Directing the Product – June Wrap-up

Our June session brought together a panel who lead a team of product managers – as well as a product. It was a fantastic evening covering a wide range of topics, from cats and racehorses to ***holes.

We were joined by Susan Teschner from 99designs, Luke Bongiorno from Nintex and Rachel Morley from REA.

Once again, a huge thank you to Fiona Knight for taking these notes!

Product people always have diverse backgrounds – our panelists included. Susan has a political science degree and accidentally fell into tech via project management. Rachel was studying Law & Arts degrees before getting enticed into this new thing called an ‘intranet’. Luke started in tech but realised it wasn’t for him. Fortunately he was in a company with opportunities that lead to product management.

How do you nurture product management teams? What do they need?

Rachel, Susan & Luke all mentioned that managing product folks can be challenging since PM requires such a broad spectrum of skills & interests. Susan & Rachel talked about how a great product team is made of people from across that spectrum but that diversity is part of the challenge of managing them and helping each individual to grow in their career. Luke looks at how they can build their skills to be more holistic.

Ensuring the team of product folks are working consistently across the business was a theme both Luke & Rachel raised. That includes making sure they’re in sync with the company’s vision

What’s it really like managing product folk? Rachel finds it’s sometimes like looking after a bunch of cats that scatter when they see you. While Luke compared us to managing racehorses who are strong willed leaders with a range of skills and experience.

Tips? Show them respect. Nurture the diversity. Encouraging communication with their peers and other teams.

this evening hosted by Nintex

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

What does the business expect of the product management team? What do you ask of your team?
As with much in product management… it depends!

REA is mature in understanding what it wants from a product management team but at previous roles Rachel needed to champion the value of a product management team. These days she focuses on creating the best opportunities for work relationships, establishing those relationships between people & creating harmony.

Luke is helping his team understand their boundaries & show them how to have space to do their job.

Susan asks for a focus on the goals. Doing the impossible by being down in the detail and up at 30,000 ft keeping an eye on the end game. We have to learn to live with some fires. The incredible attention to detail and passion for delivering great products is the very thing that can also distract us.

Cue the conversation about product people fighting fires versus keeping an eye on the long game.

Going from product manager to product director – what is it like? Are you still working on the product?

Luke is relatively new to the role and learning – while still influencing all of the products. Rachel added that doing actual work on the product depends on the size of the team. If you have more than 8 people, you’re in a true leadership role & need to love helping people rather than the products. Susan thinks it can differ depending on how you define success and what it means to you. Being successful doesn’t always have to mean managing people so you should decide what is meaningful to you. Liz brought up the difference between rock stars & superstars which come from the Radical Candor framework – TED talk or check out the book and site.

How do you keep the alignment with product managers and their development teams?

Lots of consensus on making sure there is a product vision across all teams, making sure there’s clear alignment on the objectives and measures on how they will achieve the objectives.
Rachel believes clear goals are the way for teams to be autonomous and self sufficient.

Product managers have broad & different skills sets. What are the detailed or deep skills product managers need?

Susan — There are lots of different kinds of products that need different kinds of product managers. We need the good old ’T’ person. Good coverage of the basics and deep knowledge of something — UX, data, growth, whatever they’re strong in and passionate about.

Rachel – Always talks about goals. Rachel gives them time to look at their goals & sends the prioritisation list to the executive team. Being able to focus on the goal and prioritize the things that will bring you closer to the goal is important. Being busy and getting lost in the detail can be a distraction.

Luke – Something to watch for is product managers who work on what they’re good at and avoiding goals that might not play to their strengths. Bring the product folk together to talk through this – make sure the team talks about strategy and doesn’t only talk about the tactical.

What are the top three things that makes a good product manager?
Rachel – Start at hiring and look for attitude, aptitude and empathy. If someone is committed and enthusiastic, that’s a great start!

Susan – Smarts/ intellectual horsepower, humility (realise there is the likelihood of working for no individual credit but all reflecting back on the team), judgement/decision making/ instinct

Luke – Switched on/ thinking ahead/ inquisitive, passionate/ excited about releasing products, emotional resilience

Thanks again to Nintex for hosting!

See you next month at Sportsbet where we will be talking Prototyping. RSVP now.

May wrap-up: Working with User Research

WOW! What a fantastic evening! If you’re interested in user research, I hope you were there! Otherwise read on for the summary.

Big thanks to Fiona Knight, one of our volunteers, for taking great notes!

Using Experience Sampling for Rapid Insights into User Needs

George Cockerill started the evening off with a discussion about how his team approached gathering user research in a project building a smart assistant for students at Deakin University.

