Presentations & Decision Making with Maths – July Product Anonymous

We have 2 sessions in July – our normal event which will focus on using MBA tools (specifically maths) to help make product decisions and a special event about presentations – targeting folks who are interested in presenting at Product Camp.

How to use MBA tools to make product decisions

Thursday July 21st
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Jen Marshall is someone who didn’t particularly enjoy maths at school, because most of what she was being taught was so theoretical and seemed to have little application. She learned later in life, while doing an MBA, that there are plenty of great ways to use maths in decision making. She now enjoys crunching the numbers.

Jen will share her experiences using financial tools to make product decisions. The session will include examples and step-by-step instructions. Everyone who attends will receive an email with useful links and reference materials.

Jen is CEO at Brainmates, the Australian Product Management training and consulting firm that hosts Leading the Product.

Thanks to Sportsbet for hosting us at their Stadium of Learning!

Nurturing product camp speakers – tips for better presentations

Wednesday July 20th
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While we’ll be focusing on tips for putting together a presentation for next month’s Product Camp, the tips will work for any presentation that you’ve been asked to ‘throw together’ quickly.

Adrienne Tan, principal consultant at Brainmates, will teach you some of the techniques she uses to create effective presentations. Adrienne doesn’t profess to be a presentation ‘know it all’ but can step you through a process for extracting and articulating your story into a presentation.

This speaker workshop on the 20th of July will share more info about what Product Camp is all about, give you insight and tips about our audience and provide some prep tips and tools for presenting and facilitating.

Thanks To Level 3 and Stax for sponsoring and hosting us:

Level3 Level 3 is all about bringing the creativity back to technology, by generating conversation within the tech community and facilitating introductions between start-ups and enterprises. At Level 3, ideas come to life.


StaxStax shines a light on everything enterprises need to know to be confident in cloud by taking out the guesswork and providing visibility, automated risk assessments, compliance and maturity, and recommendations for achieving best practice.

Letting go of your product – May Wrap Up

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.

teamsquare

What does a product manager “manager” look like? – June event

This month we are having a cozy fireside chat with product leaders to discuss managing product managers.

They hire, they fire and they look after the product portfolio as well as the product managers. We will talk about what it takes to manage product managers, guide them to greatness and inspire them in their roles.

However, product managers are people managers too – so we will talk a little bit about what skills you need to enhance and work on to do this well. Most importantly you get to ask the questions!

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Our speakers, mentors and advisers are:

Fiona Moreton – Head of Product Strategy at PageUp People.

Fiona has worked on many sides of the product before joining the product management league and then heading up the team. Considering PageUp People’s products are focused on the HR customer (recruitment, seccession, etc), she has talked with heaps of corporate recruiters over the years. She has also managed other teams – including sales – so she’ll much insight into the people side of this ‘manager’ part of the product title.

Layla Foord is a builder of businesses, saver of lost dogs and sometime singer. She has learned her craft over the last 23 years here in Australia and in the UK. She specialises in finding connections and building amazing teams who make awesome things. Managing Director of Touchtech Labs she is building a new business delivering web and mobile product solutions for entrepreneurs and enterprises.

As GM at Envato, Layla recently launched Envato Studio a $6m+ global freelance platform. She has developed strategies and digital products for Yellow Pages and launched Whereis Navigator one of the first Mobile GPS apps. In London she held the role of Product Development Director at Nielsen with responsibilities across Europe and led an EU funded project to discover new technologies which involved educational institutions in four countries pushing the boundaries of auto-detection image technology.

Layla is also on the board of 100 Story Building (http://www.100storybuilding.org.au/), an amazing social enterprise in Melbourne’s inner west helping to improve the literacy of young people in the area.

Since 1997, PageUp has helped employers worldwide attract, hire, develop, retain, and improve employee performance. Our Unified Talent Management platform, along with our talent management consulting services, help you optimize your multinational workforce strategy across the whole business, maximize business impact with a balance between global efficiency and local responsiveness, and continuously improve the return on your human capital investment.

