Product Success in 2020 – You Asked, We Answered

This month, we presented a webinar from our Product Management Leadership series – Product Success in 2020: Six Trends You Must Track. You can view the accompanying blog post here. We received so many great questions on the topic and have included answers to the top questions down below. Thank you all for engaging in our webinar!

These questions were answered by David Nash.

Q&A

For smaller organizations, is there a good way to find “virtual” providers like the usertesting.com service you mentioned to assemble a test with partners vs. hiring in-house?

First, there are actually several excellent 3rd party sources for offboarding user testing. While usertesting.com is well-established, there are several vendors who provide similar capabilities and we cannot recommend specific vendors.

Next, when undertaking this exercise, you will need to first determine a few things, to best select a testing partner and then direct their efforts. You should determine:

What do you want to test? A new feature of an existing product? How a new product concept (‘pretotype’) might address a market need? Whether your product works well on a specific mobile device? Something else? There are a variety of firms that specialize in one or more of these areas.

Your target cohort: Will test participants be selected from existing customers, or people who don’t know anything about you or your product? There are benefits to both groups. For testing a new feature of an existing product, you might want to focus more on the former group. For validating market needs and new concepts, you may want to focus more on the latter group. For the latter group, what are the primary target user persona or market segment of interest? Most testing firms can recruit cohorts by demographic, psychographic, firmographic, etc.

How close do you want to be to the actual testing effort? Do you want to manage candidate recruitment efforts, audit the actual testing, or just see the results?

What are your budgetary and timeline constraints? These are the essential requirements to guide your vendor selection and management efforts. Good luck!

Is there an actual Product Operations position or job, or is it just a function within the organization?

‘ProdOps’, as implemented today, generally refers more to a team practice and organizational capability than a specific role. This is in contrast to ‘DevOps’, where often there is a team of DevOps Engineers who tend to do similar work. As we covered in the webinar, there may be several roles on your ProdOps team, including Release Management, Publications, UX, Project Management, and other team members responsible for creating Dashboards, Templates & Processes for managing ‘Product Health’, Feature & Team Requests.

Do you suggest using metrics from Splunk and Appdynamics end-user monitoring as part of product operations?

There are several excellent tools for measuring in-product user engagement, including Splunk, Appdynamics, and others we mentioned during the webinar (Pendo, Heap, AppCues, Amplitude, etc.) Specific tool/vendor selection should be based on a variety of considerations and is beyond the scope of this discussion. As noted above, it is a best practice to include product usage instrumentation as an indicator of Product Health in your ProdOps practice, so you can implement the practice consistently, and compare and scale user engagement for your products and teams.

What does gamify the onboarding experience mean?

Thanks for asking! ‘Onboarding’ refers to the initial period of product use, when new users are getting oriented to your product. This is an essential period, typically spanning initial login/setup through the first week, when first impressions are formed and initial use patterns and satisfaction are determined.

With consumer products, this onboarding period is truly a ‘make or break’ time, when a poorly performing product is returned or, if an app, is removed. For B2B or Enterprise software – where your product was likely selected for your user by somebody else in their organization – it is no less important to ‘get it right’.

‘Gamifying’ refers to getting new users vested in their own mastery of your Product – the way they would in a game. Gamifying may include ‘unlocking’ new capabilities, awarding ‘badges’ or kudos to users based on their progress or use of specific features – and, importantly – confirming that they received value, e.g. letting them know ‘You saved X minutes or Y dollars this week’ or high-value on routine task. In short: Help your customer keep ‘winning’ so they keep playing.

In my business, we do business with seniors (i.e., 65 and over). What technology trends do you see impacting this group of people?

Great question! Seniors are a large and growing segment of customers for many products and services.

Starting around age 30, everyone experiences a gradual cognitive slowdown, which may impair our ability to learn new tasks, names, and faces. Vision and hearing also tend to deteriorate with age, as do bone density and dexterity.

