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Product Direction - Growth

Growth Section Overview

The Growth section at GitLab was formed as of August 2019 and we are iterating along the way. We are excited by the unique opportunity to apply proven growth approaches and frameworks to a highly technical and popular open core product. Our goal is to accelerate and maximize GitLab user and revenue growth, and while doing that, to become a leading B2B product growth team and share our learnings internally and externally.

Currently, our Growth section consists of 5 groups (adoption, activation, conversion, expansion, product analytics), each consisting of a cross-functional team of Growth Product Managers, Developers, UX/Designers, with shared analytics, QA and user research functions.

Growth Section's Principles

In essence, we are a cross-functional team of product managers, engineers, designers and data analysts with a unique focus and approach to help GitLab grow. Since GitLab Growth Section is still relatively new, we'd like to share the principles we strive to operate under, which will act as our team vision, and also help the rest of the company understand the best ways to collaborate with us.

Principle 1: The Growth section focuses on connecting our users with our product value

While most traditional product teams focus on creating value for users via shipping useful product features, the Growth section focuses on connecting users with that value. We do so by:

Principle 2: The Growth section sits in the intersection of Sales, Marketing, Customer success & Product

Growth teams are by nature cross-functional as they interact and collaborate closely with many other functional teams, such as Product, Sales, Marketing, Customer success etc. Much of growth team's work helps to complement and maximize these team's work, and ultimately allow customers to get value from our product.

growth team helps

To provide some examples:

Principle 3: The Growth Section uses a data-driven and systematic approach to drive growth

Growth teams use a highly data & experiment driven approach

graph LR A[ARR] --> B[ARR from New Paying Customers] A --> C[ARR from Existing Paying Customers] B --> D[New customers directly sign up for Paid Plan] D --> E[# of Visitors] D --> F[Conversion Rate] D --> G[Average Contract Value] B --> H[New Trial Customers sign up for Paid Plan ARR] H --> I[# of Trials] H --> J[Conversion Rate] H --> K[Average Contract Value] B --> L[New/Existing Free Users sign up for Paid Plan ARR] L --> M[# of Free User Base] L --> N[Conversion Rate] L --> O[Average Contract Value] C --> P[Existing Paid Customer ARR] C --> R[Existing Customer Churned ARR] C --> Q[Existing Customer Expansion ARR] P --> S[Renewal] Q --> T[Seats] Q --> U[Upgrades] T --> V[# of Seats] T --> W[$ per Seat] U --> X[# of Upgrades] U --> Y[Delta ARR $] R --> Z[Cancel] R --> AA[Downgrade] AA --> AB[# of Downgrades] AA --> AC[Delta ARR $] subgraph Retention S Z end subgraph Expansion T U V W X Y AA AB AC end subgraph Acquisition E F G end subgraph Conversion I J K M N O end

Note that the terms used in growth model are broadly defined, for example, "Conversion Rate" here refers to the percentage of various non-paid customers (new, trial, free) converting to paid customers.

graph LR nsm[North Star Metric]--> grm grm[Growth Model] --> fak fak[Focus Area KPI] -- Data --> ide ide[Ideate] --> pri pri[Prioritize] --> bld bld[Build] --> alz alz[Analyze] --> tst tst[Test] --> ide style nsm fill:#6b4fbb style nsm color:#ffffff style grm fill:#6b4fbb style grm color:#ffffff style fak fill:#fba338 style fak color:#ffffff style ide fill:#fa7035 style ide color:#ffffff style pri fill:#fa7035 style pri color:#ffffff style bld fill:#fa7035 style bld color:#ffffff style alz fill:#fa7035 style alz color:#ffffff style tst fill:#fa7035 style tst color:#ffffff

By following this systematic process, we try to make sure that: 1) We know what matters most; 2) Teams can work independently but their efforts will all contribute to overall growth ; 3) We always aim to work on the projects with the highest ROI at any given moment. The ultimate goal is that we are not only uncoverying all levers to drive growth, but also tackling them as efficienly as possible.

Principle 4: The Growth Section experiments a lot and has a “Win or Learn” mindset

"Experiments do not fail, hypotheses are proven wrong"

Growth teams view any changes as an “experiment”, and we try our best to measure the impact. With well-structured hypotheses and tests, we can obtain valuable insights that will guide us towards the right direction, even if some of the experiments are not successful in term of driving desired metrics.

