In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to do product management during the COVID-19 crisis.

The current crisis is causing a lot of disruption for many companies, and one area in particular that most companies will be affected is in their product development roadmap.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how product development will be affected by this crisis, how this crisis has affected Hiten’s roadmap, if changing your roadmap is a good idea right now and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:29 Why this topic was chosen.

01:19 Questions some companies are having right now.

03:02 How this crisis has affected Hiten’s roadmap.

03:42 How this crisis is affecting Google’s Chrome.

05:08 How most companies still work from offices.

06:10 How most companies don’t know how to do product development properly.

07:51 If changing your roadmap is a good idea right now.

08:15 How product launches are going to be very tricky right now.

09:00 Products that are doing well right now.

3 Key Points:

  • The big question that a lot of companies now have is how is this going to affect our product development roadmap.
  • Google has slowed down or stopped releasing updates for Chrome.
  • Be aware that you may not be as productive as you normally are.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti 


Hiten Shah: and this is Hiten Shah. And today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about how to do product development and product management during a global pandemic.


Steli Efti:So here’s a question for you, Hiten. Most software companies. Let’s talk just about product companies and software companies brought up, they had a product roadmap. Very likely that roadmap was spanning over a couple of weeks if not months. Many of them will have one that they had set for the entire year. But usually these product development cycles, they’re substantial long and they need a good amount of head time to plan for them and to put things in motion and have a dev team work on things before they can ship things. So now you had this roadmap for whatever quarter two, let’s say in quarter three this year and now the world is melting down. We’re having with world pandemic, people have to work from home. And the big question that many people have is how is this going to affect our product roadmap and our product development process? There’s one bucket of questions that is centered around productivity, right? Our dev team, are they going to be productive working from home with their families there? Are they going to be able to ship on time as our original timelines were how is this going to affect the productivity and the timelines and milestones and all that. And then there’s the other bucket of questions that I see floating around, which is do we have to adjust or should we adjust our product roadmap because the world is melting down. Maybe the things that we thought launching to our customer base in a month or two from now would be very exciting and very useful. Maybe it’s not useful, exciting right now. Maybe launching product features right now in general is a bad idea because people are running around with their hair on fire and us sending them an email that we’ve launched a new whatever, settings feature is… Nobody will care about any of this. You have been developing many, many products over the years and you’ve been studying kind of product habits. I mean it’s your email list even in a product in and of itself, dealing with product leaders, product managers. How do you think about this? How much or little should a global crisis like this influence the way you think about your product roadmap and the things that you are building and planning to ship in kind of the short to midterm?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think there’s a few things. One, because this involves companies working in ways they might not be used to. So working from home. It’s likely in a lot of companies product development has slowed down, maybe even came to a halt. I’ll give you a good example. Google, which is not a company known for working from home. I’m sure people did it and do it. They actually have either slowed down or stopped releasing updates to Chrome and they sent out an email about that. They said they do security updates because I think they have to, it’s critical, but they basically said because of this crisis and team, whatever they said in their email, they literally sent an email and said that to everybody. Now that is unprecedented. I’ve never heard Google say we’re stopping development on something or pausing development on something because we just have to. And this is what the pandemic is causing. So one, be aware of the fact that you might not be able to be as productive as you normally work if your team is not used to working from home or if your team is emotionally impacted by the situation that’s going on or if some people on your team are, so there’s a bunch of slack you kind of have to give people. And so you just don’t have a choice. And so if you were checking in on your team by walking to their desk and talking to them or using whiteboards, physical whiteboards or going in conference rooms and talking together and having these meetings, you don’t get to do that anymore until this thing is over. We don’t know when it’s going to be over. We don’t know when we can go back in that office if we do go to an office. So that implication I think is really great and big for any company that’s used to collaborating in the same room, which is not every company but it’s most companies. Truthfully. As much as you and I are advocates for this, most companies still work in an office and I know you and I are not like the folks at Basecamp who are shouting from the rooftops about remote work right now. Literally shouting from the rooftops. And even their own product is delayed. They had a product they were going to launch an, email product called HEY in April and now they said it’s indefinitely delayed. So if that’s any indication, that should tell you at least the whatever delays you’re having internally because of all this stuff, you’re going to be either delayed or you’re just so used to working from home and your team is resilient, whether it’s emotionally or just in general that it’s not going to impact you barely. That being said, who knows? Things can change really fast around that. So that’s I think one thing to be aware of. And that means that this is not normal. This is not normal at all. That’s a big deal. I think that’s the thing that… I don’t have specific product development advice. I mean most companies don’t have the proper processes. They don’t know how to work from home and get product development done. They just don’t. Until they’re using Zoom. They’re finding their alternatives to white boarding if they’re really into that, they’re hopefully documenting more. I mean these are all tips that we’d tell you if you are working from home and how to do it and then that’s fine. Those tips are out there. Please go pay attention to them and see what you can do to change up your processes really quickly. It’s probably just number one thing is people are just having [inaudible 00:06:33]. That’s just obvious, and Zoom is holding up. Oh my God.


