses where continuing evolution and development is a requirement.

The first piece of advice here comes from Robin Dechant on Medium who takes a look at seven reasons why Product Management is  more important in a SaaS business than in more traditional software businesses. Dechant states that Product Management is more important in a Saas business because of a need to stay focused on the customer and the need to stay ahead in product terms in a market that evolves over time.

Dechant also mentions customer success and John Peltier keeps up the theme of customer success for a SaaS product in a piece in his blog. He looks at how Product Management has always really been about being in the customer success business and how that translates to product management strategies.

Pankaj Bansal focuses on the design thinking approach to product in a piece for BW Disrupt where he takes a systematic and thorough approach to design thinking and how to apply it successfully to product management in a SaaS solution.

Aytekin Tank, Founder and CEO of JotForm discusses how JotForm successfully redesigned its SaaS product completely in a piece in Talkin’ Cloud. The redesign was kickstarted by an anonymous description of their previous product as “prehistoric”. It turned out that the issue was a seriously outdated design so they took a completely fresh design-focused approach to the product in order to reignite customer interest.  

Churn, or the ongoing turnover of customers as they try a SaaS product and then abandon it, is a constant concern for SaaS businesses and Hiten Shah takes a look at using product focus to reduce churn.

Part of any successful product management approach in a SaaS business is the product roadmap. The ChartMogul blog discusses what it believes is the best way to go about building a product roadmap. The piece comes from a successful Q&A they held on Quora.

An alternative viewpoint on building out a product roadmap comes from the ProductPlan blog, where Jim Semick, the ProductPlan  founder, advocates a top-down approach. It’s a lengthy piece with a lot of advice and it breaks down their recommended approach well.

Joel York at Chaotic Flow wrote a great post revealing eleven secrets of SaaS product design. It’s an interesting piece aimed at a B2C SaaS audience and pretty much anyone should find some product management ideas of value.

Finally, the folks at Experion wrote a blog post about what they regard as the best practices for SaaS product development and used a practical example to illuminate their ideas.


Previous Posts in This Series

Some things to consider when getting started with SaaS

How to tell if your SaaS business idea has market potential

Lies, Damn Lies, and SaaS Metrics

Creative Tension: SaaS Strategy vs SaaS Tactics

Getting ready to sell: SaaS Product value propositions, positioning and messaging

Starting to Grow: How To Build Out A Great SaaS Team

Getting Customers for your SaaS Business

SaaS Approaches: UX First



About the author


Owen Linderholm, Senior Content Strategist

Owen Linderholm is Senior Content Strategist at WePay. He has previously held content and editorial roles at Yahoo, Microsoft, IDG and the BBC.

More blog posts by Owen Linderholm