Continuous Discovery – June wrap-up

Caitlin Blackwell is the acting Head of Product for the candidate experience at SEEK. Caitlin joined us last Thursday to talk about continuous discovery and how SEEK is using this framework.

Caitlin talked to how you can generalise the product manager role into 2 areas – deciding what to build and then building it. Teresa Torres talks to how we have gotten really good at shipping quickly via Agile, Lean Startup and other frameworks. We haven’t had the same emphasis on deciding what to build – ie continuous discovery.

We risk wasted effort when we rush to building and don’t do the work to understand what is needed. We can build an MVP quickly but you might have to wait a while until you have a good enough sample size or feedback to keep moving forward or realise you don’t have the right solution.

Caitlin believes discovery is all about being able to make better decisions through the product process. There’s several reasons we make bad decisions (aka the villains) including lack of clarity on the problem, being overconfident, etc.

A part of Teresa Torres’ framework they use is opportunity maps. This visual mapping lets you clearly state the outcome you want (linked back to your OKRs of course!), show the customer needs and show several solutions that may help you reach the goal.

Speaking to customers is key. Caitlin said their teams (ux & product combined) do 5 customer interviews every fortnight with a standup at end of day to share insights with the rest of the team. It’s important to talk to customers to learn about them, not only test out ideas.

The map helps to visualise the situation though you still have work to do in order to decide which customer opportunity and solution to move forward with. After sizing the opportunity to decide which to explore, you should ideate & validate assumptions through experiments.

Caitlin walked through one example where the OKR was to increase the SAT score of a particular customer segment. She shared some of the tools and ways SEEK walks through continuous discovery. (See the slides at the end this article)

View this post on Instagram

#prodanon #ideation

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

https://twitter.com/catspyjamasnz/status/1144171835640016899

Once you’ve decided which opportunity to go after, it’s time to ideate & validate. There are different tools you can use to experiment and test your ideas (slide 21 has a list).

A few tips:

  • Spend 5 minutes a day to brainstorm. Frequently spending a short time is less cognitively draining than an hour brainstorm!
  • Do what you can to learn quickly in order to move forward. Talking with 2 customers is better than no customers. You can still learn something from those 2 (sample size is important but you can learn and be smart about what you’re hearing from small numbers)
  • Map your assumptions! Decide how you validate/disprove each of them.

During the talk, Caitlin gave us a few examples of how using continuous discovery can help create better products.

First up a product fail. When launching a new product which employers did not have access to, they came up with an ‘access code’ solution process to assist. The team ran an experiment to test the process but didn’t test their assumptions enough before launching – particularly really questioning the desirability and usability of a long process. The sales team’s feedback from employers was it is difficult to change behaviour without showing the value of doing so.

A win… SEEK wanted to introduce the ability to search for jobs by commuting distance. They listed their assumptions, what data they needed to assess risk and how they’d get that quickly. Testing made them realise it’s not just distance in km that’s relevant to job seekers as 10k on a tram vs a highway trip is very different time wise. Experimenting allowed them to dig deeper into understanding the candidate need.

How can you get started with continuous discovery?

  • Talk to users frequently. Ask them how they use your product.
  • Decide what metric you want to shift. This could be your OKR.
  • When ideating, go broad. Go for quantity. You can narrow later.
  • Do some sort of assumption mapping before you start building. Even if it’s listing out assumptions without a framework.

To Learn More

Caitlin recommends the following:

Thank you!

A big thank you to Caitlin for sharing, for RMIT Online for hosting, the fantastic ProdAnon volunteers and all attendees!

Join us for our next events in July – The life and times of an entrepreneur and then our special event for Leading the Product – Pitchfest. See you there!

Special Event: Leading the Product Pitchfest

Leading the Product (aka LTP) is in its 5th year! We hope to see you there on October 17th.

Along with bringing together international and local speakers for a day of product management goodness, this is the 2nd year they’re welcoming you to pitch for one of their lightning talk spots.

So if you’d like to present to ~500 product professionals, we’re hosting a LTP Pitchfest to give you the chance to do exactly that! If you’re not interested in pitching, please come along and support those who are. RSVP

First, we’ll hear from the folks who did Lightning Talks last year. Daniel Kinal, Shiyu Zhu and Jen Leibhart will talk about their lightning talk experience in planning, practicing and getting up there!

