Book: Software Business and Product Strategy

My book on Software Business and Product Strategy is now available, in Kindle and  paperback formats.

It went through dozens of drafts as two separate private circulation papers on the way to its current form. Here's the front cover:

Here's the back cover:

It's the fifth book in the on-going Building Better Software Better series of books. Here is a description of the origins of the series, and here is a description of each of the earlier books, with links to blog posts with highlights.

Most of my experience is with computer-based businesses, but there's a rumor, to which I give credence, that the principles described apply to all kinds of small business.

I recognize that there are piles and piles of books on building businesses and creating product strategies. You can get degrees in it from eminent tenured professors at fancy schools who have publications and honors trailing after them. You can participate in all sorts of programs that teach "innovation" and provide fledgling innovators with access to all sorts of seasoned help. So why another book?

Pretty much for the same reason that I wrote the earlier books in the Building Better Software Better series: the vast majority of the books and articles I read tell you to do one thing, and the people I see who start and build software-based businesses to success do something different!

I spent a couple decades creating or working for young, innovative software-based businesses. I have spent a couple more decades investigating, following and investing in software-based businesses -- hundreds of them! In multiple technical and business domains. I've worked closely with the leaders of these companies, and with many of the techies in them. I knew and they knew what you're supposed to do, and what's supposed to work. As time went on, I began to notice how the usual "success" rhetoric played out in reality. Patterns began to emerge.

One of the patterns I describe as "Step Theory." It's a core pattern that is highly correlated with success. There are vertical steps and steps to the side that are often cornerstones of success. Among the dozens of examples I use are Athena Health and Huffington Post.

Another important pattern is the relationship between strategic positioning and tactical execution, which I illustrate with a CRM company, a beach umbrella service and the invasion of Europe.

A few other points, each illustrated in the book with examples, are:

  • everyone knows they have to "focus," but knowing how to actually do it is rare
  • everyone knows how important strategy is, but trying to make tactics match strategy screws things up
  • everyone wants to foster creativity and be creative themselves, but it's often too much creativity that sends young ventures off the tracks
  • paying attention to what "the market" tells you frequently dilutes your efforts and prevents success
  • starting a great new business requires looking into the future; but unless you then concentrate on what's in front of your nose and ignore the future, you're doomed.
  • simple things like minimizing customer risk and delivering fast, hard-dollar benefits are crucial
  • shifting company strategy while following success patterns is often crucial to success
  • feedback loops and continuous improvement beat "perfect" plans every time
  • listening to the "wrong" customers can be as bad as listening to none of them
  • ...and lots more!

Each major point in the book is a general pattern I've noticed. Most of the points are not generally talked about in places that are supposed to teach these things. Each has been reinforced in my mind by some of the amazing entrepreneurs I've had the pleasure of working with over the years. Each of the patterns is illustrated by examples I've encountered in real life, sometimes by people who just did the right thing, or by groups that encountered issues and responded by doing the right thing.

To everyone in the book and everyone else I've worked with, please know that you have my gratitude. It is in part to thank you for teaching me that I have tried to put your lessons into this book, lessons I hope will help others on their path to making the world a better and more productive place.