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PageUp_LOGO_CMYK

Roadmaps: Your Friend or Enemy? Session Wrap-up

We talked all things roadmaps at the April session of Product Anonymous – we had an intro from our three panellists and then we broke into an activity where all our PM’s in the room gathered to build a roadmap for Deliveroo. We only gave them 20 minutes… it was never long enough but we got some great insights from the groups on the pluses of the good ole’ roadmap and the pitfalls to avoid when organising your roadmap.

Our panellists were Adam Fry from Sportsbet, Chris Duncan from Carsales and Matt Kirkey from Learning Seat.

Adam kicked off the session taking us through the positives of a good roadmap – as a communication tool it links the strategic thinking with tactical execution. He suggests it is better to work with the verb “roadmapping” than the “roadmap” as focussing on the artefact loses sight of the purpose. Plus the fact that the artectct is out of date as soon as it hits the printer.

To the plusses:

  • Communication: roadmap artefact is an easily digestible summary of all of the thinking and hard work that goes into planning the future of your product. Your vision on a page
  • Alignment: puts everyone on the same page about what we are trying to achieve, how we will go about it and roughly in what order. Helps give focus to teams involved in the success of the product (delivery, sales, marketing, etc)
  • Buy-in: vehicle for taking stakeholders on the product journey, giving them context and allowing input to the product direction. Connects the day to day with the bigger picture
  • Sales tool: in some cases (e.g. B2B) can give customer confidence that there is commitment and a future vision for the thing they are buying into today

Things to watch out for, Adam warns, are the expectations set by a roadmap, the potential curve balls that occur that should change the plan (CEO, competitor, etc.) and ensuring teams remain aligned is where it can all go horribly wrong.

Expectations

  • Out of date the minute that powerpoint slide hits the printer. It is particularly out of date on longer time horizons. When stakeholders confuse your intent with a commitment you are headed for disappointment. This is why the roadmapping process is so important, and should be continuous. Aim for minimal surprises!
  • A one size fits all approach is limiting. Like any form of communication you need to tailor the message to your audience. If it’s your delivery teams you might be more specific about details and dates, if it’s marketing maybe more on the story and problems you’re solving, if it’s investors or execs maybe more on the vision and outcomes, and for a customer more focused on their specific needs
  • Everyone ‘thinks’ they understand it. The artefact is inherently high level and without proper context everyone will take away their own interpretation of what a line item is and why we’re doing it. Be as descriptive as possible but always offer the accompanying context for your roadmap

Curveballs

  • Surprises will happen… competitor movements, dependencies failing, regulatory changes, technology advancements, pet projects
  • Try to leave yourself some room to accommodate these, but more importantly keep track of what competitors are doing, watch tech announcements, stay in close contact with your stakeholders and feed facts into the roadmapping process to minimise impacts

Alignment

  • Everything on roadmap should have a reason for being there that aligns to the strategy. It’s basically a view of how you are investing the company’s resources over time so you want to keep it focused, relevant and valuable
  • Need to be aligned to the realities & constraints of your organisation or your roadmap is a work of fantasy… can the delivery team actually build this, does the technology strategy take things in a completely different direction, can marketing and sales drive the idea in market and does launch timing fit with the bigger story, are budgets and people available when you need them
  • Believing you own the roadmap. You are probably 100% accountable for it, and will be the go-to person when somebody’s heart is broken because their idea never makes it on, but the roadmap should represent a collective approach by the wider business. The product can’t win in isolation of marketing, sales, delivery, support etc.

Chris took us through some tools suggestions and the collaborative approach he takes to building a roadmap. He told his story having learnt from the painful experience of NOT doing this when he first became a product manager and shared his wise words. His preferences were for the roadmap to tell a story – so ensures that his version include where you are coming from not just where we are going. He has tried a bunch of tools too, but has made the mistake of letting the tools limit the options or that it just takes too long to update so the document beings to mould as it hasn’t been updated recently enough or the format doesn’t work for your audience.

