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

Every Product is a Service – June wrap-up

We gathered a couple people who work in product and a couple people who work in design to discuss if every product is a service and how we can work together well.

This would not have been possible without Service Design Melbourne & NEXT, a division of the Reece Group, who kindly sponsored the evening.

To introduce our panel, we quizzed them on their qualifications…
Dave Calleja – Associate Design Director at Isobar. Has a degree in design.
Kate Edwards-Davis – Product Manager at Karista. Studied classical music performance & philosophy.
Dr Stefanie Di Russo – Principal Designer at NAB. Holds design degrees including a PhD in design thinking.
Daniel Kinal – Product Manager at MYOB. His degrees go across economics, accounting, marketing and a some information systems stuff.

And our moderator – Liz Blink – Digital Customer Experience Manager at Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning VIC Government. Holds a PhD in immunology.

Which goes to show we work with people from very diverse backgrounds & there’s different avenues to getting into the work we do.

First we surveyed the audience to see which camp they belonged to… service design, product, something else or multiple areas. 57% of our audience said they were something else! From the shouts from the audience, it seemed a lot of folks identified with ‘UX’.

kicking off our session with service design melbourne #prodanon

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Dave raised the definition of ‘product’ and how you can’t really divide up things like Netflix into those definitions of ‘product’ or ‘service’. Do you think Netflix is a product or a service? He feels to discuss the two, there needs to be some semantic mud hurdling.

Steph pointed out that service design has a time element with artifacts and actors while product is the artifact itself at a certain point of time.

While Daniel thinks it’s all ‘product’ going across goods & services lines. If we are talking about eating a mandarin for breakfast or getting a scalp massage there’s a clear ‘product’ or ‘service’ in those definitions but we probably all work on complex products which have both tangible & intangible elements. There is a basket of benefits you’re offering the end customer.

Kate asked ‘who cares?’. The outcome is the important thing! We’re trying to package something together to help meet a customer’s need. ‘Products’ co-exist with ‘services’ and we even buy some ‘products’ despite the ‘service’ we receive with them.

Kate brought a prop along to prove the point that a ‘product’ or good can always be improved when you think about the ‘service’! Who Gives a Crap is toilet paper that’s been wrapped in a ‘service’. They offer a subscription service so you never run out and they are focused on social good by being environmentally sound and donating profits. They are disrupting with their ‘service’.

There was lots of talk of physical products – mandarins, toilet paper and then coke! Steph discussed the difference between a ‘service’ and an ‘experience’. The taste of the coke is part of the ‘experience’ while there’s actors & elements that enable the ‘service’ to exist.

But Dave brought it back into the realm of the digital (which most folks in the room work in…). When you are using a digital ‘service’ like Netflix, there’s definitely a physical attribute which might be sitting on the couch, having a tablet or remote in your hand. It’s how the end user experiences this, how the end user views that as the product. What words we in the industry use to discuss it isn’t as important as the outcome.

Service design is a design methodology & an approach to tackle problems. There are lots of frameworks & ways to understand problems and each discipline (product, design, marketing, etc) will have preferred ways. You can have customer experience people who do not use design methodologies and may rely more on marketing.

Daniel sees the rise of design thinking as a level of maturity in seeing the value of not going right to a solution and looking for ways to truly articulate the problem.

There was some discussion on how good ‘service’ can recover people when they have a bad ‘product’ experience. The ‘service’ element is what helps to get the good online reviews.

Steph asked Daniel if a good product person should have a design background which lead to a discussion about working together.

Everyone agreed a team needs to exist which brings different perspectives and skill sets. Kate brought up the skill set of being able to deliver a product at a price point that will sell & the act of using the organisation’s capabilities. Daniel discussed one of the responsibilities for a product manager is to be the advocate for the stakeholder who is not in the room (including the customer). Dave said if the team isn’t considering viability, feasibility & desirablity together, you’re unbalanced. Steph focuses more on the desirability while working with product people but is also thinking about the other two.

Healthy debates where you’re not so dogmatic about your position are best said Steph. Daniel wants designers to have a different perspective and be even more customer driven than he is so they can have creative (good) conflict about the different ways to reach a specific goal. He’s found that the more experience a person has, typically they have a level of maturity that allows them to leave their ego at the door about whose idea it was but at the end of the meeting, you are all focused in 1 direction.

Kate recommends spending time together to understand the customer & strategy. What a person’s title is doesn’t matter as long as you are there to learn & understand from each other. Dave also mentioned psychological safety of having those conversations & suggested leaving the drama to Love Island, not the office.

Thank you to NEXT, a division of the Reece Group and Service Design Melbourne for a wonderful evening!

 

Cognitive Bias – Check your bias at the door – May 24th

A cognitive bias is a ‘mistake’ that’s a result of holding onto your own preferences or beliefs no matter what evidence is presented. It can impact our decision making, our memory, the way we interpret research, etc.

