Answering your Q’s: bringing customer suggestions directly into ProdPad

For a product manager, all different sources of feedback and new product iteration are important. And that’s just as true for us as it is for you.

In another meta-example of us product managing the product management process, I wanted to share another great suggestion from one of our users – Michael – for bringing customer ideas more closely into the idea management process.

“I would love to see a Customer portal to be able to allow a customer to enter in ideas based off a series of questions. Today we have over 2000 customers that have great ideas but the only way to bring them in is by email. I would love if they would be able to enter an idea into the system but not have access like employees do today. Just a thought.”

Now this is a great idea. Whether future evolutions of the ProdPad platform would take quite this form isn’t possible to say today, but it’s certainly in-line with our vision for customer involvement in product management.

While we don’t currently support this kind of direct customer interaction in ProdPad, there are a few ways in which you can use the platform to support customer involvement in the idea management process. While we carry on collecting feedback like Michael’s to devise the most effective ways to invite customer feedback, you can make use of ProdPad’s integrations with the tools your customers already use.

1. Integrate with UserVoice

UserVoice is a customer service tool for gathering ideas and supporting large groups of external users, where they can suggest ideas and vote them up so that it’s easier to see what’s popular. The integration with ProdPad allows you to ‘push’ those popular ideas to ProdPad where they can be fleshed out more and pushed on to development. As the ideas are worked on, we report back to your users in UserVoice so they get feedback too on progress being made. However, you choose how this status mapping works and the ins and outs of that progress is reserved for your team only – keeping product development appropriately internal.

2. Integration with email/forms/etc. via Zapier

Zapier is a tool that hooks up dozens of different services, and ProdPad is just one of those services. Others include basic email, web forms (like Google forms or Wufoo) and many more. When you’ve chosen a good match through Zapier, you can set up an integration that allows end customers to email in or add feedback via a form, which will be added to ProdPad automatically. This again keeps the detail of what’s happening in ProdPad private, but allows them to submit ideas or feedback directly via whatever channel both you and they prefer that they use.

So, try out one of these methods to seek out more feedback from your customers. And if you have suggestion for us too, there are a few different ways you can get your idea into our very own ideas list. You can send us an email, you can engage with us in-tool using the ‘Get in touch’ button (handily hooked up with Intercom.io), or you can even leave your thoughts on this problem in the comments below!

The post Answering your Q’s: bringing customer suggestions directly into ProdPad appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

28
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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How building an MVP is just like your 9th grade science experiment

What is an MVP?

A term popularized by startup writer Eric Ries, a minimum viable product (MVP) is “a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial user” – according to techopedia.

At the heart of it, the MVP philosophy about doing the least amount of work you can in order to learn the most of something.

When you release a new product, there are a whole lot of potential risks. What if people don’t see the value of your product? What if they just don’t love it? What if it’s not scalable? And what if it’s not financially viable? Or what if it’s not sufficiently differentiated from your competition? Or your market isn’t as big as you thought? Developing a minimal viable product is about reducing that risk so that you can maximize your success. When you push out an MVP as soon as is reasonable, you reduce your overheads, get faster feedback and all the while you’re able to measure your progress.

So how do you do it? How do you know when you’ve reached your MVP, when to stop building, and when to just get your product out there?

Taking a development term like this perhaps makes it seem more complicated a concept than it really is. Instead, you can probably take a look back to your grade 9 approach to science. In this introduction to the scientific method, all you were asked to do was to define a simple hypothesis and test it.

And much like your 9th grade science experiment, when developing your MVP this can be broken down into a few simple steps:

  1. Declare your assumptions or business risks
  2. Organize them into a testable hypothesis
  3. Answer the question: what’s the smallest thing I can do or make to test this hypothesis
  4. Do it! (it’s your MVP)

The last thing to figure out is what to do with the data that comes back from your 9th grade experiment. This is where the MVP philosophy is also about being bold. If your results show you that your hypothesis carries too much risk, you either change direction, or completely pivot, and try again.

A great example of this is Groupon. Before becoming the business we all know today, the Groupon team had created a social media platform focused on bringing people together around a cause, called The Point. When members showed a tendency to focus on saving money, The Point’s founders tested a simple MVP to test the hypothesis that group buying offered a better product/market fit. This took the form of a wordpress blog with PDF coupons. The success of this experiment is well-documented history of one of the fastest growing companies of all time.

