Video: Turning Commoditised Products into Value-adding Services

This video captures Tim John’s talk from October’s ProductTank, which was about “Every product is a service waiting to happen”

Tim Johns is a product manager for Hive – British Gas’ corporate start-up. He has been responsible for the development of the Hive Active Heating service, launched in October last year. Prior to his current role Tim was a commercial manager of smart metering within British Gas.

In this video, Tim discusses how innovative companies are acting on the trend of turning increasingly commoditised products into value-adding services by seeking to better understand their customers, embracing new technology and applying great digital design. He shares his experiences as a Product Manager in Hive – the corporate start-up within British Gas who launched their connected heating service last year – as well as the trends that are inspiring his work.

The post Video: Turning Commoditised Products into Value-adding Services appeared first on MindTheProduct.

Nov 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Market Research for Product Managers. It Never Stops.

Most product people would agree that the key to success is a product that fits someone’s needs like a glove. But market understanding is a complex beast. Here are a few pointers for helping you to master your market at every stage of product management.

Find a product/market fit

The lynchpin of market understanding is the product/market fit. You can claim that your product has reached this point when:

it has a set of customers excited enough about the product to pay for it, where payment can be in money or time.

Before you commit to building anything at all, you need to know if you’re solving a problem that customers really have. And should you find out that you don’t, it’s time to pivot. Although this can be hard to admit to when you’re personally invested in your solution, it’s best to be aware of your product’s viability from the start than further down the line – when it’s not just your ego that’s invested, but resources too.

Alex Osterwalder, author and founder of Strategyzer, has come up with a nifty value proposition canvas that helps you to map your solution to your customer’s problem, step by step.

This mapping should be based on everything you know about your target market. And when you find a hole in that knowledge it’s time to go and collect some research to fill the gaps.

Falsify, not validate

When you’re getting started on market research, remember that you may already have existing resources to turn to. Rather than jumping to create your own studies that address what you think you need to know, see what lies in research that has already been conducted, either by other teams in your own company – such as marketing – or external research that you can get your hands on free or cheaply. It’s important to take an honest look at the data from several different sources, and not just seek out snippets that support your plans and ideas.

After some exploratory research to help define your product ideas, conducting your own research to validate them is a key component of the lean method. A product manager’s bread and butter in market research is getting in front of real customers, and listening to what they have to say.

But Roger Cauvin has issued a caution on the validation concept to help you avoid bias in your interactions with users. As a general rule, product managers who search to validate a particular idea will tend to find it. Instead, the principle of falsification promotes that you should be able to prove your beliefs to be false, as well as true. Cauvin suggests focusing in on your prospective users’ real and past behavior, rather than hypothetical behavior of the future.

Once you’ve established that your problem is real, you need to address the big question of price. This is how you falsify assumptions that your product offers real value to the market. But getting an accurate idea of whether prospective customers are really prepared to part with money or time for your product isn’t straightforward. Rob Johnson wrote this article on asking questions around pricing to help product managers get to the heart of genuinely probable behaviors.

Be continuously testing

For the product manager, market research certainly doesn’t finish at the product/market fit. You should be continually testing your products to make sure that they continue to meet your market’s evolving needs. There are many different ways in which you can integrate customer interviews and user testing into your product management processes. One technique that I’ve used in the past and found to be effective is to build testing into my team’s schedule as a regular activity, no matter what’s going on. This way, you’re more likely to discover authentic flaws and opportunities in your market offering, than when you pursue user testing in a reactive fashion.

I set up a regular time slot (for example, Thursday afternoons) for testing. Each week we had to recruit participants in exchange for some pizza and a small sum per head; and the product and UX team had to find different things to test. Some weeks this would involve a ready, clickable prototype, but other times this would be a concept or even a napkin drawing to walk test participants through. It is the consistency that makes the difference and the mind-set to test all the time, not just when you think you have something to test.

Embracing market research into the heart of your processes is the best way to develop products that will bring customer satisfaction and continued business success. If you take note of these tips for solid market research, your products should never fall prey to opinion bias or mislead customer feedback again.

If you’d like to learn more about how ProdPad can help you collect user feedback and qualify the business case for new product ideas, you can get in touch with us here or sign up for a 14 day free trial yourself.

The post Market Research for Product Managers. It Never Stops. appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Nov 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Tips for Product Management Survival

Last week, we were at #UserConf, the UserVoice/CoSupport event dedicated to meeting customer needs.

We were keen to find out how all the smart product people in the room survive the product jungle. And to thank them for sharing their insight, we gave away hand-packed product survival kits with everything from post-its to headphones to handy notebooks.