How to get ready to collaborate on your roadmap: 

  • Establish your targets before hand, as this can be a time consuming process. This should be worked on with the stakeholders of your business (but remember… you’re defining targets, not how to get there).
  • Get your team all together in one room, and explain what your targets are and why you’re striving to achieve them. The team may also have some targets they’d like to achieve, so keep this in mind.
  • Together, start brainstorming ways to achieve these targets. It’s a good idea to have some ideas pre-prepared to get the ball rolling if the group gets stuck.
  • Properly consider the ideas that are raised by the team. If you’re only there because you feel like you have to be, and you have no intention of using their ideas, you might as well not be there.
  • Once you’ve collected the ideas, it’s time for you to go away and do your research. Try to find a way to measure the value these ideas will contribute to your goals. From here, you can begin to construct your roadmap.
  • After preparing your roadmap, show your team first. They’re the ones that are going to make your plan a reality.

Lastly, we asked Matt to give us a the devil’s advocate point of view. Is this roadmap really all worth it? Matt suggested roadmaps are a terrible idea and has so many disclaimers on his he wonders if there is any point in having one at all. The other side to this is that the roadmap can become a crutch for a lack of communication in the organsiation – “it was on the roadmap” is a common way to look like you are doing your job because it ended up on an artefact, a slide etc. but is not the case if you haven’t shared it with people and ensured the plan has been heard and understood! [editor note: Matt did me a big favour and played the devil’s advocate for the panel session, during Q&A he ‘fessed up to loving the roadmap and finding it an essential tool in his organisation].

Matt echoes Chris’ points around collaboration: the exercise of getting everyone together to develop a roadmap is a fantastic activity to perform in a company. Another benefit of the exercise is that it will highlight pain points in your organisation from an operational perspective. Typically communication issues, silo-effects, hierarchical problems and lack of alignment both vertically and horizontally. Ensuring these are addressed will significantly increase the effectiveness and engagement in your organisation.

From here we asked our 60+ product managers to get out of their chairs and have a go at roadmapping together. We asked them to think of the things they hated the most about the map, and the things they loved. Then we gave them some goals and customer feedback about a “fictitious’ food delivery service to see where the discussions would get to as a group on how to approach the process. One team did find they started with timelines… but eventually the wisdom of the group convinced the advocate for dates to switch to more general terms like now, next, later….. 

Halfway through the activity we threw a curveball at the teams, where the “CEO” pivoted and changed the focus from food to dessert delivery. Many teams were frustrated they had to go back to the drawing board (never felt that before 🙂 ) while some were able to incorporate option into their existing roadmaps with a few tweaks.

Some examples of the roadmaps made during the activity and some of the items listed in the likes and dislikes buckets:

Some of the insights from the groups:

  • make sure you convert vanity metrics to something meaningful
  • avoid any timelines on your roadmap – most commonly used groupings were now, next, later.
  • The roadmap is a useful artefact to help avoid the (random CEO) change in direction. It is evidence of what was previously agreed so should we not stick to it?
  • roadmap favourites included: alignment, customer pain points are covered, facilitates conversation
  • roadmap dislikes were: lack of context, it gets stale, change is bad!, others assume it equates to delivery

A great night thanks to Zendesk and their beautiful space. We were well taken care of by our hosts. See you next month for our May event – RSVP now.

If you missed the session – we have video content hosted on Dropbox – it is 45 minutes long.

When your product is newly wild in the world – May event

What happens when your darling little product baby is ready for launch and support. Be it MVP or mature product, you’re letting it loose on the world and need to know how to handle what happens next.

Our speakers will discuss what happens in that launch and support timeframe plus we’ll have Q&A:

  • When is your product ready-or when are we ready to let go (ie transition from active delivery to support)
  • Handing over to a support team vs doing it ourselves
  • Looking after your customer. Or working out when / if they should just build their own team, and how.
  • Sticking to the plan (fixes, customer feedback, curveballs)
  • Sticking to the hours (work/life)
  • What if the product comes back for more? What if it doesn’t?
  • Where we failed. What we learnt.
  • Current challenges
  • Case studies: product support (4 very different models: what went well and what didn’t).

FYI, we’re not covering launch details, marketing, or metrics.

