Find your ‘Get out of Hell’ cards here – July Wrap

With everything becoming remote and distributed, businesses are forced to adapt. Explore new opportunities, or find a silver lining. The alternative to wither and become a mere memory. And we’re no different.

Taking advantage of lockdown, we had Jock Busuttil make his long awaited return to Product Anonymous in July, all the way from London, to share some of his experiences of an all too familiar place – product management hell.

The Symptoms – What does Product Hell look like?

There are many common indicators that you may not be in the healthiest product environment, such as:

  • Not allowed to talk to customers. The complete opposite of continuous discovery, and not validating your ideas with customers. From concept, to build, to launch – talking to customers is always important. 
  • Unable to plan, because you’re too busy dealing with emergencies. Although it is important to put out fires, it can also wear you down. It’s equally important, if not more, to know which direction you’re heading. Having enough foresight to know which areas you need to invest your time and resources in, and which areas or features should be retired. 
  • Screw research, let’s build. The build trap. Do we really need to say anything else on this one?
  • But we have OKRs – hundreds of them! If you have too many Objectives and Key Results, which ones actually matter? And if different business units have different objectives, and lack of transparency across the rest of the organisation, how do you actually align with each other? 
  • Flip-Flopping between Very Important Goals. Do the goal posts keep moving back and forth from quarter to quarter? Oh no, that’s not important anymore, let’s move on to something else instead. Maybe keep your research handy for the next time it becomes a priority again. Probably next quarter.
  • No buy-in for my product strategy. If you’ve done all the adequate research, and validated those assumptions, and know the balance points – who better to drive the strategy? Or should we go by the opinions of everybody else instead?
  • Each board member has their own interpretation of the strategy. Whether this is to minimise the effort for their teams or maximise the benefit for their team, neither is healthy, nor going to help to align everybody’s efforts.

The Causes – Why are you in Product Hell?

So you’ve discovered you’re in Product Hell. Population: one. But how did you get here? Here are some possible and likely causes:

  • No clear corporate strategy or goals. Is your company vision to be the market leader in something generic? A good corporate strategy should be rooted in customer outcome. A true north star to align all your efforts. But what does a clear corporate strategy even look like? Here’s a fantastic example from Tesla.
The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan – 2006
  • Lack of alignment. To ensure alignment, you may need to prioritise the things to focus on. But prioritising is also about calling out the things that you won’t be spending energy on, right now. 
  • Wrong strategy (for now). You may have a strategy that has worked for you in the past. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still the right strategy now. Have the market conditions shifted? Has the competitor landscaped changed? Nobody, including Zoom, were planning for Covid to happen.
  • Wrong measures of success. NPS, Revenue and Market share are not tied to human outcomes. These metrics could change due to external factors, without you doing anything. 
  • Scared of user research. Too many companies are scared to approach their customers to see how they are doing. How do you uncover unmet and underlying needs if you never talk to your customers?

Getting out – How to escape Product Hell?

Now that you’ve identified the problem, what can you do about it?

  • Start with real user research. Deepen your customer insights. Understand their needs. The problems they need solved And what they would be willing to pay for. Like all things product, it starts with the customer. 
  • Make your product strategy before somebody does it for you. Gather the research. What does the data suggest, and what needs further validation? Ensure you use the right research for the right situation – different techniques will have different biases built in. Be aware of the biases, so that you can balance your view with other research techniques. Use the insights to form a compelling product vision and strategy. 
UX Research Methods – Nielsen Norman Group
  • Influence the corporate strategy with your product strategy. Talk to your leaders to understand each of their concerns and motivations. Create a shared and aligned vision, and get them to agree with your product strategy. It might be a long path, however, it can be done. 
  • Call out your Board’s lack of alignment… tactfully. This could also apply to your executive leadership team, or any other management layer or structure in your organisation. Warning: Proceed with caution!

