AnyMind Group was founded in April 2016 and has already expanded its business into 13 markets and 17 offices around the world. When the company was first founded, the main focus was within the marketing tech field, but that has expanded into influencer marketing tech, creator and influencer management, along with our direct-to-consumer (D2C) enablement platforms.
Today, we are developing an end-to-end offering that helps individuals and businesses handle everything from brand product planning and manufacturing to the creation of e-commerce infrastructure and enablement, marketing and logistics.
As a company, we’re looking to make every business borderless by developing software that forms the core infrastructure of businesses in the future. It is an ambitious objective to be part of the core infrastructure of businesses, but it is something that we are all proud of achieving.
As one of the core pillars that supports the accelerated growth of AnyMind Group, the Product Development department is responsible for the technology development and management of all products in the company.
As a new initiative, we are pleased to announce the launch of AnyMind Group’s Tech Blog, providing you with a deeper understanding of the technical aspects that form the core of AnyMind Group.
In the first-ever article, we interview Ryuji Takemoto who is the Managing Director of the Product Development department, and he shares with us about AnyMind’s Product Development team, products, development system and more.
- First of all, please tell us about the Product Development members and organizational structure.
AnyMind’s Product Development team currently has more than 70 members, including product managers, engineers, data scientists, and UI/UX designers.
What is unique about this team is that our members are very global. Thinking about it now, we have members from all over the world such as Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Pakistan, Italy, Netherlands, Mainland China, Spain, India, etc.
Also, although they currently work independently, we have more than 20 members who joined us when AnyMind Group acquired POKKT in 2020.
- Maybe it’s the most global department in AnyMind Group LOL.
Yes, but being a specific nationality doesn't matter to us. In fact, we embrace such diversity. Our communication and documents are mostly in English, and the only people whose first language is English are probably the Singaporean team members.
- Please tell us about the products that AnyMind is developing?
The following six products are being developed and operated by us.
Cloud manufacturing platform, AnyFactory Influencer marketing platform, AnyTag Creator Growth Platform, AnyCreator Digital marketing platform, AnyDigital Media / EC growth platform, AnyManager Human resources management platform, TalentMind
And if you add the logistics management platform "AnyLogi", which is scheduled to be released soon for general availability, and POKKT’s platform, there will be eight.
- Wow there are a lot of platforms the team is working on! So what kind of system do you use for product development?
Yeah, sure there is a lot. I’m proud to say that no company is developing such a large amount and variety of products at this same speed.
The basic team structure includes the product manager (PM) is the core, and engineers are connected to a tech lead to form a team. This teams exist for each product.
PM usually discusses with users, sales team, clients and determines the overall direction of the product. As a leader of the Engineer team, the tech lead allocates technical staff and determines the development structure for each function. Engineers include roles such as the frontend, backend, QA, etc., and when they are working on a team project, they are tied to the tech lead to form the team.
For example, in the case of developing a new product, there is one PM and one tech lead, and two or three engineers - making up a team of around four to five people.
In addition to this, there is a team of designers who work on UI/UX design and design across each product.
The number of team members is not clearly defined, and it changes depending on the function of the product and the tasks that arise.
For example, with AnyTag (our influencer marketing platform for marketers and agencies) and AnyManager (our media and e-commerce growth platform for media companies and app developers), we have organized a team for each function, and there is a system of more than 10 people in each team.
- Thank you so much. Next, I would like to ask you about the project process. What is the pace of development?
Basically, each team ships at least one “something” every week. The reason is that this company has a really fast business speed, and the industries we’re in move very fast. In order to provide value to our customers and in line with this fast growth, we need to implement functions for each product at this pace.
Talking deeper into how we move, we use three types of meetings to implement the PDCA cycle.
First one is the Decision Meeting. A team meeting is held once a week to inform the whole team of the functions to be implemented in the next week and start the project. At this point, if there are any opinions or questions from the engineering team, we will ask them to share their opinions and questions and then make a decision. Basically, task management is ticket-based and the tool we use is Jira.
For that purpose, PM planning becomes very important. In order to realize the weekly launch of functions, the PM must always have an idea of what the implementation will look like in 2-3 weeks, including buffers for engineer man-hours and designer man-hours, so it’s a big responsibility. On the other hand, the decisions made by the PM are greatly reflected in the product, which ultimately makes the difference between good or bad, so this is an important and challenging position, especially here at AnyMind.
The second is "Morning assembly". At the start of each work day, we have a 10-minute standup meeting to track our progress in detail.
The third will be "Review meeting" We hold a weekly review meeting together with the decision-making meeting to share the results and status of development. If there are no forecasted problems for implementation, we will launch it. If it’s a no-go, we’ll fix it by the next week to prepare for launch. We use the PDCA cycle to manage our progress.
- Your team ships so much in a week! I'm surprised at the speed.
Yes, the speed of these development sprints is one of the unique things about AnyMind. Usually, other companies take two weeks or a month for a single sprint.
Actually, we've tried these time spans in the past, but the result was that there was still a gap. In order to keep up with the speed of business, we decided that a week is the most appropriate.
- One-week sprints are faster than the normal pace. Was there any backlash from the members?
As I mentioned earlier, PMs must have a clear plan ahead, and above all, the shorter the sprint is, the greater the burden on the engineers.
It's not an easy thing to do, but I think it's a big thing that has permeated into the culture of the company. It is really good that everyone was able to have a mindset that of "This is what we need to do."
However, since the speed on the business side is really fast, it is the result of us wanting to ship functions that can match what our users need, and in the end everyone on the team was convinced.
On the other hand, there is also the advantage of sprinting in a week. I work with the PMs to determine specifications, investigate whether data can be obtained by API, and assign designer resources.
I feel that speed, the agility of changing priorities and flexibility to respond to changes gives us a big advantage.
- You're right that speed and the ability to change are essential elements of AnyMind. Are there any other points you pay attention to?
Yes, development is not just about speeding up, so we have a system in place to avoid piecing things together by developing features from a near-term perspective.
Basically, PM's decision-making is strongly reflected in the development process, so we set up a period of “refactoring” a few times a year, where engineers can take the lead, but we do it intensively to ensure that the product is complete when viewed on a macro-level.
- Thank you, we’re about to wrap things up - can you share with us about your current challenges?
Thankfully, the Product Development team has gained a lot of experience as individuals and as a team, so when we decide to create a new solution or service, we have a model/structure that can be scaled horizontally.
In other words, when we start a new project, success patterns and expertise are accumulated and used to launch the product and provide incremental value.
The only thing that remains is human resources.
As long as we have the right people, I am confident that we can scale our products and software.
- What kind of people are you looking for?
Of course, you need to have basic PM and engineering skills, but apart from that, I think that business understanding is a much more important factor at AnyMind than in other companies.
In this company, sales and product development work side-by-side, so you need to have the ownership of a business manager to drive development and projects forward.
Therefore, we have a system in which PMs have strong authority in terms of recruitment. As long as there is a solid logic that hiring is necessary to move a project forward, we can move ahead with the hiring plan on our own.
This is why we are able to launch products quickly, and I believe that this sense of speed allows us to become the foundation that supports AnyMind’s business growth.
I think it's definitely an exciting environment, and the best part of working at AnyMind is that we can contribute to the business as much as we can.