The team decided to use the Experience Sampling method. Other methods like interviews & diary studies have participants recall their past whereas experience sampling gave them access to detailed immediate needs.

With experience sampling, you ask short, easy to answer questions throughout the day. For this project, the same two questions were sent to participants eight times a day over a week. Occasionally the team would add an optional question. Experience sampling allowed the team to get to very recent needs & the student’s behaviour.

To collect the data, George used PACO, a free app that builds experiments quickly. It’s great for experience sampling and since it’s an app on participants’ phones they can take photos to include with their answers.

Tips for success

  • Get maximum value for the method – be clear about the research goal
  • Don’t rush, plan meticulously & plan to be flexible. Plan even when you need to go fast (it actually helps you move quickly!)
  • It’s a complex set up – test it; test your questions and mechanics
  • Get the most from people – recruit and onboard carefully. Establish how much data points you need to help determine how many participants you should have. When you screen them, ask questions along the lines of what you’ll be asking during the research. If they can’t answer in the screener, they probably won’t provide good data during the research. Your onboarding needs to have very clear instructions. George made a video to help explain the app and expectations of the participant (including what they needed to do /when they’d get paid).
  • Monitor it! Experience sampling is not a ‘set it & forget it’ method. You can be encouraging to the participants or ask them to tell you more about a specific thing. It’s awesome if you can instill a shared purpose of what’s going to happen with the data they provide.
  • Use the data to help refine the problem. Start finding themes, create categories, map answers to categories to find patterns, map data to graphs and examine categories to fine tune them. Look for trends. With participants using their phones, images will pick up detail the users might not think to say like how they solve their problems, their hacks, etc. You can combine the data with other research (both qual & quant). For this project, George combined experience sampling, resonance testing, journey maps from user interviews and ‘day in life’ models.

Currently the student smart assistant is in a pilot with a set of students. We’re looking forward to hearing how it goes!

George Cockerill on experience sampling #prodanon

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

George recommended two excellent references that he found helpful in planning and running the research:

Why is marathon running important when introducing user research to an organisation?

Electronic Arts operates 8 research labs across 4 countries but it’s still early days for the games industry to embrace user research. In the APAC region, Kostas Kazakosis the 1st UX researcher at EA and thus needed to help communicate the value & importance of UX research.

Using ‘The Reflective Practioner‘ by Donald A Schon, Kostas reflected on his journey as a marathon runner and introducing UX research to a company – both ongoing!

Kostas finds there’s 8 stages to long distance running

  • Excitement where anything is possible! The organisation has no prior exposure to formalised UX research.
  • Denial when doubt starts to creep in. Here Kostas realised he didn’t know much about the FireMonkeys’ development process.
  • Shock where everything seemed to be really difficult. Kostas had to show the value of UX research, create a research space and creating research protocols to suit the games industry. Kostas’s plan was relying on the importance of dialogue: talking to people, understand what they do, and showing UX research helps them. This is where empathy is important but how do you do this? You empathise with the data and people and match it to research question.

  • Isolation or the fear you’re not going to make it. Having talked to as many people as possible, you need to accept the feedback and adjust your approach
  • Despair usually happens about mile 19 in a marathon. When you start to question if you really can do this, if you’re ready to do this and will it be ok?
  • The wall at mile 22 is when your brain doesn’t talk to your body anymore. You need to take one step at a time to keep going & identify mistakes and address them quickly. At EA, this meant all that earlier work to establish relationships with the team enabled collaboration. He had helped educate them & gave them ownership. The teams had begun the process of seeing the importance of data & value of user research.
  • Affirmation at mile 23 is feeling like you have a break thru. This is the stage Kostas is currently at work. He’s seeing people want to get involved in the UX research and wants to be able to sustain that team participation.
  • Elation at the finish line of mile 26 is when you’ve achieved the goal and need to shift your mindset towards the future. At work, this is what Kostas is working towards.

In summary, the DECEMA frame of reference that Kostas described – Dialogue, Empathy, Collaboration, Empowerment, Mutual respect and Advocacy – can take you a long way when introducing user research to your organization!

Thanks to both George & Kostas for a great evening and to Seek for hosting us!!!

seek

April wrap-up: The Making of Milanote

In April, one of the founders – Michael Trounce – of Melbourne startup Milanote, the notes app for creative work, let us in on a few secrets of their success.

Time

First of all, it’s been 3 years in the making. The 4 founders already have their own UX consulting business, Navy Design, and always had the ambition to start their own product business so back in 2014 they dedicated a week to working through potential product ideas. Ideas like a weather app and a hydration coaster were investigated then ditched (the coaster was referred to as a gimmicky Xmas present…).

