Pyrami: The Product Growth Framework

pyrami framework

Understanding this framework will help you design better products. I often think of Product Management as giving birth to a new life form. You want to equip the life form with the right features to thrive in an ecosystem. How do you know what the right features are? How do you know when is the right time to build the right feature? Figuring out the answers to these 2 important questions is not an easy task. Having worked in innovative organizations like NASA, Apple, and Ticketmaster, I’ve seen what worked and what didn’t work. I noticed patterns. The patterns described the natural growth path for successful products.

I ran the patterns by other wildly successful products (iPhone, Uber, Facebook) and was surprised by how many successful products followed these patterns. I took these patterns and organized them into a simple, visual framework called Pyrami. It’s called Pyrami because the visual framework is shaped like a Pyramid. It’s inspired by a framework that describes healthy human development called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The Pyrami framework will help your team tackle the following questions:

  1. What features should we ship with our Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
  2. Why do so many products built by great teams fail?
  3. How do we deepen our product vision?
  4. How do we craft a product roadmap that is far and resilient?
  5. What features should we focus on building now vs the future?

Pyrami is a product management framework that describes the stages of feature development in a product. The framework looks a like a Pyramid to show hierarchy. The most fundamental features make up the lowest level of the Pyramid while the more complex features are located at the top. Successful products tend to build enough features to satisfy a lower level stage before progressing on to the next stage. If a product does not invest enough time at the lower level stages and attempt move to the next stage prematurely, the product will either fail or hinder its potential. The Pyramid is separated into 3 stages: functional, emotional, ecological.

Functional: The functional stage is where you build the “must have” features to power your product’s engine. What features make your product better than your competitors? What features help your users finish the task that they need to get done? What features help your users solve their problems? For Ticketmaster’s iPhone App, the functional features include all the main steps needed for a fan to purchase a ticket. This includes search, event details, sign in, seat selection, credit card entry, and purchase confirmation. The user needs every one of those features in place to purchase a ticket.

Ticketmaster App Purchase Flow

Ticketmaster App Purchase Flow

Functional features do not include a beautiful user interface. In Ticketmaster’s early days, it was an ugly mobile web page. However, fans used it to buy tickets because it got the job done. It helped them avoid the pain of having to drive all the way to the box office to buy tickets.

Early Version of Ticketmaster's Mobile Website

Early Version of Ticketmaster’s Mobile Website

Functional features also include features related to performance. Is the product reliable? Is the app fast? How often does it crash? When a fan wants to purchase a ticket to a busy event, the last thing you want him to remember is that the app takes forever to complete a purchase or crashes in the middle of a financial transaction. When you build the functional features, you are building the brain, the organs, and the skeleton of the life form. You want the life form to be strong, reliable, intelligent.

Emotional: After the functional features are built, we can focus on how we want the user to feel. This is the skin of the product. How it looks, how it sounds, how it moves, how it feels. Apple is incredibly good at building products that make people feel a certain way. The iPhone is a great example of a product filled with emotional features.The animated transitions between one view to the next gives off a feeling of speed and familiarity. The rounded corners on the iPhone casing makes the iPhone feel approachable.

iPhone6s-RoseGold-BackFront-HeroFish-PR-PRINT

Emotional features make a difference. The iPhone often isn’t the most powerful smartphone in the market. There are often smartphones with faster CPUs, bigger storage, more features. But because Apple understands the right emotional features to focus on, people would pay more money for the experience. Apple currently makes 90%+ of all the profits in the smartphone market. Emotional features matter.

Ecological: To grow a long lasting product, you need to build features that will create a thriving ecosystem for your specific product. The iPhone has the app store. Ticketmaster has ticket transfer. Uber has the referral system. All of these features help these wildly successful products grow their ecosystem and keep it thriving. Users in a thriving ecosystem feeds the ecosystem with attention and resources.

Create the growing trees so your product can thrive

Grow the trees that help your product thrive

App developers use tools to build new apps. App developers make money from selling apps on the app store. More and more money gets pumped into the ecosystem creating rags to riches developer stories. More developers join in and create more apps. The ecosystem thrives and grows. All of the feature to help build the apps store (tools, store front, analytics) are tools to help build the thriving ecosystems surrounding the iPhone. Products without thriving ecosystems tend to become one-hit wonders.

In conclusion, whenever you are developing a product and have to prioritize features, let this framework guide you. Focus on the functional features first. Think about how the ugly-looking craigslist.com took over the classified industry. Craigslist is REALLY good at helping people list stuff. They were able to get away from focusing on the emotional features. Once you get the core functional features down, focus on building the emotional features. Think about smooth curves of the iPhone shell and how it makes you feel when you hold it in your hand. After the emotional features, think about the ecological features. These are the features that will help create a thriving ecosystem for your product. Think about the 1.4 million apps that has been built specifically for the iOS app store. The app store made the iOS ecosystem.

8 Comments on “Pyrami: The Product Growth Framework”

  1. Nice article and a great though process. I have always thought of product just for an industry to specific customer segment. you really have broaden the horizon for the though process.

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  4. Charles – thanks for sharing this framework! However, I’ve also stumbled upon a different (apparently, somewhat conflicting) idea out there – that of a Minimum Loveable Product, which I interpret as follows:

    shipping bare-bones functionality without anything at all for the users to grow emotionally attached to doesn’t really cut it anymore in 2015, when the users’ expectations for B2C products (and, to a growing extent, B2B products) have already been pushed up very high by the omnipresent products of global tech companies that the very same people happen to use every day.

    Would love to hear your perspective on this.

  5. Kirill- Thank you for your thoughtful response!

    The two frameworks (Minimum Lovable Product and Pyrami) actually support each other. They answer two different questions. The Pyrami framework answers the question: “What features should I build first” while the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) framework answers the questions: “What features should I ship with?”

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