Steli Efti: Jesus. We’re using it for my podcast right now.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, it’s working.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: It’s a miracle.


Steli Efti: It is.


Hiten Shah: So I know a lot of people have praised Eric and praised the company and praised the team. I don’t think we would be any different, right? In this case, yes. Wow. So, Zoom meetings… Because Google Hangouts is actually not working consistently for me. The way that Zoom does right now. Whenever I try it, something goes wrong. And this is way more wrong than usual. Anyway, so that’s happening. Let me the only other part-


Steli Efti: Oh, go ahead. No, no, go ahead.


Hiten Shah: No, no, you first. Go.


Steli Efti: I just wanted to ask about do you think it’s smart to maybe change your roadmap because you think maybe doing a feature earlier would be more relevant during this time? Is that a good idea to change the timeline when you don’t know how long this crisis will take and what the implications are?


Hiten Shah: I think changing timelines on roadmaps to be more relevant right now, if there are features that you think are more relevant for your customers right now, that’s great. But in normal product development, we’d be talking to customers, understanding what problems they have and building products for them and making improvements for them. So it should be business as usual there, except you might already have a plan that you need to kind of blow up or rethink based on new found information about what’s going on with human beings on the planet right now. That’s cool. That makes sense, as long as you have some potential there. Not all products have that potential. But we’re thinking the same [inaudible] FYI as well. I think the other thing I wanted to mention is product launches right now are going to be a little tricky.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: They’re just going to be tricky. Just your expectation shouldn’t be normal. It should either be wildly indexed so that because it’s relevant right now you might get a lot more signups. I’ve seen a lot of data on this recently. It’s not as good as people might be tweeting about in terms of the amount of signups certain companies are getting. That being said, if you’re anything video related right now and you help people collaborate via video specifically, maybe audio. You’re probably seeing a major uptake, but most other categories I’ve seen, besides like certain things around like e-commerce and direct to consumer, I’m not seeing the uptick. In fact, I’m seeing the opposite. The traffic might come but it’s not signing up like it used to. And there’s always opportunity in this stuff. You can find a way if you have numbers that you’re looking and still need. That being said, these product launches are very different right now, because the majority of stuff that’s launching is relevant to what’s going on in the world. Yeah, and that’s not normal at all. That’s not usually how it is because there’s so many different are things going on in the world. Right now? There’s one thing going on.


Steli Efti: One thing. One thing in the fucking world, yes.


Hiten Shah: One thing, dude. One thing, so that’s the big difference, and that impacts everything.


Steli Efti: Insane times, man. Well, thank you so much for sharing some of that perspective. I do think it’s helpful for people-


Hiten Shah: Thanks for the questions, yeah.


Steli Efti: All right, we’ll wrap up this episode. As always, if you have more questions, just shoot us an email., We’re always happy to help if we can, especially during a global pandemic. We want to be more helpful, probably. Besides that, we’ll see you next time.


Hiten Shah: Absolutely.


Steli Efti: Stay safe.