Our speakers:

Suni Stolic has over 10 years experience in delivering multiple products in web and mobile, in both Melbourne and London. While her role names changed at a speed of light, she found that the work itself changed much less. Always caring deeply about the products she worked on, passionate about understanding her users, she enjoys planning in an iterative, goal focused manner. She is great at building rapport with business teams and delivery teams, and believes in collaboration, transparency and open communication.

Suni is a product manager at Cogent and will talk through a couple of recent client experiences, from tailor made support arrangements, to the ups and downs of how things actually unfold.

Our sponsors:

The Cogent team deliver remarkable software to meet business goals, budget and timeframes of their clients. They sometimes build products for large organisations (particularly in Health and Education), other times they work with start-ups, or consult and add capabilities to existing teams. Often these client engagements are long term relationships, but sometimes they come in bursts. Most of the time they provide support to these products after delivery has finished up.

teamsquare Thanks to Teamsquare for hosting!

Teamsquare provides beautiful and collaborative workspace for Melbourne’s leading creators – freelancers, startups, designers, builders and doers. They provide amazing amenities, rock solid technology infrastructure, a strong community, regular events and a raft of services to help their members get on with what they do best. Their more than just a workplace – their a community of like minded creators.

We have a combination of open-plan workstations and private offices. Flexible month-by-month subscriptions with no lock in. Free for anybody to try for a day via http://try.teamsquare.co/

Mapping Experiences – Session wrap-up

Thanks to Aconex, UX Melbourne and the UX Design Group of Melbourne for inviting Jim Kalbach out to Oz and pairing with us to host this event.

Jim is the author of 2 books: Designing Web Navigation and his latest Mapping Experiences. Our focus for the evening was mapping experiences.

Currently, Jim works at MURAL which helps teams design together when they are working remotely. He started out as a librarian, moved into the information architecture direction – which finally landed him in the UX space. He spent some time at Citrix leading with the design experience across the SaaS communications cloud.

 

“Start with the customer experience and work back to the technology, not the other way around” Steve Jobs, 1996

Getting the Apple reference out of the way early :-), Jim talked about the need for the customer to come first with everything you do which will in turn create value for the business. Steve Jobs wasn’t the first to talk about this concept though as Jim shared a reference from Theodore Levitt.

that businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.” Theodore Levitt, 1960

In 1960, Theodore coined the term ‘Marketing Myopia’ and talked about the value comes from the customer.

With the scene set for customer focus, Jim took us through his four principles.

  1. Survival requires a reversal in business thinking: start with the experience and creates value from there.
  2. The aspiration of design should be more than “delight”. We help re-align the business perspective by visualising (actual) value.
  3. Mapping experiences leverages our design skills to become facilitators and grass roots leaders in the organisation
  4. Shift your measure of progress from generating and testing ideas to validated learning about your riskiest assumptions.

Survival requires a reversal in business thinking: start with the experience and create value from there.

Maps help with visualising value.

A beautiful example Jim used showed the process of buying a house, mapped out by Sofia Hossain. Sofia uses a circular style for her visualisations which really stands out. This style also shows the contribution of external vs internal activities

Most of the experiences a customer has will repeat themselves. There may be a long time between buying your first house til the next time but the cycle starts again in the same way each time.

An example of her work on planning events is here. .

The individual and the organisation overlap by a certain amount and that overlap is where the “exchange of value” occurs. This set of interactions or touch points is where it can all go marvelously wrong or beautifully right. If you don’t understand what these are you can only keep throwing solutions at symptoms instead of fixing the problem permanently.

This is where Alignment Diagrams become are great. They’re useful and important to help you understand these points of interaction plus help you communicate the situation to others in your organisation. Use them to help build brilliant products & to communicate what needs to be involved to resolve problems faced by the customer.

A couple of examples of different ways to do customer experience maps included mental models (Indi Young) and spatial maps (Paul Kahn), but anything that makes it visual and drives conversation falls into the group of alignment diagrams. 

The aspiration of design should be more than “delight”: We help re-align the business perspective by visualising (actual) value.

The designer needs to be a facilitator for a broader conversation in the organisation.

