Making retention fun – how games get players coming back for more

RSVP for Thursday July 20th

Retention and engagement are often a key focus for product teams, and the games industry has some great insights into how they think about these 2 concepts to attract and keep their users.

While games have some unique difference to many products, the concepts in this talk are ones any product team can apply in their user journey. Retention is also not a once and done job, so thinking about opportunities to keep your customers engaged along the entire lifecycle of using your products will also be something discussed in this talk.

Our speaker:
Sebastian Pattom – Director at Product at Electronic Arts (EA) will share his experiences and knowledge of his work in the retention space.

Our hosts:
Canva is a global online visual communications platform designed to empower the world to design. We create beautiful designs from presentations to infographics, videos, t-shirts and social media graphics.

We recently launched the Canva Visual Worksuite – a suite of new workplace products and features built to empower anyone to communicate visually, on any device, from anywhere in the world.

We believe that our responsibility goes far beyond business as usual, and that what’s good for business can be good for the world: This is part of our two-step plan. We truly believe that good for humanity is good for business, and times are really changing around people’s expectations of what they expect from businesses. We’ve come a long way, though we believe we’re still only 1% of the way there.

Thanks Canva! Check out their current product jobs.

RSVP for Thursday July 20th. If your plans change and you can’t attend, please update your RSVP so people on the waitlist can attend. Thank you!

June Meetup: Just what ARE you getting yourself into????

You have decided you want to be a product manager and gotten that first job – or maybe you’re in your second PM role. Is it all you thought it would be?? What really have you gotten yourself into as a new product manager?!?

And this session is not just for folks who are new to product management! Folks who have been there … we need your wise words of wisdom and you’ll learn something new too!

This month, we’ve gathered a panel of new product folk (3 years or less) to share their stories of what their grappling with at the start of this career journey. We’ll be taking questions from the audience and guiding the discussion as we tap into this moment in time, that you never get back 🙂

There will be audience participation!!!

We’ll be running an interactive component to connect our more experienced PMs with the newbies in the room and facilitate some speed mentoring rounds between those starting out in their career and those with sage learnings to share.

Our panellists:

Hugh Osborne, Jane Card & Heike Radlanski

Jane Card is a career shifter into product after fifteen years helping organisations define problems, generate solutions, adopt new business models and ways of working.  Naturally curious and a people geek, Jane is passionate about leveraging different perspectives to make the world a better place.

Heike Radlanski started her career in digital marketing before moving into a product owner role and subsequently into product management. Passionate about understanding people’s needs and pain points, Heike enjoys the process of working in cross-functional teams to create and improve products that add value for those using them.

Hugh Osbourne moved to Product Management after working in design, product design, copywriting and small business jack-of-some-trades. He’s been in successful and failing startups (sometimes in the same week), assembling a impressive toolbox of hacks, workarounds and bad habits. Working now in a growing organisation, he’s interested in the secret sauce of small teams, why data products are the best products, and how to domesticate ‘wild’ PMs

Our hosts:

A big thank you to MYOB!

MYOB has been part of the fabric of doing business in Australia and New Zealand for more than 30 years, having grown from its status as the original Australian unicorn to now employing people across Australia and New Zealand, based out of nine locations in the region. Having started life as accounting software, MYOB has undertaken significant steps toward becoming a cloud-based business management platform that brings together key workflows to fit a business’s needs.

To see what it is like to be an MYOBelievers, check out our careers site.

Moving into Product Leadership – April 2022 Wrap

After working in product for a number of years, and building up your knowledge and experience, what’s the next step? Is it time to move into product leadership? And what does that even look like? 

In April, it was great to be joined by Chris Holmes (VP of Product at IntelligenceBank) to share some of his experiences and perspectives, with lots of familiar (and new) faces in person, and with just as many online, including a couple of special visitors reaching us from as far as Germany and London! 

The Product Leadership Pathway

Senior Product Manager

Generally the first step to leadership is taking on a senior role. This can mean different things in different organisations. From looking after more critical products or projects, with more attention from stakeholders, to possibly having some people under you to manage, such as associate product managers, product managers or business analysts.