Then, it’s your turn! Those of you interested will get 90 seconds to pitch what you’d like to talk about at LTP. No slides… just you sharing with the crowd & judges. To reiterate… you are NOT doing the lightning talk but just pitching your idea for a LTP talk.

At the end of the evening, 2 people will be selected to present a Lightning Talk at Leading the Product 2019. Selection is based on the judges’ vote (judges to be announced)

RSVP now!

I WANT TO PRESENT! WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?

You should rsvp for this session and then tell us you’re interested via this form.

WHAT IS A LIGHTNING TALK?

It is a five minute presentation, with 20 slides that advance automatically. You can see the video of the three Lightning talks from Leading the Product Melbourne 2017.

Thanks to our LTP sponsors Brainmates and Seek for making this event happen.

Brainmates

The What & Why of Wardley Maps – The wrap-up

I first heard of Wardley Mapping about 2 months ago and then the name started popping up in a few places which got us investigating it as a potential topic. Coming at it from zero knowledge, it seemed like the sort of thing product folks should know more about as it concerned both strategy & decision making.

Kim Ballestrin, Principal Consultant at elabor8, talked us through the basics and got us creating a map by thinking through the user needs capturing & protecting their personal data when using social media.

The What of Wardley Maps

A Wardley Map is a representation of the landscape & environment a company operates in. Its creator, Simon Wardley, believes a leader should have a map of the terrain to help guide their strategy.

The map consists of the activities the user needs to accomplish their goal charted across lifecycle, supply & demand.

You can use this framework in several ways, such as:

  • To think about your ongoing product development – from USP to commodities
  • A way of looking at the market or competitor landscape
  • Process and value chains from understanding where you have no standard process to defining a highly standardised process

The Whys of Wardley Maps

The map is a great way to create discussion. Once created, scan your map from top to bottom and left to right to determine if there are specific decisions that need to be made. Look for assumptions you’re making on the map or within your existing thought process.

Bonus – The How of Wardley Maps!

There’s a few principles to keep in mind when creating a Wardley Map:

  • The user need is your starting point
  • Keep it simple and on a small scale – don’t try to map EVERYTHING!
  • Your map will be imperfect – and that is completely ok!

How to create a Wardley Map

  1. Define your user’s needs.
  2. What are the activities the user takes in order for those needs to be met?
  3. Drill down into functions & features based on the visibility of the features to the end user.

Chart your functions & features from left to right along the evolutionary axes. The axes go from bespoke (genesis) on the left to generic (commodity) on the right.

Sketch in the linkages between the features & functions. This gives a good landscape of where you are right now.

Mapping out these connections and perhaps seeing where you may be too dominant in your commodity space & thus are at risk of disruption. Or understand that you’re too heavy in custom services, which bring high cost to serve & thus its time to consider streamlining the business by moving those to a product stage. These are some examples of ways a Wardley map helps you see the landscape and make better strategic decisions on what to do next as an organisation.

ProdAnon also had a bit of a surprise! The man himself, Simon Wardley, creator of this framework just happened to be in Melbourne Thursday evening and attended the session. Thank you Kim for inviting him!

Simon was kind enough to take some questions from the audience & talk through how he came up with his framework all those years ago.

Thank you to all the ProdAnon volunteers!! Ana Roy for fantastic note taking (& the great sketches!), Steve Cheah for the pix & elevator work and a these amazing people: Gwen D’souza, Marija Becker , Rob Finney, Richard Burke, Neha Jaiswal.

A massive thank you to DiUS for hosting the evening!

DiUS

Thank you Kim for the talk & organising the surprise appearance by Simon!

Resources

Strategy for Executives – Situation Normal, Everything Must Change

Simon Wardley’s ‘Wardley Mapping‘ site

The What & Why of Wardley Mapping

A lot goes into creating a strategy – market data, competitor information, current performance evaluation, vision, mission, values and on and on.

The creator of Wardley Maps, Simon Wardley, argues we need a map, not a SWOT. Maps help us with situational awareness so we can see movement in the future and maps are important in deciding on actions.

