April session: Roadmaps – friend or enemy?

Are roadmaps your frenemy? There’s so much to love – and hate – about them! Let us count the ways… multiple versions for different audiences, excel/ppt, constant changes, reminding people where we are headed (& no, not that special feature for that 1 client…).

Our panelists will discuss:

  • Adam Fry – Why roadmaps are good! And why it’s bad for the product manager when the roadmap goes bad! (i.e. problems with top down directions of roadmap building)
  • Chris Duncan – How to collaboratively build your roadmap and some tools for making your roadmaps look great
  • Matt Kirkey – Why roadmaps are a terrible crux in a product managers life! You should tear them up and throw them away! (in his favourite devil’s advocate role!)

And then it’s over to attendees! We’ll divide you into groups where you’ll be creating your own roadmap.

RSVP now! for Thursday April 14th 6pm for a 6:30pm start

Our Panelists:

Adam Fry – Lead Product Manager – Sportsbet

Adam is a seasoned product management professional, having delivered and managed a variety of products and services, spanning a range of market verticals and industry sectors. He is currently Lead Product Manager at Sportsbet where he has successfully launched a number of high profile products into a highly competitive marketplace.
Prior to Sportsbet Adam led portfolios at organisations including Telstra, iiNet and VicTrack, building compelling customer value propositions, developing clear product roadmaps, implementing structured go-to-market frameworks, and managing the end to end product lifecycle.

Chris Duncan – Product Manager – carsales.com Ltd.

Chris Duncan is a passionate and pragmatic product manger, having a professional background spanning both technical and analytical roles. Over the last six years working with carsales, Chris has lead a raft of successful, high-profile products and services for which he prides himself on delivering true customer value.   Having managed initiatives right across the development lifecycle, Chris’ strength and passion is for developing solid, well communicated product strategies and roadmaps. Never shying away from a good debate, Chris is always keen to discuss all things product management.

Matthew Kirkey – Product Manager – Technology Platforms for Learning Seat

I manage 10 products across 4 streams that roughly 550 clients and 600,000 active users use. The products are in the online learning and compliance space.

I’m Canadian and my education was Computer Science, however I’m more comfortable sitting on the business/strategic side where I leverage my tech background.  I’ve worked for a large Telco in Vancouver, a start up in Georgia, Starbucks as a barista in Uni and run a consulting company for small businesses in a couple cities across Ontario.  I’ve covered business intelligence, IT project management, business analysis, process engineering and somehow managed to setup a renegade data warehouse in a telephone exchange building somewhere in outer Calgary.

For fun, I run a curated weekly event newsletter, a semi-regular pub crawl and am writing a book about craft beer (ideas and suggestions welcome).


Mapping Experiences with Jim Kalbach – Special Event!

Jim Kalbach, author of Mapping Experiences is in town for a couple workshops on experience mapping and UX strategy.
Mapping Experiences

With the help of Aconex and UX Design Group of Melbourne, we are lucky enough to have Jim for a special Product Anon on Thursday April 7th. Jim will be talking about mapping experiences and how to create value using customer journeys, blueprints & diagrams.

RSVP now!

To attend Jim Kalbach’s workshops:

• The Mapping experiences workshop is on the 9th of April.  Details & Tickets.

• On the 11th of April, Jim will focus on UX strategy. Grab your tickets now.

February wrap: using Google design sprints for innovation

Seek’s Rob Scherer (Lead UX, Hirer products) and Rob Alford (Product manager, New products) came to talk to us about their use of Google Venture design sprints.

They were looking to come up with a completely new product idea and wanted to challenge themselves & the organisation. The guys did a great job of explaining the process without telling us what the market or product is – they are currently building the product & we can look forward to a very exciting launch I am sure.

Before jumping into the design sprint, they worked with the person who would facilitate the session and tweaked the Google process to suit them. One of the main reasons for trying this approach was to ensure coverage from multiple functions of the business with an approach that forces (encourages!) collaboration and allows everyone to contribute. People from various departments are locked in a room for a week and aren’t allowed to leave…. (well, maybe not that strict! 🙂 )

As Google describes it: “We shortcut the usual endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, teams get great data from a prototype. The sprint gives these companies a superpower. The ability to build and test nearly any idea in just 40 hours.