A recent study analyzed seniors’ perspectives on some technologies intended to allow them to stay in their homes longer, so-called aging-in-place. Researchers found that, often, ‘frustration’ with new technology made older adults unsure of their ability to use it, leaving them unmotivated to even try. That said, here are some technologies that can provide immediate and lasting value to those in this important market segment:

Accessibility: There are over 56 million people in the US alone and over 1 billion people globally who have some disability, and this population is growing. In 2017 alone, more than 800 federal lawsuits were filed against allegedly ‘inaccessible’ websites – more than 14 times that in 2015. Accessibility benefits users of all ages and abilities; it encourages good coding practices, and it provides independence to people with disabilities. You can find out more information about creating accessible digital products here.

Allowing Seniors to live independently and remain in their homes longer. ‘Smart lighting’ with voice-activated controls can provide residents with bright environments throughout their home, while reducing energy costs. Voice-controlled energy, communication, and entertainment systems eliminate the need to fiddle with dials, settings, or remember to adjust the thermostat. Safety devices for ranges and ovens can reduce the potential for fires by automatically turning these appliances off after a set period.

Wearables, Internet-of Things (‘Connected Devices’), Telemedicine, and Security round out the list of top technology trends that provide value to this vital part of our society.

You mentioned about reducing features… why would you build any features before doing customer/market research before building the product/feature?

That’s a very good question and one we often ask our students. ‘Feature creep’ tends to occur, not as the result of a single deliberate or specific action, but over time. Especially in the case of the Enterprise and B2B market segments, product capabilities and features often grow over the years to accommodate the needs of large, influential customers, many of whom perform similar tasks but in very different ways. Not surprisingly, many products provide 3, 5, or even more ways to address the same overall business need. We have guided many companies to improve their customer satisfaction, simplify pricing, and control product lifecycle costs using a variety of techniques including the Four Actions Framework, which asks which features can we Remove, Improve, Reduce or Create? Notice that only one of these four options involves adding new features. You may be surprised how often ‘less really is more.’

I think that the “digital everything” can often not make sense. I have read articles that farmers in the mid-west are buying 40-year old tractors because new tractors are 4x more expensive and cannot be easily repaired.

What you point out, in some cases, is certainly and unfortunately true. As we asked in the webinar, ‘How can digital technologies help you re-imagine your product to better serve your customers?’ Understand their needs deeply? Pay attention to their feedback to find pain points? Where can you fix, improve, or delight? This should remain our intention and aspiration, rather than rushing to monetize services which can cause customer dissatisfaction and backlash.

What kind of tools do you suggest to use competitor analysis?

Competitive Analysis is a vital, multi-dimensional practice, which, when performed effectively, provides insights not just on product comparisons but across other competitive dimensions as well. One of the most-used tools is known as SWOT analysis, for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. There are several ways to apply this analysis with each providing actionable insights.

For publicly-traded companies, you can glean a lot of useful information from reading legally-required documents and filings, like forms 10-K and 10-Q. The 10-K is an annual report and is more comprehensive than a 10-Q which is filed quarterly. These are essential documents, provided publicly, by law, which can provide insights on revenue, spending, profitability and strategic initiatives, and investments. You can also mine business social networks and resources like LinkedIn, Slideshare, GlassDoor and Owler for other competitor insights.

As Competitive Analysis is such a vital, multi-dimensional practice, we cover it comprehensively in several of our courses.

Watch the webinar on-demand

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Curious about the future? Aren’t we all!? In this first installment of our 2020 PM Leadership webinar series, we’ll peer into our crystal ball and consider the trends and technologies of 2020 that every Product Manager should be thinking about for their own products and services.

Your Questions Answered By:

David Nash - Principal Consultant and Trainer
David Nash is a Principal Consultant and Trainer at 280 Group.
David is a recognized expert in Product Management, Product Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Team Development. He has delivered generations of successful technology Products (Hardware, Software & SaaS, Systems) and Services, and is expert in B2B SaaS, Pricing, User Experience, and In-App User Engagement.
280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We help companies and individuals do GREAT Product Management and Product Marketing using our Optimal Product Process™.

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