Our speaker for the evening, Kim Ballestrin of elabor8, will run us through the concept of Wardley Mapping, how to use it for decision making and some examples of how others have used this type of mapping. The bulk of the evening will be workshop style as we will all create a Wardley map.

Hope to see you there. RSVP now!

Doors 6pm
Talk starts at 6:30pm

Our Speaker:

Kim Ballestrin is a passionate and highly skilled Principal Consultant at Elabor8 working on the Agile transformations of large enterprises.

She has over 20 years of diverse management (IT) experience, helping some of Australia’s most prominent organisations on their Agile change journey. Kim is an experienced technologist, having worked in roles from IT business analyst through to program and delivery centre management. She specialises in Lean, Cynefin, Agile, Systems Thinking, Design Thinking, DevOps and ideas to improve the ways that companies work and deliver value to customers.

Currently the organiser of the Melbourne Cynefin and Lean Coffee Meetups, Kim regularly presents and runs workshops at leading local and international conferences on the Cynefin Framework, Decision Mapping and Early Idea Feasibility.

The What & Why of Wardley Mapping

Thursday, Mar 28, 2019, 6:00 PM

DiUS
31 Queen St Melbourne, AU

110 Prod anon-ers Went

A lot goes into creating a strategy – market data, competitor information, current performance evaluation, vision, mission, values and on and on. The creator of Wardley Maps, Simon Wardley, argues we need a map, not a SWOT. Maps help us with situational awareness so we can see movement in the future and maps are important in deciding on actions. Ou…

Check out this Meetup →

Sharing your (startup) baby with the 1st Product Manager – November wrap-up

What’s it like to start a company & then bring in a product manager? How do you know when the time is right?

We gathered 3 founders to talk about sharing their baby along with 1 product manager who’s the 1st PM at a startup to facilitate!

Our panel was Danielle Bodinnar, CEO of Karista, Rod Hamilton, founder & VP of Product at Culture Amp, Linus Chang, founder of 2 software companies (Backup Assist & Scram Software) and our facilitator,George Tsigounis, from A Cloud Guru.

Trust came up very early in our discussion. For CultureAmp, trust is part of their company values and differences of opinion is a good thing. When you challenge things, it’s from a good place. Karista has 1 product person & Danielle was super impressed by the research and prep the PM did before their 1st meeting – which quickly earned her trust. Linus talked about the differences people have in the way they think of earning trust. Some people start from a place of trust while others need to build it up.

When did they realise they needed a product manager?

Rod went to the rest of the founders & said he needed to start hiring because he was getting slammed. Some of the other teams at Culture Amp, including technology, had scaled up previously so it wasn’t a surprise when he came to the realisation. Danielle brought on the 1st PM shortly after launch. As a solo founder, she needed someone she could hand stuff over to and know it will be done.

Why are product managers needed?

Danielle laughingly said she doesn’t know what a product manager does (as in what the job description should include) but she knows the only product manager at Karista gets stuff done!

One of the reasons Linus realised they needed a product manager was no one was paying attention to trends of the market & what opportunities were out there. They had a product owner who was internally focused & worked closely with the dev team but only he & his business partner ever talked to customers. He sees the product manager as being visionary as in really knowing customer needs, not just what the customer says they need.

The ‘special’ deals

Startups often have the ‘special’. That thing(or multiple things!) that was built for the 1 customer so the business can get the revenue or a specific client or (insert reason). It’s completely sales led, isn’t validated as a customer need and often ends up with code that says ‘if customer X, do this’. Saying yes to a special for 1 customer is saying no to all the others so if you’re going to do this, you need to put it in context – communicate clearly with the team why you’re doing this.

Later Rod reminded us that it’s the product manager role to ‘win the market not the client’ & quoted Gibson Biddle’s definition where our job is to delight customers, in margin-enhancing, hard-to-copy ways (from Gibson’s Leading the Product talk )

Scaling the product team

Beyond the 1st PM, you will need to scale your own team. Culture Amp now has ~ 9 product people and is continuing to grow. They are creating product rituals like a Monday catchup to review the week’s goals and one on Friday for the team to talk about what went well/not well during the week (a bit of a therapy session).

