Transforming Organisational Success: The Intigriti Journey

Introduction

While theoretical frameworks and success stories of global giants like Amazon inspire, the real challenge lies in concrete implementation. Let's look into the practical aspects of organisational transformation, showcasing Belgian success stories and the role of dualoop in helping organisations embrace new approaches to product management. Specifically, we'll explore the journey of Intigriti, a company making significant strides in cybersecurity.

Welcome to Intigriti

Disclaimer

Intigriti's journey has spanned a year and a half, and it's been a multi-year challenge. We'll provide an honest and open glimpse into their progress, sharing both their successes and the pitfalls we've encountered.

A Unified Organizational Story

It's important to note that this is not just a product management story; it's a story of an entire organisation.

The Intigriti Evolution

From Startup to Scale-Up

Intigriti began as a startup and, in many ways, still maintains that agile mindset. It's grown to provide cybersecurity solutions on a global scale, catering to web applications, SaaS, and hardware companies. Their community of researchers identifies vulnerabilities, reports them ethically, and earns rewards, contributing to a robust cybersecurity ecosystem.

  • Community Size: Over 113,000 researchers
  • Vulnerabilities Submitted: Approximately 100,000
  • Active Programs: Around 400 at any given time
  • Payouts: €50 million in payouts to researchers

Intigriti Service Offerings

Intigriti's services are threefold:

  1. Security Testing: Continuous testing where researchers can find and report vulnerabilities.
  2. Timebox Testing: A hybrid approach combining pen testing and crowd activity within a set timeframe.
  3. Reward Services: Payment services for large company accounts, managing identity, AML, and sanctions lists.

The Journey of Transformation

Early Beginnings

In 2016, Intigriti started with a small team of seven, focusing on proving our product's market fit. The initial product was developed in just two weeks, and while it needed to be more robust, it demonstrated its potential. Securing funding required them to rebuild the product, which they did, maintaining a sales-driven approach to land deals and grow revenues.

Challenges and Growth

As they expanded, adding new product lines such as pen-testing and reward services, they faced friction points. They realised that their existing processes could not accommodate the diverse needs of their products. This led them to focus on scalability, secure Series B funding, and aim for global growth.

The Shift to Product-Led Growth

The central turning point was recognising the need to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Their initial focus on customer proximity and service quality was insufficient. They needed a unique selling proposition (USP) that set them apart.

Navigating Stakeholder Complexity

With growth came complexity. Intigriti's product was buried within the engineering organisation, leading to a disconnect between customer insights and product development. To address this, they implemented product increments and quarterly planning meetings (PI Plannings). However, this approach needed more flexibility and did not bring them closer to truly understanding and meeting customer needs.

From Analysis to Innovation: Intigriti's Organizational Transformation

The Evolution of Intigriti's Approach

It became evident to them that merely matching their competitors was not enough. Initially, their strategy involved analysing and replicating the best features of their competitors to create a solid, functional product. This approach worked well when they were a small team with limited stakeholders. However, as Intigriti expanded to a team of 120 with seven distinct divisions, the cracks in this strategy began to show. They realised that innovation and differentiation were critical, yet they needed a structured approach.

Shifting Focus: From Features to Strategy

Their previous approach resulted in building features that did not align with long-term strategic goals. Stakeholder alignment sessions were often emotionally charged and not data-driven, leading to decisions that prioritised immediate contracts over long-term strategy. This misalignment meant they usually built the wrong features, satisfying some stakeholders and leaving others disgruntled.

To address this, they needed to shift their focus from short-term contract wins to creatively exploring and solving broader market problems. This is where dualoop and product management principles came into play, thanks to Lise Devos, who introduced them after attending a workshop session provided by Timoté Geimer.

Building a Solid Foundation

They embarked on their transformation journey in January 2023. The initial phase focused on building a solid strategic foundation. It involved intense internal discussions and alignment sessions from January to June 2023. The goal was to create a unified story and strategy that everyone in the company could rally behind.

Creating this strategy was a challenging but crucial step. Product teams need a clear strategy to innovate and make impactful decisions.

Transitioning to Product Leadership

With a foundational strategy, they aimed to transition from customer intimacy to product leadership. Their goal was for their product to sell itself, a hallmark of successful SaaS providers. It required a shift from an inside-out perspective, focusing on internal views and processes, to an outside-in perspective, where they measure their product against the market.

Organisational Rewiring

Throughout 2023, they undertook the massive task of rewiring their entire organisation. This involved restructuring the teams, embedding product management deeply within the organisation, and hiring new talent to support long-term transformation.

One key challenge they underestimated was the skill transition from functional analysis to product management. The roles are fundamentally different: functional analysts focus on making predefined solutions work, whereas product managers must explore and validate problems before considering solutions. This shift required extensive coaching and adaptation, emphasising the need for internal advocacy and support.

Embracing High-Integrity Commitments

A significant breakthrough came with the adoption of high-integrity commitments. This approach involved making firm commitments on essential roadmap items while leaving room for innovation and exploration. By clearly defining and committing to these critical points, they enabled their sales and marketing teams to promote the product confidently, knowing exactly what to expect.