So what did Seek do differently to the Google approach:

Seek wanted to use the sprint methodology but were keen to make a few modifications to incorporate their own experiences to the process.

The Team

Google recommends 4-8 people for design sprint. Seek set up a bigger team of 12 people which allowed them to have a broad representation of the areas (development, marketing, strategy, BA, etc) needed to explore this space. While a senior person was in the room on the first day to help set the stage… that’s the only day! Having no senior team members helped do away with group think as no one was waiting for the senior person in the room to comment. They broke the 12 down into smaller groups of 3 for the sketching.

Time & Steps

The Google approach, takes a team of 4-8 people and spend one day for each of these steps:

Unpack -> Sketch -> Decide -> Prototype -> Test.

They also decided to add a few more steps to bring it to 7 days:

Unpack -> Build Empathy -> Sketch + test -> Sketch + test -> Decide -> Prototype -> Test.

Seek added ‘Build Empathy’ as a request from the UX team. The product guys weren’t so sure it would be useful, they were a little skeptical before doing it, but after trying it they were converted. With such a large group consisting of some people who were new to this type of work, having a day spent on empathy helped to ensure everyone’s mindset was in the right place for thinking about the customer. Seek also added more time to the Sketching section. They wanted to be able to sketch in the morning and then test those ideas in front of customers that afternoon. By doing this 2 days in a row, they had a lot of items validated before getting into the Decision day and presenting to the execs. They feel having the extra time to sketch/test worked really well for them.

Pre-planning & getting outside help

Before the design sprint even started they did a few things to help organise:

  • Booked a dedicated space where they could keep the entire week’s sketches on the wall. They ended up having so much they took over the wall outside the meeting room. Seeing all the work they created over the week was very motivating to the team.
  • Booked the people they’d be showing their sketches too (assisted by their usual research folks)
  • Booked the meeting where they’d present to stakeholders
  • Organised an external facilitator
  • Organised homework for the team (see below for details)


What is involved in doing the design sprint?

There is a tonne to do to get ready for the sprint and if you look over the resources you will see that these are just a couple of tips to be aware of where to put emphasis and not skip!

  1. Homework – Before the design sprint started, each member of team had to do their homework. Each person was given a competitor to research and everyone was asked to think about something that inspired them. At the start of the sprint they needed to talk for 2 minutes on each piece of their homework. NO POWERPOINT! The competitor research was kept intentionally light.. what they liked, disliked, etc. Just insight, observation and sharing with everyone else. This was a great technique for divide and conquer. The inspiration step was also a great tool for encouraging people to remain open-minded and positive about what they could do, instead of possibly limiting themselves to iterating only on what was out there already.
  2. Learn to draw exercise – this was an amazing insight from the evening. Everyone was “taught” how to draw including the UX’ers. What this actually meant was that everyone was shown how to draw in a consistent manner so that ideas could be judged equally, not on the skill of the sketcher. Vedran has written up the details on Medium but bascially: use a thin liner pen to draw the outline then a sharpie to accentuate any aspects, a yellow highlighter to draw attention and one grey pen to indicate background/what to ignore. From here, when ideas from different people were combined, the customer could not tell the difference between the sketches and much time was saved by not having to redraw.
  3. Everyone facilitates – to ensure inclusion everyone had a go at facilitating as unseasoned researchers will tend to present more than facilitate but for best results, this should be seen as facilitating user research rather than presenting designs to users.
  4. Everyone takes notes – the intensity of the time-boxing might assume everyone pays attention but everyone was asked to take notes to avoid drifting off, but to ensure people remained engaged. It also helped with adding insights as people took things down and then had to repeat back what they had heard.
  5. Guerilla testing – go to users unannounced and then try out your idea and you will get some very different responses. Rob & Rob noted the big difference in commentary you’ll receive between bringing customers into your office vs going to their environment where they feel comfortable. You’ll get more critical & real feedback when you are in their environment (plus they want to help you solve the problem & will give you ideas).

Key ingredients to success

  1. Having time constraints – This was the most important factor for them & the faciliator was great in moving them along. Enforcing the time constraints meant they stayed focused, had something to show customers and were ready to present to the execs.
  2. Right people – this means the right representation from the organisation for the area you looking to be innovative in but also avoiding any senior execs that might inadvertently provide bias too early.
  3. Keep it visual – have everything on the wall where all can see it, communicate with images, drawing instead of talking.
  4. Use an external facilitator – keeps things neutral, allows the entire team to contribute to the process instead of worrying about the process, can tell people to shut up and get working, which again might be a bit hard for one of the team.

Results (& Would they do it again?)

Yes, Seek have tried the methodology again since they got such a great result the 1st time. The team got a business case up in just a few weeks after the sprint, and the approval process was smoother due to the excitement the sprint had created. The team have been building the product since.

Rob A wasn’t convinced you could use it for every project, partly because it remains hard to convince an organisation to give up people for a week and partly because not every product needs such a methodology. On the other hand, participants of the sprint have gone on to use it in their area as they got so much out it. Aspects of the sessions have also been cherry-picked out as proving to be really helpful tools – such as the drawing component and have been applied in isolation.

It was great to get to hear from an organisation that has used the methodology with such success but also shared with honesty the tough aspects of running it. The intensity is clearly not for the faint-hearted and may well be a stronger reason for not re-using more frequently. As the team that were involved in the sprint went back to their day jobs or moved on to build the prototype into product their focus has also shifted for now. However, any company looking to break themselves out of their norms and product innovation from within should consider using this approach.

Further Resources:

  • The presentation
  • Google Design Sprint prep in detail
  • Vedran’s article on drawing the same way + his perspective on the experience
  • Thanks again to ThoughtWorks for hosting + pizza & to Moondog Brewing for providing such tasty beverages.

    RSVP for the next session in March as we talk more Google topics (API product management & being a product manager at Google)!

    End of year wrap!

    It has been a fabulous 2015 – with some great sessions and attendance this year, lots of new venues, our biggest Product Camp ever and our first product management conference ever!

    We wrapped up the year with drinks and chats and some birthday singing at Level3space – which had beautiful views for the evening and good conversations was had.




    Happy birthday!


    Generous serves of pizza and beer kept the crew happy and we thank our hosts for their generosity. Check them out if you need a space for an offsite, a function or anything else that you might think of.


    This is our last event for the year – we start up again in February. Join us on Meetup to ensure you get notified as soon as we announce our topic and location for 2016.


    Thanks everyone for contributing to such a fabulous 2015 🙂

    October wrap: How to transform and optimise experiences

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

    [pullquote]I’m trying to stop people from crying[/pullquote]

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

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

    show don’t tell

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


    Ask for less and simplify

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

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

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

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

    [pullquote]Language is the medium through which culture is enacted – Gill Ereaut[/pullquote]

    Change the language

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

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

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


    Plan to do more comms

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

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

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

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

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

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

    October event: How to transform and optimise experiences

    We are very fortunate to be working in conjunction with Aconex, UX Melbourne and the UX Design Group of Melbourne in order to bring you this session discussing how to transform and optimise experiences.
    Our speakers will be:
    • Kirsten Mann – Applying UX Strategy to Optimize the Support Experience
    • Leisa Reichelt – My transformation mission: to bring great service design and user experience to government
    Leisa Reichelt was the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office and is now going to be doing a similar role with the Digital Transformation Office in Sydney. Leisa led a team of great researchers working in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design. You can find her work on her blog Disambiguity.
    Kirsten Mann as the GM of Global Design and Experience, Kirsten is responsible for leading the Aconex experience across all products and internal systems and online support. In addition to establishing and driving Aconex’s ongoing transformational journey, Kirsten’s a key member of the Aconex Leadership Team and a significant contributor toward driving Aconex’s growth agenda into the marketplace.
    Aconex will again be the fabulous hosts and sponsors of the event. RSVP now.It may be a standing room only event, but get on the list to join us for this awesome topic.RSVP

    September event: When to get serious about product management? (when should a start-up hire one?)

    Continuing our start-up series, we get into startup product management. When does a startup need to hire their first product manager? And then how do you scale?

    RSVP now for Thursday September 17th! 6pm for 6:30pm start

    We will ask folk who have been there… at startups… when they knew they needed a product manager in their organisation. We have a great panel of speakers who will talk through this experience and then take questions from the audience, with a few juicy ones thrown in from myself (Liz). Join us at Flippa‘s offices in Collingwood (Thanks for hosting!!!)