Now that there are several PMs & Rod isn’t involved at the same level as previously, he sometimes wonders why X was prioritised and knows he would have done X differently but has to let go of those decisions. The team has built trust amongst themselves so when Rod does challenge something – it’s a positive thing & discussion to follow.

Lastly, a few tips for startup product people from the founders: (which apply to all product, not just startup!)

  • Don’t just talk to existing clients, know the potentials too
  • You need to constantly be in touch with customers
  • Don’t assume growth is not your job
  • Be commercially minded

Thank you to Culture Amp for hosting!!!

Culture Amp logo

The 1st Product Manager

When – and how – does a startup decide they need a product manager? And what sort of challenges will the first product manager at a startup face?

Those & more questions will be put to our panel of startup founders.

RSVP now for Thursday Nov 22nd

If you’re a product manager at a startup, considering a role as the 1st product person at a company or a founder, come along to hear from our panel of founders – what’s their experience been, why did they decide they needed a product person, etc.

Our panel

Danielle Bodinnar, CEO of Karista
Danielle is a passionate entrepreneur and mother of two, who has held senior management positions in sales, marketing, supply chain and project management in large corporations for over 20 years. She founded Karista after being inspired by the changes emerging in the healthcare industry.

Doug English, Founder & CTO at Culture Amp

Our facilitator for the eve is George Tsigounis who has been the 1st product manager at a startup!

RSVP for Sharing your baby with a product manager on Thursday November 22nd

This is the last Product Anonymous of 2018 so we will definitely be going to a pub after – consider it your 1st xmas party of the season!

Culture Amp logo Thank you Culture Amp for hosting!

Bringing Human Experiences to work – September wrap-up

What does it mean when we say we’re ‘bringing human experiences’ to work? And why should we?

Gin Atkins, Head of Product at The Conversation kicked off the evening with:

We know people are at the core of what we do. Yet, our best developers, designers, and product managers are rarely able to talk about people with as much confidence and nuance as they talk about ruby, typefaces or commercial strategy.

Over the course of the evening, Gin introduced us to 3 ways to help draw out experiences & bring them into our work.

Energy Graph – a tool to help us think and talk about experiences.

The energy graph is a tool used in acting to show the spectrum of experience. Gin learned it from Paul Currie, the co-founder of The Reach Foundation and Lightstream Entertainment.

Using several clips of music, Gin had us mark how each music clip made us feel on the graph & compare with others sitting at our table. There was definitely differences in what made us happy or sad and how energised (or not) it made us feel. Though apparently I’m the only person who gets annoyed by the Lion King soundtrack! To contrast, one attendee recounted how the Lion King brings up memories & great feelings of her daughter based on past experiences and you could see how happy she was as she told us about this. Imagine the 2 of us in a workshop where the Lion King soundtrack was playing in the background… she’d be in a great frame of mind where I’d be feeling agitated. Could that affect the results of the workshop?

Think about how music affects you. Consider a song you hate vs one you love vs one that is unoffensive. To bring this back to the office, how do the meeting rooms make you feel? Does your research participant or client feel comfortable?

You can see the graph in the slides below.

Levels of Emotional Design – a framework

Next Gin talked about Don Norman’s 3 levels of (emotional) design which provides a framework to document experiences.

This combines how a product looks & makes us feel when we engage with it (initially & ongoing) with our conscious thought about the product (for example – does it represent what I want to project to the world?)

Gin likes to use Jobs to be Done instead of User Stories to capture these elements. She feels there’s too many assumptions in the ‘As a…’ and ‘I want to…’ of user stories. A JTBD statement focuses on the situation, motivation & expected outcome – ‘when (situation), i want to (motivation) so I can (expected outcome)’.

Using the classic MP3 player example, Gin showed how using emotional design changes what you build.

functional description – When I’m listening to music I want a device that holds all my music so I can listen to anything at any time.

emotional – When I’m listening to music I want a device that looks good so I feel as cool as the artists I’m listening to

Draw on your own experiences – a call to action to help us get better

Drawing on anthropology, there’s etic & emic research of groups.

