Speaker 1: Hey there, product lovers. Welcome to the Product Love Podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, co- founder and Chief Evangelist of Pendo, and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products. As Eric interviews founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. So, let's dive in now with today's Product Love Podcast.
Eric Boduch: Welcome, lovers of product. Today, I'm here with Goncalo Gaiolas, who's the VP of product from OutSystems. GG, you want to kick this off by giving us a little overview of your background?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Absolutely, thank you Eric, for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. Hi, everybody in the community, true pleasure. Absolutely, I'll do a brief intro. So, I'm Goncalo. I've been with this company, with OutSystems for 15 years, and I have a very generalist background. I can't unfortunately say I am a product expert of many, many years. I do have a generalized background in a range, I've started in software development, and did a little bit of everything from marketing to pre- sales. Whatever was needed actually, to get the company to go to the next level, sort of eternally learning. And stumbled my way into products a few years ago, different kinds of products, and I now run the product management team at OutSystems, having run the community team and the digital team before that. And I'm passionate about what we're doing at the company, passionate about the trends that the company embodies in the world. But above all, I think of myself as a generalist that loves to learn new things, and now learning all product-related things. So again, happy to be here.
Eric Boduch: Now, are you always going to be a product person from now on? Have you found your passion?
Goncalo Gaiolas: I can tell you, I am always super excited about starting something new. There's always this moment where I say," This is it, I'm going to go do this for the rest of my life." Life has a way of saying hey, here's this new thing on the side that we either need you to do, or that it's super interesting. But I can tell you, I would definitely not mind being a product person for the rest of my career. Because it's really super interesting, especially in the kind of work we do in software, it's a super interesting intersection between all other disciplines. And you really can command major influence over the outcomes of the company, and the impact you have on your customers. So, if nothing else changes, I would be glad to pursue this for the next few years for sure.
Eric Boduch: Now Goncalo, you mentioned you happened into product a little bit. Talk to me about how that happened.
Goncalo Gaiolas: I would say, we started a few years ago, as we were doing this exercise of where are we with the company? Much smaller company at the time. And we wanted to do, I think the first thing I would call... Apart from my experience in engineering, which we had a connection with product, the first thing I would actually consider a product- related job, was around the work we did in creating the digital portions of the interactions of OutSystems and its customers. And the reason I call this a product, is because we started, we stumbled upon the major trend that we see right now, of moving from a project- based mindset, to people wanting to build true products. And granted, most of these products, some were internal products but a lot of them were external products serving our customers. And we just felt the need to create a more disciplined approach into how we thought about those products, how they serve the customer, how we transitioned from a very reactive project mode, into more what I think now would be a truly basic, bare bones product management philosophy. So, that was the first foray that I had into product management. And I would look around and say," This is interesting, there's a lot here." I didn't get too much into the detail of how things happen, what were the mental models of a good product manager. That only happened about two years ago, or a year and a half ago, where I was very typical in scale ups and very fast growing companies, people that worked together for a long time. I have a really good relationship with our CEO, Paulo Rosado, the founder of the company. And we were on this management team off site. And I don't think I've ever told this story outside of OutSystems, but it's a fun story to share. We were at this management team off-site, I was overseeing community back at the day. And we went into this conversation, and Paulo asks me, started talking about the vision we have for the company and the product, and sort of selling me on the thing. And I'm like," Hey man, I've worked here for 10 plus years. Why are you reselling me on this?"" Well, because I want you to go into product management. I think that this is the next step, we need help there." And that's how it happened, it was essentially a challenge. I was a little shocked, because truly we are a product company, and product management at OutSystems, core product, core platform, the thing we do, the local platform, is a big deal, and I was taken aback at first, but then started slowly going into it. And a lot of it I found is, there are certainly leadership skills that are transferable from any place else, but a lot of it is true common sense, customer orientation, and first principle thinking. I think that's what I see as the base foundation work for a group product manager, and then there are things you can learn. And I try to learn as fast as possible, read books, meet people like you, come on these things, so that you can soak in on the experience. But all this starts from that foundation. So, that's how I sort of stumbled, or happened into product management. And come a long way from that moment, and learned a lot about the ins and outs, the things that really truly make a very strong product manager, which I still think I am not, personally as an individual contributor. But I've been able to build a really, really strong team of good product managers. And that's my story, I realize now it's not a very conventional way of coming into product management, but it's my journey.