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.

November Wrap-up: A glimpse inside the world of VR & AR

Virtual and Augmented Reality are one of those technologies that we’ve been hearing about for a long long time. Is it finally breaking through? It’s forecast to be worth $150bn in 2020. As product folk, what do we need to know about this?

We had 3 amazing speakers who gave us a glimpse not only into this technology & business but also how much activity there is within Melbourne!

Getting cozy as we're at full capacity tonight!

Getting cozy as we’re at full capacity tonight!


First up,Itai Etzman talked about product management at a VR startup. Itai has recently left Zero Latency – a multiplayer, free roaming, VR game.
itai-from-zero-latency

While we digital product folks think about the experience and UI, this takes it to a whole new level. Consider you’ll need a roadmap which covers software, hardware, the game, A few things that stood out for me:

  • You MUST test everything – it’s only only making sure the technical side is working but also the story, the gameplay and audio still works
  • Itai recommended reading aviation human factors research to understand how the body & inner ear especially deals with rotation.
  • You need to plan and test for emotion also! Fear & empathy are the strongest but nostalgia, excitement & joy are winners too.


Next up, Trent Clews-de Castilla from Phoria (formerly SCANN3D).

Trent elaborated on some of the things Itai spoke about – especially audio. With VR, touch, sight and sound are important though Trent thinks sound is the most important – you can even navigate with sound.

He talked about the possibilities of the technology including:

trent-from-phoria

Liam McGuire from Opaque Multimedia talked about some of their projects (including a game which lets your train to be an astronaut and go to space!) and the industry overall.

If you’re just getting started in the space, Liam reminded us to have a problem that can be solved with VR/AR – not getting enamored with the technology & trying to figure out a way to force it to solve the problem.

The large centres of work are in California due to the movie industry with hardware focused in Asia so we’re about 14 hours away from either. Regardless of this geography, Melbourne has very favorable climate with lots of tech talent in this space. The location is a challenge along with the changing landscape of competition and technology

Liam from Opaque talking about their project which allows you to experience what its like to live with dementia

A photo posted by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

One fascinating project they worked on is the Virtual Dementia Experience. Partnering with Alzheimer Australia Victoria, they developed a VR training simulator that allows people to experience what life is like living with dementia. The training is used to drive empathy with carers plus make it a much more memorable experience than traditional paper training.

liam-from-opaque-media-2

One of our amazing ProdAnon members not only suggested the idea but helped pull it all together so Liz & I would like to thank Claire Sawyers for the awesome work!

We were also able to play with a Hololens – as Daniel says… it’s a bit cooler when you’re wearing it rather than watching someone wear it! 🙂

Thank you to our sponsor for the evening – Blue Chilli!bluechilli-logo

We’re taking a break until February 2017 but in the meantime you can sign up to our newsletter or join the slack channel (links above in the navigation). Have a fantastic break!

What’s our future product reality? – November event

For our last event of 2016, we’re looking into the future product management reality – that is virtual reality & augmented reality.

We’ll have 3 lightning talks from product people working in this tech space:

  • Claire Sawyers, Head of Product at Blue Chilli, with PK Rasam on VR/AR trends from startups
  • Itai Etzman from Zero Latency on product management at a VR startup
  • Trent Clews-de Castilla from SCANN3D.Trent will be sharing outside-the-box product applications for immersive media, with examples from medical, education, marketing and digital preservation.

Plus a chance to have a play with a Hololens!

Also, it’s Product Anonymous’ birthday!!! And our last session of 2016! Hope to see you there!!

Thank you to our sponsor – Blue Chilli

RSVP now!

Decluttering your product – September Wrap-up

Product Decluttering

For our session in September, Katherine Barrett shared her personal & professional journey of getting rid of stuff aka decluttering.

Katherine temporarily packed her life into a storage space and a couple months later when she returned to her boxes – she realised maybe she didn’t really need the items inside. This led her on a path of discovery, exploring areas of ‘decluttering’ research, with a particularly pivotal book from Marie Kondo.

She found having choice isn’t always the best thing. We desire choice but having too much paralyses us which got her thinking about the product she manages.

She was making decisions on the buttons & the features for her users but not considering how many decisions they had to make each time they used her product.

One of the items that resonated with her – especially for product management – was the idea of utility. Does this particular item do the job you & your users want it to do?

awesome slide from Katherine #prodanon

A photo posted by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

Katherine gave some examples of how she’s using this at work including retiring a website which was very similar to another product they had. After doing their research, they decided the users wouldn’t lose any utility by killing one site (& saving time on dev, maintenance & more).

She’s also using the idea of ‘Simplicity’ for making a single choice at a time. Think about your conversion funnel because each step in that funnel is a choice the consumer has to make. How do you provide them with ways to make a choice but not overwhelm. Filters (as in search filters) are choices your customer has to make! That’s a mind boggling idea when it comes to minimialising!

She also recommends:

  • Watch out for those sentimental products – or aspects of your product. Do they exist? Are they still doing their job?
  • Think about if this feature helps you get to your goal. If your overall goal is to increase engagement, does this feature do that?
  • Don’t be afraid to say no after something has been built

Decluttering Resources:

Marie Kondo – author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Another good resource to watch from Sheena Iyengar, how to make choosing easier:

Does your product need decluttering? – September event

Does your product need decluttering?