Jock Busuttil, Founding Director at Product People

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker, having spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices. From startups to multinationals, his clients include the BBC, Brainmates, and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). In 2012, Jock founded Product People Limited – a product management services and training company. And his book, The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management was published in 2015. You can find more of Jock on LinkedIn and Twitter, or on his blog – I Manage Products.

Watch for Jock’s upcoming Product Management masterclasses in October. Keep an eye here for details: https://productpeo.pl/linktree/

Thank you to our sponsor: A Cloud Guru

We’re on a mission to teach the WORLD to cloud. A Cloud Guru is the largest online cloud school on the planet. Our training feels more like logging into Netflix or Spotify – it’s entertaining and playful. The people are the #1 reason employees say they stay at ACG. We’re a quirky, tight-knit crew that cares about our customers and each other. No egos here. Our leaders encourage thoughtfulness, compassion, being humble, and we have a bit of fun along the way.

Slides & Video

Working with user research

Back in March, we discussed different types of user research and focused in on diary studies. In May, we’re talking about how work with those insights to build products and some of the challenges you may face.

We have 2 amazing speakers on Thursday May 25th with first hand experience.Through a case study and reflection, they’ll show what it’s like to run user research and let the results drive the product & features.

RSVP now

Using Experience Sampling for Rapid Insights into User Needs

In this case study, George Cockerill will share how using the Experience Sampling method gave rich insights into user needs for the feature ideation of a brand new mobile app at Deakin University.

As part of the research activities to inform the development of a smart assistant app for students, Experience Sampling quickly gave the product team useful and relevant data to help understand student needs, behaviours and pain-points in multiple contexts over time.

George will talk share his experience of planning, executing and analysing the results from an experience sampling study. With practical advice on how to run the study, tools and techniques, the key points you need to know and things to watch out for.

Why is Marathon Running Important when Introducing User Research?

During the last decade, user research has been a key component of the product development process. Within the games industry there has been a significant effort that focuses on introducing and integrating user research as part of a ‘player first’ culture. Numerous challenges exist when doing so -especially when working with teams who have not been exposed to user research previously.

Kostas Kazakos will reflect on these challenges via his personal journey as a marathon runner and guided by Donald Schon’s reflective practitioner’s approach

He will also introduce DECEMA – a frame of reference whose aim is to help UX practitioners when introducing user research to development teams and organizations.

Our Speakers

George Cockerill is a Senior UX Designer at Deakin University, a Lead UX Instructor at General Assembly, an organiser of the UX Melbourne Book Club and can be found on Twitter at @GeorgeCockerill.

Kostas Kazakos is a User Experience Researcher with a qualitative mind and a quantitative heart. He currently manages the user/player research at Firemonkeys (an Electronic Arts studio located in Melbourne). For the last 10 years, Kostas has been handling primitive research problems in the mobile space and turning them into actionable design insights by employing a palette of qualitative and quantitative methods. He is an advocate of experience-centred design and passionate about answering the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

RSVP now!

Our Hosts

We’d like to thank Seek for being our hosts this month!
seek

March wrap-up: Learning from your customers via customer research

We had 2 great talks about customer research for our March session. Thank you Jo Squire & Katie Phillips, both User Experience Researchers from Australia Post, for an excellent evening!

FYI, we’ll be running another session on customer research in a couple months so hope to see you there!

Doing Research: Discovery & Validation – Jo Squire

thanks Jo for giving us an overview of the discovery and validation research #prodanon

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

The research method you use will vary depending on several things including if you’re in a discovery or validation phase.

If you are in discovery, you might be looking for the problem or trying to get a better understanding of the problem. In this space, you’re looking for ‘why’ and it’s not at all the time to bring in prototypes! Observation, contextual inquiries and questionnaires are some of the methods to use here.

Once you move to validation, you’re looking to understand ‘how’ ie how is the product being used. Usability testing & co-design workshops are some of the methods you can use.

Jo reminded us that ‘research’ doesn’t have to cost a bomb or take a long time. No matter what your budget, everyone can incorporate research into their product. Low cost options include talking to your customers on the street, observing (potentially free!) & you can be creative about how you reward the participants.

