Maximum Possible Products by Sally Foote

BY James Gadsby Peet ON JANUARY 11, 2019

In this #mtpcon London talk, Sally Foote of Photobox had us consider that most product managers don’t work on greenfield products that allow them to design minimum viable services. The majority work with services and technologies that they didn’t design and which on the surface don’t meet their own or their user needs.

She says it is possible to create quality products in this situation – but it means thinking differently from a West Coast startup. Her approach of Maximum Possible Products makes the most of existing constraints to build solutions for users. These provide value both for users and your organisation without forcing you to invest heavily in elements like legacy technology.

Legacy Tech

Sally Foote at #mtpcon London 2018
Photobox is currently rebuilding almost every part of its technology product while still running a business that tries to deliver value to its private-equity backers. This means the company had to look at new opportunities within the products it already has. So it has tried to get people to buy everyday gifts, rather than the high-value, high-importance ones that were the norm.

Photobox’s only constraint is that it has to be able to print onto a square, and all its products have to work in this format. So jigsaws, magnets and large wooden canvases are all up for grabs – without the need to worry about its legacy technology.

Maximum Possible Products (MPP) Deliver Value now

While Minimum Viable Product approaches work for startups, they assume you don’t have any constraints. In an MPP world though, your constraints don’t stop you – they focus you. They force you to look at how well you can meet your customers’ needs within a particular situation rather that exists now, rather than imagining solutions for the future.

Photobox will launch thousands of different product lines, which are simply customisations of an existing product. For example a bowl can be printed to be a child’s cereal container or a dog bowl. The tech stack doesn’t need to be changed and the customisation delivers maximum possible return on the product.
Sally Foote and audience at #mtpcon London 2018

Make Constraints a Feature to Boost Creativity

In user testing, Photobox constantly saw people hit blank pages and get stuck. They didn’t know where to start. Photobox addressed this hurdle by adding constraints to the page numbers, fonts and design styles.

Solving the Fridge Problem

People may be happy to cover their fridges with photos of their families, but they would never think of blowing these images up to canvases for display in the living room. Photobox needed to decide whether to pursue this market opportunity.

Photobox looked at AirBNB and Skyscanner and decided that it was possible for tech brands to expand out of their original products. So Photobox looked at what art their users were searching for and how the company could be inserted into this decision-making process.

Legacy Tech Doesn’t Define your Product, your Customers do

You have customers with an existing product, this is a big benefit over startups. They define who you are and how you will develop in the future. They will constantly challenge your brand purpose to deliver value to them. In the end, this will help you to make better decisions and ultimately better products.

Maximum Possible Product is a Mindset

Find a way forward when there seem to be no good options. Look at your constraints and find new ways to use them to deliver value. Speak to your customers and use them to turn your brand purpose and product inside out.

James Gadsby Peet

About

James Gadsby Peet

I've been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph. Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie. In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector. I'm always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!

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