An etic view of a culture is the perspective of an outsider looking in. This can be problematic as people act differently when they know people are observing them.

An emic view of culture is the insider’s view – when you are part of the group. This is where we are with our teams, in our work lives.

We can use our insider’s view to bring more human experiences into our work & our products.

Thank you to Gin and Carsales, our host for the evening!

FYI, with Leading the Product happening in October, the next Product Anonymous event is November 22nd. RSVP here.

Resources
Also mentioned during the evening – the Overton Window

How to bring human experiences into your work – Sept 20th

September has us talking about humans. RSVP now.

This session will take a look at the range of experiences we have as individuals, and what we can draw from our own experiences to improve how we design and build for others.

We’ll look at how much we delve into that range, how much we shy away from the extremes, from our intuitions, and how we overlook the nuance in favour of the coarse and the safe.

We’ll go through some frameworks that help apply these conversations at work, how you can format insights that feed into design specifications, and we’ll discuss how these principles apply to facilitation and user research, product, and service design.

Why?
We know people are at the core of what we do, but we rarely explore them with as much rigour or subtlety as we do more technical domains. Our best developers, designers, and product managers are rarely able to talk about humans with as much confidence and nuance as they can talk about ruby, typefaces or commercial strategy.

It’s hard. Partly because the topic is so subjective – it’s so close to all of us, and it’s hard to lay claim to being an expert. It can also be confronting, we can lack the vocabulary, and it’s easy to be wrong. But what do we lose by holding back from fully exploring the human dimension of the problems we’re trying to solve? What tools can we use to make these conversations easier, and focused on product outcomes?

Our Speaker
Gin Atkins is the Head of Product at The Conversation, a global network of independent newsrooms across Africa, Europe, Asia-Pac and North America.

Gin has spent the last 15 years learning about, designing for, and leading people in both product and service environments. She draws on a diverse range of experiences, spanning youth work, community mental health, management consulting, enterprise innovation labs and tech startups.

This includes designing and delivering immersive experiences for hundreds of young people across Australia, working with adults with complex mental health needs, designing a global front-line leadership program for one of the worlds biggest mining companies, a B2B SaaS product focused around data insight into AWS, and go to market strategy for a hardware-software time tracking product.

Gin on Twitter

Leading the Product Pitchfest – July wrap-up

We hope you’ve heard about Leading the Product – the fantastic product management conference Down Under.

We teamed up with the LTP folks to hold a pitchfest for lightning talk spots and we’re thrilled to announce Daniel Kinal & Shiyu Zhu will take the stage in October!!

Thanks to everyone for supporting the folks who pitched their talks, to Seek for hosting, for Leading the Product for the great idea and to our judging panel – Adrienne Tan of Brainmates/Leading the Product, Mark O’Shea of Seek and Dan Johnston of CultureAmp.

Before kicking off the pitches, we had a few of last year’s lightning talk folks – Liz Blink, Katherine Barrett & Zac Andrew – to tell us what it was like and give us a few tips!

  • Know your beginning and end! Give yourself some time to ad-lib in the middle
  • Good memes at the beginning & end help
  • Practice, practice, practice, practice!
  • Know how fast or slow you speak when you’re in front of people.
  • Focus on the content of the talk first and the slides second.
  • Props are your friend
  • Bring a story to life
  • Have 3 things the audience can walk away with
  • That sick feeling you have before getting up on stage is a good thing – it’s excitement!

We had 10 pitches on the evening – including a last minute submission! They were all fantastic!! Leading the Product only had 2 spots available so we hope to hear these other talks at Product Camp Melbourne in August!

Get your tickets to Leading the Product before they sell out (which they do every year!)!

Thank you Seek for hosting!

Our next event is Product Camp – register now and submit a pitch!

Announcement: Product Camp Melbourne 2018!!!!

This year Product Camp Melbourne will be on Saturday August 25th! RSVP now!

MYOB will be our host. They first hosted Product Camp in 2016 and since then we’ve both grown – they have an expanded office that will fit our expanded group!

We’ve locked in 1 keynote who we will announce soon and there’s lots of fun we’re planning for this year!

Keep up to date with the Product Camp website. We’ve already added a new video!

So reserve your spot now!!! RSVP