API Product Management & PM in general – a Googler’s perspective

We hope you can join us on Thursday March 17th when Elena Kelareva, Product Manager at Google, talks with us about product managing APIs and product management at Google. RSVP now.

From the API perspective, the session will help you evaluate if an API would benefit your product by examining the potential benefits – like driving adoption, enabling niche use cases and opening up new revenue streams. Elena will also cover product strategy for your API, give a high-level overview of API design considerations, and present several issues to watch out for, such as differences between web and native mobile APIs, dealing with authentication and abuse, and what to do if your API ends up being too popular or not popular enough.

Elena will use examples from the Google Maps APIs as well as several well known APIs for other products.

And because there’s always questions on how Google does product management, Elena will also share her experiences.

Elena Kelareva is the Product Manager for the Google Maps Web APIs, including the JavaScript Maps API, used by over 2 million websites. She has a PhD in Computer Science from the Australian National University, and has previously worked as a Software Engineer at OMC International, building software that improves safety and prevents ship groundings at some of the world’s largest cargo ports.

Thanks to Envato for hosting!!

October wrap: How to transform and optimise experiences

Our October event was all about transforming and optimising experiences for our users. – and both talks also included a healthy dose of tips for communicating value and change to your organisations.

We had two great speakers to delve into this topic – Kirsten Mann, Director for Global Design & Experience at Aconex and Leisa Reichelt, Head of Service Design and User Research at the Digital Transformation Office. Leisa brought quite a lot of insight having spent a number of years with the UK Government at the Government Digital Service (GOV.UK) and is now here to help the Australian government similarly improve their sites.

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Kirsten started the evening telling us how Aconex brought down business costs by building a great support site.

It all started with the data – 4000 abandoned calls each month! The UX team thought this would be an easy thing to fix which could show measurable ROI – not always an easy relationship to draw. Aconex spends a lot of time & money on face-to-face training and travel so the UX team developed a vision statement to get rid of the cost heavy training approach …if they could provide a end-to-end online support system.

The team tried different ideas & prototypes – including some with aussie humour which didn’t translate across all cultures. 😉 After trial & error they came up with a new version of the support & training site. They saw a reduced cost as the need for F2F training was dramatically reduced.

The Aconex UX team had a great win by showing the organisation it could have real ROI impact. Being able to show this & have a win like this early will smooth the road for future plans – and save costs.

Part of the UX success at Aconex goes back to where UX fits into the organisational structure. Kirsten used a great metaphor of the 3 legged chair – you lose a leg and things will fall over! These legs consist of product management, tech and UX.

 

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Our other special guest for the evening, Leisa Reichelt, has recently returned to Australia after a long time in the UK working at Government Digital Service (GOV.UK). Her focus is to transform public services with user centred service design. Why? Because in any 4 week period more than 1 in 8 Aussies, over 14, will use a government website. And 55% hit problems completing what they came to do.

I’m trying to stop people from crying

Leisa took us though 4 learnings for user design at a gov’t organisation but the 4 are great for product managers as well.

  1. show don’t tell
  2. ask for less, simplify
  3. change the language
  4. plan to do more comms

show don’t tell

The show don’t tell principle is rather brilliant. In the product design world we talk ad nauseam about prototypes but what Leisa kindly reminded us about is the meetings we have telling people stuff are such a waste of time. We could be showing them something and having a discussion about what’s next instead of throwing out the “we’ve done that before” types of blockers.

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Ask for less and simplify

This is a clever organisational navigation tip. We often despair when we cannot get the 1M we need for the whole project or the 3 resources we absolutely need to do all the projects. That’s when we give up and get nothing.

Why not ask for (& receive!) 20K, do something and then ask for more?!? Ask for 1 resource (or half a one) & use them brilliantly. Once you have something to show as a result of that resource, THEN ask for more.

Put a number in the request – don’t ask for lots of people or money as again this tends to leads to a no answer.

The approach of being specific with a figure led to some very clear guidelines on ensuring your purpose states what you are doing with measurable details. so you can show you are doing, but also so it is very clear how to get started!, how to keep going and prove you have used the resources you asked for.

