Software as a Service (SaaS) startups will need to care about productivity amidst a new era of constraint. Gone are the days where the individual productivity of a product team is an afterthought, and who cares if the stack you’re using takes twice the number of people to ship meaningful updates.
Those times have been replaced with the harsh reality that entrepreneurs everywhere are having to count each hire as a cost not a win, with profitability becoming a short-term necessity for survival. You have to now maintain productivity without cutting off the legs of the product team by using better tools and techniques.
Firstly, unless market conditions demand otherwise, delay native app development for as long as possible. Sure, the mobile web has come a long way, but native apps are still king. B2B operations that are mainly used by folks sitting in front of computers at their desk may not need the same level of investment. Developing great native applications is harder, slower, and more expensive than developing for the web, which can gum up your progress and experimentation.
Secondly, hire full-stack developers and avoid separating the frontend and backend into separate jurisdictions. The same person has to be capable of taking an idea to production entirely on their own. React land or similar tools can be overwhelming, with separate setups, build tools, and complex architecture. Hire single full-stack developers in charge of everything to keep it simple.
Thirdly, hire designers who work natively with the web. If your designers are stuck in Figma or Photoshop and are unable to turn drawings into HTML and CSS, they’re going to be a significant drag on your productivity. Designers need to know the materials they’re working with and be able to mold them independently.
The right combination is having a tiny product team, consisting of just two programmers with one capable of designing for front end, they must work the full stack. So much specialization exists in other startups, so many hats, so many people, and so many tools. During the free money days, it just didn’t matter, but those days are over.
Entrepreneurs need to perform a service check on their product team productivity. Shipping more, and faster, with fewer folks can make all the difference to your prospects. Don’t follow trends blindly because that’s what worked for other companies. It’s easier to turn the ship around before you’re in the middle of the storm. The rain is falling now, but worse is ahead.