Truly inspired by the great tips that came out of the room, we wanted to share some of that golden advice with you, to help you better survive product management too.

Discipline yourself on methodology

In the product jungle, arm yourself with analysis to make confident decisions that you can get your team behind. But remember, data is there to help you to make decisions not to make them before you. Finding the right place for statistics in your product management processes is a solid way to help you survive.

Channel your inner strength

An important skill for product managers hoping to survive a constant onslaught of requests and suggestions is to develop a strong mental barrier around the product vision. The UserConf crowd captured this beautifully in their top tips. The best thing you can do for your users to remain focused on their ultimate goals and never let up.

Turn to invaluable resources for support

Much like any other survival strategy, it’s important to remember you’re not alone! You’ve got a whole team around you who can help you to reach the right answers and deliver great products. At UserConf we all recognized the value of a wicked support team to get to the heart of user needs.

Get in the spirit of Product with your team

And last, but certainly not least, a great attitude will take you far. Whatever it takes you to get in the zone – be that a good tune or an indulgent snack – everyone has a secret weapon for product management survival that’s waiting to be unleashed.

What’s your best tip for product management survival? Share with us in the comments below, or by tweeting us at @ProdPad.

And if you haven’t already, sign up for a 14 day free trial of the ProdPad Toolkit to see how we can help.

The post Tips for Product Management Survival appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Nov 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Video: How Can a Product Influence Activity, Nutrition, and Lifestyle?

Paul Landau from MindTheProduct on Vimeo.

The theme of October’s ProductTank was, Every Product is a Service Waiting to Happen.

This video addresses how a product can influence activity, nutrition, and lifestyle. Paul Landau is the CEO and Founder of Fitbug. He formed Fitbug in 2004, and 9 years on delivers a range of wellness solutions through a platform to various clients.

At ProductTank, Paul shared insight into how designing the right product can change the behaviour of the consumer, motivate and challenge mindsets, and help people live a healthier lifestyle without dramatically having to change their lives.

The post Video: How Can a Product Influence Activity, Nutrition, and Lifestyle? appeared first on MindTheProduct.

Nov 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Walk In Their Shoes. Do You Know Your Customer Journey?

As product managers, our lives are centered on creating a great user experience that makes our products a success. But how well do you know what that experience really looks like?

At this year’s Mind the Product workshop on Analytics and Testing, Craig Sullivan (@optimiseordie) recommended experiencing your own user journey as an important reality check. Only when you put yourselves in your customers’ shoes – at every step of that journey – can you understand whether you’re delivering the experience think you are.

Here are just some of the ways in which you can start to get a better insight into your products from the customer’s perspective.

Search for a solution to your problem

Your users’ experience of your brand starts way before they subscribe. What are you communicating when they first start looking for a solution to their problem? Your market messaging, search placement and advertising is generally the first touch point for prospective customers. Doing a Google search and reviewing these materials in the exact same way your customers would discover them can help you to discover whether that information is clear, informative and easy to discover.

Register for your product or service

The steps that allow prospective customers to become real customers – whether that’s creating an account, signing up to your service or getting in touch with a member of your term – are the most crucial. So try becoming your own user; your goal is to check that there are no unexpected barriers to that process. Is the button easy to find no matter when you decide to register? Do online forms seem clear and concise? What emails do you receive immediately after registration, and beyond? Does your site or platform prompt new users on what to do next? You know your product far too well to see what a real new user sees, but it’s important to be confident that everything works as planned.

Order something or complete a task

No matter what kind of product or service you have, try really using it. If you have an ecommerce product, add something to the checkout, process your card details and wait for your order to actually arrive. If you have an application, make sure it’s integrated into your daily life in every way possible. Look out for things that might frustrate or fail to make sense. Your own usage is not a replacement for good usability testing, but knowing your product in and out is important for achieving a smooth and consistent experience.

Try to find answers to a problem

Of course, a little roleplaying is necessary here because you know the answers (I hope) to your product’s inner workings. But if you take a look at your FAQs, is it easy to find an answer if you’re not the product manager? Do realistic search terms bring up clear results in your help section, or does a Google search index any useful articles? Understanding your user journey and helping your customers to stay on it is about preparing not just for when things go as planned, but when they start to derail.

Speak to your brand

You should be as aware of your product’s communication skills as you are its code. Tuning into your brand’s communication in real-time is very different to reviewing copy for proposed emails. Subscribe to your mailing list and follow social accounts. Does the information seem useful and interesting, or is something missing? Does the flow feel right, or does it clash across channels? And try reaching out to your sales or support team anonymously. When do you get a response? What does it feel like to be on the end of your support line? All of this is key to a good user experience that will keep your customers coming back.