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, I think that was great, and thanks for that story. Tell us, let's step back a little bit, tell us a little bit more about OutSystems. You've been there for 15 years, obviously you've moved through a number of different roles like you just discussed, but tell us more about the company OutSystems, what problems you're solving there, what teams you currently oversee?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Sure, sure. So, OutSystems is a company whose mission is, we strongly believe that current and future world, the way companies are going to innovate, is through custom software, is through building the things that are completely unique to themselves. It's not by, everybody's going digital, and we're talking about digital transformation all the time, but that's really not something that we think is going to make a significant difference in how companies innovate or differentiate themselves in the market, and their customers. And 20 years ago, when the company was founded, the founders realized, they had insight of, hey, custom software is super hard. And it hasn't become easier, there's lack of talent, technology is super hard, we need 10 more million developers. Where are we going to find all those people? Technology again, is getting harder. The processes of building software, not just the product management side, even the engineering side, getting harder and harder. So, they came up with a completely different way of producing software. It's a visual environment, automates a lot of things, really raises the abstraction, focuses on productivity, focuses on the outcome of what you're trying to do. And we went for 10 years. It's a super interesting story. More than 10 years, we were selling this vision, selling the product, selling this vision, and the demand was sort of not there. It was early to the market. I guess we were lucky because of the founding team, the resilience, the grit, and also a very disciplined approach to building the company. And then five to six years ago, it started to come into this mainstream. This concept was created of local. The idea that you don't have to write massive amounts of... You don't have to do the boring parts of building software, to be able to build custom software, in timeframes are compatible with customizing SaaS, but building really, truly things that inaudible. So, that's what we do. We help companies innovate through custom software, by giving them a visual platform that they can use to develop any kinds of software that matters for companies, really, truly more and more, mission critical stuff, by helping more people participate in the cycle of creation of software, and simplifying and automating a lot of the processes that are just boring. And that I think plays into this massive trend of what's been called digital transformation, but obviously all things digital, 0% analog, this massive trend of more and more people wanting to participate in being a part of the art of digital creation, of software creation. So, that's a little bit of the company.
Eric Boduch: And it plays into this whole no- code movement too, right?
Goncalo Gaiolas: It does.
Eric Boduch: Because I assume that visual means a lot less code. I don't know if it's entirely codeless.
Goncalo Gaiolas: A lot less code. It's not entirely codeless. In our case, our approach was that we allowed extensibility to code, but a typical OutSystems project, you'll do 90% of things with no code, with just a very strong, very expressive, powerful IDE visual environment. But it does play, we think of the no- code movement as an extension. Part of our product are actually no code, other parts we would consider code. The distinction is sometimes gray at best, but yeah, this no- code movement is again, this idea of how do we empower more people to participate? How do we collect and create productivity between developers, testers, product managers? How do we get all of those teams streamlined, super productive, and how do we continue to increase the productivity, and the abstraction of these things, so that people don't have to go do the boring stuff? It's incredible to see. You've probably seen it all around. It's incredible to see what people come up with these days with tools or platforms such as ours. And it's really freeing up, I compare it to the moment, probably, where writing started typography, when we went from monks being the ones that controlled language, to all of a sudden being something that is available to the entirety of mankind. I think we're on the brink of a moment. But yeah, so I oversee product management, so all of our core platform and extension. I oversee product operations, everything related to customer insights, privatization roadmap, field support as well. And the team we call product insights, which is how do we use data and research, to be able to better make product decisions and strategy? So, essentially that.
Eric Boduch: Sounds awesome. So, tell me a little bit more about... I'm enthralled, I work at a company, Pendo, and we have from the beginning been an enabler for product managers, a platform for PMs, With this idea that we can help them get data and provide guidance, without having to go back to engineering for code. So, I've always been enthralled, or interested, passionate about this whole low- code, no- code idea. And in particular now, I'm interested with what you're seeing when you're building these custom applications. Now, how does the users of your application, have changed? Are you seeing actual product managers now, your customers becoming more of quote unquote, builders? Or are you still seeing it mostly driven by the engineering teams? How has that dynamic changed with OutSystems, or has it?