They started working on a product which would solve a need their team had. Previously they had used post-its, a wiki, and other note keeping software but they all lacked a way to make connections and share.

During 2015, they began doing research with designers & other digital creatives and found there was a gap in the market for the product they had in mind. They build a (crappy) prototype & started using it in-house. They knew they were onto something when they found it worked better than any of their previous tools – whiteboards, Evernote, Trello, etc.

It later clicked that what they’d built wasn’t just a tool that could be applied to the UX design process, it was a tool that could be applied to any creative process. This insight broadened their market significantly and gave them the confidence to then break out the product from an internal project within the consultancy, to a product business in its own right.

It wasn’t until 2016 the focus changed to execution and as a result the hours of effort went up! They hired a small full-time team and ran a closed beta program for 6 months. Until then they were seeing where it would take them but those days were over.

They began granting early access when you referred friends and adding people to the waitlist by writing articles on Medium like ‘Why Using Evernote is Making You Less Creative‘ to get the word out (that article drove a lot of signups!)

When they did launch in Feb (2017), there was a flurry of press including reaching #1 on Product Hunt, the front page of Hacker News and #1 for the week on Designer News. It’s also been written up on Lifehacker and The Next Web covered it while it was in beta.

Challenges

Milanote can’t see your content due to privacy reasons. They have no idea what you are doing with their product or how you are using it which makes deciding on what features to build and understanding customers somewhat difficult.

To overcome this challenge, the Milanote team are using a mix of quantitative & qualitative methods to draw out data and feedback from their users along the different points in their product journey. The most obvious tactic is talking to its customers.

Michael from Milanote talking about the early days

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

Pricing

They are continuing to evolve their thinking on pricing & looking at different models to help align the value of the product with the price.

Acquisition

The articles at launch including Product Hunt, #1 for the week on Designer News and word of mouth helped greatly with new customers. They need to experiment with other methods now to find scalable and repeatable ways of driving acquisition long-term.

Hiring

Milanote are currently looking for both developers & marketers. Check out their jobs.

AND the most shocking news of the evening!!! The Milanote team do NOT use post-its anymore! They have bare walls!

Thank you Michael for a great talk & elabor8 for hosting the evening!

Working with user research

Back in March, we discussed different types of user research and focused in on diary studies. In May, we’re talking about how work with those insights to build products and some of the challenges you may face.

We have 2 amazing speakers on Thursday May 25th with first hand experience.Through a case study and reflection, they’ll show what it’s like to run user research and let the results drive the product & features.

RSVP now

Using Experience Sampling for Rapid Insights into User Needs

In this case study, George Cockerill will share how using the Experience Sampling method gave rich insights into user needs for the feature ideation of a brand new mobile app at Deakin University.

As part of the research activities to inform the development of a smart assistant app for students, Experience Sampling quickly gave the product team useful and relevant data to help understand student needs, behaviours and pain-points in multiple contexts over time.

George will talk share his experience of planning, executing and analysing the results from an experience sampling study. With practical advice on how to run the study, tools and techniques, the key points you need to know and things to watch out for.

Why is Marathon Running Important when Introducing User Research?

During the last decade, user research has been a key component of the product development process. Within the games industry there has been a significant effort that focuses on introducing and integrating user research as part of a ‘player first’ culture. Numerous challenges exist when doing so -especially when working with teams who have not been exposed to user research previously.

Kostas Kazakos will reflect on these challenges via his personal journey as a marathon runner and guided by Donald Schon’s reflective practitioner’s approach

He will also introduce DECEMA – a frame of reference whose aim is to help UX practitioners when introducing user research to development teams and organizations.

Our Speakers

George Cockerill is a Senior UX Designer at Deakin University, a Lead UX Instructor at General Assembly, an organiser of the UX Melbourne Book Club and can be found on Twitter at @GeorgeCockerill.

Kostas Kazakos is a User Experience Researcher with a qualitative mind and a quantitative heart. He currently manages the user/player research at Firemonkeys (an Electronic Arts studio located in Melbourne). For the last 10 years, Kostas has been handling primitive research problems in the mobile space and turning them into actionable design insights by employing a palette of qualitative and quantitative methods. He is an advocate of experience-centred design and passionate about answering the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

RSVP now!

Our Hosts

We’d like to thank Seek for being our hosts this month!
seek

March wrap-up: Learning from your customers via customer research

We had 2 great talks about customer research for our March session. Thank you Jo Squire & Katie Phillips, both User Experience Researchers from Australia Post, for an excellent evening!

FYI, we’ll be running another session on customer research in a couple months so hope to see you there!

