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Grinding Through the Product Management Process

A wise product manager once said, “…good products are like sausages, it’s better not to see them being made.”

It’s the Friday before MVP and as I toil away on product releases at my company, I can’t help but look back at the ups and downs, and the grinding process my teammates and I took to create something new.  Dear reader; like you, I had to drive an idea from inception to conception and often times I felt like Atlas carrying the virtual weight of a product on my shoulders.

Usually, it’s the lonely product manager who has a view of the complete path a product may take from idea to invoice.   Don’t despair dear reader, you may feel lonely; but at this year’s MVP the dynamic duo of Kristin Bolton-Keys and Alicia Dixon will be onsite to feel your pain and reassure you, you are not alone.  Earlier this week, I had a moment and sat down to speak with Kristin Keys before she departs Texas for the Artisphere.

She has had a myriad of experiences starting with a stint in digital media with American Express. There, she worked with marketing agencies to craft digital strategies for AMEX’s card unit.  Then ventured onto Capital One where she participated in some of the CapOne’s renowned guerrilla marketing tactics, and wound up working alongside Alicia Dixon at Hilton.

Our conversation started with Kristin echoing a refrain from Alicia, “many organizations understand mobile and web, but may not really know what a digital product manager is.   It sounds like organizations understand mobile and web, but don’t necessarily know how to communicate product management and how it impacts the company to the executive ranks.”

Like many product managers to-be, Kristin was thrown a product and was told to make it happen.  At MVP, she’s going to share her experiences in which she wasn’t the only product manager in the organization, but worked in an organization that didn’t know what a digital product manager is.

“We want to provide real-life tips when they feel like they’re the only one managing a product.  The long walk doesn’t mean you’re the only product manager in the company, but may own a product or part of a product,” Kristin says. For instance, at its start, Uber may have had one or two product managers. As Uber added capabilities and features, they may have brought on more product managers for those new aspects of the application.  As a product manager, you may be able to bounce ideas of other product managers in the organization, but when it comes down to it, they’re working on something completely different and it all comes down to you.  In a world consisting of verticals, key demographics, and user stories Kristin explains how it can be lonely, “your company could have many mobile apps, but you may find yourself being the only product manager for the iPad version of it.”

When it came to research hacks, Kristin spilled the beans faster than Alicia. “Lack of resources happens in large organizations too,” she said. “When you’re running lean and fast, and agile you may not have resources to allocate to hiring a marketing agency to conduct survey research or hiring out focus groups.”

She gave me these quick hacks for free:

  • Putting an ad on Craigslist or LinkedIn for users to take a survey using survey monkey.
  • Walking over to the mall and sitting in the food court to ask potential users what they think.
  • Abusing websites that have 30 and 60 day testing over the trial.
  • Using as a resource for using ordinary people to test your application before it is released.

Kristin had to go, but she left me three things you’ll get from her joint talk with Alicia Dixon:

  • Understanding what the heck you’re building and recognizing your stakeholders.  This is important to ensure a successful launch.  You’ll learn the steps you should take so you understand all of the business requirements and KPIs so you can move the needle. They’ll also show you an easier way to identify what you’re working on and why.
  • Different ways to figure out what your users really need that may not be brought up in the lean and agile lifecycle.
  • How to get stuff done.  Some product managers feel like they have to do everything, and they wind up doing all of the crap people don’t want to do.  They’ll share how to prioritize your day, and communicate what you and do and don’t own.

It’s not too late to register for this year’s MVP conference and grab a ring side seat for the product management, tag-team matchup of the year.

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