RSVP for our Thursday May 24th session

As a product person, every day heaps of information comes our way – a sales manager telling us about a client conversation, Google Analytics, the latest customer research, queries from support, and on it goes.

With every bit of information, we’re trying to figure out what it means, if it’s important enough to do something about, how & when we should do something, and on it goes.

Our brain relies on cognitive biases which help us quickly sort everything out and that can get us in trouble!

We will walk through 6 of the most common cognitive biases that often come up in product development – including conducing & understanding our research plus decision making.

We’ll discuss how to watch out for those sneaky biases & walk through a checklist to help our teams in future.

Our speaker: David Di Sipio
Technology is all about people. I create great experiences by focusing on what makes people tick. I’m a registered Psychologist currently working at Squiz as a UX Consultant. My approach is grounded in academic research, big-data and best-practice. The work I do leads to measurable improvements in two main areas – product and productivity.

Doors 6pm
Talk kicks off 6:30pm
RSVP now!

Thank you to our sponsor, Origin Energy!

Does data or design win with product folks? March wrap-up

Does data or design rule supreme for us product folk? When we’re deciding what to work on or how to create whatever we’re creating… which do we lean towards?

To debate data vs design, we gathered a fabulous panel: 

Firmly on the data side was Marty Kemka from Northraine. Marty is a data scientist and entrepreneur. He’s worked on projects where something needed to shift and he says as long as you know the metric & design the experiment properly, the data should be able to show you the way.

On the design side, from Cogent, Amelia Crook is very interested in what human need is being solved and thinks people leave a trail of data but that data can’t give you the insight as to why the person has done something. The why is what gets you to the need.

Also, Steve Bauer was sitting on the design side. Steve also wants to understand the human element, is appreciative of qualitative research & yet knows his way around the numbers.

And finally Jane Register who has a design background and said she was also representing design. She’s previously worked with qualitative research but currently works on a product with lots of data. She has more data available now than ever before and finds that exciting.

FYI Jane & Steve work together at Aconex and prior to the event, Steve thought Jane would absolutely be on the data side. Jane later talked about how as a UX designer, she can’t have data without design nor design without data. For her you need to data to tell you some things but you also need the ‘why’.

We also had a great facilitator for the evening, Jane Scowcroft from Data61.

#prodanon

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Everyone had a card to vote if they were ‘data’ or ‘design’ and the initial check suggested most were leaning towards the data side. Our unscientific count was data in the lead at maybe 60% of the audience. The subsequent discussion may have gotten us to a different outcome!?!

Delving into the data isn’t easy according to our design folks. You need to know the context of the questions asked, if the data is spread across different tables or db & there will be back & forth between you & the data analyst in order to even craft the right questions. You can get lost down data rabbit holes. Marty agreed that it needs to be a collaboration with the data analyst because you need to realise there will be database changes to work with, you need to know the context of when an event happened, you have to really understand what you’re measuring and what confidence level you have in all this.

We also touched on using the data to tell the right story of your product. How are you measuring success, what are you optimising for and is that in the context of your product, your department or the entire (especially when large) organisation?

About half way thru the evening, another audience check had us about 50/50 split across data v design.

We see the value of bringing data scientists & analysts into the design fold to help them do their jobs better. Marty recounted a project he worked on where he went out to the field to see how things where done which then greatly helped when he was back at his computer. Over the years it’s been about getting developers to understand the customers more… now we need to bring along the data folks.

Amelia mentioned that looking at an excel sheet doesn’t help you connect with your users. You don’t gain a lot of empathy amongst the cells and rows! Taking folks out in the field so they can meet users is great motivation for wanting to solve that problem for the user.

At the end, the panel couldn’t help itself and admitted needing both data and design to get a great outcome in your product world. I think maybe even Marty started coming around 🙂 And our audience was pretty even 50/50.

Thank you to Jane! Thank you Amelia, Jane, Marty & Steve! Thank you Data61 and Intrepid Group for sponsoring the evening!!

Who has the upper hand? UX or Product?

As we all strive to make a successful product, tension between team mates is inevitable and can help get to a better solution. Or not.

Inspiration for this panel discussion comes from conversations where 1 role thinks the other has more control so we’re teaming up with Ladies that UX Melbourne to bring both sides together & discuss. How can we work together better? Have the roles & responsibilities become blurred causing confusion? What’s happening? How can we improve?

Help direct the panel conversation by submitting your thoughts & questions now.

Our facilitator:
Kirsten Mann

Our panel:
On the UX side, we have Homaxi Irani & Louise Long. On the Product side, Nicole Brolan & Jen Leibhart .

Find out more about our awesome partner for this event – Ladies that UX Melbourne

Thank you to Seek for hosting!

seek