Head of Product / Product Director / Vice President of Product

What are the differences in all these titles? There is some localisation, with Head ofs being more popular in Australia, and Vice Presidents being more prevalent in the US. Regardless, as you progress to this level, you’ll typically be managing a team of product managers, and be more responsible for the strategy and its execution. The scale continues to get bigger. 

Chief Product Officer

As you move up, the scope (and scale) continues to change, with more complex products or multiple products. You become completely responsible for end to end growth of the product, covering acquisition, retention, revenue, etc – the full range of AARRR metrics!

Common Myths about moving into Product Leadership

You can use the skills that you use today

Moving into product leadership requires a new set of skills to scale whatever success you may have experienced as an individual contributor. Coaching, developing and letting go of some of the product processes, and allowing your team to occasionally stumble and to find their own way.

You get to make all the calls

Although you may be able to use your seniority to veto decisions and make your own calls, you should proceed with caution. Much of product management is about aligning your stakeholders and to ensure everybody is pulling in the same direction. In the long run, you want to empower your team to be able to make those good decisions.

Product leadership is the next step in your product career

If you enjoy solving product problems, testing different hypotheses, and talking to customers, there is nothing wrong with continuing to be a product manager. You don’t have to move into a leadership position. Is it really something you want to do? The question you need to ask yourself is:

Do you want to manage people, or manage products?

An Average Day in the life of a Product Leader

Communicating with stakeholders

Much of Chris’ time is spent connecting and listening to various stakeholders. From aligning with the leadership team, to hearing from other team members about what’s happening in the market, and managing any escalations and issues that come up. It is extremely important to make sure everybody is on board with the strategy. Ultimately, creating relationships with other areas so you can tackle problems together.

Managing expectations

Part of being a product manager is saying no to people and their ideas. Make sure you get a load of practice, because as you move up, this only continues. Except, now it will commonly be to Head of Departments or even the CEO.

Strategy

Whether you’re setting the strategy, evolving the existing strategy or changing the direction of the strategy, you will need to constantly work with your colleagues to ensure you have alignment. For established products, you’ll need to understand where your product sits, and how you want to approach things.

Coaching and development

Make sure you allocate time to spend time with your team. Time to hear feedback from people they’ve worked with, or others in the team. How they’ve tackled problems. To give some insight, Chris usually spends about 50% of his time coaching his team, from going through the General Assembly content that he used to teach, and now with fortnightly dedicated product time.

 If you need to build up a team, get ready to spend plenty of time in recruitment.

Dealing with something on fire

Like any company, there will be issues that arise. However, as a product leader, your role will evolve from putting them out yourself, to dealing with your team, so that they can resolve things themselves.

This might all seem like the regular stuff for any product manager, however as you become more senior, it becomes more about scale, having a broader viewpoint, and how you deal with things, whether that is shifting resources, changing scope, or helping to get decisions made. Remember to keep a cool head, and act like a leader.

The Essentials of Product Leadership

Being a product advocate

There will always be elements and nuance between different products and industries, and things will never always be set up perfectly. However, the key should be about setting your team and yourself up to be empowered to make the right decisions, and to deliver the most value for customers at scale.

As a product leader, you will have a seat at the table with marketing, sales, customer success and other teams, who will be pushing for certain things, which gives you the opportunity to bring the end-user to the forefront, and advocate for them.

Establishing processes for your team to validate things at different stages of the product development lifecycle, from opportunities and discovery, etc. And then giving them the space to actually do it, and not just moving through an existing roadmap of features that have been prioritised from above.

Communication

Like all product roles, communication is key. 

  • Identifying your stakeholders, and understanding who will need high frequency-high touch, and who will need low frequency-low touch, and working with them to get on the bus.
  • Also another great opportunity to empower your team to connect with other stakeholders (including senior ones), allowing them to gain visibility, and set them on the path to success.
  • Lastly, make time for your team, so you can see how they’re going, where they are struggling and what support they may need.

Know your Market

Recognise where your product sits and who is your addressable market? If you need to move into another market, what does that look like? What are the similarities where you can leverage existing solutions? What are the differences where new strategies will need to be developed?

