Scaling product teams at Zapier

This is an excerpt I posted to all Zapier teammates this week. It's an exciting operational change we're phasing in and could be interesting to folks outside of Zapier.

Not long ago, Zapier only had the bandwidth to work on one big initative at a time.

Today we often have 5-10 projects in progress including 1-2 larger projects decided by quarterly goals.

Our current approach to product teams is best described as ad-hoc. Engineers, PMs, and designers are managed individually. Teams dissolve and are re-assigned every few weeks. This approach has a few downsides:

When Zapier hired its first product manager a few months ago I introduced an experiment: long-term product teams. The idea is product teams stick together to work towards a goal for roughly 6-12 months. The projects worked on by a team will vary but they'll generally stick together. I expect we'll still shake up teams and adjust priorities but on a longer time scale than we do today.

This experimental team has been working on a new initiative and it has been successful in addressing the downsides above. So we're expanding the experiment! Here are the areas we'd like to have a team always working on:

1. core team - for ad-hoc projects that don't need a full team or many revisions
2. growth team - increasing $MRR, ARPU, signups, decreasing churn
3. new initiatives team - experimenting with brand new things we don't do today

We'll begin to fill the above now through December and the following next year:

4. product improvements team - areas like our editor, dashboard, task history
5. onboarding team - get more new (and existing) users activated

Each team will have at least one product engineer, one product designer, and one product manager. We can add extra teammates when necessary.

What's not changing: think of these product teams like long-term extensions of what we already do today. Existing organizational reporting is not changing for these cross-functional product teams. Teammates will still have time for divergent background tasks and side projects and will still “play away games” from time to time. Supporting roles like data science, user research, frontend engineering, and product marketing will continue to serve many teams in a consultancy-style manner, like they do today.

To fill these teams out, we're going to need to hire. The next team we're hiring for is the growth team and we'll be posting growth product manager and product designer roles soon.

We're not assigning everyone to teams today and we won't fill out every team overnight. This post is the beginning of the process and a preview of what's coming. Filling these teams will take us well into next year with our current hiring schedule.

Finally, if there is a team that you'd like to be a part of (as an engineer, designer, or PM) send me a message! I'm also happy to answer Q&A in the comments.

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