Building an MVP isn’t about knocking out something quick and dirty or cutting corners. It’s not about deciding part way through development that you’ve about had enough and you want to give it a shot in the market. It’s about getting down to the very basics of the scientific method, and finding something to test.  The MVP approach to building products is much more than a specific method of development. It’s a mode of business that believes it pays off to invest in learning.

So if you have to, dig out those old excercise books and get back to the basics of experimentation, and you’ll be surprised by what your science teacher really taught you.

If you’d like to find out more on best practice processes, read our 7 pillars of product management

And if you’d like to discover how ProdPad can help you with awesome product management, sign up for a 14 day free trial here

The post How building an MVP is just like your 9th grade science experiment appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

24
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning

Simon and Janna ProdPad FoundersSimon and I are not only founders of ProdPad, but also 2/3 of the founding team of Mind the Product. Last week saw our biggest ever conference yet, bringing together over 900 product managers at London’s iconic Barbican Centre for Mind the Product 2014.

This year, ProdPad got involved directly with the Mind the Product as lanyard sponsors. Simon, I and our team were there to talk to attendees about ProdPad and – even more importantly – hear about product managers’ challenges and goals to help us deliver a more effective solution.

On Thursday, September 11th , Mind the Product held its first ever workshop track, with four expert sessions on Product Roadmapping, Lean UX, Agile Product Development and Analytics & Testing. The workshops were a real success with all participants getting stuck right in and raising some excellent questions, some of which we’ll be exploring over the coming weeks too.

15074717329_36901d0955_z

Friday, September 12th, brought us our biggest and best ever MTPcon yet, with excellent speakers. Some of the key ideas discussed were a more real approach to customer focused product management that gets right to the heart of customers as people, as well as how to be a better product manager and strong leader in face of organizational and structural challenges. You can get a full recap of the day over on the Mind the Product blog.

15076368498_c44f401373_z

With illuminating presentations from the experts, and engaged discussion from the audience, this year’s MTPcon was truly fascinating. As organizers, we put in a lot of work to deliver this event to Europe’s product managers, but as product managers ourselves we got out just as much as we put in.

Thanks again to everyone who attended, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

For attendees who didn’t get a chance to chat with us about ProdPad you can get in touch here.

The post ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

19
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning

Simon and Janna ProdPad FoundersSimon and I are not only founders of ProdPad, but also 2/3 of the founding team of Mind the Product. Last week saw our biggest ever conference yet, bringing together over 900 product managers at London’s iconic Barbican Centre for Mind the Product 2014.

This year, ProdPad got involved directly with the Mind the Product as lanyard sponsors. Simon, I and our team were there to talk to attendees about ProdPad and – even more importantly – hear about product managers’ challenges and goals to help us deliver a more effective solution.

On Thursday, September 11th , Mind the Product held its first ever workshop track, with four expert sessions on Product Roadmapping, Lean UX, Agile Product Development and Analytics & Testing. The workshops were a real success with all participants getting stuck right in and raising some excellent questions, some of which we’ll be exploring over the coming weeks too.

15074717329_36901d0955_z

Friday, September 12th, brought us our biggest and best ever MTPcon yet, with excellent speakers. Some of the key ideas discussed were a more real approach to customer focused product management that gets right to the heart of customers as people, as well as how to be a better product manager and strong leader in face of organizational and structural challenges. You can get a full recap of the day over on the Mind the Product blog.

15076368498_c44f401373_z

With illuminating presentations from the experts, and engaged discussion from the audience, this year’s MTPcon was truly fascinating. As organizers, we put in a lot of work to deliver this event to Europe’s product managers, but as product managers ourselves we got out just as much as we put in.

Thanks again to everyone who attended, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

For attendees who didn’t get a chance to chat with us about ProdPad you can get in touch here.

The post ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

19
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Product

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ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning

Simon and Janna ProdPad FoundersSimon and I are not only founders of ProdPad, but also 2/3 of the founding team of Mind the Product. Last week saw our biggest ever conference yet, bringing together over 900 product managers at London’s iconic Barbican Centre for Mind the Product 2014.

This year, ProdPad got involved directly with the Mind the Product as lanyard sponsors. Simon, I and our team were there to talk to attendees about ProdPad and – even more importantly – hear about product managers’ challenges and goals to help us deliver a more effective solution.