Do we make better decisions when we have less choice? Research shows having less choice makes life easier, smoother & more rewarding. How can we bring that into our product management practice and make things better for our teams and customers? With ideas coming from everywhere and hundreds of product features, how do you make choices easy?

Once you’ve spent time, money & invested emotionally into building something, how do you remove it? What if customers are using it but it doesn’t suit the direction your product is moving towards?

Katherine Barrett will share her learnings on decluttering and saying NO!

Katherine will be presenting at the Product Management Festival in Zurich in November! If you haven’t snagged your ticket for that amazing event, come along on the 15th to hear a preview of Katherine’s talk on decluttering.

RSVP! for Thursday September 15th

6:00 pm – pizza & chatting

6:30 pm – We’ll start the session/talk

Katherine Barrett is a product manager at carsales.com.au

Her 1st product management role involved decommissioning a product. With a love of shiny objects, Katherine recognises the importance of curation and clear purpose in product design. With the excitement and thrill that comes with saying yes, Katherine has learnt the reality of saying no (even after the feature is live).

Elabor8Thank you to our awesome host this month: Elabor8

 

Elabor8 helps companies and teams in their Agile journey, with a unique blend of experience and theory having helped online organisations startups through to some of Australia’s largest corporates.

We adapt to what best suits are clients and bring continual learning to the following areas:
– Agile Transformation – helping teams and organisations become Agile

– Agile Delivery Services – embedding experts such as Scrum Masters, Product Managers, Product Owners and Business Analysts

– Training – through our Academy such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum Master and Product Owner certification courses

– Innovation and Product Development – facilitation in design sprints and innovation express

– DevOps – going beyond tooling and automation, towards business agility

Find out more on https://elabor8.com.au/

RSVP!

Managing Product Managers – June wrap-up

This month’s topic was managing product managers.

Often Product Anonymous events cover topics to help make you be a better product manager – like roadmaps – but we also need to focus on the the people skills. This month we asked a couple managers of product managers what they do to ensure high performance & keep their people motivated.

Layla Foord has over 20 years experience managing teams of product people. Fiona Moreton has over 15 years as a team manager with background in customer management & sales teams and has been managing product managers for the last 3 years.

How do you structure coaching and mentoring of your people?

Fiona is a real believer in the 70:20:10 management rule (as is PageUp). This focuses very much on on-the-job training.  She is involved in providing personal feedback to her people which is very individualised feedback. It needs to take into account where each person is on their journey plus experience in product management.

Layla has managed many people and concurred with what Fiona described as on-the-job observation and personal tailoring of the approach.

She also talked about understanding where your people are on the spectrum – product management is a range of skills and needs. You need to understand each person’s super powers and ensure they are using and showcasing them. Layla described how sometimes her people didn’t want to use their super powers as they saw them as skills to avoid using – but she finds this leads to dissatisfaction in the person and discontentment at work. 

How do you guide your product people through the pull of the technical owner role?

Fiona’s take: PageUp has just decided to rearrange things. They split the roles and will have product owners and product strategy managers. This allows for the clear division of roles but of course they will need to work through how to share and communicate between the two groups.

Layla: talked about it being a range that they are still figuring out. It will keep changing. Right now she guides people towards their strengths. If their strength is working deeply with the tech team, that would be supported. Layla did make a point about the danger of micro-managing the team… if the product person isn’t providing the necessary information for the team to make decisions on their own, that product person is a control freak. You are there to provide a vision, not dictate a back-log.

Layla encourages her people to drop the ego. If you’re only interested in getting your ideas onto the product then you are doomed! Every product manager needs to be ready to accept ideas that come from anywhere and ensure general principles of the product are understood so everyone can contribute.

What does a development path look like?

Layla: Some people get very interested in the detail (technical or otherwise) and she thinks it’s important to remind them to look up (she did quite a good animation of lifting up her chin! 🙂 You need to see beyond the immediate moment (the firefighting).

When they are able or willing to look to that second horizon then are ready to move to more senior roles and the most senior are casting out to horizon three.

Fiona: Knowing when someone is ready for the next step is a combination of time in the role, aptitude and attitude. The way in which they engage with other stakeholders in the business -beyond their own team – are other signs they are ready for those next steps. And there are other ways to keep a person challenged than just the title, it can be about expanding the responsibility of work they are looking after.

How do you decide to carve up product responsibility (say if you have a portfolio of products?)

Fiona had to leave before these last 2 questions.

Layla is a big believer in ensuring the product person has an end to end view. Figuring out how to slice and dice is still a challenging question depending on the product and organisation but she would always attempt to ensure the view is breadth rather than depth.

Should product people be assessed on hard metrics? Aligned with company metrics?

Layla: Honestly? no. Your strength of skills is in areas that are subjective and can’t be measured.

One comment from the audience on this question said it’s tough to align on the company metrics as often they are too short-sighted. A product person is making efforts or work that won’t have an impact on company metrics until 2 years or more down the track.

Thank you to Layla and Fiona for their forthrightness, honesty and humour for this session.

Thanks again to PageUp people for hosting us! Great space and support for our event.

Join us for our two events in July – a prep session for speakers for ProductCamp and for a chat about financial skills in product mgmt.