You are driving all the steps: 

  • Initiate
  • Investigate
  • Illustrate
  • Align
  • Envision

 An experience map by being visual and drawn together in a collaborative way becomes a “campfire that draws people in” to talk and huddle over. This metaphor is particularly powerful to remember the purpose of these efforts and a reminder that if a team is working on a map but it is hidden away in a room where no one can see it, then it isn’t doing its job.

One has to follow through with the information gathered and run experiments to prove a solution will work. It is pretty easy these days to prototype, test and thus learn. Be careful with your definition of MVP…..

Again a process to encourage Empathy, expand out to Envision, converge again as you Evaluate and then Plan experiments to learn.

Mapping experiences leverages our design skills to become facilitators and grass roots leaders in the organisation.

An organisation already has more than enough ideas. Ideas are overrated and assuming the best idea will just rise to the top is not owning the outcomes. To find the kernals within ideas that are worthy of being implemented, you need an active process. Use a hypothesis format to ensure concepts are properly tested & evaluated. The structure below starts with ‘we believe’ as it sets the stage to help remind youself that you don’t know.

We believe providing [individual, customer, user] with this [feature, solution, service] will result in this [desired outcome].We will know this when we see [measurable result].

Shift your measure of progress from generating and testing ideas to validated learning about your riskiest assumptions.

Jim’s last point is a good reminder! Often we focus on “proving out” ideas and concepts and possibly we are just adding to our confirmation bias – whereas what we really want to know is what we don’t know!

Thanks again to Aconex for putting on a fabulous event and coordinating this fantastic opportunity!

Jim’s slides:

 

RSVP for our next event on April 14th – Roadmaps: Friend or Enemy?

API Product Management with Elena Kelareva – Wrap-up March 2016

Our event this month had the wonderful Elena Kelareva, Product Manager at Google, talk with us about API product management and product management at Google. Elena is currently the product manager for the web maps APIs – and there is a lot to that group of API’s!

Having an API can aid your company in a number of ways. It can:

  • Allow you to build usage
  • Be a revenue model (which the maps API is)
  • Allow for the extension of ideas beyond what you may first imagine with the core product

People can use API services to serve a niche market that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. For example, birdwatchers can use the Maps API to build out sites that Google wouldn’t directly build.

API Product Management

Elena had three main points when thinking about managing your API. She provided some call-outs to consider before embarking on building an API and ensuring your intention is known before you get started.

When thinking about managing an API vs a 1st party product, Elena’s 3 main points are:

  1. You have an extra stakeholder to work with! Instead of just company and end users, you now have developers as a key party to consider.
  2. API’s are harder to change
  3. Management of the applications of the API

Developers as a stakeholder

Developers are critical to the success of your API. They can extend your product in ways you will never think of and will add features to their product that only your API makes possible.

Ensure you API strategy is aligned with the needs of the developers – be clear about the core user base and their business strategy including your SOAs.

APIs are really hard to change

Changing an API is like trying to redirect the Titanic! Elena shared some war stories to illustrate why.

Because entire businesses have built their sites on the Google map API, changes become hard as the API is so integral to these sites. When the Maps API was ready to update to v3, they gave sites 3 years to transition to the new API. As the deadline approached, they realised many users had not done the work so they extended the deadline by 6 months. Still, people didn’t switch so they started reaching out to individual sites to see how essential the API was – could they just turn off v2? Turns out people could actually die if v2 didn’t function which lead to Google building a ‘shim’ to do the translation from v2 to v3.

Elena also talked about when Google decided to charge for the use of the API. This happened in the early days, before Elena was PM, but the ramifications of such a switch in strategy is something she is very much aware of. Even though the charging model only impacted the top 1% of users (big sites/organisations who had large usage, as the model was based on usage). Certainly the perception was a painful lesson for any product manager to be more considerate of what your long term goal might be for a revenue model and tread carefully when starting out “free”.

Getting ready for my first @product_anon #product_anon with #elenaKelareva from #google

A photo posted by Rita Arrigo (@ritaarrigo) on

Pros and cons of the possible applications of your API

Day in & day out, Elena is inspired by the different ways the APIs are used. This is a fabulous aspect of being an API product manager & thinks that inspiration is one of the best perks of looking after APIs. There are so many developers out there looking to try great new things in creative ways and using these tools to save time.

