Kara Gillis, Senior Director of Product Management and Observability at Splunk, gave this presentation at the Product-Led Summit in San Francisco in 2023.

If your company has been around for longer than 10 years, I imagine you have some tech debt. There's a certain lack of telemetry available to you and some amount of guesswork that goes into your prioritization.

There are probably blind spots when it comes to the customers that you're talking to. Are you even optimizing for the right ones that make you the most money? Are there areas that you want to go and target more? 

A lot of customers that I’ve talked to are on the same journey that Splunk is: a 20-year-old company that's trying to get into product-led growth or has gotten into product-led growth, for example, in our observability business through acquisition or innovation, but they have a lot of stuff that they also have to take care of to modernize when they get there. 

If you’re like ancestry.com, then you're born in the cloud, and you're able to run all these experiments, but not everybody can do that right away. The goal is to get there. But a lot of these internal platform teams are trying to modernize and go to the cloud.

I'm going to talk a little bit about both the older world, the enterprise sales version, and also these digital native companies that I focus on at Splunk. 

Reaching your prioritized backlog

I've been at Splunk for almost eight years, and I've always worked on the observability side. I’ve seen this movement from 2016 to now, where we’re very cloud-first and almost cloud-native in a lot of our product areas, but we also have a legacy business that we're trying to manage. 

We have a unified backlog in our organization across both sides of the house, so we have to prioritize all the stuff we can do in the cloud-native area in addition to what we have to do to modernize our business. We have to make those two things work together. It's a very complex set of priorities that we have to think about.

Ultimately, we care about getting to that prioritized backlog and then putting it into a nice, pretty roadmap.

Depending on the time horizon that your leadership cares about, we often do it by quarter over a year, and we do a rolling roadmap, so we're always showing a year out. 

Now, how do you get there? 

Well, I think of a prioritized backlog like Google Maps. I have finite time; I need to reach a desired destination, and I have to put my criteria in where I have to go and my preferred method of transport.

What are the areas that I have to navigate to? Do I want to avoid tolls? Do I want to only take back roads? Or do I want to get there as fast as possible? 

A stack-ranked list of steps comes out of Google Maps, and that's basically a backlog. I need to have all these considerations about where I am in my journey as a product-led growth organization or what the status of my product even is. Is it cloud-native? Is it not? Is it a refactored monolith that's trying to adapt microservices? Where am I on that journey, and how can I get to where I need to go? 

Today, we're going to talk about: