Saturday August 24th was our 10th birthday and a big thank you to all the sponsors, speakers volunteers and attendees to made it a lovely day!
It is always a fantastic time when the tribe of people who care about making great products gets together and (if you ask me) Camp is the best day of the year for gaining new knowledge, sharing with others, meeting new people, catching up with friends and ex-colleagues and so much more.
Thanks to some amazing volunteers and attendees, we can share these notes from sessions you may have missed. If we’ve missed yours, add it in the comments. We’ll add more as volunteers send them in.
NPS is global phenomenon which we are told to ignore at our peril – but maybe it’s all pseudoscience!
When the concept of a single survey question to ask and a single number to track to gauge the health of your market offering was introduced to the world 15 years ago, it was to huge acclaim.
Today, it has become the default measure for many organisations, So well-established that so few of us stop to ask why we’re using it.
Daniel will take us back 15 years to the birth of NPS – what was the origin? What was the original intention? Then look at how it’s used now, where it might actually be useful and how it’s misused!
He’ll also talk to how we move forward with actionable measures that will make a difference.
Daniel will cover:
Understanding where NPS makes sense & how we should best employ it
Why NPS is probably not the right tool for product managers
Quantitative and qualitative measures that help us drive product development
Our Speaker: Daniel Kinal has been in product management for over 16 years, chiefly working in IT with a focus on B2B products & services.
He began his career in marketing, communications and consulting 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.
He is passionate about product management as a discipline and is intrigued by how businesses, large and small, grapple with the innovation, collaboration and the measuring of value.
Grant Hatamosa is the first employee of Zen Ecosystems, a hot upstart in the cleantech/smart grid industry. Grant has worn multiple hats through his journey of becoming Zen Ecosystems Vice President of Product. He was a call centre agent, field technician, manufacturing manager, and operations & support manager on top of his actual role as Product Manager. He currently spends his time on Business Development & Product Management preaching the gospel of energy efficiency to customers in the US and Australia. Prior to his stint at Zen Ecosystems, Grant was a lead software developer for Planet Innovation, a company that was awarded Australia’s Most Innovative Company for a number of years. He also had stints in Singapore and the Philippines for NXP Semiconductors and Lexmark Research and Development respectively.
Shannon Gilleland is a project manager come entrepreneur who earned her stripes not only managing schedules across 12 international teams, for a global games company, but from getting her virtual hands dirty in the e-commerce business setting up and running multiple online businesses. She’s now putting her entrepreneurial, project management and problem solving skills to good use by helping solve one of the worlds plastic pollution problems as well as helping her fellow parents travel easier with a baby.
Carl Rigoni is the founder & CEO of SixSix. With a strong track record in successfully managing portfolios of digital and traditional businesses, generating revenues in excess of $1B, Carl is a leading force in helping our clients achieve their economic goals in the digital landscape. Carl also has extensive experience in building multiple cross functional digital incubation teams to facilitate innovation and Enterprise transformation agendas. Furthermore, he has launched highly successful disruptive products such as an award winning Whereis Mobile Application, Sensis1234, and a national Digital Change of Address Notification service.
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)
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:
An introduction to Modern Product Discovery & more resources – Teresa Torres
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)
Objectives & Key Results. Do they really deliver on the promise? Will they help you reach your goals?
We enlisted 3 product people to talk about their experience of using OKRs to see how they work in real life.
Andrew Knibbe, Head of Product – Direct Hirer at Seek – has over 10 years of product management experience – cutting his product teeth in the early days alongside the ThoughtWorks team at Sensis followed by stints at Carsales and Flippa before moving to SEEK where he has had Head of Product roles across both the Consumer and Business side of the employment marketplace. He remains excited about what OKRs can mean for product teams (and customers!).
Wayne Allan, Technical Product Manager, REA – A muso turned software engineer turned product manager, I love creating things people love! Currently solving problems at realestate.com.au
Brad Dunn, Co-founder and Product Director at OHNO. Before that, he was the executive for Product & Customer Experience at Geo. For 7 years, Brad was the CEO of Nazori, a mobile product development business, where they worked with clients in 12 countries around the world including Samsung, Airbnb and Aesop.
The OKR Process
Andrew let us know that every team at Seek manages their OKRs a little bit differently & they’re currently in their 4th or 5th quarter of doing OKRs.
