Monday, 25 July 2016

MEETUP: "Product Management in Unusual Places" at ProductTank Brighton

Last week was an interesting edition of the ProductTank Brighton meetup hosted by Pure360. The topic was "Product Management in Unusual Places". Reading blogs and books it is easy to think that Product Management falls into two distinct groups of "B2C" and "B2B". Yet there are some more interesting cases lurking in there.

Faye Wakefield from Comic Relief started with a talk on "When everything MUST be alright on the night, how do you test, collect feedback and iterate?". Her situation is unusual as the focus for the year is pretty much on supporting seven hours of television once a year. Most of the donations come during this time. The key goal is to collect donations so the culture is risk averse in experimentation. So this is an extreme environment for risk appetite.

What was similar here was small user base interacting over time a large period of time. This is not suitable for doing A/B tests, or other experiments, to discover how to improve service. One way to overcome this is to use benchmarking and research from other similar organisations. Faye mentioned that she is lucky to have Children in Need, which has a similar model.

Glen Corbett was up next with "What does the PM for Rolls-Royce Wraith actually do?". In his case, he has a small user base so each unit matters. The users also have strong opinions and expectations from the product. A key skill for him seems to be the stakeholder management and saying "No". The strong brand around Rolls-Royce helps here. His background for how he got into Product Management was familiar to me. As well as the imposter syndrome he suffers. One of the things I love about ProductTank is getting to hear actual concerns and problems other people have. Rather than the perception that everyone has it sorted. Then feeling that what you are doing isn't that bad!

I guess that small user bases are common for a large slice of B2B products. Again it doesn't leave much room for large statistical analysis of experiments. the other factor is it doesn't allow feature development to be spread across the unit cost in any volume. So there isn't much room for waste. Good user research and validation then prioritisation is important!

Janna Bastow finished the talks with "PMing for the unique B2PM community." Having recently signed up with ProdPad it was interesting to hear more about the onboarding process. Particularly the thought about the thoughts behind the activity prompting email follow-up. A key takeaway was that "you are not your customer". Even when you are a Product Manager making a product for Product Managers to Product Manage. (I also learnt that Janna says the word "Product" a lot during her day ;). This is a key assumption to avoid for any development team. I think the standard "As a ... I want .. so that ..." story format allows too many assumptions/projections here. So I prefer the "jobs to be done" format to surface these. Often the user need differs from the bill payer's or even system supplier's. Think about password policies or billing systems.

Now I'm looking forward to the Summer Social to have more of a chance to chat with everyone!