Some of her favourite examples are disaster related initiatives such as those created during Black Saturday and flood maps that highlight the impact of global warming. These helped show people where the emergency was happening and helped people let families know they were in safe places. Another local example was infoxchange which is helping homeless people find services.

The downside to creativity and innovation is those who use the tools for not such great applications. Keeping an on the inadvertent as well as the deliberate misuse requires constant monitoring. The careful drafting of terms is an important part of the role to ensure you have something to fall back on to block those users or manage their actions to prevent harm to the rest of the community of users + your company.

Thanks to Elena for sharing some very practical tips to a highly technical product service!

What’s it like to work at Google as a PM?

The moment we had all been waiting for – what’s it really like to work at Google?

Outside of the more obvious perks that are talked about, the hiring process includes hiring for niceness. Building a great culture is often talked about across the blogosphere but such a simple rule is so much easier to follow.

Elena talked about how great it was, having interacted with so many people, that she had yet to run into anyone not nice to work with. The company also supports this continued application by encouraging or allowing staff to award a colleague with a bonus of $500 when they do something above and beyond for another colleague. That helps create a culture where people are very willing to help each other out. The behavior is also encouraged through performance evaluation, which is less aligned to product success metrics and instead tied to 360 feedback and collaboration with colleagues.   

The other insight was about how much room a product manager at Google has to shape their role and product rather than receiving much top down directive. Elena was mildly surprised when she started at Google (her first PM role) that she was given 3 page document to start work. The document was mostly a list of names of who she should talk to instead of a list of ‘things to do’.

In some ways, this is so obvious that I am surprised more of us don’t just state that as the approach. A key part of being a PM is to listen and understand how things tie together and who does what. Only once you have understood that space can you possibly form and contribute opinions in to what to do next. That fact that Google openly acknowledges this, sends their PM’s off to do that and gives them time to get to that stage without dictating is fabulous. However, as a PM on her first day on the job, Elena did find it a little intimidating!

Thanks again to Envato for hosting us this St Pat’s day and please join us for our next events. We have two for April – a special event with Jim Kalbach on Mapping Experiences and our main event for the month is all about the wonderful topic of Roadmaps: friend or enemy!?!

 

April session: Roadmaps – friend or enemy?

Are roadmaps your frenemy? There’s so much to love – and hate – about them! Let us count the ways… multiple versions for different audiences, excel/ppt, constant changes, reminding people where we are headed (& no, not that special feature for that 1 client…).

Our panelists will discuss:

  • Adam Fry – Why roadmaps are good! And why it’s bad for the product manager when the roadmap goes bad! (i.e. problems with top down directions of roadmap building)
  • Chris Duncan – How to collaboratively build your roadmap and some tools for making your roadmaps look great
  • Matt Kirkey – Why roadmaps are a terrible crux in a product managers life! You should tear them up and throw them away! (in his favourite devil’s advocate role!)

And then it’s over to attendees! We’ll divide you into groups where you’ll be creating your own roadmap.

RSVP now! for Thursday April 14th 6pm for a 6:30pm start

Our Panelists:

Adam Fry – Lead Product Manager – Sportsbet

Adam is a seasoned product management professional, having delivered and managed a variety of products and services, spanning a range of market verticals and industry sectors. He is currently Lead Product Manager at Sportsbet where he has successfully launched a number of high profile products into a highly competitive marketplace.
Prior to Sportsbet Adam led portfolios at organisations including Telstra, iiNet and VicTrack, building compelling customer value propositions, developing clear product roadmaps, implementing structured go-to-market frameworks, and managing the end to end product lifecycle.

Chris Duncan – Product Manager – carsales.com Ltd.

Chris Duncan is a passionate and pragmatic product manger, having a professional background spanning both technical and analytical roles. Over the last six years working with carsales, Chris has lead a raft of successful, high-profile products and services for which he prides himself on delivering true customer value.   Having managed initiatives right across the development lifecycle, Chris’ strength and passion is for developing solid, well communicated product strategies and roadmaps. Never shying away from a good debate, Chris is always keen to discuss all things product management.