    Nick KennNick Kenn – General Manager at Flippa.com

    Flippa is the #1 marketplace in the world for buying and selling websites, domains and apps, transacting USD$70m a year. Before serving as the General Manager for Flippa, Nick was the General Manager for SitePoint and prior to that, in the gaming space for 7 years in the UK and Australia at Betfair as Head of Customer Acquisition.
    Megan Linton

    Megan Linton – Flippa.com Product Manager

    Megan has recently joined the Flippa product team after moving to Melbourne from Wellington, where she previously headed up product for Trade Me Property.
    Trade Me is New Zealand’s biggest website with over 1 million registered members logging in each month. Trade Me’s family of sites includes the top motors, property and jobs boards in the country and has been listed on the NZX 50 Index since 2012.
    Megan will talk about her time at Trade Me and their experiences with fitting product management into a start-up.


    July Wrap: 7 things you need to know to work better with Sales

    Our session this month got deep into the topic of working better with sales. Sometimes it can seem as if these two groups of people are from a different galaxy and luckily we had Shane Goldberg to help us navigate the topic. Shane has worked in both sales and product sides of the organisations, so certainly has some great experience to draw on to take us through this topic.

    Shane got us thinking about how we see sales people and how sales people might see product managers.

    How we see sales peeps:

    • cowboys
    • one trick ponies
    • sell vapourware
    • always want the product to be cheaper

    How sales see the product manager:

    • someone who always says no
    • unresponsive
    • doing the wrong things
    • clueless
    • inflexible

    Pretty tough description of the crowd! But they were the audience’s words!

    Shane pointed out that both teams were right – but as both groups are trying to be successful they just misunderstand each other.

    One of the reasons for having these different perspectives is due to how each group is paid or rewarded. While we decided not to go specifically into REM plans etc. the different motivations were important to remember as a way to help drive behaviour and aligned outcomes.

    Shane had a great set of slides (with no words on them!) but a theme very quickly emerged for each one of his points – Make it easy to sell!

    Make it easy – in their shoes

    Product managers spend a lot of time creating great products for their customers and use various methods to understand how to do that, including HCD. Why not do the same for you Sales people? Design a sales journey map and put yourself in their shoes. What could be better or make this easier for your colleagues?

    The top 6 areas to focus on to make things easier were:

    1. Easy to explain products

    If your product cannot be explained in under 30 seconds then your sales people can’t sell it. Too hard to explain = too hard to sell.

    Shane had us all turn around to a neighbour in the audience and have a go at explaining our own product in under 30 seconds – from the sounds in the room not everyone could. My partner in the exercise certainly struggled and I had to reset at least twice before I could nail the elevator pitch!

    Can you explain your product in less than 30 seconds?

    2. Marketing material that helps, not hinders

    In the same style as above, ensure you can explain why you are better than the competitor(s) in under 30 seconds. Ensure you have materials that are easy for the customer to understand and collateral that assists the sales process.

    These type of tools help ensure your sales people can stay focussed on selling. Another way of thinking about this is make sure your teams are not caught up in admin tasks, building their own prep materials or customer service.

    Sometimes depending on the stage of your organisation (e.g. start-ups or early product lifecycle) or amount of customers, your sales teams may be able to support some of these activities, but as you grow it’s important you remove this workload to be scalable as a sales organisation.

    If possible, start promoting the idea of sales support teams for pre- or post-sales activities.

    3. Roadmaps

    At the start of the evening, we mentioned one of the things product managers are most afraid of is their sales team selling stuff on the roadmap. This fear comes in when things on the roadmap might not get built and it has been promised to a customer. However, leaving your sales team out of building your roadmap is cutting yourself off from the customer.

    Including Sales in your roadmap will help ensure they understand your product better which helps them sell it well. It also means they can sell some of the future to customers and ensure the pipeline remains healthy. If they understand it they will know when best to use it to seed future upsell options.

    Sharing your roadmap will also help with access to customers to help form those future ideas. While you may be conducting customer interviews, research and other design sessions, your sales teams are always at the front of the market and can help guide you to new ideas from that market.