Understanding your team

What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses? What motivates them? Be sure to carve out time so that you can understand them. Where can you leverage their strengths? Where do they need more development and guidance? A good chance to match their responsibilities and goals back to their KPIs.

Moments of Truth

Define what success looks like

It’s essential that you know how your product is performing, as you will be the one reporting back on how successful your product is. 

Make sure your team knows what success looks like. Set it up together with them, so that when decisions are made, it can be linked back to success.

Sometimes, with established products, there may be an abundance of data available. However, if they are not driving any decisions, you may need to go back to basics:

  • Define the core feature and actions. 
  • Do some historical analysis and overlay them with metrics such as Customer Success, CSAT, NPS, etc.
  • Baseline – if you don’t know where you are today, how can you measure any change?

Culture

It is not uncommon to find companies that are stuck in the build trap – who only focus on delivery and not much else. These companies with a poor product-practice can be difficult to change. They may be supportive at first, but it takes time, and constant reinforcement to show the value of product thinking. 

Talk to some customers. Showcase the findings. Bring people into the process, and get them hooked on the insights. 

If you’re going to move something into development for a few months, and spend so much time and effort, it really is worth taking some time to sort out the basics first, validating customer desire, and that the solutions will make a difference.

Setting Up your Team (and yourself) for Success

  • Set clear goal and objectives;
  • Process and systems;
  • Make time for coaching and development;
  • Prioritise ruthlessly; and
  • Get out of the way.

Lessons Learnt

Delivery can be one of the hardest items to control when moving into product leadership.

  • Use your influence to change the direction of the product.
  • As you scale, there is usually a (false) expectation to deliver faster.
  • When faced with time pressures to deliver, you can consider changing resourcing, or scope.
  • Consider how you will disseminate information to stakeholders. Create different rituals to bring people into the tent, and involve your team to help spread the load. This will also help remove yourself as a bottleneck for information and future updates.

Spend time with customers. 

  • Just because you move into a product leadership position, doesn’t mean you should stop hearing from your customers directly. 
  • Reserve time to listen to your customers, so you can understand how they are using the product. What do you really like about the product? What are the gaps?
  • Bring a Product Manager, so you are not listening to feedback in isolation.

Empower your team

  • Create a safe space (with appropriate guardrails) for your team to try things and learn. 
  • Have regular check-ins, so you can hear feedback from them, or their stakeholders.
  • Get them to present to others and senior leaders, so they can craft their style, and also build their credibility.

Don’t try to change everything at once (or by yourself).

  • Just like a product, there are an endless number of things you can do or change. 
  • Develop a strategy and be realistic of what you can achieve.
  • Where are you now, where do you want to get to, and what are the steps to take to get there?
  • Don’t just start trying to fix everything, and burn yourself out.

Get help!

  • It can be overwhelming when you are new to the role, with large amounts of information to learn, and stakeholders approaching from all directions.
  • Network with other product people and leaders, and see how they approach things.
  • Get a product mentor for advice.

Planning the Move into a Leadership Role

  • Look for opportunities for growth in your current role.
  • Act like a leader.
  • Be comfortable with uncertainty.

About our Speaker

Chris Holmes is a digital delivery and product specialist with over 10 years experience launching and managing products for companies including Jetstar, SWEAT and Origin Energy. Chris has a strong passion for customer experience and driving change through technology, and central to his product management philosophy is a focus on ensuring collaboration to deliver results.

Chris is now VP of Product at IntelligenceBank, a marketing operations SaaS platform that delivers applications for management of digital assets, creative approvals and compliance, marketing project management and creative distribution.

Further resources

Thank You

Thank you again to Chris Holmes for sharing some of his experience and insights, to Nosh for helping to organise, to Aaron and PageUp for hosting, and to our Zoom sponsor A Cloud Guru (Pluralsight).

Teaching Product Teams to Fish for Themselves – March 2023 Wrap

For our March session of Product Anonymous, we were fortunate to be joined by Amir Ansari, Global Head of Product Design at Iress, to share some of his experiences with raising design maturity and capability in his organisations, and it may not be how you would initially think.

Appreciation of Product Design

Over recent years, many more companies have started to appreciate the value of product and design. And as an industry, we’ve seen a bit of an explosion in growth. Many companies have bolstered their design teams, and transformed the way they work. 