Below is a sample list of our currently running and concluded experiments.

Experiment Name Group Status
Update .com paid sign up flow Activation Concluded
Pricing page tier presentation test Activation Concluded
Display security navigation to upsell new .com signups Conversion Concluded
New user onboarding flow Conversion Concluded
.com Trial flow improvments Conversion Concluded
MR with no pipepline Prompt Expansion Concluded
Buy CI minutes option on GitLab.com top right dropdown Expansion Concluded
Clarify Auto renew toggle vs. Cancel Adoption Concluded
MVC of What's New Adoption Concluded

Growth Section's Current Focus

Growth Section OKR

Please refer to here for latest GitLab Company OKR

Growth KPI

Timeframe: FY21 Q4 ~ TBD (until we believe the marginal improvements we can drive are minimal)

Please refer to here for a complete set of product KPIs

Growth Section's Current Focus Area

Starting in FY21 Q4, Growth section will take a more focused approach to work on the highest ROI growth opportunities for the business - and the first focus area we've chosen is the new customer free to paid SaaS conversion rate.

Through analysis of our new customer acquistion funnel, we identified there is reasonable room for improvement in this area. In the past year, Growth section has launched many experiments and improvements in this area, such as new user onboarding issue board experiment, improved check-out experience etc, and we have accumulated insights and learnings to allow us to form high quality hypothesis. One key insight we've learned is that first 90 days is critical to a new customer's onboarding, and if this customer successfully adopts our key features in Create & Verify, invites team members to join, and experiences the GitLab's product value via a trial, the customer's likelyhood to convert increases significantly.

Based on this insight, we will have each of the growth groups to focus on one key actions:

This way, we can launch experiments in these 4 areas that can potentially help a new prospect customer see the value of GitLab quickly, and increase their likelihood of conversion. Because there are opportunities to drive 4 actions in some shared new customer flows and touch points, the 4 growth groups will collaborate closely to make sure we have a shared vision for the new customer journey, and won't create a situation that one customer is pulled too many different directions. We will start with our .com product, and migrate applicable learnings and improvements to our self-managed product.

Growth Section's Mid Term Plan

In 2020, Covid-19 has brought uncertainty and disruptions to the market. In tough economic times, all businesses need to focus on efficient growth. GitLab's Growth Section aims to help the company drive growth while improving efficiency in all fronts. Therefore we've aligned our 3-Year Strategy into the 3 themes below:

Theme 1: Improve customer retention to build a solid foundation for growth

Existing customer retention is our life blood, especially in tough marco-economic environments, it is critical to serve our current customers well and minimize churn. GitLab has a unique advantage with a subscription business model, and our gross retention is fairly strong, however if you drill down to look at cohort-based subscription retention, we still have room for improvement. On the other hand, in tough times, our customers will potentially be facing challenge and uncertainty as well, therefore it will be naturally harder to upsell them with higher tiers or more seats. By staying laser focused on retention, we can build a strong foundation to weather the storm and drive growth sustainability, and can be right there when customers are ready to expand again.

To improve retention, the Growth Section has identified and will be working on the areas such as:

1) Continue to make the customer purchasing flows such as renewal and billing process robust, efficient, transparent and smooth, as these are critical customer moments.
We have done projects such as:

And we are also working on quarterly co-term billing for self-hosted customers, continious improvement of CustomersDot user experience, as well as supporting critical pricing and packaging related projects.

To make sure what we do will benefit customer, we have a weekly cross-functional sync with sales, biz ops, support, finance and closely monitor Customer Success Score (billing related) as our OKR.

2) Deep dive into the customer behavior and identify leading indicators for churn. This will include projects such as:

3) Identify and experiment on drivers that can lead to better retention.

Through analysis, we can identify which customer behaviors are critical to retention, and therefore we can experiment on prompting these types of behaviors among more customers. For example, one hypothesis is that if a customer uses multiple stages and features of GitLab, they are more likely to get value from a single DevOp platform, thus they are more likely to become a long term customer.