Goncalo Gaiolas: That's a great question. I think what we've seen is in the beginning, the way we structured the product was super powerful, super expressive, but at the expense of you still needing to have a certain level of understanding of computer science or how applications are built, so that you could come in. But the moment you come in, your productivity would skyrocket, and you would be fantastic. So, that's good and bad. It means we had a strong base of professional developers that would adopt the product. Some wouldn't like it, because they would really like the coding. So, that was the core base. 60% of our community comes from either. net or Java sort of backgrounds. As we progress, we're seeing two things happening: one is a lot of people want to come into digital creation. They want to be makers, and they want to be makers full time. So that's one path, is if you want to be a full- time maker, what we offer and what we've seen is, we have courses, our online training, and great accelerators so that these makers can really switch careers and become full- time quote unquote, developers. They are developers, let's call it like that. And we see people continue to come from CS, we see people come from STEM degrees. We see bachelors of arts coming in. We see product managers that say," Hey, I want to build this thing, and I'm going to use this as a fast prototyping tool." They fall in love, and they understand," Look, this is not a prototyping tool. I can actually build the entire solution here. Do we do an innovation team?" So, it's all sorts of different personas coming into this. But the key point is, we're enabling people to actually have a better life, because they're switching careers to something that they think is more interesting, and it's now accessible to them, without having to pay for a five- year degree in computer science. So, very interesting movement there. The other thing we've started doing, and we started experimenting with this last year, is for some use cases, like for example, if you're configuring your workflow, or if you're doing a prototype of a mobile application, we're actually creating these extensions of the product, we call them builders. And builders are fit for purpose, highly optimized tools that are designed to solve specific workflows, like,"I want to prototype a mobile application." So we've built, it's not a full- blown horizontal IDE, it's a web version specifically for the interaction of a designer, a business user, and maybe a developer. And they get on a Zoom call, one hour, they're prototyping the app, should work like this. And then the output of that, is actually a fully formed application that the developer can take and run in a single unified platform. So, I would say we're bringing more and more of these participants into the system, not necessarily converting them into full- time developers, but some of them don't want to. They just want to solve a problem, and they want to be an active participant on that problem, and we want to optimize for that workflow. Others really want to change careers, and we're very, very good at helping people learn this craft, and be productive in building applications that matter. It's an interesting sort of shift.
Eric Boduch: So, would I be correct in saying that while you would empower, obviously, engineers that are experienced and well- versed in their craft, you would also lower the bar, as far as the amount of technical expertise and experience that would be necessary for a person in general to bring a product to market? Would that be accurate?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Correct. The way we think about it, or one way to think about it is, if you are an experienced engineer, then we try very hard to give you an experience that feels like you're Super Mario and we just gave you the flower. It's like, all of a sudden you have super powers, take everything away, and you're super productive because your mental model is there and you know how to do it. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but then... I'll share a story of one of our MVPs coming from. NET. Very cynical at first, and he was like," I'm going to spend three weeks trying to break this thing." And after two weeks he said," I can't break this. This thing just gives me wings, I'm just going to go for it," and he's now one of our most valuable professionals in our community. And that's one way of looking at it. The other way to look at it is, and these people can build amazingly complex things, like home banking systems on a local platform, really true mission critical Fortune 500 kind of systems built on a local platform. Which 10 years ago, it would be unthinkable maybe even for us. So, that's a great use case, but also we can bring people that have an interest in becoming makers, they might know Excel, they might know Python or some other language, they've played around with it. And they can build applications that matter to their departments, their companies, and they can do that relatively quickly. Within days, they can learn sufficiently the platform, so that they can truly become productive. So, that's really, I think we enable these people to be participants, and we take professional developers and we turn them into, we like to think, superheroes.