Once you do the research, you need to communicate it within your organisation and the best way to do this is to include your stakeholders while you’re doing the research. If you can’t include them, try showing the video you captured during the research.

 

End-to-end validation & optimization via diary study – Katie Phillips

Katie talked us through a diary study she did for an Australia Post product. This was a product in the wild which was being constantly developed. Based on the research objective & other criteria, they decided to use a diary study & moderated user testing.

about to kick off katie’s talk about diary studies and how she used slack #prodanon

A post shared by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

Their research participants were not in the office so they choose remote user testing using live video/screen sharing for the user testing and Slack for the diary study. To select a research method there are several things to consider including the objective, how much time you have and your budget.

This is the 2nd time the AusPost team used Slack for research. Even though none of the participants had used Slack before, it was easy to onboard them and they understood how to communicate & share photos of their processes.

One of the things Katie talked about (which I think was amazingly fantastic!) is how involved the development team was during the research. They witnessed the screen sharing so knew right away about the problems users faced plus they scheduled time into their existing sprint so they could work on anything that came up during the research. Way to work together!

Katie shared a few resources:

Q&A time

Tips for the data

  • Always keep the raw data (ie video) so you can play it to the stakeholder
  • If a research company does the research for you, try and be with
    them for at least part of the sessions and ask them to send you the raw data
  • Tools for analysis – Depends on the research but they utalise Google sheets & post it notes a lot.
  • After you analyse the data, make sure it’s available to the project team & possibly other teams (to help with their problem solving).

Most challenging part of their job?
It depends on the project but often it’s recruiting of the research participants. Others include: having a prototype with the right tasks, getting clear objectives from stakeholders and deadlines that are very close to the product launch.

Are there tools for privacy/ethics/legal? Tips?
Make sure your participants know what is expected of them & that the product is being tested, not them. You should have them sign a non-disclosure agreement and your legal team (or participant recruitment company) will have other templates you can use.

Ethics-wise, you should ‘follow your moral compass’ but there’s lots of reading online to help

Thanks tons to Aconex for hosting!

Learning from your customers – March event

Doing customer research is critical to delivering a great product.

We all want to be customer centric but how do you actually figure out your customers needs & the solutions?

This month we’re bringing together two researchers to give a few ideas, examples, tips & talk about how to integrate the research into your product.

RSVP now!

1 – How you do research depends on a variety of things – what do you need to understand, what resources are available, what commitment you can get from participants and more.

Jo Squire, Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post will talk about:

• the differences between doing research in discovery and validation phases

• what research methods are better when

• tips for getting the most out of your research including how to communicate the value of research/results

2 – Australia Post’s Send a Parcel allows customers to pay for and print their own domestic labels from their home or business. Researcher Katie Phillips was looking for ways to validate the tool’s increased capability for international sending and decided to use diary studies to understand how people used the new service & what issues they encountered.

Katie will share:

• the benefits of using diary studies

• how she used Slack to facilitate and collect data

• how she worked with the dev team to implement the findings

Our Speakers

Jo Squire is currently a Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and comes with over a decade of experience in user research. She is a strong advocate of putting the customer at the heart of every project, and believes that having a deep understanding and empathy for customers is essential to designing great experiences.

At Australia Post, Jo is responsible for designing and conducting customer research across all of Australia Post’s digital platforms. Research starts at understanding the problem, and continues through to validating finished products. Working closely with product owners, designers and developers Jo helps ensure the wealth of information gathered from the research is translated into highly desirable products that meets both the needs of the customers and the business.

Katie Phillips is a User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and currently works on helping conceptualise and develop digital platforms for shipping and logistics. Her background is in design and applied anthropology, which looks at culturally driven, complex problems and finding innovative solutions for them. She has been working on methods for helping agile user research and “deep-dive” ethnography co-exist, ensuring that products and services in development are always aimed at solving customer pain points and helping create value by considering bigger-picture problems.

Location
A big thanks to Aconex for hosting us this month! Details are on Meetup.

RSVP!