Doing Research: Discovery & Validation – Jo Squire

thanks Jo for giving us an overview of the discovery and validation research #prodanon

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

The research method you use will vary depending on several things including if you’re in a discovery or validation phase.

If you are in discovery, you might be looking for the problem or trying to get a better understanding of the problem. In this space, you’re looking for ‘why’ and it’s not at all the time to bring in prototypes! Observation, contextual inquiries and questionnaires are some of the methods to use here.

Once you move to validation, you’re looking to understand ‘how’ ie how is the product being used. Usability testing & co-design workshops are some of the methods you can use.

Jo reminded us that ‘research’ doesn’t have to cost a bomb or take a long time. No matter what your budget, everyone can incorporate research into their product. Low cost options include talking to your customers on the street, observing (potentially free!) & you can be creative about how you reward the participants.

Once you do the research, you need to communicate it within your organisation and the best way to do this is to include your stakeholders while you’re doing the research. If you can’t include them, try showing the video you captured during the research.

 

End-to-end validation & optimization via diary study – Katie Phillips

Katie talked us through a diary study she did for an Australia Post product. This was a product in the wild which was being constantly developed. Based on the research objective & other criteria, they decided to use a diary study & moderated user testing.

about to kick off katie’s talk about diary studies and how she used slack #prodanon

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

Their research participants were not in the office so they choose remote user testing using live video/screen sharing for the user testing and Slack for the diary study. To select a research method there are several things to consider including the objective, how much time you have and your budget.

This is the 2nd time the AusPost team used Slack for research. Even though none of the participants had used Slack before, it was easy to onboard them and they understood how to communicate & share photos of their processes.

One of the things Katie talked about (which I think was amazingly fantastic!) is how involved the development team was during the research. They witnessed the screen sharing so knew right away about the problems users faced plus they scheduled time into their existing sprint so they could work on anything that came up during the research. Way to work together!

Katie shared a few resources:

Q&A time

Tips for the data

  • Always keep the raw data (ie video) so you can play it to the stakeholder
  • If a research company does the research for you, try and be with
    them for at least part of the sessions and ask them to send you the raw data
  • Tools for analysis – Depends on the research but they utalise Google sheets & post it notes a lot.
  • After you analyse the data, make sure it’s available to the project team & possibly other teams (to help with their problem solving).

Most challenging part of their job?
It depends on the project but often it’s recruiting of the research participants. Others include: having a prototype with the right tasks, getting clear objectives from stakeholders and deadlines that are very close to the product launch.

Are there tools for privacy/ethics/legal? Tips?
Make sure your participants know what is expected of them & that the product is being tested, not them. You should have them sign a non-disclosure agreement and your legal team (or participant recruitment company) will have other templates you can use.

Ethics-wise, you should ‘follow your moral compass’ but there’s lots of reading online to help

Thanks tons to Aconex for hosting!

Startup Session: The Making of Milanote

A behind the scenes look at how this Melbourne based start-up went from idea to #1 on Product Hunt

Milanote is a visual workspace for creative thinking. It’s used by designers, writers, marketers and other creative professionals from companies like Facebook, Apple, Uber, Dropbox, Google, Adobe, Sony, Nike etc.

Milanote launched on 7th Feb of this year and reached #1 on Product Hunt, the front page of Hacker News and #1 for the week on Designer News. It’s also been written up on Lifehacker and The Next Web covered it while it was in beta.

In this talk Michael Trounce will reveal:

  • the behind the scenes journey of how the product went from idea to launch
  • the practical challenges faced from a product management perspective (pricing, roadmap, analytics, etc.)
  • how the founders plan to grow the business over the next 18 months

About our speaker

Michael Trounce is not only one of the co-founders of Milanote but also the GM of Navy Design, a UX design consultancy focused on health. RSVP for Thursday April 20th when Michael will join us for a Product Anonymous Startup Session.

elabor8

This month we’re being hosted by elabor8.

RSVP now!

Learning from your customers – March event

Doing customer research is critical to delivering a great product.

We all want to be customer centric but how do you actually figure out your customers needs & the solutions?

This month we’re bringing together two researchers to give a few ideas, examples, tips & talk about how to integrate the research into your product.

RSVP now!

1 – How you do research depends on a variety of things – what do you need to understand, what resources are available, what commitment you can get from participants and more.

Jo Squire, Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post will talk about:

• the differences between doing research in discovery and validation phases

• what research methods are better when

• tips for getting the most out of your research including how to communicate the value of research/results

2 – Australia Post’s Send a Parcel allows customers to pay for and print their own domestic labels from their home or business. Researcher Katie Phillips was looking for ways to validate the tool’s increased capability for international sending and decided to use diary studies to understand how people used the new service & what issues they encountered.

