November Short Talks

November is the ProdAnon birthday! RSVP for November 18th!

Over the years, we’ve mixed it up with purely social birthday drinks to give you more time to get to know each other (& Liz and I are not averse to a lovely cocktail or wine) or the usual speaker topic session – but last year we tried something different and it worked well so here we go…

One of the big reasons Product Anonymous exists is to share knowledge. Another reason we exist is to grow the local talent which includes giving people the opportunity to gain experience in front of a crowd & crafting a talk. We’re super proud that several ProdAnon speakers have gone on talk at large conferences like Leading the Product & Web Directions.

So what is this November thing?
It’s time to dip your toe in the water. Yes, you!

We want you to present – for 5 minutes. It’s not a long talk, you won’t have to answer 15 questions after, nor do you need to create earth-shattering beautiful slides.

What you need to do is know what you want to express, to teach, to explain, to get ProdAnon folks excited about.

You need to be able to communicate that in FIVE minutes (warning: Liz will have her whistle). And you need to be available to do this on Thursday evening November 18th.

This is not a ‘lightning talk’. You do not have to change slides every 15 seconds and have only 20 slides. It’s your 5 minutes. It can be fun. It can be serious. It could be an insight you want to share.

What to do next?

– Mull over your idea and submit it by EOD Saturday, October 23rd
– Those chosen will be contacted on Friday, October 29th (yes, this is encouraging you to spend Melbourne Cup wknd working on your preso!)

Submit your talk idea!

How will talks be selected?
– Appeal of the topic to ProdAnon people
– Your sworn ability to be able to use google slides and deliver the slides the week before the event

Not interested in giving a talk?

Then come along to support your product peeps and hear some interesting talks!!!

RSVP for November 18th 6:20pm

What to do when someone mentions PLG (product led growth)

Product Led Growth (PLG) has become a bit of a buzz word in recent times but what does it really mean? How does it impact companies using the methodology and the product people who work within that methodology? RSVP

PLG means the actual product drives user acquisition, expansion, conversion and retention. That means company-wide alignment across teams – from engineering to sales and marketing – around the product as the largest source of sustainable, scalable business growth

Dave McManus will share his lived experience of working with this space. He’ll share experiments he’s run, success and failures and tips for how you can influence others in your company to move towards PLG.

When:

Thursday, October 21st on Zoom – 6:20pm ‘doors open’ to say hello! 6:30pm we start. Bring along dinner, bubs, beverages

RSVP

Our Speaker:

Dave McManus is an experienced product professional with over 12 years experience. He loves working with multidisciplinary teams to solve problems through thoughtful design and engineering solutions.

He has had the pleasure of working with many great companies from large fortune 500’s like: Microsoft, The North Face and Proctor and Gamble to name a few. Originally from Melbourne, Dave also lived in San Francisco for 5 years and founded a digital healthcare company and worked with many different startups including NextVR (acquired by Apple), Innit, Cool Effect (kickstarter for climate change) and many more.

He’s passionate about product led growth and looking forward to sharing stories with you all.

www.djmgrowth.com
https://twitter.com/D_Mack7

Our Sponsor:

Cogent – cogent.co – If you need great people to help build your product, we do that and a whole lot more. Over the years, we’ve worked on more 100 digital products loved by millions of users, from small startups through to tech giants like Square, Xero and REA.

So whether you’re leading a small product team or the CPO of a growing tech company, our focus is on supporting you to design and develop products that your users love.

Wrap-Up: The Shape Shifting Product Manager

Daniel Kinal is a long haul product manager having been in the industry for awhile. Over the years, Daniel realised one of his strengths was being able to shape-shift.

Daniel talked about the various ways product managers are asked to shape shift. We might need to do some copy writing or sketch out a UI or develop a GTM plan or do a sales demo or create some reporting and do data analysis or manage a team or be the scrum master or even CODE (?!??!!!!!!!!).

The list of what we might end up doing goes on & on! There’s always gaps to fill and as a product person, we often feel like we need to help out to make sure our product becomes successful.

But then Daniel realised this might not be a strength. Our jobs are already hard without adding additional work. Shape shifting isn’t the best thing for him – nor the company he works for.

