2024’s Hot Topics in B2B SaaS Product Management and Engineering

By: Shannon Bauman

Product and Engineering leaders from Mainsail Partners’ portfolio companies, along with several product experts from our network, gathered in Austin, TX, for a two-day Product & Technology Summit.

This year’s topics mirrored some of the biggest themes in B2B SaaS Product & Engineering today, running the gamut from AI to people management to capturing the value from ancillary products.

Here are four of the essential strategies that our product and engineering leaders agreed are critical to helping drive business growth at this stage and the top takeaways from each:

2024’s Hot Topics in B2B SaaS Product Management and Engineering

Integrate AI as a product offering, and as a coding tool

At Mainsail, we are thinking about AI integration as three distinct workstreams:

  • AI tools and processes to support company operations (such as marketing and sales tools)
  • AI-powered features to build into your own product to offer your customers
  • AI-powered engineering dev tools to increase dev productivity

At the Summit, presenters focused on the latter two use cases. Product leaders shared examples of how they are building out new functionality within their products using AI, which was followed by an active discussion about lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid and processes to implement.

In addition, we dove deep into existing AI development tools that companies can use right now. Two tools that stood out were:

  • Amazon’s CodeWhisperer: offers intelligent code review and analysis, aiding product teams in identifying potential bugs and performance bottlenecks to streamline the development process.
  • GitHub Copilot: leverages AI to help developers generate code snippets and suggest relevant solutions, empowering product teams to accelerate their dev cycles and improve code quality.

Amazon’s AWS team was kind enough to send a team to the Summit to run a hands-on activity, enabling leadership to experience some AI-powered coding.

Uplevel leadership skills

In addition to many informal water cooler discussions about leadership, the Summit welcomed Bob Freeburg, CPTO at Mainsail portfolio company, Centerbase, to discuss a leadership approach known as “The Empowerment Dynamic” or “TED.”

Introduced by David Emerald in The Power of TED, it takes a traditional psychological framework known as The Drama Triangle and flips it on its head to present a more empowering approach to leadership. Bob brought the framework home for us, recognizing the challenges that product leaders face while serving as people managers, too.

In the Drama Triangle, everyone falls into three archetypes: Rescuer, Victim or Persecutor, creating a dynamic that perpetuates power struggle. In the Empowerment Dynamic, these roles are defined as Challenger, Creator and Coach. Everyone is considered a resourceful human who can channel self-awareness and emotional intelligence to chart a better future for themselves and those around them. In TED, leaders shift their mindset to more empowering roles, and are better able to create high-functioning teams. He also emphasized the impact of a leader’s mood and behaviors that can affect their entire team.

Launch of Voice of the Customer Program

Mainsail’s Jess Bicknell, VP of Customer Experience, led a discussion on the importance of developing a strong Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.

A VoC program is a process for programmatically seeking feedback from customers about their experiences with your products and services, and then turning that feedback into usable insights. By running VoC programs continuously, you can create a product that uniquely fits customer expectations, driving value and most importantly — driving retention.

To put this concept into action, the group conducted a breakout session in which we discussed ways to build out a successful Voice of the Customer program within our own companies. Fundamental to an effective VoC program and an essential takeaway from the session, she stressed, is developing a strong communication loop between Product/Engineering teams and customer-facing teams (Implementation, Support, Customer Success). This loop is too often missing or incomplete, and fortifying it will have extensive follow-on benefits.

Don’t Forget the Value of Ancillary Products

Adam Keys, VP Product at JobNimbus, and Marko Djukic, CTO at Linenmaster, both Mainsail portfolio companies, teamed up to discuss the value of developing ancillary products, covering topics that ranged from data as a monetizable product to the impact that ancillary products can have on your NRR and retention rates.

The pair argued that the initial reason to build an ancillary product (increased revenue) doesn’t give credit to the full potential of the add-on (retention!). When you build the right ancillary product and incorporate it in a meaningful way, you may increase revenue, but more importantly, you will improve the value proposition of the entire product, creating customers who end up being stickier to the core product offering.

This topic has been trending across Mainsail’s portfolio companies as well as the industry at large, so it was helpful to gain a fresh perspective on how to think about it.

And more…

The Summit covered additional topics ranging from successful tools to lessons learned from veterans of B2B SaaS companies. Perhaps most importantly, the leaders who gathered at the Summit had many opportunities to form professional relationships with each other over food, drinks and activities.

We are already looking forward to next year’s Product & Technology Summit.

Shannon is Vice President of Product at Mainsail Partners. He works closely with Mainsail’s portfolio companies to help build product strategies, roadmaps, processes, and teams.
More by Shannon Bauman
This content piece has been prepared solely for informational purposes. The content piece does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security. The information in this content piece is not presented with a view to providing investment advice with respect to any security, or making any claim as to the past, current or future performance thereof, and Mainsail Management Company, LLC (“Mainsail” or “Mainsail Partners”) expressly disclaims the use of this content piece for such purposes.

The information herein is based on the author’s opinions and views and there can be no assurance other third-party analyses would reach the same conclusions as those provided herein. The information herein is not and may not be relied on in any manner as, legal, tax, business or investment advice.

Third-party images, logos, and references included herein are provided for illustrative purposes only. Inclusion of such images, logos, and references does not imply affiliation with or endorsement for or by such firms or businesses.

Certain information contained in this content piece has been obtained from published and non‐published sources prepared by other parties, which in certain cases have not been updated through the date hereof. While such information is believed to be reliable for the purposes of this content piece, neither Mainsail nor the author assume any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such information and such information has not been independently verified by either of them. The content piece will not be updated or otherwise revised to reflect information that subsequently becomes available, or circumstances existing or changes occurring after the date hereof, or for any other reason.

Certain information contained herein constitutes “forward-looking statements,” which can be identified by the use of terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “projects,” “future,” “targets,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates” (or the negatives thereof) or other variations thereon or comparable terminology. Forward looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, which are beyond the control of Mainsail. Actual results, performance, prospects or opportunities could differ materially from those expressed in or implied by the forward-looking statements. Additional risks of which Mainsail is not currently aware also could cause actual results to differ. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, you should not place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking events discussed in this content piece may not occur. Mainsail undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

No representation, warranty or undertaking, express or implied, is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or opinions contained in the enclosed materials by Mainsail and no liability is accepted by such persons for the accuracy or completeness of any such information or opinions. For additional important disclosures, please click here.