Matthew Kirkey – Product Manager – Technology Platforms for Learning Seat

I manage 10 products across 4 streams that roughly 550 clients and 600,000 active users use. The products are in the online learning and compliance space.

I’m Canadian and my education was Computer Science, however I’m more comfortable sitting on the business/strategic side where I leverage my tech background.  I’ve worked for a large Telco in Vancouver, a start up in Georgia, Starbucks as a barista in Uni and run a consulting company for small businesses in a couple cities across Ontario.  I’ve covered business intelligence, IT project management, business analysis, process engineering and somehow managed to setup a renegade data warehouse in a telephone exchange building somewhere in outer Calgary.

For fun, I run a curated weekly event newsletter, a semi-regular pub crawl and am writing a book about craft beer (ideas and suggestions welcome).

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Mapping Experiences with Jim Kalbach – Special Event!

Jim Kalbach, author of Mapping Experiences is in town for a couple workshops on experience mapping and UX strategy.
Mapping Experiences

With the help of Aconex and UX Design Group of Melbourne, we are lucky enough to have Jim for a special Product Anon on Thursday April 7th. Jim will be talking about mapping experiences and how to create value using customer journeys, blueprints & diagrams.

RSVP now!

To attend Jim Kalbach’s workshops:

• The Mapping experiences workshop is on the 9th of April.  Details & Tickets.

• On the 11th of April, Jim will focus on UX strategy. Grab your tickets now.

February wrap: using Google design sprints for innovation

Seek’s Rob Scherer (Lead UX, Hirer products) and Rob Alford (Product manager, New products) came to talk to us about their use of Google Venture design sprints.

They were looking to come up with a completely new product idea and wanted to challenge themselves & the organisation. The guys did a great job of explaining the process without telling us what the market or product is – they are currently building the product & we can look forward to a very exciting launch I am sure.

Before jumping into the design sprint, they worked with the person who would facilitate the session and tweaked the Google process to suit them. One of the main reasons for trying this approach was to ensure coverage from multiple functions of the business with an approach that forces (encourages!) collaboration and allows everyone to contribute. People from various departments are locked in a room for a week and aren’t allowed to leave…. (well, maybe not that strict! 🙂 )

As Google describes it: “We shortcut the usual endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, teams get great data from a prototype. The sprint gives these companies a superpower. The ability to build and test nearly any idea in just 40 hours.

 

So what did Seek do differently to the Google approach:

Seek wanted to use the sprint methodology but were keen to make a few modifications to incorporate their own experiences to the process.

The Team

Google recommends 4-8 people for design sprint. Seek set up a bigger team of 12 people which allowed them to have a broad representation of the areas (development, marketing, strategy, BA, etc) needed to explore this space. While a senior person was in the room on the first day to help set the stage… that’s the only day! Having no senior team members helped do away with group think as no one was waiting for the senior person in the room to comment. They broke the 12 down into smaller groups of 3 for the sketching.

Time & Steps

The Google approach, takes a team of 4-8 people and spend one day for each of these steps:

Unpack -> Sketch -> Decide -> Prototype -> Test.

They also decided to add a few more steps to bring it to 7 days:

Unpack -> Build Empathy -> Sketch + test -> Sketch + test -> Decide -> Prototype -> Test.

Seek added ‘Build Empathy’ as a request from the UX team. The product guys weren’t so sure it would be useful, they were a little skeptical before doing it, but after trying it they were converted. With such a large group consisting of some people who were new to this type of work, having a day spent on empathy helped to ensure everyone’s mindset was in the right place for thinking about the customer. Seek also added more time to the Sketching section. They wanted to be able to sketch in the morning and then test those ideas in front of customers that afternoon. By doing this 2 days in a row, they had a lot of items validated before getting into the Decision day and presenting to the execs. They feel having the extra time to sketch/test worked really well for them.

Pre-planning & getting outside help

Before the design sprint even started they did a few things to help organise:

  • Booked a dedicated space where they could keep the entire week’s sketches on the wall. They ended up having so much they took over the wall outside the meeting room. Seeing all the work they created over the week was very motivating to the team.
  • Booked the people they’d be showing their sketches too (assisted by their usual research folks)
  • Booked the meeting where they’d present to stakeholders
  • Organised an external facilitator
  • Organised homework for the team (see below for details)

 

What is involved in doing the design sprint?

