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Blitzscaling: Strategies to Grow Product Engineering Lightning Fast

Pinak Kiran Vedalankar
Pinak Kiran Vedalankar

Amazon, Google, eBay, PayPal—what do these companies have in common? They all began as small enterprises and experienced lightning-fast growth in just a few years, and it happened so quickly and so successfully that we can hardly imagine how life would be without them.

Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman has given the practices that accelerate growth a catchy name in his book “Blitzscaling.” After helping to found PayPal, he moved on to launch LinkedIn, so he certainly has experience in this area. He describes blitzscaling as “the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale.” He outlines the strategies in his book and emphasizes the importance of scaling holistically across every part of the organization, ensuring sustainability and embracing the inevitable risks wholeheartedly.

Embracing risk can sometimes feel like you’re leaping across a yawning chasm to reach your goal. No amount of strategic planning can fully prepare you for this, but it can give you courage as you map out your direction. Also, how do you change beliefs and behavior within an organization to enable this rapid growth? Do you put in a heavy governance structure to centralize decision-making? Or do you communicate key principles, ultimately trusting people to jump on board and play their part? When choosing the fast lane, you must face these questions and challenges.

So, what can we learn from blitzscaling strategies to enable fast growth in Product Engineering? First, Product Engineers must identify an inflection point: a point of change at which the organization has the chance to jump ahead of the game rather than carry on growing at an even but slow pace. This inflection point could be result from several things—for example, the introduction of new technologies or economic conditions, such as the changes brought about by a pandemic.

After recognizing this point, Product Engineers can adopt strategies to enable growth. But crucially, it’s important to think of the company as a whole for rapid expansion. Growth must take place across every area of the organization and at every level—across technology, experience, strategy, data and product. After all, it’s not just about growing revenue; it’s about scaling every part of the organization so that the capacity and the capability are there to function as the company expands.

At Publicis Sapient, our vision is to build a Product Engineering capability that rivals the best technology companies in the world. To make this happen, we’re focusing our energies on the following key areas:

1. Ditching the silos and embracing reusability

In any rapidly growing company, there is no room for silos. By reusing and developing existing solutions in a collaborative culture, our teams and clients save a huge amount of time. At Publicis Sapient, we use InnerSource, which allows our engineers to collaborate in the development of products, with rewards and incentives built into the ecosystem. It speeds everything up while maintaining quality, encouraging innovation and bringing value to our clients. We have observed a 10% benefit realized by teams adopting reusability through InnerSource at Publicis Sapient, and this is just the start, as we are at the beginning of the journey.

2. Setting the bar high for consistent quality

Everyone should be committed to maintaining quality in all areas—from delivery speed to customer experience. At Publicis Sapient, we have rolled out an industry-led benchmark that all our engineers adhere to, with transparent maturity metrics across all products to uphold standards. At Publicis Sapient, this has helped us identify concrete interventions to elevate our product engineering maturity levels across our teams.

3. Delivering value at every stage

To grow rapidly and successfully, every area of the organization must focus on value, working together to create impactful brands, products and services that build customer trust and loyalty. This is where technological developments, such as hyper-personalization, can play a major part. At Publicis Sapient, our engineers and team leaders do all they can to stay abreast of the latest innovations, so they can drive future-focused work that delivers value at every stage.

4. Embracing learning, the key to happiness

It’s important to build a strong and diverse engineering culture that is collaborative, fun and inspiring. Learning is at the heart of the culture at Publicis Sapient—everyone is encouraged to spend five hours a week with our training ecosystem, Espresso, to ensure their skill set is up to date with the latest tech developments. With structured learning paths, certifications and quarterly hot topics, it’s a diverse system that creates learning opportunities for everyone in the organization, including our clients. 20% of our Publicis Sapient engineers have been certified using our learning ecosystem for one of our industries, investing over 13,000 learning hours in preparation for certifications in 2021.

5. Attracting new and diverse talent

So, you’re supporting your existing talent and giving them the opportunities to learn and thrive in their expanding organization. Now’s the time to think outside the box. With growth comes the opportunity to hire new and diverse talent with fresh perspectives—people who will share the same goals and keep the company on track. And why stick to traditional hiring methods? When Uber scaled rapidly, they would ask a freshly hired engineer, “Who are the best three engineers you worked with in your previous job?” They then offered jobs to these people without an interview. It was risky, but it worked for Uber, helping them create an inclusive talent pool. Publicis Sapient has increased gender-diverse hires by 20% for the year to date.

6. Expanding your ecosystem

Looking for opportunities beyond your organization can lead to a huge growth spurt. If you partner up with the right companies and providers, you can bring on board a curated ecosystem that can scale along with you. You might find that subcontracting in certain areas works for you—or using nearshore delivery centers, for example.

7. Counting on accountability

Everyone must be accountable at every level for an organization to scale rapidly and holistically while ensuring sustainability. If objectives and key results are set, along with a clear incentive structure, everyone can work toward the common goal. Communication is essential in creating momentum and excitement, and it’s also important to celebrate the successes along the way, so everyone can feel they’re part of the journey.

It’s all about the enterprise commitment

In blitzscaling, there are no hard and fast rules, but focusing our attention on these seven areas can give us a roadmap. Certainly, keeping an eye on the competition is vital, as is keeping up with the latest technology. If everyone in the company shares the vision through the all-important enterprise commitment, then you’re halfway there. And if rapid scaling positively impacts the careers of all involved, then that’s got to be a good thing.

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