    4. Customer experience

    Just because you have freed up your sales people from being wholly responsible for the customer experience doesn’t mean they don’t care about it. A bad customer experience will hurt their cross-sell and upsell opportunities. It costs 5 times as much to acquire new customers than to keep existing so it is in everyone’s interest to focus on this area.

    The end-to-end experience is the product managers responsibility – starting with being a potential customer becoming aware of your product through buying, using and even cancellation. You may engage different parts of your organisation to help you with this – but you are the lead on what this needs to look like.

    If you aren’t sure what this looks like – it is time for a customer journey map!

    5. Product Hierarchy

    What is this? If there are a lot of products to sell, you need to make sure the hierarchy makes sense or your sales teams will sell no products well.

    This is a potentially difficult area for a PM as their product is the (obviously 🙂 ) most important – however both your sales team and customers need to understand how the products fit together or all products will suffer.

    Shane’s suggested product managers work with marketing to agree on the featured product and then explain how the other products augment the “hero”. Personally, I think this depends on your organisations structure – if your product strategy is clear then this direction can come from your Head of Product – and the product team will already understand how the products fit together. If your product groups are split across the organisation then another approach is needed.

    Once this strategy is understood a playbook can be very helpful tool to make it easy for the sales consultant to understand how to navigate the hierarchy and respond appropriately to the customer and their needs.

    6. Pricing & discounting

    One of the biggest frustrations for sales is their perceived inability to win a sales due to being unable to change the pricing of a product. On the flipside, one of the biggest frustrations of a product manager. after all the hard work that does into defining your pricing strategy is then being asked to discount it!

    There is a real need to give your sales teams freedom to move within the price options without hurting your profitability or entering into a price war. A discounting framework is one way to support this need and the other, similar to the roadmap, is be involved in the approval process for discounts. This will help you be a better product manager and understand the factors putting stress on your pricing approach.

    A discounting framework can cover:

    • options for prices if the customer meets certain conditions
    • a discount amount that can be offered without approval
    • a discount amount that requires approval

    Remember the theme – make it easy! A framework done well can actually be an excellent tool for your sales teams to negotiate with their customer. If it’s too complicated, this just becomes another barrier to selling.

    7. Mystery Item

    While we originally talked of covering 7 items – we realised we only published 6! Hence the idea of the mystery item that the audience would determine. After covering quite a lot of really useful options to improve the sales experience and the relationship between product and sales, Shane asked the group if there was anything he’d missed.

    A couple of additional points that came up:

    • Incentives
    • Skills for good sales people

    Alignment is important. Make sure the product management and sales teams have the same goals and incentives are aligned (ie paid on profit margin not revenue).

    The other aspect is to be clear on the difference between good sales people and those not equipped for the job. Providing a lot of tools will only take you so far – a couple of times the statement “good sales people can just sell”, or “good sales people know how to navigate a product hierarchy” or “good sales people build their own playbook” crept into the discussion.

    Here is where the product manager should partner closely with their best sales people and show them as the model for others to follow. It doesn’t mean you don’t need all the tools we spoke about so far as the rest of the team will need those to become great.

    Thank you!

    Thank you to Shane for sharing your wisdom! Shane can be contacted at CustCore, a management consultancy which helps businesses unlock hidden growth through a focus on measuring and improving end-to-end customer and employee experience, as well as sales, product management and go to market.

    Thanks again to Collective Campus for providing the venue.

    Coll Campus

    Our next evening meetup will be in September as we have a whole day of discussions at Product Camp Melbourne 2015 on the 22nd of August. RSVP now.

    June wrap: Innovation at Large Companies

    We gathered this month to talk about innovation at large companies. What makes it hard to keep innovation happening? What options do you have to encourage it at a large organisations? We finished with some good news stories as well.

    Our panel for the evening have large company experience at Sensis, Tatts, Victorian Government, AFL, Lonely Planet & others. We’d like to thank Jamie SkellaAndrew Niere and Mark Andrew for sharing their experiences & knowledge.

    More thanks go to our facilitator of the evening, Daniel Kinal, whose passion for the topic got him the gig! Thank you to our host for the evening – Nintex.

    I have tried to capture the spirit of the evening and give credit where credit is due. I may have missed some so … the words were said by someone at some point of the evening….