  • Atlassian grew 1600% or 16x in 4 years (6 to 106 designers)
  • Coles grew 550% or 5.5x in 1 year (10 to 65 designers)

But how many designers are enough?

Is it even about the number of designers? Or more about the ratio of designers to developers?

So what’s the best path for designing and building better products? Is it to hire a bunch more designers, and get the ratio down? Some implications of this approach may be your increase in overhead, and the need to change your operating model, which is not necessarily a terrible thing. However, surely there’s a more scalable way to grow.

In fact, according to a Nielsen Norman Group article, the typical ratio alone does not ensure greater organisational impact, better designs, or more usable products.

The Challenge – How might we Improve Design Maturity…

When we talk about Design Maturity, we’re talking about:

  • Product Design
  • Innovation
  • Human Centred Design
  • User Experience
  • UI design
  • Visual Design
  • Service Design

Back to that designer to developer ratio. For Iress, the ratio is 1:35. Or 1 designer working across 5 squads. That’s 14 design practitioners, grown over 20 years, covering 120 products. When it comes to design, Iress still falls short of a minimum acceptable amount of practitioners.  

An assessment against NNgroup’s stages of UX maturity would be between 1 and 2, with obvious aspiration to move towards a 6.

So therein lies the challenge – how might we improve the design maturity, without unrealistically increasing UX headcount.

Guiding Principles

As the old adage goes, If you give somebody a fish, you feed them for a day. But if you teach somebody to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. 

The same goes for design – to increase design maturity, don’t just rush to increase design headcount.

Over the past 15 years, one of Amir’s fundamental principles has been to democratise the craft of design – to teach and empower everybody within the organisation to practise design, from customer research, to experimentation, validation and much more.

Ensure everybody has the confidence and is empowered to talk about design. Talk about the product. Talk about the customer. Talk about the end user.

Designers are facilitators of the design process. Not owners of the design. 

Everybody else in the room, from Business Analysts, Quality Assurance, Engineers, Product Owner and Product Managers all have a perspective and opinions too. Use the right toolkits to validate those opinions.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou – American Philosopher

Nobody can be an expert straight away. Mastery comes with practice. So continue to practise and build that muscle.

Don’t start by putting slide decks together to pitch for why design should be more valued, or why you hire more designers. Rather, get out there with the clients, and start doing design work, and showing value. Use that newly created value as the enticement to invest more in design.

Strategies

Educate, coach, train anyone who shows interest, and promote DIY. 

When Amir first started at Iress, there were only 6 designers to support 700 engineers. Way too many to try to teach every single engineer about design practices. So one of the first things they did was to document their playbook, starting with some of their most common human-centred design activities that were relevant to Iress. And without jargon, so that non-designers could understand and follow too.

A typical Playbook Topic skeleton could include:

  • What is it?
  • Why should you do it?
  • When should you do it?
  • How to do it?
  • Resources and templates
  • Skill level required
  • Typical duration

This way Business Analysts, Product Managers and others could read the content, reach out for guidance, and give the activity a go.

Following the activity, the design team would debrief them – how did it go? What worked, what didn’t? Try this next time. Essentially, helping team members add another tool to their toolkit.

The design team also tracks the playbook engagement. Who is visiting, and from which disciplines? Which topics are being used? Are some topics being neglected? Do they need to run campaigns or refreshers to get people to re-engage?

Create champions

It’s important to reduce the friction for non-designers to get involved, learn and talk about the design craft. At Iress, they introduced communities, and have created over 25 design-specific slack channels, some around design-related themes (eg, the Iress Design System), others based on region (eg, for Melbourne Product Design Team, or the UX Research Enthusiasts UK channels).

Also, after running design activities, Amir’s team gathers feedback and measures the sentiment of non-designer participants about the process. Was it valuable? Could something be done better? Would you come again? Build interest and iterate the process so that people want to return.

Bake into existing processes

When you’re trying to change the way people work, there is always going to be resistance. Everybody is already overworked. Reduce the barriers. Break up the processes and the craft, and insert smaller portions into existing processes.

