Growth Is Product Led in Big Tech Tile Image
Market Research

In Big Tech, Growth is Product Led

October 13, 2022

5 minutes

You can learn a lot about an industry or company by analyzing the people  within its workforce. The challenge is this information isn’t usually readily available, even if you work within one of those companies.  

Professional data from People Data Labs gives you superpowers to understand trends and changes within any given industry or business. To showcase these superpowers and enable innovators like you, we have begun the Deconstructing webinar series where we utilize our data to examine modern business.

In Deconstructing Big Tech, we noticed a trend of  product-led growth  by investigating various Big Tech leaders using our headcount by role data.

Gaining an understanding of role or departmental change over time allows you to form an idea of how a company or industry is prioritizing various departments, executing GTM strategy, prospecting new hires, allocating resources, and much more.

Over roughly the past decade, our data indicates many successful companies shifted their focus away from high-touch departments, like Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success, towards Engineering and Operations staff.

facebook agg growth

Starting with Facebook, a relatively young member of the Big 5, we see the expected hockey-stick growth curve of a fast-growing tech unicorn, and the lion’s share of that growth was in the Engineering and Operations departments.

facebook perc growth

Looking at that same data, but as a percentage of total employees, the story becomes clearer. Facebook’s Engineering and Ops teams grew faster than the rest of the company, while its Sales and Marketing departments shrank as a percentage of the company’s total headcount.

google perc growth

Our data on Google shows the same pattern: increases in Engineering and decreases in Sales.

microsoft agg growth

When we look at Microsoft, an older, slower-growing company, we see the aggregate growth is a more stable line, up and to the right, unlike the steep curve of Facebook’s growth.

microsoft perc growth

But, even for the more mature Microsoft, that same product-led growth pattern emerges. Most of Microsoft’s growth over the last decade has come in the form of Engineering roles, while its Sales and Marketing teams have decelerated.

apple perc growth

Our data for Apple, another older, more slowly growing tech giant, seems to indicate they made a strategic change around 2011 to shift towards product-led growth. That year marked a pretty dramatic shift towards growing their Engineering team, while the percentage of the company in Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, declined.

Based on these findings, it is evident that growth is product led in Big Tech. Trends with self-serve and Software-as-a-Service products reinforce this insight. As the use of data-powered technology increases, data scientists and engineers will continue to drive growth in Big Tech. However, we may be surprised as new technologies like AI and machine learning begin to change the business landscape. That’s why it’s incredibly important to frequently investigate industries with data that is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

You can find many more insights in addition to the ones you read here in our Deconstructing Big Tech webinar. Check out the on-demand version here!

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PDL Team

Founded in 2015 by Henry Nevue and Sean Thorne, People Data Labs helps thousands of engineering, data science, product, and other technical teams to build compliant, innovative, people data based software solutions. Our sole focus is on building the best data available by integrating thousands of compliantly-sourced datasets into a single, developer-friendly source of truth.