Why? Because we product folks need to focus on the ‘kernal’ – what Daniel calls the true product work. This includes

  • building trust & alignment
  • maximising value in a sustainable way
  • doing course correction
  • and more! (watch the video)

The thing about the ‘kernal’ is, it’s our job. While all these other shape shifting tasks can be done by others (others who hopefully exist at your company), doing the kernal isn’t done by others.

To help us, Daniel has a few meditations on our shape shifting nature…

Product Anonymous would like to thank Daniel for a great talk & convo after. No matter where you are in your product career, you should consider his insight and questions to ponder.

Resources

Daniel Kinal – The Shape Shifting PM – (had a baffling zoom thing happen & DK’s video isn’t appearing)

Our Speaker

Daniel Kinal has been in product management for over 18 years, chiefly working in IT, focusing on B2B products & services.

He began his marketing, communications, and consulting career but soon learned that the aspect of marketing he loved most was working out what to build, for whom, and why.
He gets excited about helping businesses become more effective in decision-making, more efficient in their processes and more engaged with their customers.

Daniel is at his happiest when waving his arms about in front of a whiteboard with a bunch of smart people, exploring problems and weighing up solutions.

Our Sponsor

Cogent – cogent.co – If you need great people to help build your product, we do that and a whole lot more. Over the years, we’ve worked on more 100 digital products loved by millions of users, from small startups through to tech giants like Square, Xero and REA.

So whether you’re leading a small product team or the CPO of a growing tech company, our focus is on supporting you to design and develop products that your users love.

Next Up

Kate Edwards-Davis will be talking about saving your team (or rather, not saving them) from villians on September 30th. Details & RSVP links here.

Why you should never rescue your team from a villain

Does your team look up to you as some sort of super hero? Who they can rely on to swoop in and protect them from the maleficent deeds of some evil villain? Do you sometimes feel like a victim, a target for others to blame when things don’t play our as we forecast? RSVP

Ah! Welcome to the dynamics of drama! Our efforts to protect others may actually perpetuate a cycle of conflict and anxiety.

Would you like to better understand the common causes of drama & conflict in the workplace – and how you can interrupt that cycle with one of our favourite tools – a POST-IT NOTE!

RSVP to learn how to kill off that drama and setup a winning dynamic of success.

Thursday, September 30th 6:20pm via Zoom

Our Speaker:

Kate Edwards-Davis is a product manager at Karista.com.au

Kate circled around the profession of Product Management for many, many years – starting in the 1980s as an IT Project Manager, switching to Business Analyst, to Product Owner and then finally to Product Manager.

With all of those titles, Kate says she essentially played the same role – listening to the customer, getting to know their most important problems, then working with teams of super clever people to deliver a solution.

Random Kate facts!

  • Kate once pursued a career as a classical musician. She performed solo in a national live broadcast on ABC classic FM. On recorder – yes, that instrument you all played in primary school.
  • She danced with Prince in a small London nightclub.
  • She has a collection of vintage calculators. They fit right into Kate’s very retro 1970’s house. (Wait til you see the fake wood paneling!)
  • She has never ever managed to do a cartwheel.
  • Her kids really don’t understand what she does for work, and frankly don’t care, as their Dad’s work is way cooler. He works in the design team for Moose Toys.
  • She’s still not sure what what she wants to do with her career  :blush:

Our Sponsor:

Cogent

If you need great people to help build your product, we do that and a whole lot more. Over the years, we’ve worked on more 100 digital products loved by millions of users, from small startups through to tech giants like Square, Xero and REA.

So whether you’re leading a small product team or the CPO of a growing tech company, our focus is on supporting you to design and develop products that your users love.

The Shape Shifting Product Manager

In mythology and folklore, having the ability to change form has alternately been seen as a gift from the gods or as the foulest of curses. And, yep, it’s kind of the same with product managers.

Our roles are, by their very nature, not clearly defined compared to those of our co-workers. Freedom to focus on the things that matter from day to day is part of the job description. It’s absolutely glorious but it can also get us into some serious trouble if we’re not careful.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does a product manager. Our jobs naturally bump up against others in the organisation and it can be hard to tell where product management stops and functions like marketing, corporate strategy, design, research and execution start. And, as shapeshifters, we have a natural tendency to quietly fill the gaps when we see them.