Product design principles – agreed and followed

The Design Team (or one of their principals) created a design charter, or a set of principles, that the team could easily and quickly refer to, so regardless of where they were in the design or build cycle, they could check that they were on track. Have they removed their biases? Did they understand what success would look like? And can it be measured? 

Make it a team sport

Design is a team sport. We all work for product companies. We are all responsible for delivering value to the customer through the products we build.

Create demand in product design and UX. 

Show value from the UX craft, so that more people want to join in and share the same

Beware, some of the Traps

The Dunning Kruger Effect

After you’ve coached somebody, and they’ve read a bit of material from your playbook, and even run an activity, there’s a danger that they overestimate their ability. There is a chance that they start to erode the craft of design. 

Constant education and reinforcement is required. 

  • Did you know you only need 5 users for meaningful research? But did you also know you should have asked the user this, and you should do that. 
  • Did you know if you run a design sprint, you need to prepare x, y and z?

If you build it they will come

You cannot assume that just because you’ve taught a group of people once, that they will continue. Everybody has their own work to do, and their own agendas. Again, constant education and reinforcement.

Thank you

Thank you so much to Amir for sharing his insights; our volunteers – Gwen, Nosh, Sakthee and Steve; and our event host – SEEK.

Further reading and resources

Some resources mentioned during the session include:

Product-led in Practice – April 2023 Wrap

In today’s competitive world, companies are always looking for a way to stand out against their competitors. In the past they may have achieved this through features or advertising. More recently organisations have started to differentiate themselves by rethinking the whole customer journey and delivering an amazing experience around all aspects of the product.

We call this “Product-led.” This doesn’t mean that it is “product manager led,” it means that the whole organisation and product is oriented around customer and business success.

Amy Johnson from Propel Ventures led us through 5 steps to bring Product-led thinking into your organisation

What is Product-led?

Product-Led is “a relentless focus on customer value to create products that sustainably drive growth”

When we dig into this a bit more, Product-led is about focus on the value the product creates for your customers and your business. For example this could be in the product pricing, Go To Market activities, or design. This involves having a clear vision and an empowered team to deliver against the vision

Why does Product-led matter?

Product-led is more beneficial to a business as it has a long term growth in mind, as well as minimising waste. Conversely, Sales-led often means only focussing on the next sale, so is not sustainable in the long term. Technology-led means building cool products based on the enabling technology, but risks creating products that don’t solve any problems.

This article will drill into the the 5 core tasks necessary to move to Product-led

  1. Product Vision
  2. Product Strategy
  3. Shared Success Measures
  4. Organise around value
  5. Outcome based roadmaps

Let’s dive into each one

Product Vision

A good vision provides clarity on the future, so you know where you are going. This clarity is important because going fast in the wrong direction won’t get you to success.

But you won’t be able to create one by yourself. Vision creation should take in diverse perspectives and different voices to make sure it is clear. Use these voices to focus on the change you want the product to make in the world. You need to find a vision that will inspire the team.

You’ll know when you have a good vision when it is easily internalised by the whole team.

Product Strategy

Product strategy is about mapping out the path to get the product vision. This requires understanding the strategic intent, the challenges and the business goals. Use this knowledge to then clearly articulate the goals, which are prioritised based on strategic intent.

There is a risk in skipping this thinking if you join an organisation. You may inherit everything that is already going on. While it is possible to artificially create a bottom-up strategy by reviewing the backlog and package it into themes, there is a risk that it does not achieve business goals. It is important to make sure your strategy is aligned with the product vision above.

Focus is a key part of delivering against the strategy and vision, so clearly articulate the goals and ensure all activities are targeted towards business goals

Shared Success Measures

Having clear success metrics that are shared helps the organisation achieve alignment, by describing what “good looks like.” It is important that these are legitimate measures of success based on customer value, rather than metrics that might be easy to measure but won’t help you know more if you are on track – known as “vanity metrics.”

Ideally these success measure should be outcomes, not outputs. Outcomes are what the business needs to achieve, whereas an output is a delivery that contribute towards achieving that outcome. For example, the customer cares about how you have saved their time and money, rather than whether you released a feature or not.