Eric Boduch: Awesome, awesome. So, one of the things you talked about is digital transformation. Huge topic these days, I imagine it's going to continue to be part of bigger conversations next year, or the year we're now in, I guess, since we are in January, 2021. That has to be a big part of the story you're telling. How do you evangelize digital transformation?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Well, it was already starting to happen before COVID, but now I don't think evangelizing is needed. If you don't think you need to digitally transform, and by that, I mean to have a central piece of your strategy that relates to how you are going to transform the experience your customers have through digital channels, or completely redesign the core of your business to be digitally powered, everything that happens internally or from your employee experience, then you're most likely not going to be around for long. So, now it's not about being evangelized to the needs, it's about how do you execute? And our struggle used to be, we need to get you to understand, that to execute digital transformation program, which normally has many initiatives within it, I want to transform my customer experience, automate my processes, modernize my legacy, all of those things, that we would be a viable alternative, to take a big chunk of that and help you with that. And that used to be a problem. Now, with this last year and with COVID, all of that happened, the thing that came to pass was that there was this digital urgency. You couldn't be like," We're going to do a three- month cycle to evaluate all these products." No," I'm going to go look for products whose primary value proposition is productivity, acceleration and speed." And guess what? When you look into that frame, we become a formidable player there. So, it's about evangelizing customers, in our case, that digital transformation, speed matters, and your productivity matters, and your ability to come to market and build it. We use a moniker called, we normally think about it," Build it fast, build it right, and build it for the future." So, the first one is about go to market, but with a high quality solution, make sure that whatever you have out there is great from user experience, security, quality. And understand that you're going to get it wrong the first time around, and change very fast. That's how we think about how customers approach rolling out a program. So, the evangelism, it's essentially about is this the right category, this local, or these types of platforms are the right category for my digital transformation program? That's where we're focusing on right now. We have a lot of help, from companies coming into the space, analysts, just the market overall, talking about, it's a very hot space. So, it becomes less of a problem. I can tell you, five years ago, it was hard. Because we were really, literally evangelizing door to door, different customers, but now it's much better.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, I was going to ask you too as a follow up, how COVID has changed the product and the company, but I think you talked a little bit about that, at least from the market standpoint. But I imagine COVID has changed your relationship with your customers, as well as how you manage your team too. Tell me maybe a little bit about that.
Goncalo Gaiolas: Great. Yeah, it probably touched all of us in different ways. In terms of our relationship with customers, I think what we've seen is, again, because of the value proposition that we have, where we can quickly become in these times, a strategic partner for our customer, because they need to quickly go into digitizing something or dying. There was a period here, and still very much in that place in time, if you don't have a digital channel strategy, you're dead on the water, because people can't leave their home. So, how do you get there fast? We had a lot of customers that used OutSystems for, for example, internal process automation, and took this opportunity to then go into a completely different use case. So, we become sort of a strategic partner with our customers, our relationship with them, we're sitting at the table with them, we're helping them, we're challenging them to go to the next level. That's been quite good, to be honest. Luckily, we didn't see a lot of impact from customers of ours, great news, sort of going out of business all together. Maybe there's a correlation there, I don't know, we haven't studied, but that wasn't impactful. But I think the biggest change was that we became, from our interaction with customers, we elevated ourselves to a much more strategic play. And internally to our teams, I am very proud of how the entire thing went within OutSystems. We were all... A couple of things I think happened tactically for us, was we've been preparing for something like this for a while, not this size, but we have all the infrastructure in place. The week the lockdown started, or the week before the lockdown started, we sent everybody home. And I think we took the opportunity to do two interesting changes, or if you will, accelerated two changes. One was to go much more into a culture where everybody that's truly remote, we've always had a bunch of people remote, but really make them a key part of the team, they felt more included. That's something we want to keep for sure. And we also transitioned to a much more asynchronous written culture, which is a great way to take advantage of this setup, where it's not so much the spoken word, but about crystallizing your thinking, and putting your strategy down on paper, and making sure everybody has access to it and can work from it at any given point in time. I think those two changes that on the surface might seem simple, but are very, very profound in how we managed our team, and how we managed the culture of the company, are things that for sure we're not going back on.