Detaching and Rebuilding Bridges

Another crucial step was detaching the product management team from the engineering team, bringing them to the forefront of customer interactions. This shift required building solid bridges with all other departments, convincing them that product management would now handle roadmaps and prioritisation based on validated customer insights. This was a challenging process that took considerable time and effort to establish trust and effective communication.

Addressing the Human Element

The transition also highlighted the importance of managing the human element. Moving from functional analysis to product management required individuals to adapt to new roles requiring a different skill set and mindset. These individuals needed to navigate complex stakeholder environments, defend product strategies, and advocate for long-term goals over short-term wins. Supporting and caring for these key team members was crucial to the success of their transformation.

Managing Expectations

As they moved forward, expectation management became a critical aspect of the journey. Aligning the expectations of the board, teams, sales, and marketing with their new product-led approach was fundamental. This alignment ensured everyone understood and supported the strategic direction, enabling cohesive and focused efforts across the organisation.

Engineering Transformation: From Feature Factory to Empowered Product Teams

Changing Expectations and Communication

One of the significant shifts they had to make was how they communicated the vision and plans internally and externally. Previously, they would present long-term visions with detailed plans that often resembled Gantt charts, outlining what they intended to accomplish in specific quarters. These plans rarely succeeded as intended. To address this, they moved to a "now, next, later" framework, clarifying what they were currently working on, what was coming up next, and what ideas were being considered. This approach and high-integrity commitments allowed them to set realistic expectations with stakeholders, focusing on delivering value rather than just cool ideas.

Engineering's Role in the Transformation

Setting Up for Success

To support this transformation from a feature factory to empowered product teams, the engineering teams needed to be set up for success. With guidance from dualoop, they restructured the teams, adding essential roles to support product managers. Envisioned as mini startups, these teams were given autonomy to decide how to work, operate, and deliver value.

  • Tech Lead: Manages the team and delivery, providing technical insights on whether approaches are viable.
  • Product Designer: Works closely with the product manager to ensure designs meet user needs and are feasible.
  • Software Architect: An expert role providing valuable insights on the technical setup of the platform, ensuring solutions are scalable and sustainable.

Knowledge Sharing and Innovation

To foster knowledge sharing, they established chapter lead roles. These leaders ensure that best practices and lessons learned are shared across teams. For instance, one team introduced event storming from the domain-driven design (DDD) space to involve the whole team in problem-solving, demonstrating the importance of collective knowledge and collaboration.

Balancing Technical Debt and Value Delivery

With product management detached from engineering, it was crucial to balance addressing technical debt with delivering value. Previously, they would allocate entire quarters to tackle technical issues, disrupting the rest of the organisation. Now, they allocate about 20% of their time to incremental technical improvements, ensuring they can scale and delivery value continuously.

Embracing Experimentation

A key lesson was recognising the value of not building certain features. For example, a customer requested an ERP integration. Instead of immediately building it, the product manager engaged other customers to understand their needs. This revealed that the customer's request needed to be more broadly applicable, leading them to decide against building it. This approach avoided wasted effort and aligned their focus on delivering broad value. This ultimately also strengthened the relationship with the customer, who appreciated the effort and professional analysis made by the team.

Encouraging Innovation

They encouraged innovation by allowing engineers to explore their ideas. This led to initiatives like integrating machine learning and AI into the platform. By saying "yes" to experimentation, they fostered a culture of innovation, supporting product managers in embedding these new technologies where they added value.

Stakeholder Management

With the product team now leading decision-making, it was essential to manage stakeholder expectations effectively. Stakeholders initially bypassed product management, directly approaching engineering to get their ideas implemented. They reinforced that product managers were responsible for evaluating and prioritising these ideas, ensuring a holistic approach to meeting customer needs.

The Importance of Trust and Autonomy

For this transformation to succeed, product management had to be trusted and respected within the organisation. They needed the autonomy to say "no" when necessary and to be accountable for their decisions, backed by data and strategic alignment.

Reflections and Future Path

The transformation required a shift in mindset across the organisation, emphasising strategic alignment, data-driven decision-making, and the importance of saying "no" when necessary. This has led to more normalised and less emotional discussions about their direction, underpinned by a shared understanding of the strategic goals and the supporting data.

Measuring Success: Intigriti's Journey Towards Product Management Excellence

Embracing High-Integrity Commitments

A fundamental principle in their transformation journey is the concept of high-integrity commitments. These involve committing to solving significant problems rather than simply delivering features. High-integrity commitments ensure they provide actual value based on thorough discovery and validation. They only commit to solutions when they have confidence that those address the most critical problems.

Fostering Organizational Trust

Building trust within the organisation was crucial. Initially, this involved gaining the confidence of senior management and demonstrating that the approach was viable. Over time, this trust permeated the entire organisation, enabling smoother operations and reducing friction. This process required clear communication, setting realistic expectations, and delivering on our promises.

Engineering Support for Product Management

The Role of Tech Leads and Product Designers

We restructured the engineering teams to include essential roles such as tech leads and product designers to support the shift to product management. These roles are critical in challenging product discovery processes and contributing viable solutions. Tech leads ensure that technical insights are integrated into decision-making. Product designers work closely with product managers to ensure user needs are met.