This talk will cover which areas we sometimes need to extend our roles into, where we should step back, what we need to communicate about our jobs to our stakeholders and what we neglect at our peril.

Details:

RSVP for August 26 (zoom) login about 6:20pm for a 6:30pm kickoff

If we can do in-person, we’ll update on Meetup.

Our presenter:
Daniel Kinal has been in product management for over 18 years, chiefly working in IT, focusing on B2B products & services.

He began his marketing, communications, and consulting career but soon learned that the aspect of marketing he loved most was working out what to build, for whom, and why.

He gets excited about helping businesses become more effective in decision-making, more efficient in their processes and more engaged with their customers. Daniel is at his happiest when waving his arms about in front of a whiteboard with a bunch of smart people, exploring problems and weighing up solutions.

Our sponsor:
Cogent – If you need great people to help build your product, we do that and a whole lot more. Over the years, we’ve worked on more 100 digital products loved by millions of users, from small startups through to tech giants like Square, Xero and REA.

So whether you’re leading a small product team or the CPO of a growing tech company, our focus is on supporting you to design and develop products that your users love.

Right now we’re doing research on how product teams in Aus & NZ work best together. Participate in the survey to tell us all about it.

Continuous Discovery IRL – June Wrap

More companies are realising that the path to success includes knowing their customers better. As they commence their journeys towards continuous discovery to deeply understand their customer and their problems, there can be some lofty expectations. However, the reality is often very different, and can be fragmented, chaotic and full of barriers. 

In June, we caught up with Ben Ryan who shared 3 lessons from his experiences at FatSecret.

Lesson 1: Challenging the Status Quo

How well do we really know our customers? Just a little, ie. at a surface level? Perhaps it’s as little as reading the feedback or complaints that actually make their way to us. Or possibly even less than that. 

Recognising this as a problem and the need for change is only the first step. However, making the case can be another story. 

Resistance can coming in various forms:

  • Sacred cows – firmly held beliefs that are rarely questioned and/or exempt from criticism or opposition, even in the face of contradictory evidence;
  • Brittle foundations – legacy systems which are too hard to change;
  • Sunk cost fallacy – ‘we’ve already invested so much in this direction/system/platform, so it’s too late to change now’;
  • Or just being comfortable – changes require effort and moving towards the unknown.

Teresa Torres talks about having weekly conversations with your customers.

However, FatSecret was far from that. They had convoluted pathways for customers to make contact, and a small team (of 3 people) already inundated with 200-300 emails per week. This drove a fear of scaling, and not being able to handle additional volumes if the floodgates were opened. Furthermore, a dispersed customer base, with less than 1% within Australia, introduced additional geographical, cultural and linguistic challenges.

As an app, the other option for your customers is to leave public (1 star) reviews on the app store for others to read. Not a great alternative.

Even though there was no clear line to customers, they got scrappy and improvised. They also kicked off a longer process of a qualitative and quantitative research project with an external agency. Its brief was to gather insights, and begin co-designing the future vision. Once they started to build things that customers were vocalising as their pain points, retention started to improve, and there was an increase in active usage and engagement.

Lesson 2: Revisit old ideas with fresh eyes

There will always be some ideas that don’t work out. But it is also good practice to revisit those ideas later. What was wrong with those ideas, and what were the conditions the first time around? Are those conditions still in play, or has the environment changed? Do you have new lessons or understand things differently now? With a different perspective, you may find elements worth pursuing or that can be repurposed. And other times, they may turn out to still be bad ideas.

To try and place customer experience at the forefront of decisions, FatSecret introduced a discovery phase at the start of projects. Surely doing discovery about a business objective would help them identify customer needs earlier, to ensure they were solving customer problems?

Unfortunately not. 

In reality, Project Discovery was unsuccessful as:

  • Discovery didn’t begin until the project had been incepted around a business goal;
  • Having a big deliverable at the start of the project, required time to do the customer discovery;
  • There was high overhead (and difficulty) finding target users with the problems that aligned with the business goal;
  • Discovery became a reflection of the customer experience, producing only a limited and blinkered view of the customer problems, and not going deep enough into the wider customer journey to understand the context of the problems.

Lesson 3: Continuous Improvement

Invest in the time for reflection.