Language is the medium through which culture is enacted – Gill Ereaut

Change the language

This was an indulgently awesome moment as it is something I have been talking about at my companies for awhile now and appreciated Leisa being so forthright on the subject…

Any product manager will recognise this situation: that annoying moment when the nickname for a product suddenly becomes the language of the company & when you finally “announce” the real product name it is too late since it will forever be known as the nickname. < SIGH >

Leisa’s point is that language permeates even deeper than that. Her examples touched on the difference between calling yourself UX or UCD & then further on trying to put a nice interface over really terrible policy. If you want to get a different outcome you need to change the language.

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Plan to do more comms

One cannot forget the need to communicate, communicate, communicate. When you think you said it enough, say it again!

You are not finished communicating until you are being told the story back to you as if it is fact. Make sure your message is clear (is it clear YET?) 🙂

She closed out the section stating that there isn’t any point doing the work if you aren’t going to share it.

So much wisdom from both these ladies on this wonderful night!!

Thanks to Aconex for their once again fantabulous hosting. A special thanks to Kirsten for pulling it all together! And awesome coordination/promotion with UX Melbourne and the UX Design Group of Melbourne! Let’s do it again guys!

Our last event for the year is on the 26th of November so please join us to reflect on the year that was, share ideas for next year and just mingle and network. No formal talks this session, just conversation, and a drink to wish Product Anonymous happy 5th birthday.

Wrap-up September: Product Management at Startups

This month we talked about product management at startups including how you know when you need to hire a product manager at a start-up.

Our experienced panel to help us in this discussion were:

Megan Linton – currently a Product Manager at Flippa.com but has also worked at TradeMe where scaling was definitely challenging.

Nick Kenn – is General Manager at Flippa.com, hired their first product manager and knows how hard that first recruit is.

Chris Dahl – co-founder of Nitro and currently BDM at Pin Payments. He has grown a product team at Nitro and currently works in a start-up so had lots of valuable insight to share.

Jason Kotchoff – who is a software engineer turned entrepreneur and just had some great coverage for his product StockLight. He is currently doing this all himself so had some insight into why he hasn’t hired product so far and some advice on working with product people.

When did you first recruit or encounter a product manager?

Nick opened the session talking about the first time he had to hire a Product Manager at SitePoint. He had to first understand what aspects of product management the business needed then what types of Product Manager would be attracted to a business with no formal history of the discipline.

There is a lot to consider when bringing in the discipline for the first time.

Megan was one of the first PM’s to join TradeMe and certainly found it challenging to manage the role. Product managers came in really late in the game (10+ years late) and she realised she had to be a chameleon to get things done.

It is a tough gig to be the “jack of all trades” but the master of none and manage the communication that is needed to keep so many people informed as to what is going on with product.

Chris knew he needed product people once he realised he couldn’t get everything done himself and needed help.

The key thing he looked for was culture fit. Chris had some experience making wrong hires but realised that everything except attitude can be taught. It’s better to choose the right fit than try to find a person who can do everything!

Everyone wants a unicorn!

Jason hasn’t hired a product person. His needs have usually required technical knowledge, capability to really drive innovation and the work instead of asking for or suggesting product ideas that just aren’t feasible.

With a lot of engineers already in-house, Jason feels a real clarity of technical language is critical.

What were the teething problems bringing in product?

This question tapped into the scaling perspective.

Megan experienced rapid growth at TradeMe and jumped in first on this question. Communication was difficult to manage as the company grew. Ensuring information flowed from the product team to all staff and all staff back to product was a challenge.

Nick talked about how incoming ideas are difficult to coordinate and the challenge of letting people know if they will be used, actioned or followed up on.

What is great about working at a start-up as a product manager?

You can’t hide anywhere!

What about your relationship with the founder? How do you manage this?

There were a few comments about the founder continuing to be involved with product and sometimes not always in alignment with what may have been agreed to as the current plan.

The audience joined in with some comments at this point about their experience. One topic was whether their founder was “a product person” or not. If the founder is, it can be very helpful as they understand the value of product management rather than needing it proven to them.

You certainly need to be ready to build trust with the founder.

They need to realise that you will evangelise their product as well as they do and bring a helpful impartiality to the discussion. You help bring data and user tests to the thinking as well as know how to execute on the exciting and visionary ideas.

Plus of course you just need to do whatever needs to be done to to suit that company and that product at the time!

Thanks again to Flippa for being a wonderful host and sponsor!