Establishing Chapter Lead Roles

Establishing chapter lead roles facilitated knowledge sharing across teams. These leaders ensure the organisation communicates and adopts best practices and successful strategies. For example, techniques like event storming from the domain-driven design (DDD) space were introduced, involving the entire team in problem-solving processes.

Balancing Technical Debt with Value Delivery

With product management detached from engineering, they needed to balance addressing technical debt with delivering value. Instead of allocating entire quarters to technical issues, they dedicate around 20% of our time to incremental improvements. This approach allows them to maintain scalability and deliver continuous value.

Encouraging Experimentation and Innovation

We fostered a culture of experimentation by encouraging engineers to explore their ideas. This led to initiatives like integrating machine learning and AI into our platform. By allowing engineers to experiment, we supported product managers in embedding new technologies where they added value.

Overcoming Challenges with Stakeholder Management

Initially, stakeholders bypassed product management, directly approaching engineering with their requests. We reinforced the role of product managers in evaluating and prioritising these ideas, ensuring a holistic approach to meeting customer needs. This shift required clear communication and building trust that product managers had a comprehensive understanding of the overall strategy.

Measuring Success and Sustainable Growth

Assessing the Impact of Changes

One critical aspect of the journey was measuring the impact of the new approach. While the previous model focused on immediate customer needs, it could have been more sustainable in the long term. By adopting a more strategic approach, we aimed to build solutions that addressed broader market problems, reducing churn risk and ensuring consistent growth.

Sustaining ARR Growth

The ultimate goal remains achieving significant annual recurring revenue (ARR) growth. While they could grow their customer base and revenue under the old model, it was not sustainable. The opportunistic approach led to neglected existing customers and increased churn risk. By focusing on solving significant problems and building sustainable solutions, they aimed to ensure long-term growth.

Building and Celebrating a Value-Driven Culture

Transitioning to a value-driven culture required over-communication and celebrating every milestone, including decisions not to build specific features. This cultural shift emphasised the importance of solving customer problems and delivering value rather than simply shipping code.

The Final Phase: Sustaining Innovation and Growth

Innovating Beyond Customer Feedback

While focusing on customer feedback is crucial for reducing churn and enhancing satisfaction, it is insufficient for driving innovation and entering new markets. A common concern, illustrated by the analogy of customers asking for a faster horse instead of a car, highlights the need for visionary thinking. At Intigriti, they aim to balance customer feedback with market foresight and innovative problem-solving.

Market Obsession and Continuous Research

They are market-obsessed, which goes beyond simply listening to customer requests. This approach involves understanding the underlying needs and pain points of the market. They gather a comprehensive view of market dynamics by engaging with customers and their vast network of over 100,000 researchers. This dual focus allows them to innovate by solving market problems creatively rather than just building requested features.

Measuring Success and Ensuring Sustainable Growth

Outcome-Based Decision Making

The journey from feature factory to product management excellence is centred on outcome-based decision-making. Success is measured by how well they achieve desired outcomes that align with their strategic goals. While their ultimate vision is to increase ARR, this goal is broken down into actionable outcomes for teams. These outcomes are derived from their continuous discovery and analysis of customer problems and market opportunities.

Communicating The Vision

Internally, the vision is communicated through a "now, next, later" roadmap, clarifying current priorities, upcoming initiatives, and future ideas. This roadmap helps align all teams and ensures everyone understands the strategic direction. Externally, they communicate tangible milestones and product improvements to their customers, ensuring they see the value delivered over time.

The Role of Product Marketing

Once the internal vision and strategy are solidified, product marketing plays a crucial role in communicating this to customers. Effective product marketing bridges the gap between internal strategy and external perception, ensuring customers understand the benefits of solutions and the commitment to solving their problems.

Engineering's Continued Evolution

Maintaining High Standards

Despite significant process changes in decisions, the way they build products has remained consistent. The engineering team at Intigriti has always maintained high-quality standards and robust principles. This strong foundation has enabled them to adapt and implement new processes without compromising on the quality of the outputs.

Agile Principles and Mini Startups

The teams operate like mini startups, adhering to agile principles; customising processes to meet specific goals. This autonomy empowers teams to innovate and deliver value efficiently. Functional analysis has replaced continuous conversations and collaboration, focusing on understanding end goals and delivering value.

Final Reflections on the Transformation

Long-Term Vision

The transformation journey is still ongoing. With a clear long-term vision to continuously deliver value and innovate within the cybersecurity market, they are well-positioned to achieve sustainable growth by balancing customer feedback, market research, and innovative thinking.

Conclusion: Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity Product Management

Intigriti's journey from a feature-focused startup to a product-led organisation highlights the importance of strategic alignment, continuous innovation, and outcome-based decision-making. By fostering a culture of trust, empowerment, and high standards, they have positioned themselves to lead in the cybersecurity industry.

As they move forward, dualoop will help them refine their processes, embrace new challenges, and commit to delivering exceptional value.

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