On Thursday, September 11th , Mind the Product held its first ever workshop track, with four expert sessions on Product Roadmapping, Lean UX, Agile Product Development and Analytics & Testing. The workshops were a real success with all participants getting stuck right in and raising some excellent questions, some of which we’ll be exploring over the coming weeks too.

15074717329_36901d0955_z

Friday, September 12th, brought us our biggest and best ever MTPcon yet, with excellent speakers. Some of the key ideas discussed were a more real approach to customer focused product management that gets right to the heart of customers as people, as well as how to be a better product manager and strong leader in face of organizational and structural challenges. You can get a full recap of the day over on the Mind the Product blog.

15076368498_c44f401373_z

With illuminating presentations from the experts, and engaged discussion from the audience, this year’s MTPcon was truly fascinating. As organizers, we put in a lot of work to deliver this event to Europe’s product managers, but as product managers ourselves we got out just as much as we put in.

Thanks again to everyone who attended, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

For attendees who didn’t get a chance to chat with us about ProdPad you can get in touch here.

The post ProdPad @MTPcon 2014 – keeping on learning appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

19
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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How small is too small for idea management?

Last week I got a pretty smart question from a ProdPad free trial user that merits a bit more exploration.

We’ve talked in other blog posts about the difference between product and project management tools. In our vision of how product managers and development teams work together seamlessly, everything that could be done lives in a product management tool, and everything that will be done is transformed into project management tickets.

So as our insightful user pointed out, what about the little things? The bug reports and the minor issues? What’s too minor to make it into ProdPad?

The line you draw between ProdPad and project management tools like JIRA will be specific to your team dynamics and processes. But in general, to decide which workflow to begin with, you can ask yourself whether a change is at all up for debate. Bugs can typically considered a development ‘to do’ item. When you’re simply looking at a broken piece of software that needs to be fixed, this should go straight into the development backlog and scheduled accordingly.

However when you get into the realm of ‘little things’, this question gets a little more complicated. A little thing might be a UX fix for something that’s confusing customers, a detail your team realises really should have been included in a previous release.

If something just needs to be done – and is dev-ready – it can bypass ProdPad. But check yourself on the following to help you decide whether that’s really the case:

  • Is there a chance this change will spark a debate as to whether it’s a good idea or not?
  • Are you able to provide JIRA with enough information right away for a developer to pick up this task without any further support?
  • Can this change realistically be delivered in the next few sprints?

These daily decisions ultimately come down to what you feel is appropriate and how you communicate. Guidelines are a good idea especially for larger teams, but training your product managers to ask intelligent questions and approach these workflows with the consequences in mind is the best way to avoid mixups or bottlenecks.

If you have any insight you can share on the ins and outs of how you manage a workflow between ProdPad and your development tools, drop a comment below!


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10
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Education vs Experience – the future generation of product managers

Today’s product managers come from many different backgrounds. As a profession so deeply rooted into the entire business, experiences from sales and marketing, customer support, engineering and more can all propel people into a product management function. But what about the next generation? Are we looking forward to a troop of product managers by trade?

Although still a young field with much to be defined, the emergence of formal training does point to the better establishment of product management as a discipline in its own right. Arguably, the surge in a product management education market has been able to happen because businesses are keenly looking for answers when defining what product management is and how it should be done.

Courses are being offered by a range of organizations, from startups such as General Assembly to more classic bodies such as the University of Stanford, and even to specific businesses created just for product management training.

Who are the people behind this future generation of product managers? Largely they’re the ones who have taken several years to learn the ropes themselves, and are looking to pass on that knowledge to help optimize and refine the capabilities of the next generation. Of course there are always opportunists to look out for, so pay close attention to the bios of instructors and lecturers, but generally speaking elders (and not so elders) are looking to share.

And what does a product management education cover? From course to course, quite a lot! Here are three key areas in which courses and training are offering a more formal introduction to the skills today’s product managers have had to learn the long way.

Practical product management

Hands-on experience assisting another product manager with the day-to-day work involved around managing a backlog or getting a release out, or being gradually given responsibility for certain features within a release is an invaluable way to learn the trials and tribulations of what can go wrong when delivering new product. But practical aspects of product management courses are focusing on tools to help prepare new product managers navigate these processes too. As models and methods become more established, from roadmapping techniques to delivery checklists, they are working their way into a more formalized approach to how to manage products.

Handling product strategy

It’s undeniable that those who have the most prior experience not only handling product strategy but working with executive teams against KPIs on business strategy are going to be the most comfortable and arguably the best placed to deliver a valuable product vision. But an education based on scientific method and business essentials can well-equip product managers to execute a successful product strategy. Tools and tactics for gathering market data and analyzing it, for example, will help to breed a generation of product managers with a foremost focus on business value and market strategy.

Leadership and diplomacy

Product Managers might not always be official leaders in the same sense as the classic executive team, but leadership skills are a hugely important part of this role. Again, the confidence required to exert these qualities tends to come from experience of success in taking a product to market and working with diverse business functions in order to get there. But we all need to start somewhere to get there. Many product management courses have elements that focus specifically on communications and diplomacy skills, similar to more traditional management training.

Either looking ahead to that future generation, or to the future of many of our own careers, it seems that product management will fall in line with other business functions when it comes to personal development. Rather than an alternative to experience, training and education can be seen as an an additional layer on top for existing product managers, or a grounding foundation for new ones. As training becomes more formalised I imagine that a healthy balance between experience and education will be a killer combination for any product management hopeful. And for those of us already in the industry, we can look ahead to a process of continued debate on our philosophies and optimization of our methods with the support of a more academic approach alongside good old fashioned experience.

What do you think of the product management education currently on offer to current and future product managers alike, and what direction do you see it taking in the future?

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04
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Aren’t we all just people? Building products for B2B and B2C

User experience is growing as a mode of thinking across B2C and B2B businesses alike. We’re beginning to consider business customers less and less as corporate cogs, and more and more as the same people we sell to over in B2C companies. They’ve just got different clothes on, right? User personas that account for background, motivations and pain points are equally integral to building great products no matter what kind of audience you’re building for. Each of us has personal challenges at work that we’d like to solve to make life easier and more enjoyable.

So if customers are all just people, what are the real differences between B2B and B2C product management?

Marquee customers VS fluid masses

When you’ve got a B2B customer base, it’s much more likely that you’ll have fewer, high-revenue customers and that these are individually more important to your product decisions. B2C customer bases however are much more high-volume and individuals come and go. Finding the average use case is much more important than responding to specific needs.

Sales insight VS customer surveys

B2B and B2C businesses have different access to customers therefore the feedback that comes with it. Product managers with internal sales team can benefit from (and also have to push back on) feedback and suggestions funnelled internally from direct customer interaction. B2C product managers however must go direct to the customer themselves and use different methods to reach that insight, which are often much more large scale and broader in reach – such as customer surveys, or focus groups.

Predictable and fixed VS vague and variable user goals

When we’re at work we’re in a more structured environment than when we’re relaxing at home or out with friends. Whereas B2C user goals can be hugely diverse when using the same product, B2B user goals are based on prescribed tasks and are therefore easier to predict. However, this means that the product capabilities you have to account for might be more complex. This is one area where our behavior as people notably shifts – we are often more prepared to learn a product at work if it means that all of our needs can be met.

Decision makers VS financial freedom

Finally, who the product manager must take into consideration when setting product vision and roadmap direction is usually very different between B2B and B2C companies. Consumers are, generally speaking, free to make their own purchasing decisions. If something saves them time, reduces headaches, or is just plain fun to use they’re often free to make their own calls. In B2B markets however, management sign-off, budget approval and even legal departments are the norm before any product is chosen. But be careful with this one. If you need buy-in from the CMO, make sure your product’s what and why offers them value. But don’t forget that you aren’t necessarily designing for the CMO when it comes to the how.

If you’re trying to apply product management best practice to your role, or you’re looking to make a switch between B2B and B2C products, keep these differences in mind. However never forget that whatever they’re doing, your users are always people. Keep the differences explained here in mind when it comes to product lifecycles or roadmapping, however never stop striving for a great user experience that relieves your customers’ frustrations and adds value to their day.


Aren’t we all just people? Building products for B2B and B2C:
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02
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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Regenerating ProdPad: working together for a brilliant user experience

A few weeks ago, I filled you in on the inner workings of our roadmapping proccess for our current project: ProdPad Regenerated. We’ve come along way already since then, and today I’d like to talk to you about how we are conceiving these changes to ProdPad collaboratively.

To help demonstrate the process in action, I’m giving you a bit of a sneak preview of what we’re working on. First of all, here’s a mockup for a new Idea Canvas being collaborated on in ProdPad. Our UX wizard, Mojca, created this mockup using OmniGraffle and exported it to image files. Then she uploaded it to ProdPad so that we could all wade in with comments.