Therefore, in FY21, one of the Growth Section's focus areas will be on helping GitLab customers adopt more stages, and we'll observe if that leads to better retention to confirm the causation. ALong with this, we will need to conduct both quantitative data analysis and quanlitative research to describe the baseline and understand the drivers and barriers behind stage adoption.

graph LR Create --> Plan Verify --> Secure Create --> Manage Create --> Verify Verify --> Release Verify --> Package Release --> Monitor Release --> Configure Release --> Protect
Theme 2: Increase new customer conversion rate to maximize growth efficiency

In order to grow efficiently, we also want to maximize the efficiency of new customer acquisition. For each marketing dollar we spend, we want to bring more dollars back in terms of revenue, and we also need to reduce payback time to generate cash flow that is essential for weathering storms.

As a collaborator to marketing & sales teams, the role the growth team can play here is to aggressively analyze, test and improve the new user flow and in-product experience between about.gitlab.com, GitLab.com, self-hosted instance, CustomersDot etc., with the goal of converting a prospect who doesn’t know much about GitLab, to a customer who understands the value of GitLab and happily signs up for a paid plan.

In order to achieve this goal, we try to understand what the drivers are leading to new customer conversion and amplify them. For example, we have identified through analysis that the number of users in a team, as well the numbers of stages/features a team tries out, all seem to be correlated with a higher conversion rate to a paid plan. Accordingly, we planed experiments and initiatives this area such as:

1) Building a new customer onboarding tutorial to help users learn how to use different stages of GitLab

2) Design better team invitation flow & triggers to increase the team size

3) Setting up customers behavior triggers to enable the growth marketing team to send targeted & triggered emails

Again, in order to drive this theme, we will also need to understand the end to end new customer journey, and identify the drivers and barriers via a series of research and analytics projects, such as:

1) Map out GitLab new customers journey and understand any potential experience or data gaps between marketing, sales, growth, product teams

2) Post-purchase survey & Email survey to understand the reasons behind why some customers convert, while others don’t

3) Self-hosted new customer user research

Theme 3: Build out infrastructures and processes to unlock data-driven growth

Data is key to a growth team’s success. Growth team uses data & analytics daily to: define success metrics, build growth models, identify opportunities, and measure progress. So part of our focus for FY21 will be working closely with GitLab data analytics team to build out that foundation, which include:

1) Provide knowledge & documentation of currently available data sources to understand customer behaviors . Also, establish a framework and best practices to enable consistent and compliant data collection

2) Build out a Product usage metrics framework to evaluate how customers engage with certain features. For example, we successfully finished SMAU data collection and dashbaording project for all GitLab product stages in Q1, and will move on to a similar North Star Metric project for all GitLab product features in Q2.

3) Build out Customer journey metrics framework to understand how customers flow the GitLab through funnel, including end to end cross-functional reporting spanning marketing, sales and growth.

Along the way, we also aim to share our learnings and insights with the broader GitLab team and community, as we firmly believe growth is a whole company mission, and that success ultimately comes from constant learning & iteration & testing & sharing, as well as breaking the silos of functional teams to drive towards the same goal.

Below is a sample of the dashboards we build and use daily. Many of these dashboards are used not only by us, but also by executives, broader product team, sales and customer success teams. Over time, the Growth Section wants to become an "insight hub" to constantly share learnings that can empower other GitLab teams.

Area Dashboard/Report Description
Overall Product Usage SMAU dashboard Stage Monthly Active User trend for both .com and self managed
Overall Product Usage Stage Retention and Adoption Dashboard How popular are the stages among GitLab customers, and how well are they retaining customers
Activation New Customer Acquisition Dashboard Trend of acquistion of new customers
Conversion New Customer Conversion Dashboard How are new users converting to customers and what are the drivers
Adoption Renewal Dashboard Trend on renewal and cancellation of susbscriptions
Adoption Retention Dashboard Retention metrics and trend
Expansion Churn/Expansion by Segments Dashboard Churn/Expansion reason and sales segment
Expansion SPAN Deep Dive Report How to understand SPAN (Stage Per Average Namespace) and ideas to improve SPAN

Growth Section Areas of Focus

1. Apps & Services we focus on:

2. Growth Group Directions

3. What's next: Growth Group Issue Boards

Growth Definitions

It can be confusing to know what we're all talking about when we use different names for the same things. This is where we can clarify and discuss common terms to make communication easier.

Git is a trademark of Software Freedom Conservancy and our use of 'GitLab' is under license