Katie will share:

• the benefits of using diary studies

• how she used Slack to facilitate and collect data

• how she worked with the dev team to implement the findings

Our Speakers

Jo Squire is currently a Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and comes with over a decade of experience in user research. She is a strong advocate of putting the customer at the heart of every project, and believes that having a deep understanding and empathy for customers is essential to designing great experiences.

At Australia Post, Jo is responsible for designing and conducting customer research across all of Australia Post’s digital platforms. Research starts at understanding the problem, and continues through to validating finished products. Working closely with product owners, designers and developers Jo helps ensure the wealth of information gathered from the research is translated into highly desirable products that meets both the needs of the customers and the business.

Katie Phillips is a User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and currently works on helping conceptualise and develop digital platforms for shipping and logistics. Her background is in design and applied anthropology, which looks at culturally driven, complex problems and finding innovative solutions for them. She has been working on methods for helping agile user research and “deep-dive” ethnography co-exist, ensuring that products and services in development are always aimed at solving customer pain points and helping create value by considering bigger-picture problems.

Location
A big thanks to Aconex for hosting us this month! Details are on Meetup.

RSVP!

February Wrap-up: Rogue UX

Duncan Macneil thinks UX needs a new approach which immediately puts the focus on the UI, functionality & user experience – and that new approach is absolute fidelity.

Prototype Fidelity

Traditional vs Rogue UX

Traditional vs Rogue UX

Duncan believes you will:

  • save money as it will iron out the bugs & solves problems before developers are brought into the process. For every $1 invested here you save $3 or 5 or 10. Removing a guess is removing development
  • save time by decreasing the back & forth between developers & others in understanding all the requirements
  • save time by encouraging stakeholders to make decisions right then instead of sometime later plus puts focus on the core business decisions
  • be able to generate a buzz amongst the stakeholders as they have something immediately to play with & show off to others (which leads to funding!)
  • bridge the artificial gap between design & development

In conversations with developers, Duncan has asked how long it took to build X and if he were to delete the code, how long would it take to rebuild it – six months vs 1 month since during the rebuild the person knows exactly what they need to do and what problems/solutions were needed.

Since the prototype looks so real, no one in the room is thinking ‘I’ll sort that out later’. It adds a level of fear & panic in stakeholders that they bring up issues right away.

Show your stakeholders the simplest user case & once they leave get into the nitty gritty detailed cases with the people that really care.

If at all possible, hook the prototype up to real live APIs. This is incredibly useful when someone asks about a particular edge case and when running various user scenarios.

How can you do this?

Duncan believes in starting with low fi (paper or balsamiq) then going right to absolute fidelity.

Use your low fi to sketch and make the big changes.

He recommends using a beginning to end process – UI layer from beginning to end, then data from beginning to end. Focus on the UI, data and business rules. Typical functionality around login, backup, reporting do not need to be included (unless of course you’re building a reporting product).

Make it as real as possible! Know the current search is taking 3 seconds to return? Build a delay into your html.

What do you say when stakeholders think the prototype is a finished product ready to launch tomorrow? Talk about the backend items that are needed – security, backup, databases and other technical aspects that need to be built.

What tools are needed?

Having some knowledge of HTML5, Bootstrap, Javascript and Jquery is enough.

Code you need to know

Code you need to know

Duncan also recommended using Balsamiq and Pinegrow web editor.

3 learnings

3 learnings


If you are interested in continuing the conversation, join Duncan’s list at http://uxrogu.es/ or check his site.

Thanks Thoughtworks for hosting us!

Thanks to Fiona Knight & Richard Burke for helping pull together this summary!

Rogue UX – Absolute Fidelity is the way to go

Is the (current) sacred cow that we start with low fidelity so we can iterate quicker, get more customer feedback and manage stakeholders better?

Or is that just a waste of time and energy that produces low value feedback?

For our first session of the year, Duncan Macneil will talk about his experiences in pushing absolute fidelity from day one. How are UX tools like Azure impacting feedback? Why is high fidelity better? What happens when stakeholders think you’ve already built the thing? And OMG… What will the lean people say? He’ll share both the wins & the losses with this rogue ux concept.

We’re leaving lots of time for discussion on this one 😉

RSVP now!

Location TBC

FYI, if your company is interested in hosting a Product Anon session this year, please get in touch with myself or Liz.

Duncan Macneil is the founder of Cartesian Creative, a whole-of-service consulting firm where art & science collide via human factors and technology. He is also an ambassador for IBM Bluemix.