ProdPad Mockup  - Idea Canvas

Direct interaction with the file itself means we can highlight the smallest of details and be very specific about what we’re discussing. For the Idea Canvas mockup, Simon and I have been able to raise questions on very specific elements and reconfirm what’s critical and what’s secondary to this regeneration project. For example, in the next version of the Idea Canvas design we’ll try to focus more heavily on team discussion than specs as this is what’s more important for most users.

OmniGraffle is one of our best friends when it comes to collaborative wireframing but it certainly isn’t the only tool we use. The very earliest mockups added to ProdPad used good old-fashioned pen and paper. A simple photo upload and we are able to discuss direction for our new interface in exactly the same way. Keeping track of versions in the design process is hugely important. When changes are tracked rather than overwritten, no shred of innovation is lost. If you make a suggestion that doesn’t work when pen is committed to paper or finger to mouse, you can revisit previous versions and re-evaluate.

And that’s why we’re making some changes to how we do mockups in ProdPad too. What you’re looking at here is in fact a mockup of the new mockups view (how’s that for meta!).

ProdPad Mockup - Mockups

For the new mockups, we’ve been exploring how we can make earlier versions more prominent so that you can follow the evolution of the design process more easily. And as for every redesigned element in the regenerated ProdPad, this process is about striving for a smoother and more intuitive user experience for product managers and secondary users alike. I’m currently working with core ProdPad users who signed up to our beta programme to get their feedback into the next iterations of these mockups.

So that about wraps it up for this instalment on how we design collaboratively. Next, I’ll be sharing with you our steps and experiences of building out final designs from scratch. If you have any questions for me on ProdPad regenerated or our processes, drop them in the comments below or tweet me @simplybastow

And if you’d like to get onto the beta list for the new release, send us a message here


Regenerating ProdPad - working together for brilliant UX
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The post Regenerating ProdPad: working together for a brilliant user experience appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

29
Aug 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

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Regenerating ProdPad: working together for a brilliant user experience

Two weeks ago, I filled you in on the inner workings of our roadmapping proccess for our current project: ProdPad Regenerated. We’ve come along way already since then, and today I’d like to talk to you about how we are conceiving these changes to ProdPad collaboratively.

To help demonstrate the process in action, I’m giving you a bit of a sneak preview of what we’re working on. First of all, here’s a mockup for a new Idea Canvas being collaborated on in ProdPad. Our UX wizard, Mojca, created this mockup using OmniGraffle and exported it to pdf. Then she uploaded it to ProdPad so that we could all wade in with comments.

ProdPad Mockup  - Idea Canvas

Direct interaction with the file itself means we can highlight the smallest of details and be very specific about what we’re discussing. For the Idea Canvas mockup, Simon and I have been able to raise questions on very specific elements and reconfirm what’s critical and what’s secondary to this regeneration project. For example, in the next version of the Idea Canvas design we’ll try to focus more heavily on team discussion than specs as this is what’s more important for most users.

OmniGraffle is one of our best friends when it comes to collaborative wireframing but it certainly isn’t the only tool we use. The very earliest mockups added to ProdPad used good old-fashioned pen and paper. A simple photo upload and we are able to discuss direction for our new interface in exactly the same way. Keeping track of versions in the design process is hugely important. When changes are tracked rather than overwritten, no shred of innovation is lost. If you make a suggestion that doesn’t work when pen is committed to paper or finger to mouse, you can revisit previous versions and re-evaluate.

And that’s why we’re making some changes to how we do mockups in ProdPad too. What you’re looking at here is in fact a mockup of the new mockups view (how’s that for meta!).

ProdPad Mockup - Mockups

For the new mockups, we’ve been exploring how we can make earlier versions more prominent so that you can follow the evolution of the design process more easily. And as for every redesigned element in the regenerated ProdPad, this process is about striving for a smoother and more intuitive user experience for product managers and secondary users alike. I’m currently working with core ProdPad users who signed up to our beta programme to get their feedback into the next iterations of these mockups.

So that about wraps it up for this instalment on how we design collaboratively. Next, I’ll be sharing with you our steps and experiences of building out final designs from scratch. If you have any questions for me on ProdPad regenerated or our processes, drop them in the comments below or tweet me @simplybastow

And if you’d like to get onto the beta list for the new release, send us a message here


Regenerating ProdPad - working together for brilliant UX:
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29
Aug 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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