Marty Cagan is an experienced product specialist, having spent four decades working in product teams for brands like Hewlett-Packard, Netscape, and eBay.
Known widely as one of the most influential people in product management, Marty is now a partner in (and founder of) the Silicon Valley Product Group.
Put simply? If there’s anything Marty doesn’t know about product management, it’s probably not worth knowing at all.
With accolades like "most influential", Marty’s track record must be pretty illustrious, right?
In fact, Marty Cagan is a rare individual whose career development mirrored the development of the internet itself. Marty was present — and actively involved in — some of the world’s most long-established and well-known tech companies.
Marty began his career as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard in 1981 before entering the world of product. In 1996, Marty became the VP platform and VP product at Netscape, where he oversaw product management during the AOL acquisition. In 2001, he became the senior VP, product, and design at global giant eBay and stayed there until 2002, when he founded the Silicon Valley Product Group.
In his role as founder and product partner at the Silicon Valley Product Group, Marty helps start-ups and growing tech companies to nail the fundamentals of product design, leveraging his years of experience to create truly delightful products. He does this alongside other leaders in the tech space, including Lea Hickman and Christian Idiodi.
With such a long and varied career, it’s impossible to say that Marty Cagan is known for just one thing. Instead, it’s the accumulation of experience and expertise in the product space that makes Marty such a well-respected thought leader.
Despite the first-hand experience he has from working directly with golden-era internet brands like Netscape and eBay, it’s really his work as part of the Silicon Valley Product Group that makes him so well-known today.
Thanks to Marty’s experience in product management, software development, product marketing, and user experience, he is able to offer expert advice as a leader and as a person who has frontline experience in the product world.
In 2019, Marty Cagan delivered a keynote speech at both Appcues in Boston and Pivotal Labs in New York. During this, Marty encapsulated some of his very best product advice into 12 key lessons for product managers and developers.
If you’re looking to learn from Marty’s wealth of experience in the product space, these 12 lessons are the best place to start:
1. Leverage the agile method (the right way). There’s a reason so many developers leverage the agile framework to create their products — it really works. As long as it’s applied correctly, agile can be a gamechanger.
2. Operate like a "lean start-up". No matter the size of a company, it’s important to keep things simple. Marty exemplifies this by recommending product teams leverage the "lean start-up" model to develop minimum viable products (MVPs) to get the product to the customer faster.
3. Project-led vs. product-led. This lesson refers to focusing less on project management and more on product management — and understanding the key differences between the two.
4. Product discovery vs. product delivery. Marty explains that at the heart of any development is what we build (product discovery) and how we build it (product delivery). He advises that these need to be approached differently to be successful.
5. Validating products vs. discovering solutions. This lesson is about creating products tailored toward market validation, as opposed to those which genuinely solve customer needs in new ways. In a nutshell, will you lead or will you follow?
6. The two types of MVP. We’ve already covered the minimum viable product, which is a barebones product to be used by customers — but Marty also recommends the use of a minimum viable prototype to be used during product discovery.
7. "Build products you can sell". All too often, product teams are focused on features first. This is logical, but is it what customers really want?
8. Feature-driven & outcome-driven roadmaps. Being too focused on features can also impact the roadmap, so using two roadmaps (including one tailored to the outcome) can solve this nicely.
9. The two types of A/B testing. Marty explains that there is discovery A/B testing and delivery A/B testing. Using the right one at the right time is essential.
10. Managing ethical risks. In the age of big data, ethics are more important than ever. This should be considered at all times throughout development.
11. Hire competent product managers. It may seem obvious, but Marty describes the need for PMs to truly understand the role they hold and their commitment to the customer experience.
12. Product and project leaders working together. To keep development consistent and focused, product management needs to work hand-in-hand with project management. These teams can often be siloed, and it always impacts the end result one way or another.
Outside of engaging Marty and his team directly via the Silicon Valley Product Group, you can also connect with Marty across various other channels.
He regularly shares valuable insights about the world of product via his Twitter profile, but perhaps his most useful nuggets are shared on the SVPG blog, which is updated regularly with posts on topics such as product leadership, product vision, and more.
Marty has also penned two books, INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (2017), and EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products (2020), which serve as essential handbooks for anyone looking to make a real impact in the product space.