Andrew described a very team based approach (which is what Wayne also talked to). About 6 weeks before the end of the quarter, the teams receive some context on where the business is going & what they’re seeing in the market. About 2 weeks before the end of the quarter, the team incorporates their own research & knowledge to create draft OKRs for the next quarter. Drafts are reviewed to ensure they are aligned across the portfolio.
Setting OKRs is only part of the process – you need to understand how they went & learn from them. At Seek, there’s check-ins during the quarter (even just emails) and at the end of the quarter, teams present how they went for each OKR, what that means for the roadmap & strategy going forward and what the next set of OKRs are. REA has a mid-quarter update to ensure you’re on the right path or if there’s roadblocks that need to be cleared.
Wayne reminded us that part of the process is needing to educate your team about OKRs. Some people might think they are tied to performance or compensation so you need explain how the OKRs work. As the acceptance of OKRs builds across the business, you need to keep educating different groups.
And Brad noted they do not follow the usual quarterly OKR cycle! They work to a 6 week plan because that’s what works for them.
What works well…
There was clear agreement between our speakers that OKRs can create alignment between teams & stakeholders. They set expectations on what to do, not how to do it. They force prioritisation early on. They help people understand why you did X and not Y. Brad believes they are great for helping people believe in something & getting people to rally behind something.
Wayne believes they help speed up decision making as the product manager doesn’t have to answer everything. People on the team know where they are headed which drives performance within the team.
Based on what our speakers said, it seems they can also help raise issues. Use the OKRs to help show when a deliverable (that’s been delivered) needs some help. If a senior stakeholder says to build X, use the OKRs to manage if that’s the right thing to build.
Brad uses a combination of focusing on outcomes and PIRATE metrics to drive OKR setting.
What’s not working…
Creating your OKRs can be tough. You need to provide enough context for the teams to make good OKRs. Don’t have too many – recognise that even 3 objectives can be too many and 26 KRs is definitely too many. Changing the objectives every quarter can be too much context switching with not enough time to make real progress. They should not be a task list.
Wayne said they realised during planning that they had 3 objectives that were exactly the same thing but had been written in 3 different ways. The team used 3 1-hr sessions to get all their ideas on post-its, all the concrete ideas out and used that to help think at a higher level (& get the entire team onboard).
Make your OKRs part of everyday life can be a struggle. What do you do if half way through the quarter you’ve smashed it? or realised it’s not something you should do.
Measuring your OKRs needs to happen. Wayne advised us NOT to have a set & forget attitude. He suggested setting up your measurement plans in the 1st week. AND not to use surveys to measure everything as there will be survey fatigue from customers & internal folks.
Don’t focus totally on the OKR. Brad finds it fascinating that people really focus on the OKR.. what’s a good one, what’s a bad one. He sets them and then focuses on the outcome.
Brad talked about the concept of ‘mental contrasting’ which consists of 4 items and the first 2 are tied to what an OKR is.
Wish – the inspiring thing you’re going for ie your objective
Outcome – your KR
With mental contrasting, you should take a little time to think about the obstacle. Just thinking about it, helps you act.
FYI, this is also called ‘WOOP‘ (easier to remember than mental contrasting!)
What’s the worse KR you’ve seen? Andrew: “TBC” Brad: putting in an OKR we knew we couldn’t meet – or vanity things.
How long does it take to pull together OKRs? Brad says it’s about 2 days (every 6 weeks). Andrew says it’s much less now that they have done this several times and they don’t change their objectives every time. Wayne has time boxed theirs to 3 hrs.
Wayne & Andrew also talked to the difference between old & new products. New products might need longer to work out the OKRs as opposed to tweaking existing products.
A massive thank you to Andrew, Wayne & Brad, our wonderful speakers for the evening! To our fantastic volunteers for the evening: Gwen, Steve C, Steve B, Rob, Neha, Nigel & Marija. To all attendees!!! And to Medibank for hosting!!!!
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
Define your user’s needs.
What are the activities the user takes in order for those needs to be met?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most of what you release at launch will be wrong. What matters is how quickly you can iterate to get it right. – @rodjhamilton#prodanon
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.
Rod from @CultureAmp talking about the weirdness of sometimes not seeing a feature til launch (as a founder) and making sure his folks know him asking about a decision is a good thing. #prodanon
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.
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.