Similar to re-evaluating past ideas, it can also be beneficial to circle back to past decisions and assumptions, and challenge your original thinking. Were the assumptions correct? Would the potential outcome be different from what you know now? Are you pursuing the best options, or are there better opportunities available?

Four years on, FatSecret has started moving towards Continuous Discovery to generate insights. Customers are interviewed on a regular basis, and then mapped to overarching archetypes, to understand their various drivers and how they will respond to different types of obstacles.

There’s still a long way to go, but FatSecret have progressively put distance between what used to be their status quo, and where they are now.

Resources and further reading

Some of the resources mentioned during this session (and a few bonus ones too):

Thank you

Thank you to Ben Ryan (Head of Product at FatSecret) for sharing, our volunteers Gwen and Nosh, and to our generous host and Zoom sponsor, A Cloud Guru – they’re on a mission to teach the world to cloud.

Slides and video

Being Objective is Hard: Product from the Agency Side – April Wrap

Between snap lockdowns and restrictions, we were lucky to be able to sneak in another face to face meetup to talk all things product. 

Even with all the various frameworks available, design thinking, lean methodologies and agile practices, product should be a piece of cake, right? Well, we all know that it rarely is. But what about when we add an agency lens on top as well? In April, Jim O’Malley and Su Lim from Isobar Australia shared some of their perspectives from the other side.

Some Common Challenges

  • Lack of customer focus: The product team may believe they own the product, but it is vital to remember our customers, because they’re the ones that will use our product. Often the product team may get it, however, sometimes the rest of the organisation may not.
  • Fixed solutions: where the team or organisation doesn’t apply an hypothesis-driven approach. Remember, ultimately, until it goes out in the market, we actually don’t know. We’re just guessing. 
  • Lack of autonomy: Teams are given a bunch of features to build, instead of problems to solve.
  • Hippos: Although often well meaning, having the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO) driving the direction, rather than underlying data can be a recipe for disaster. This can also cause a lack of communication or alignment to vision, and tends to drive the wrong focus.
  • Data derailers: Whether it is too much, or too little, or even the wrong sort of data. These all have the risk of slowing things down and grinding progress to a halt.

What To Do – an Agency Approach

Although working with an agency comes with a price tag, there are plenty of benefits too. From access to senior leadership, being impartial and baggage free, and disconnected from internal politics. 

To help pull this all together, the team at Isobar utilises their Diagnostic session framework, bringing key people (including senior stakeholders) together and co-designing an approach forward through a guided conversation. 

01. The Intro

Setting up the context and creating an environment with psychological safety, so that red flags can be raised early. This can be especially important in larger organisations. 

02. Past

Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of knowledge and experience already within the teams. But possibly also battle scars. Have an open conversation, and recognise how we got here, and what’s been tried before. Are there any prior learnings or research that can be leveraged? 

03. Present

Understand the current state. What are the hurdles and complexities that will need to be addressed? Are there any unknown or unexpected factors that need to be unpacked?

04. Future

Do we agree on the problem and proposition? Can we land on a product vision to guide future decisions? 

What is the desired future reality? What would need to change to enable this view? What are the barriers, enablers and quirks which may be unique to the business.

The group may have differing views, but find the common ground to start building a shared mental model and alignment.

05. Wrap

It is important to always end with clear next steps. What is required to move forward, by whom and by when. 

Final tips:

  • The setup: Be thoughtful of who should attend. Do your research and gather any pertinent information.
  • Be flexible: allow the conversation to flow, and don’t be too rigid with the structure of the workshop.
  • Collaborative wall-work (brick or digital) to help formulate shared understanding.
  • Leverage momentum.

Further reading available at https://isobar.training/anonymous/

Thank you

Thank you again to Jim O’Malley (Head of Strategic Design) and Su Lim (Associate Design Director) for generously sharing some of their experiences, and to our sponsor, the Products and Services team at Isobar Australia for hosting us.

And to our fearless organisers, Jen Leibhart and Liz Blink, and our dedicated volunteers, Gwen D’souzaNosh Darbari and Steve Bauer.

A Practical Guide to Customer Feedback

We love getting customer feedback – and there are some times we don’t love getting customer feedback! RSVP for Thursday July 22

Our speaker, Dipa Rao, will share her experiences of dealing with both
solicited AND unsolicited customer feedback. Dipa will discuss:

  • setting the right expectations for getting feedback
  • how to manage responses
  • how to prepare for managing everything that comes your way including hippos & distressed customers!