Eric Boduch: So talk to me about metrics. What are your North star metrics? How have you decided which metrics are important and which are just noise? And maybe about how that might have changed a little bit with COVID, with some of this change, as you said, to how you manage your team?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Cool, cool. Metrics, I said earlier on, I think we have a very, not extremely, but very data oriented or data informed culture. We dedicate people and resources to being able to execute on this. The way we pick our metrics, I think is an interesting one. First is, they need to fit, and they normally fit into our overall product strategy. If you can't explain the narrative of the product strategy for the next three years, if you explain it and you don't need feel the need to touch a specific metric, then that's probably a vanity metric or a secondary metric, you don't need to sort of care too much about. The second acid test is whether or not customers talk about the same metric, whether or not this is something that's important for customers. So, when you take this and when you take the vision and the mission of the company, we care about a couple of things. One of the things we care about, is what we call lead time to first value. How fast can a new customer get an application live? Because if we're all about productivity, then we have to measure that. How fast from the moment a customer starts using our product, to the moment they have their fully unique, customized application, the one that they've built for themselves, that's integrated with their system, that's done by them, up in production being used by their business? And we are obsessed about making that fast, and shortening that time. So, that's a core metric for us. We want to get down to zero, we want to get it like, you think about an application, it's live. Can't do that. Okay, so can we do one day? You start in the morning, in the end, you have something in production. How do you do that, what's stopping you? Is it an organizational constraint, is it our technology? So, we care about the technology a lot. In COVID, obviously, that metric became absolutely critical for our customers as well, because they were counting the days in which they had to have systems live and in production, to be able to reap the business back. So, that's one side of it. But for us, because we pursue a platform strategy and we really want to become a core platform, a massive platform for your company to use, and to drive value, we also care about things like how many apps do you have developed in production? Again, not just that first one, how fast it was. How many, how big are they? Do you have... We like to go into scenarios where customers become very proficient, or very prolific software factory, they create a lot of different applications. They go live, and these applications then get used. So, we track the number of applications that customers put live, and we also track the number of users that are using those applications. So, that gives us a sense of our customers truly benefiting. It's a good proxy metric for customer value. Obviously, details matter, but if the app is live and it's being used, we assume it has some value for customers. For a subset of customers, we actually do ROI studies and we understand how much they're saving, but overall we do track the number of applications and the number of end users. And finally, because community is super important for us, developers in the broad sense of the word, are super important for us, we track the number of active developers that we have in our community. I think those are the top North stars that we follow for our company. Everything else either contributes in a way to the vision narrative, or we hear from customers, or they're part of this ladder of metrics, or they're just noise.
Eric Boduch: Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about the future. So, we talked about low code, no code a little bit earlier. Do you see that trend continuing? Is that going to accelerate? Is that a bigger trend?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Look, I think it's part of this major trend of truly becoming a digital world. And you know, Satya from Microsoft said," Two months, we've seen in two months what was the equivalent of two years of digital transformation," and we've seen similar things. Cataclysms can happen, I don't see that going anywhere. If that's not going anywhere, then what's the knock on effect? The knock on effect is that you're going to have to have more applications, the demands are not going to go down. IT departments are going to continue to be overloaded. So, you need creative solutions, you need bigger strategies. And I think the low code space specifically, is positioned a way where these things are battled tested. We have thousands of customers, hundreds of thousands of applications, that have built, that withstand the test of time, and they're now becoming a true mainstream approach to solving this problem of lack of talent. Hardcore developers are not going to go anywhere. What we need in the next couple of years, we need 12 more million in the world. Where are we finding those 12 more million? You don't have enough CS degree graduates for those 12 million. So, even if you do, you don't necessarily want them, because from a diversity perspective, you want people that understand the business, that are business focused, inaudible outcomes, that understand the impact on user experience. So, that trend is certainly not going to go away. I think it's going to be reinforced. A lot of companies are coming into this space saying," Hey, we're no- code or we're low- code," as well. Which can be tricky, but it's something that we've expected. But the trend as a whole, clearly is accelerating. And we don't like to necessarily guide ourselves with analyst predictions, but if you look into the top IT analysts, their prediction is two years from now, 65% of most companies will have two or more of these platforms in their portfolios, and they're going to be using it extensively to build things that matter. And we see that happen too, so it's a great trend to be on for sure.
Eric Boduch: Awesome. So, other trends, what other trends do you see, especially around product management? What do you see as product management trends coming up this year?