    We opened with the “worst” experience the panel had had in their innovation careers ….

    Jamie: Tatts Group spent years and many millions creating a one-stop websites and apps, combining lotteries and wagering products. Ultimately that didn’t actually make a lot of sense because of the varied customer base, so it is now being undone at additional cost.

    Mark: Got an innovation hub up and running at Telstra to build the first online call centre technology. They had good UX engagement and endorsement from senior leadership. Turns out having so much good support can be an issue because many people wanted to get involved and Mark spent most of his time fending them off. Multiple vendors/consultants could all “help” but had different approaches to UCD + innovation so there was constant conflict between them.

    Andrew: Gave an example from his first day of work to give us an idea of what the environment is like in government. While using his work email, he tried to search for an email but could only use subject and sender criteria to search. Very limiting! He then noticed an index option within the application so he rang IT and asked them why that hadn’t been enabled. They said it would add size to the files + why would anyone want to search their email?

    Andrew also shared a story to highlight the opportunity that exists for innovation but needing to work in the existing system. They needed iPads in order to to test software. To get those iPads, they had to download a form which had to be sent by fax. While they could do cool new things for their customers, process was still stuck in the past.

    We’re all here, probably, because we believe that that innovation is important to larger organisations. How important is it really? Is it important in its own right? Or is it more just a function of trying to stay relevant in a dynamic marketplace?

    Mark: Preventing innovation comes from the top down. If you stop ideas it breeds a nasty culture and sub-culture of staff trying to work around it. Inclusion in the company creates empowerment and encouragement to share ideas and fostering them is really important for building that positive environment.

    Jamie: Someone talked about having an “innovation unit” at one organisation but Jamie’s approach was to set up open sessions were anyone could come along and offer up ideas. However, his experience at the organisation was all started well but if actions don’t follow through to show innovation is truly supported by actually progressing ideas – things stall.

    Mark: Has seen great initiatives at companies that have hack days but often those ideas don’t get a chance beyond those days. The moment for creation is short lived unless you do “things” to encourage continuation.

    Companies inherently don’t like failure and yet at its heart many of this work requires embracing failure and knowing you tried something and it won’t work (for now).

    Andrew – had a great example of a fabulous innovation that failed – perhaps because it was ahead of its time but also the process ended up bogging it down and killing it. Ultranet was an education innovation with really great experts involved in the work so it had great content and intentions – plus millions of dollars of funding behind it. But the procurement process of government killed it because this system that normally builds roads & hospitals had a long process. By the time you had found people to do the work, the idea was dead.

    Everyone is busy with “business as usual”, if you don’t make space for things above BAU then new ideas will stall.

    Andrew: if it takes 5 years to get something to “market” then it is no longer fit for purpose by the time you deliver.

    How to you stop discouraging innovation?

    Mark: Sometimes you have to move people out of the organisation to create the change. If they are the ones holding on to a process or governance that is preventing new ideas then it isn’t always about altering the process, you have to change the people.

    Jamie: Had a product council and you could get great ideas submitted and then reviewed by the council but BAU would keep getting in the way. The ideas would constantly be pushed down in preference to continuing with BAU activities. This action started to kill the ideas because nothing got through.

    Andrew: Sometimes you have to keep your head down and just do it without asking first. A particular initiative with cystic fibrosis patients and telehealth got off the ground by a entrepreneur clinician who just tried it, had connections and pushed it through. Even though something has been proved, there is still the issue and concern that bringing it back into the larger organisation won’t work because the traditional bureaucracy will pull you under again and kill the initiative.

    Mark: This is where you get skunkworks and underground teams and groups and that sounds cool, but it can also be destructive.

    Andrew: We wanted to give our volunteers iPads to do data entry on location. This would save precious time as they would not have to collect and enter information from paper forms. When this approach was found out by the IT guy, he became all stressed about having to support the iPads. This one person could block innovation for many.

    “nothing kills innovation faster than the IT department”.

    Question from the audience: Is a skunkworks approach better?