To create these success measures, you’ll need to know what is valuable to the customer, as well as a way to measure it. Finding a way to know what good looks like in the product can ensure you are tracking towards a common idea of success.

Organise around value

There is a risk in organisational design that you create teams around what the company values rather than what the customer values. This is known as Conway’s Law – where complicated products end up looking like the organisational structure.

To ensure the customer gets the most value out of the product, the company should be organised around the customer’s perception of value with the product. Create a journey map to understand the customer experience, pain points, opportunities and make sure the end-to-end experience works. From there you can define the problem to solve and the metrics of success. Once you have these you can experiment and iterate.

Outcome based roadmaps

Once you know where you are going, how you are going to get there, metrics to measure customer outcomes, and what the customer values, then you need to ensure that delivery stays on target.

An ‘outcome-based roadmap’ takes what is known about how the customer or business measures success, and gives context to every item on the roadmap. It articulate goals and what you are trying to achieve. It also reiterates the product strategy and makes sure that unnecessary items don’t appear on the roadmap.

This makes the roadmap a communication tool, not a project plan. One way to enforce this thinking is to use the now : next : later format. This is a more realistic view given that development is not always predictable, and it allows flexibility to change based on customer feedback

Summary

Product-led is the way to focus the organisation on success; through identifying customer value and sustainable business growth.

There are 5 key areas that need to be consider to successfully make the transition:

  • Product Vision – A phrase that describes the future to align and inspire the organisation
  • Product Strategy – This maps out the focused path towards the vision
  • Shared Success Measures – Aligns the organisation and tell you if the strategy is working
  • Organise around Value – Ensure that you are aligned to clear customer value
  • Outcome Based Roadmap – Ensure that delivery stays on target

About our speaker

Amy is a product leader, passionate about empowering teams and fostering inclusion. Multi industry experience, now leading the product team at Propel, who partner with you to accelerate your product development and achieve product market fit faster.

Thank you

Thanks to our wonderful friends at Everest Engineering who hosted the event.

And here’s a bit of behind the scenes setup action via Bryce’s tweet

https://twitter.com/confidantduk/status/1648968804838539264?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Slides and Additional Resources

https://www.propelventures.com.au/how-to-become-product-led

Thank you

Kicking Ass Together – Product & Engineering

Come along on May 25th to get an insider’s perspective on engineering teams.
What motivates them? Why do they ask so many questions? And why, for goodness sake, do they keep asking to rebuild things? 🙂

Building a trusted partnership with your engineers will help you nurture a product team that is more than the sum of its parts. So how do we better work with our eng team mates? Kate Lanyon will give us some insider tips!

RSVP now for Thursday, May 25th

Our Speaker:

Kate Lanyon, Engineering Manager at Fastmail, co-founder & former CTO of Eugene Labs will share insights into the above. Kate has a led a varied career – going from full stack development, to mobile app development and back again before moving into senior leadership. She has worked with teams across many different domains including agencies, start ups and corporates. You can fund musings at her website.

Our Host:

Kogan.com is a pioneer of Australian eCommerce. We are a dynamic and rapidly growing business. Our team believes in using & building technology to improve the online shopping experience for our customers. We are pragmatic, intelligent, fast paced and driven by seeing our software shipped to production daily. The software we build – including www.kogan.com – is used by millions of customers. Check out our pride and joy https://devblog.kogan.com/ to learn more about us and how we deliver amazing products and software!

What does ‘product led’ really mean?

Join us in April to hear about being product led and how to take steps to get there. RSVP

Amy Johnson, Chief Product Office at Propel Ventures, will dive into this ‘product led’ thing with us. What is it? How does it look day to day? How can you be ‘product led’ if your company is not?

Amy will share stories from the trenches about how she’s help shift orgs towards being product-led. She’ll ensure we’re using agreed language about what it means to be product-led and what it is not. And talk to the 5 aspects you need to see to know you’re making headwind. She’ll share some practical tips to get started on your own or as a team lead, but acknowledge the small wins to show you’re on your way and not give up when you realise how much further you’ve got to go. This stuff is hard to do so let’s help each other out!

Amy is a product leader, passionate about empowering teams and fostering inclusion. Multi industry experience, now leading the product team at Propel, who partner with you to accelerate your product development and achieve product market fit faster.

