Intercom Product Decision Framework

Decision time: Our new product decision-making framework

Main illustration: Annu Kilpeläinen

There are many ingredients involved in successfully building a great product, but fundamentally it all boils down to a series of decisions.

And it’s the quality of those decisions – and the speed at which you can make them – that will dictate how fast you can bring value to customers and realize positive impact for your business. That can be said of most businesses, at any scale, but too often the hard job of thinking about how businesses make decisions goes unexamined, never mind improved upon.

We’ve recently unveiled a new “product decision framework” at Intercom, which will help us continue to scale along with our ambitions. Check out the deck outlining the new decision-making framework – it’s still a work in progress created for internal use, but we thought sharing it more broadly would generate useful conversations and fresh insights. We hope you find it useful, no matter your industry or size.

Bigger scale, bigger ambitions

Our principles and process exist to ensure we make high-quality decisions quickly and consistently. And these principles and processes have done a great job so far.

“What got us here, won’t get us there, so it’s time to review and update how we make decisions”

But nearly a decade into Intercom’s story, we’re now operating at a new scale with even bigger ambitions. As the saying goes, what got us here, won’t get us there, so that’s why we decided it was time to review and update how we make decisions to ensure we are able to continue building and shipping great quality product.

Issues with our decision-making process

We have spent a decade building great product, and needless to say, the decision-making process has evolved as the company has scaled.

We have reached a moment where it’s clear the current decision-making process isn’t keeping pace with our needs or ambitions. To ascertain why, we analyzed our company survey and conducted interviews with teams and colleagues across multiple disciplines. It was clear there were some patterns that needed to be addressed.

We noticed some recurring themes in the feedback about how we make decisions today:

  • Limited autonomy
  • Vagueness on who makes decisions
  • Vagueness on what to do with feedback
  • Vagueness on accountability

As a result of these issues, we sometimes struggle with slow decision-making, lower quality decisions, and a poor experience for everyone involved.

Beyond the frustrations these issues generate, they ultimately result in reduced market impact. Everything becomes less successful.

Revising our product decision-making framework

That’s why our principles and process for making decisions needed to evolve. We gave this considerable thought, and have devised a new framework to shape our decision-making. So here are our four new principles to make us better at decision-making:

  • Highly aligned strategically
  • Fast and autonomous in execution
  • Hungry for feedback
  • Owning the results

The deck above contains more detail on how we’re implementing these changes and how they will impact the way we work. And just as we strive to do with our own product, we will iterate on the details around how we make product decisions as we learn more – and of course, we’ll share those learnings here too.

Does this approach to building product sound interesting to you? We’re hiring – check out our open roles across Product, Design and Engineering.

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