    Jamie: at Tatts Online, the innovation can also be killed by those who are most afraid of change for themselves, and thus the only way to get something done was to be a separate group/team and run independently of everyone else. We need to get digital or else, but at the same time “this will kill us” because their seemed as if there would be conflict between the online site and the retail outlets would hurt retail. Of course if the company didn’t go online someone else would grab the spot and kill both. Seems obvious but the only way sometimes to be innovative is to keep it small and separate from the larger org and the culture (of resistance).

    Mark: Don’t ask for permission. You hear this said a lot, but what does it actually mean and how do you use it well?

    Andrew: Test what works best – perhaps you should have a crack team that is breaking all the rules and then helping push out change. Once you try to embed that it can get ignored or you have a champion in each team and help move things along across an organisation as a more embedded approach.

    Jamie: Believes company growth can stifle innovations because as you get size you get process, structure and silos. Culture is easy to hold and cultivate at 20-30 and then becomes a thing you have to be very conscious of as you get larger.

    He called out the example of Basecamp who have made a conscious choice to NOT grow. They are making money, maybe not the out of control money making that others go after. They want to keep the culture they have, which they find manageable with the number of people they have to today and thus are satisfied with what they can do at that size. They can stay focused on building the products they want for the community/customers they have and any new customers that join, have to sign up for that as well.

    Continuous improvement is not true innovation and in some ways once you set yourself up for that i.e. embed a great agile process, then you are laying a foundation for status quo over an innovation culture.

    Question from the audience: what is innovation exactly in your mind?

    Jamie: Finding an edge not easily copied.
    Mark: without precedent
    Andrew: New way to do business, new way to do process, new ways of doing things.

    Last one: What is your best innovation experience?

    Jamie: His most recent was working toward getting buy-in and the ball rolling for virtual reality (stereoscopic 360 degree video) initiatives at the AFL. It was initially met with lukewarm reception, but after buying and demonstrating the hardware, it gained traction. He’s no longer at the AFL, but has left the company in a great position, who are continuing with VR opportunity exploration and real experiments, which should keep them ahead of local competition.

    Mark: Loved his time at Lonely Planet when they built an iPad app for the inaugural launch of the iPad. They got it done in 6 weeks and built a beautiful product in that time frame.

    Andrew: (I can’t remember! Andrew, please remind me of your story!)

    Daniel: is loving what Microsoft are doing lately. By bringing in a new CEO, they have change happening and have instigated a new era instead of being one of the behemoths that you might predict are stuck.

    Thanks again to our panelists and facilitator for such a great conversation.

    Thank you to Nintex for hosting us and I look forward to you joining us for our July session on how to work better with your Sales teams.



    July event: 7 things you need to know to work well with Sales

    Do you work with a sales team? What is your relationship like with them? A bit frustrating at times?

    This month, Shane Goldberg, a former product manager who moved into sales support, will help us understand how to successfully work with Sales.

    Shane has put together the top 7 things you need to know and has kindly offered to dig deep on specific ones. We’ll vote during the session to determine which items need more exploration.

    He’ll cover topics including:

    • How to make it easy for sales people to sell
    • Involving sales in the development cycle & roadmap creation
    • Pricing & discounting

    RSVP for Thursday July 16th

    Our presenter for the evening is Shane Goldberg, who has strong customer experience, strategy and business improvement background from his 12+ years working with Telstra in a range of different areas.

    Shane started as a product manager in the company, transitioned through business planning and program management roles and finished up running a team of 60 or so professionals in a sales support group accountable for NPS, process management and knowledge support across the sales areas of Telstra.

    During his time at Telstra, Shane led both small and large teams, managed products with revenue of $100M+ and led projects delivering NPS improvements of 10+ points and greater than $10M cost savings per annum.

    By utilising the knowledge gained in these many different roles along with Shane’s experience gained in undertaking his MBA, he has established CustCore Consulting, a boutique consultancy practice specialising in helping companies measure and improve customer experience, sales performance and go-to-market.

    RSVP for Thursday the 16th of July and join us as Collective Campus are our wonderful sponsors and hosts for the evening.

    Coll Campus

    Collective Campus is an Enterprise Innovation School. Through high-impact workshops and classes, CC helps enterprise companies and their employees to remain competitive in an era of rapid disruption. Some of our initial streams include topics in Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile Methodologies, CX/UX, Organisational Capability, and Growth Strategies. For more information, please visit – www.collectivecamp.us