Goncalo Gaiolas: Product management trends. So, back to the beginning of our great conversation, I don't think of myself as a product management connoisseur just yet. Give me a couple more years. But I do see a couple of the things. I think COVID brought in an interesting trend of accelerating or shifting. You said, your customers changing. If your customers are changing, that means you are becoming less intimate with who your customers are, what their pain points are. So, as a product manager, how do you reacquaint yourselves with customers? How do you become more and more intimate with them? So, this idea of product management continuing to be the true voice of the customer within the company, and becoming the true proxy, and understanding it, and understanding the market, and having the right tools to do so, and writing the right tools to understand what's happening. Like Pendo, right? What's actually happening out there, what's my experience right now for my current customers, and how do I drive more value out of that, is a trend that's not going to go anywhere. I think we've long passed the days where product management was an internal discipline that was disconnected from the customer. That's one. I think another trend that's happening in product management that I think is interesting, is this idea around operations. So, making it super professional, repeatable, scalable, disciplined. So, to illustrate with an example, we started recently, nine months ago we started a product operations team at OutSystems. They're doing a fantastic job in just standardizing what all product managers are doing, creating the necessary infrastructure and framework, so that product managers can focus on being experts on the customer, experts on the market, experts on everything. They don't focus on tooling, they don't focus on the templates that they need to use. They don't focus on any of that. We're sort of taking care of all of that. And now this year, we're going to the next level. We're building a product management academy, and they're doing it, so that we onboard, train these people, and eventually open source all of these materials to give back to the community. But product operations, I think, is a trend which I've seen that in the customer success space a few years ago. It's always like a continuum, whenever you're trying to make something more professional, you dedicate people to do so. I think that trend is going to accelerate as well, and better managing the tooling and deploying the tooling, so that product managers can be super effective, is certainly something that's going to happen. And the final thing I think that I see when I talk to fellow product managers, is this more of a conceptual trend of people moving more and more into truly executing on platform strategies. So, going away from pipeline products, product, product, product, selling to different customers, but really, how do you become a true platform? It's very, very hard to pull off. It's a very tantalizing idea, but very, very hard to pull off, especially if you have a mature product. How do you to become a true platform, an economic development platform, an ecosystem platform, how do you do that? But I see more and more people talking about that. I think we're going to, it's going to be an explosive decade, if you will, around platform companies. And how product managers play a role, feels like a completely different sort of mental model in terms of product managing, a platform company than anything else. So, I see that as a trend as well, starting to form.
Eric Boduch: So, this has been a lot of fun. As we're kind of getting to the end, I wanted to know a little bit more about you, Goncalo. What's your favorite product?
Goncalo Gaiolas: So, my favorite product, that's a good one. I guess I can't say the OutSystems platform, that would be cheating. I do love our product, I am super passionate even after 15 years, but I'm going to say that. I don't think I'm going to be super innovative, but I think my favorite, if I think to impacting the world, great execution, great experience and feedback loops, but also this ability to execute on this platform pipeline strategy, the greatest product I know is clearly the iPhone. Millions of people use it every single day, it's been predicated on a fantastic business experience, it's tremendous focus on the multiple personas, the developers on the platform side, the users on the end, businesses using it. It's truly a remarkable thing to think that 10 years ago, or a little bit more than 10 years ago, there was no such thing. And we have now essentially shifted the fabric of mankind through the introduction of a product, much more than a product, a philosophy. But really groundbreaking, and I would be remissive to not call it my true favorite product that I use every day, and that I think most significantly changed the world from an impact perspective.
Eric Boduch: So, one final question: three words to describe yourself.
Goncalo Gaiolas: So, three words. I think I'm going to repeat myself from the beginning, but I would use eternally enthusiastic beginner. That's my thing, is an eternal machine of just being almost childishly excited about new things, and discovering new things that might be known to others, but really and completely, always an enthusiastic beginner, that's me. And I hope that a little bit of that came across during our chat, because it's what people normally, when people describe me, that's normally where they go.
Eric Boduch: Well, thank you. Enthusiastic definitely came across. There's no doubt there. This was a blast. Thank you for your time. It's been great.
Goncalo Gaiolas: Thank you so much. Great questions, and thank you for the podcast. I had a chance to look at some of the episodes, subscribing now, it's fantastic. Thank you for giving this back to the community. We need more people like you driving these things.
Eric Boduch: Absolutely.
Goncalo Gaiolas: So, it's been fun. Thank you.