There is a tonne to do to get ready for the sprint and if you look over the resources you will see that these are just a couple of tips to be aware of where to put emphasis and not skip!

  1. Homework – Before the design sprint started, each member of team had to do their homework. Each person was given a competitor to research and everyone was asked to think about something that inspired them. At the start of the sprint they needed to talk for 2 minutes on each piece of their homework. NO POWERPOINT! The competitor research was kept intentionally light.. what they liked, disliked, etc. Just insight, observation and sharing with everyone else. This was a great technique for divide and conquer. The inspiration step was also a great tool for encouraging people to remain open-minded and positive about what they could do, instead of possibly limiting themselves to iterating only on what was out there already.
  2. Learn to draw exercise – this was an amazing insight from the evening. Everyone was “taught” how to draw including the UX’ers. What this actually meant was that everyone was shown how to draw in a consistent manner so that ideas could be judged equally, not on the skill of the sketcher. Vedran has written up the details on Medium but bascially: use a thin liner pen to draw the outline then a sharpie to accentuate any aspects, a yellow highlighter to draw attention and one grey pen to indicate background/what to ignore. From here, when ideas from different people were combined, the customer could not tell the difference between the sketches and much time was saved by not having to redraw.
  3. Everyone facilitates – to ensure inclusion everyone had a go at facilitating as unseasoned researchers will tend to present more than facilitate but for best results, this should be seen as facilitating user research rather than presenting designs to users.
  4. Everyone takes notes – the intensity of the time-boxing might assume everyone pays attention but everyone was asked to take notes to avoid drifting off, but to ensure people remained engaged. It also helped with adding insights as people took things down and then had to repeat back what they had heard.
  5. Guerilla testing – go to users unannounced and then try out your idea and you will get some very different responses. Rob & Rob noted the big difference in commentary you’ll receive between bringing customers into your office vs going to their environment where they feel comfortable. You’ll get more critical & real feedback when you are in their environment (plus they want to help you solve the problem & will give you ideas).

Key ingredients to success

  1. Having time constraints – This was the most important factor for them & the faciliator was great in moving them along. Enforcing the time constraints meant they stayed focused, had something to show customers and were ready to present to the execs.
  2. Right people – this means the right representation from the organisation for the area you looking to be innovative in but also avoiding any senior execs that might inadvertently provide bias too early.
  3. Keep it visual – have everything on the wall where all can see it, communicate with images, drawing instead of talking.
  4. Use an external facilitator – keeps things neutral, allows the entire team to contribute to the process instead of worrying about the process, can tell people to shut up and get working, which again might be a bit hard for one of the team.

Results (& Would they do it again?)

Yes, Seek have tried the methodology again since they got such a great result the 1st time. The team got a business case up in just a few weeks after the sprint, and the approval process was smoother due to the excitement the sprint had created. The team have been building the product since.

Rob A wasn’t convinced you could use it for every project, partly because it remains hard to convince an organisation to give up people for a week and partly because not every product needs such a methodology. On the other hand, participants of the sprint have gone on to use it in their area as they got so much out it. Aspects of the sessions have also been cherry-picked out as proving to be really helpful tools – such as the drawing component and have been applied in isolation.

It was great to get to hear from an organisation that has used the methodology with such success but also shared with honesty the tough aspects of running it. The intensity is clearly not for the faint-hearted and may well be a stronger reason for not re-using more frequently. As the team that were involved in the sprint went back to their day jobs or moved on to build the prototype into product their focus has also shifted for now. However, any company looking to break themselves out of their norms and product innovation from within should consider using this approach.

Further Resources:

  • The presentation
  • Google Design Sprint prep in detail
  • Vedran’s article on drawing the same way + his perspective on the experience
  • Thanks again to ThoughtWorks for hosting + pizza & to Moondog Brewing for providing such tasty beverages.

    RSVP for the next session in March as we talk more Google topics (API product management & being a product manager at Google)!