While most of us have a fairly long term relationship with our products (as an employee that is!), there are product managers who experience short term product management. They consult in shorter time frames and need to think about what happens after the product goes live and they are not involved anymore.
Suni Stolic, product manager at Cogent, talked about the idea of having a ‘letting it go’ mindset with your product. She admits it isn’t easy!
The analogy Suni used in her talk was about being a mid-wife who ensures the parents are ready to have the baby, they are happy for you to walk away and you are pleased to hear they are doing well – but you have no further responsibility for the rearing of the child.
Via 3 case studies, Suni shared Cogent’s process for building, dealing with product attachment and managing handover including helping an organisation decide on what resources are needed to support the product – and how sometimes they continue to support the product although it’s not quite their baby anymore…
Letting Go mindset
Probably all of us have experienced the problem of the never-ending backlog. The backlog may be full of ideas for making it ‘good enough’ in order to get to launch or fixes for the products flaws.
Suni told us it takes quite a bit of discipline to remember this ‘letting go’ mindset and they help encourage their clients to adopt it, as well as keep themselves in check.
From day 1 of a project, Suni works with the client to be open & transparent (in both directions) including sharing all outputs, having only 1 document (not internal vs external) & equal ownership of the decisions & direction. Co-locating is an important factor for success especially during the development phase.
It’s critical to have a customer first mentality for any product but when you, the product manager, aren’t going to be around for long, you need to be sure what you are delivering will work for them.
Things are unpredictable and so you need to be ready to deploy or be done at any time. Especially in the startup world, Cogent have seen clients need to pause the work in order to reassess the viability of the idea, strategy, business model or other. If there’s going to be a pivot, it’s better to wait & not waste money & resources on something that will change. Funding bursts are another reason they may stop & start.
Case study 1:
Cogent worked with Monash University on the Eliminate Dengue Fever Challenge.
The team needed better tools for collecting data & their field work as they had outgrown Google Docs.
A mobile site, called Tracker, was built for use in the field & data arrived directly in the lab for analysis. What previously took 2 hours for data entry was able to be completed in 20 minutes and it was immediately available for the people at the lab. The application is still used and there’s been only very minimal support needed since the release.
Case study 2:
Taggd is a social to revenue tool for retail.
After building the tool, they had to help the organisation decide whether or not they had the people internally to manage the product development – or continue to resource with Cogent.
It can be tough to hand over a product when you have been involved from the very beginning. You have to retain the discipline to not get caught in the excitement/insanity of thinking about the product constantly!
Case study 3
Having launched only 3 weeks ago, Six Park is in support mode. They built the product which is an automated, really smart way to build a personalised share portfolio with simple 24/7 reporting.
They had lots of good conversations about the seriousness of a product which deals with people’s money – both building the product & providing customer support.
The first response was to go with a high support model but then you determine there are certain windows of time that the tool is actually being used and true 24/7 support is not required.
One person in our audience raised the idea of learning just “how detrimental every card is”.
The Cogent team have learnt the art of asking Why at every opportunity and ensuring each piece of work (i.e. each card) is tied to a goal for the customer. This is a good reminder for us all as I don’t doubt we all intend to do the same but sometimes things get away from us…
Thank you to Teamsquare for the fabulous space, Cogent for food and drink and Suni for a great talk, looking at product management from a different perspective.