Our wonderful friends at Everest Engineering will be our hosts for the evening.

RSVP for April 20th.

Level Up with a Bespoke Product Management Capability Framework – Feb 2023 Wrap

Photo courtesy of Yau Min

When Aaron Hardy first moved into a product leader role at PageUp, he needed to take stock of the situation, and work out where to focus his efforts first. Were there changes to make to the product? Did they have an adequate strategy to guide them? Or should he begin with his team?

After speaking with his new team, one area Aaron identified as lacking was a capability framework or career ladder. How were the team to know how they were performing? What steps would they need to take to move to the next level?

The team had already been through multiple restructures, with various leaders coming and going. And with that, each time the team would inevitably end up having to explain what they did, what value they brought, and justify why they were needed on the team. Would he put them through that all again?

Taking inspiration from Ben Horowitz (and Jim Barksdale) Aaron decided to start with his people.

"We take care of people, the products, and the profits - in that order" Ben Horowitz.

Step 1: Researching Capability Frameworks 

Before jumping straight in to create his own capability map, Aaron researched the existing frameworks already available. And there were plenty out there. However, none of them quite fit what he was looking for. 

  • Intercom’s framework has been shared quite extensively, and does a great job to show how to level up as a product manager. However, they have a very different business model, making it difficult to apply to PageUp.
  • The Association of Product Professionals had a good structure, demonstrating external (market) vs internal (operational) aspects. However, it was a little too heavy for what they needed. Aaron needed something simpler for his team to use.
  • Pragmatic Marketing Framework: Looking outside of direct product management, Pragmatic gives a good visual of broad capabilities. It also helps you evaluate what you’re doing and what you’re not. Then giving you the opportunity to assess if you think those gaps are important.

Aaron wanted to find something that was relevant to the way they did product. Something that his people could relate to, and use in their day to day activities.

Many different frameworks, from Pragmatic Marketing, Intercom, Ravi Mehta, the Association of Product Professionals, and more.

Step 2: Product Mastery Levels

After having a good view of the different skills needed, the other side of a capability framework is how many levels you need. Where is your company at, and what’s right for them? 

Also, it has become more common for companies to recognise and support different career tracks for:

  • individual contribution; and 
  • people leadership.

Wherever you land, remember – it’s for a point in time. As you grow and mature, you may need to extend the framework in the future.

Individual contributor career track:
Associate PM > PM > Senior PM > Principal PM

People Leadership career track:
Senior PM > Group PM, VP of Product

You should also consider the different types of product work, from:

  • Feature Work
  • Growth Work
  • Scaling Work
  • Product Market Fit Expansion.

And the different possible paths into product. 

Beyond the obvious Product Owners or other product adjacent roles, some other sources to grow your talent pool could be from support, operations, consulting, marketing, psychology, research, entrepreneurs, and many more.

Step 3: Making it Bespoke

The next stage is to try to pull it all together:

  • Mapping out all the skills;
  • Removing the irrelevant ones;
  • Finding the duplicates; and
  • Ranking what is important.

Hot tip: Making things visual can make them easier to understand.

Excel sheet with multiple crying emojis.
Cleaner visual representation of frameworks with colour coded sticky notes.

However, then comes the hard part:

Mapping to your own framework:

  • Writing descriptions for each capability. This will eventually be incorporated into Position Descriptions, so some things to consider would be:
    • What is expected at each mastery level? 
    • How are the different mastery levels mapped to different roles? 
    • How would people demonstrate their capability? 

Socialising:

  • How does your capability matrix align with other disciplines you partner with (eg, UX)? It’s good to gather feedback and support from your peers, senior team members; partners and possibly even senior leaders.

Input from the team:

  • You can also include the team. Have them help with the descriptions and differentiators. Rank the importance of each capability. Get them involved so they can contribute and shape the result, making it easier to create buy-in.

Ways to Level Up

Once you have your shiny new capability framework, it can help provide clear guidance for the team of what’s needed to reach the next level and they can do one of many self-assessments available online. 

But how can they actually level up?