RSVP for Thursday July 22nd

Closer to the date we’ll know if we can do this session as both in-person and online streaming.

Our Speaker

Dipa Rao is a Product Experience at Australia Post. She has worked as an Agile Coach and consultant at Elabor8 with clients such as Coles, UniSuper, Seek & the Alcohol & Drug Foundation. Twitter:@dipanjali 

Our Sponsor

Yellowfin is a global analytics and business intelligence (ABI) software vendor with a suite of world-class products powered by automation. Yellowfin is recognized as an innovator by the world’s leading analyst firms. More than 29,000 organizations and over 3 million end-users across 75 countries use Yellowfin every day. https://www.yellowfinbi.com/

Continuous Discovery in Real Life

Thursday, June 17th RSVP

Continuous discovery is often referenced as a way to build an organisational view of customer needs; ultimately bringing focus to solving the problems that add value for customers and by extension the business.

However, the road to building this ideal is neither straight nor clear. There are multiple obstacles, anchors and false starts, especially if you’re starting from a position where your organisation is neither wired nor ready for such a journey.

Over the last four years, FatSecret has inched toward a continuous discovery model that is by no means complete, but they’re getting closer to the end goal, and learned a lot along the way. This session will cover a few of their lessons, missteps and wins along the way.

Our presenter

Head of Product at FatSecret, Ben Ryan

Ben started in product when he applied for a Producer role at REA at the end of 2012. By the time he actually got hired, that role had become a Consumer Product Manager. Soon after, he got to be the guinea pig in an experiment to merge REAs Consumer and Customer Product Manager roles and didn’t dislike the change.

Later, after a year (possibly less) working in the Death Star (aka NAB’s 700 Bourke Street), he decided to take a punt on a company he’d never heard of and became the first Product Manager at FatSecret. They’d also never heard of a Product Manager, so there were lessons to be had by all. Since then, he’s helped the company launch a consumer offering and grow revenues by 60% YoY.

Try as he might, he can’t help but look down on people who use “learnings” in sentences…or in any form, for that matter.

Session Details

We are not sure if this will be a f2f/zoom or some combination of the two. When you RSVP, let us know your likelihood of joining Zoom or in-person.

Become (more) brilliant with Impro! – March Wrap

Impro Melbourne session at Product Anonymous
Photo courtesy of Koen Alexander

After a long challenging year, it was great to get back together for our first face to face meetup for 2021. After multiple delays, we finally were able to be joined by Katherine Weaver and Caylie Panuccio from Impro Melbourne for a fun and interactive session and it certainly did not disappoint. 

During the session, we learnt a little about improv, and were guided through a series of activities, where we learnt about:

  • Supporting each other and helping your partner (colleague) look good;
  • Collaborating with others and building on ideas;
  • Empathy for our stakeholders, who will have a lot of other things on their plate at times; and
  • Our own self-consciousness, and the artificial rules we create for ourselves.

Not only was the session extremely fun, we also saw how the exercises could be applied in work settings, to make us better product people. 

About Impro Melbourne

Impro Melbourne is Victoria’s premier improvisation company and the home of spontaneous theatre since 1996, and celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.  

Between performing shows and running a full schedule of workshops at their training facilities, they also take workshops and shows to schools and community venues, and lead corporate training sessions at home and overseas. 

If you’re interested in learning more or developing soft skills, beginner workshops are available: 

Check their website for more dates and details. Or for corporate events, public events, or workshops, contact Impro Melbourne at publicworkshops@impromelbourne.com.au

Thank you

Thank you again to our fantastic facilitators: Katherine Weaver, improviser, actor, teacher and Artistic Director of Impro Melbourne and Caylie Panuccio, Senior UX Researcher at SEEK, who has been practicing improvised theatre with Impro Melbourne on and off for the past couple of years and has found it a huge help as a designer / researcher / product person working in corporate environments

And also to our volunteers, Gwen D’souza, Nosh Darbari, Steve Bauer and our trusty organisers, Jen Leibhart and Liz Blink.

Katherine and Caylie doing their thing.
Photo courtesy of Koen Alexander