The N2V team had an exclusive meeting with Nelson Mattos the Google vice-president of product management and engineering for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The meeting took place during the first day of G.Jordan (Google day in Jordan) event in Amman, on the 23rd of October at the Grand Hyatt.
The two parties exchanged valuable insights and information especially concerning the region. Rami Al-Karmi, the N2V investment director and head of Labs, spoke briefly about the N2V projects and investments. Nelson When asked, shared information about how Google manages its big number of projects around the world. He answered by explaining how Google tries to strike the balance between the freedom of innovation and the structure of discipline. Nelson said, " As I always like to say, Google is an organized chaos".
When Google looks at a product in a region; it sees whether the product succeeds or not via many angles. The product might succeed, however not in the region. "Thus we either keep the team in that region, but keep it small, or we choose to relocate this team to another area. However if the project succeeds, then Google invests in a bigger team in that area."
Nelson was asked many questions of which he displayed Google's expertise.
The questions were as follows:
Question: What is the perfect size of a successful production team?
Answer: "A Google production team ranges from 6-10 members, doesn't exceed a dozen. However that isn't the real measure of success. Google runs by a system of OKRs (objectives and key results). These goals are how a team measures whether it’s going in the right direction or not. Google isn't afraid to kill big projects that are not achieving their expected results.
Question: When it comes to fitting the projects with the Google strategy. Is it a top-downward decision where structure is imposed? Or is it a down-upward decision where the engineers have to fit their product to the Google strategy?
Answer: It’s a bit of both. We have a system called 80% - 20%. Where our engineers work 80% of their time on their main assigned project. However in the left 20% they work on whatever small project they choose to work on that they seem passionate about. However those small projects are results of ideas that come from individuals within Google, the company does not fund them. The main projects that take 80% of the time are already structured according to the Google strategy. However the 20% percent projects that the engineers are passionate about, they one day would like to have them as main projects. If so then they will need to prove the project's success by making the project fit with the company's strategy. So they can convince the board to fund their project and thus become a main Google successful project. Google Maps was a project that started as a 20% project. Just like the "commenting on YouTube video" project, and the Google Doodle project.
Question: Some Google products failed in the Middle East, example "Google Buzz". What did the Google marketing do in efforts to fix situations like that in the future?
Answer: if you mean understanding the market, we have 2 organizations that focus on understanding the regions. Our marketing team has a division that does marketing analysis. They do all kinds of research; Quantitative, and Qualitative like focus groups, and experimenting with users, which has a major input in our products. 5 years ago when we launched a product we launched the same product everywhere in the world, with only the translation of languages. However that cannot be the case today. For example there are Internet companies in China or Russia since they are not Americans they don't think the American way, and thus our products that are targeted to them have more features added that are appealing to those markets.
Question: How do you organize that no 2 or more teams are working on the same project?
Answer: In the small scale this isn't considered a problem that we would want to fix. Because if three teams are working on the same idea, tackled in different approaches. This increases the stakes of the right approach of the idea to succeed. However because we have a database that has all the projects listen on it, through this kind of transparency everybody in the company knows the projects that are being worked on. We are a very down-upwards company when it comes to innovation of ideas, however that doesn't mean we lack the discipline and structure of the up-downwards decisions. Nelson was asked a question about what they do when they have a product but not enough market research. And he replied that sometimes when they have the product they launch it before the market research is complete. Because, sometimes they learn through throwing the product in the market.
Question: Assuming that the Google team finished the project implementation. How do they market for the Product? Do they tackle different acquisition channels, or do they do the easy way by using their own channels?
Answer: Our marketing department has its own budget. In case of it using the Google marketing methods, it does pay Google for whatever methods it chooses to use. However it was a surprise to me, that in Google some products can be launched without marketing. The product is launched and by chance users discover it, and boom it takes off. However for products that are a little more complicated and need explanation to the user, we launch a campaign that explains how these can be used. We have recently done a television ad.
Question: If you look at the Google chrome speed test, that was a great way to market the idea. Do the engineers come up with these marketing ideas?
Answer: We have marketing teams focused on each project, and we have a team called the creative team, who came up with great ideas like the "Paris love" campaign. Their idea was getting the attention of a non-technical person, and because our marketing people are in between the technical people and the publics they are capable of coming up with such ideas.
A question from a user came as follows: I use Facebook and Google ads. However i turn to Facebook ads when I want to target a specific audience. How much does Google understand the person using their search engine, and his needs?
Answer: To begin with, we know the person's region from their IP address. And we can make a very close guess of this person's needs, through his browsing habits.
Question: Google acquisitions, some turn to be very successful companies, and some are small however doing very well. How does Google see the potential in them and decide on the acquisition?
Answer: What matters to us isn't always the idea, or the product. However what matter to Google are the people behind the idea. And that is our first type of acquisitions. The second type of acquisitions is feature acquisitions. The third type of acquisitions is are the ones we tackle because they are in areas we want to go into.
Then Nelson was interested to know, the feedback of Google users in the region. With which many of the participants had of insights to give him.
Of those insights were,
1- Hiring Google Ambassadors in the region that would physically go around collecting data, of local shops to be added in the search engine or Google maps, etc.
2- Simplifying the technical side of Google ads. Make it simpler for the region to use.
3-Improving Google Ads form of payment. Not everybody in the Middle East deals with credit cards.