There are plenty of methods are your disposal:

  • Formal training or courses – to either learn new skills, or revalidate existing skill levels;
  • Observation – following product leaders on social media;
  • Informal / on the job training;
  • Coaching and mentoring; and
  • Meetup groups.

Thank you

Thank you to Aaron for sharing his journey; our volunteers on the night, Yau, Yasha, Sakthee and Steve; and our event hosts Propel Ventures.

Slides and Additional Resources

Frameworks

Assessment tools

Additional reading

Creating your own Product Management Capability Framework

Join us on Thursday the 23rd of February!

Does your company have a product management capability framework or career ladder? As a leader have you built or contributed to one? As a product manager, how do you know if you’re doing a great job or ready for the next step?

Our Speaker Aaron Hardy, VP of Product at PageUp, will share his experience of creating a company-specific framework for evaluating the capabilities of a product management team at various levels. He will explore publicly available resources and provide examples of how to apply the framework. Additionally, he’ll talk about how individuals can create a framework & take initiative in their own professional development.

Thank you to our Event sponsor: Propel Ventures

Propel Ventures logo

Think of us as a strategic product development partner. At Propel, we know that building a successful product is more than just a technical and functional feat, it takes skillful and purposeful strategy and implementation to ensure users love it and your business profits from it. That’s why, unlike other development partners, we truly partner with our clients, helping them focus on discovering and building the right product for the right market. Our depth of experience in determining product-market fit, validating development progress with user testing and feedback, and supporting ongoing growth make us the ideal strategic partner for developing a commercially successful product. Propel’s services include product strategy, product management, product development, UX & UI design, go-to-market and product scaling.They are always keen to work with great people so if you’re looking check out more about them.

RSVP for Thursday, February 23rd

Reece’s Secret Sauce to Product Success – October 2022 Wrap

How well do you really know your customers?

Do you have to reference a user testing report to try to understand their needs?

When you are designing and building solutions, how easy is it to test your assumptions?

Do you need to kick off a testing with a 3-4 week lead time, to recruit, book and run sessions?

Could there be another way?

The folk at reecetech thought so. 

Immersion, Immersion, Immersion – Branch Time

Starting from their grad program, and soon proliferating throughout the rest of their teams, new Reece employees are given an induction like no other. They are sent to one of the 644 Australian branches to immerse themselves in the business.

It’s back to apprentice mode, as you get first hand experience of the customer sites. The 7am morning rush, helping setup customers, picking and packing orders which come in from all areas (overnight orders, phone, app and in-person), receiving stock, organising deliveries,  reporting back when things don’t go quite right. And seeing Reece’s customer obsession service standard for yourself.

Not just for research purposes, or standing on the sidelines taking notes. But by working side by side with the branch staff, serving customers. 

Everyone has done Branch Time. 

Even the CEO.

How long can vary for different areas, depending on their needs. But the standard stint for a Product Manager is around 6 weeks.

The Pros and… More Pros

But sending every new hire to Branch Time is a serious commitment – in both time and dollars. 

So what’s the upside?

Firstly, accelerating your understanding of the business, and building a strong foundation to make decisions in the future. This is not always tangible or measurable by reporting, but what better way to fast-track your decision making capability?

Also, forming connections and relationships with the branches, and understanding the mayhem of retail. You even get direct experience with using Reece’s internal systems, such as TRS. You always have access to feedback, as you’re constantly in contact with branches. 

And, of course, establishing deep empathy with your customers, the majority who are tradies. Understanding and becoming intimate with their customer problems, so you can ensure the right solutions are developed to deliver the right outcomes. Knowing their world also enables you to contribute and create meaningful OKRs (targets). 

But it doesn’t stop there: 

  • Branch managers and staff also benefit from building relationships with somebody in head office.
  • After Branch Time, you have ongoing access to the branch network, to continue to foster relationships, to interview or to validate ideas and concepts with staff or customers. 
  • New team members also go through the same Branch Time experience, so there is a shared understanding and common ground established.

Thank you

Thank you again to Cameron Rogers and Nikki Pecora from reecetech for sharing, to our volunteers (Nosh Darbari, Yau Hui Min, Steve Bauer) and to our lovely hosts Lexicon and A Cloud Guru.