The Attribution Graph
One of the more interesting markets for PMs to operate in is products that help product teams. In my view, cross-functional product teams are becoming a recurring entity within the enterprise that’s more reasonable to build for than an individual function. You can think of most collaboration and productivity software as having a targeted use case for product teams, and one way I like to visualize enabling such a team is lighting up a network, specifically activating certain nodes in the network that are critical path; I’ve started referring to the turned on nodes in this enterprise network the “attribution graph”.
If you’re building and selling enterprise products, you’ve historically thought on at least 2 levels:
the account / company / enterprise (with centralized IT budgets)
the end user / knowledge worker (with a productivity job to be done)
If you have some sophistication (or a vertical approach), you may introduce the idea of department-level products, since there is growing budget there.
But the real audience for your product is the virtual teams / non-hierarchical pods that come together to build and ship things. If the company is a network, your product’s goal is to set in motion critical paths in that network - your job is to light up the attribution graph.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t model their organizations this way or publish their corporate directories as such. But with SaaS, unlike the days of shrink-wrap software, you now actually have robust tools and learning mechanisms to suss out the full attribution graph in play.
I’d love to hear from readers about their attempts to identify and target attribution graphs via their products - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
Scott Belsky uses the term “attribution graph” in the Acquired podcast to describe the folks who had skin in the game with regards to shipping product
my prior post on Span (vs Split) Personas digs deeper into the ideas of adjacent users, multi-player collaboration, and enterprise budgets for team productivity
one of my favorite books is Linchpin by Seth Godin, where he basically describes the lead of a cross-functional team as the most critical of knowledge worker roles
I’ve been up front about my bias for PMs who can navigate the attribution graph
childish drawing / interpretation