You should be as aware of your product’s communication skills as you are its code
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If you’d like to find out more about how ProdPad can help you to build amazing products, get in touch with us here or sign up for a 14 day free trial 

The post Walk In Their Shoes. Do You Know Your Customer Journey? appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Oct 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



What Kind of Product Manager Are You? Take the Test

Product Managers come from all walks of life, bringing with them all sorts of skills, and many different ways to manage product.

Admittedly more a bit of fun than any scientific attempt at profiling, but what does this test tell you about your approach? Pick the options that best fit you to find out what kind of Product Manager you are. And remember, there are no right or wrong answers!

What’s your background?

A: Customer care or support

B: Product by trade

C: Development

D: Business/Entrepreneur

What’s your style for product meetings?

A: I’m a facilitator – I get everyone else talking and bring out the best ideas

B: I set the agenda and bring everyone up to speed on our plans and current progress

C: I base meetings around sound analysis, showing our latest MAU and usage stats

D: I use visual tools to help generate creative ideas and think outside of the box

What’s your approach to roadmapping?

A: Democratic. Stakeholders agree on priorities together – this is everyone’s product

B: Purposeful. We define direction in product and bring others up to speed on our plans

C: Realistic. I ground plans in real numbers and calculate development time for epics

D: Ambitious. Our roadmap drives us to create the best version of our product possible

How do you involve the rest of your business in product management?

A: I take the opinions from all stakeholders and we go with the most supported choices

B: I keep effective control over who is involved, when. Too many cooks spoil the broth

C: I work primarily alongside the development team to establish the best course of action

D: I work closely with my CEO and we brainstorm the most innovative ideas

What’s your take on customer feedback?

A: I speak to customers daily. These relationships are key to understanding our product

B: My role is to translate what customers say they want into what they really need

C: A/B tests and activity metrics give me the best insight into my customers’ needs

D: Feedback is essential, but product vision must have the final say in roadmap choices

How do you determine success?

A: I’ve done a good job when my customers are happy and my team is able to succeed in driving business for our company

B: Success as a product manager is all about getting things done. It’s important to be a doer to turn nice ideas into real products

C: KPIs and quantitative metrics are at the heart of my processes. I’m continually testing and experimenting to find new ways to improve

D: Success for me is market share. It’s key to the long-term success of our business that we’re at the cutting edge and that we won’t be overtaken tomorrow by a competitor

And the results…

Mostly As: The Listener

You’re great at putting customers at the heart of product management and are likely very good at gathering frank feedback. You appreciate that product is important to everyone in your business, and tap into the insight that your colleagues have to offer on the future of your products’ development.

Watch out for becoming “The Journalist”

Listeners should watch out that they don’t take their inclusive approach too far, and actually take a back seat in product management. It was Dave Wascha’s talk at this year’s Mind the Product conference that was the original inspiration for this post. He told us “don’t be a journalist” – although the insight and input of the rest of your team is hugely important, it’s equally important that you take an active role in decision-making.

Mostly B: The Strong Leader

You take a strong direction on your products’ evolution, and a purposeful management style when it comes not only your own team, but taking that product direction to the rest of your business. You’re good at resisting irrelevant pressures and aren’t afraid to make difficult decisions in order to do what you know is best for your product, and your business.

Watch out for becoming “The Authoritarian”

Strong leadership is important for a product manager, but be careful to avoid taking this to extremes. While you need to be clear on boundaries, product is the concern of every stakeholder in your business. Should you shut them out not only would you lose an important source of inspiration and support, but you ultimately need their buy-in to succeed in delivering your product strategy.

Mostly C: The Analyst

Your thoroughly analytical approach to product management means that you grasp the importance of lean and experimental methodology. You always know where you stand and bring realism to the table amidst product discussions. And in all likelihood, you’re continually building upon results too.

Watch out for becoming “The Techie”

Your analytical skills and technical understanding are invaluable in helping you to work effectively alongside your development team to understand the “how”. But remember that your role is very different. The “techie” product manager risks losing sight of the “what” and “why”. Are you sure you’re optimizing for the right thing? And don’t forget that you have an entire team outside of tech that not only needs your support, but can support your work too.

Mostly D: The Innovator

You think big for your products and business. You live and breathe your product vision and your passion for turning that into reality never falters. You have a creative approach to customer problems, and you’re brave enough to go for the option that’s going to shake up the market and make the biggest impact.

Watch out for becoming “The Dreamer”

It’s important that you’re able to think of creative ways to tackle your customers problems, but don’t forget to seek innovation elsewhere. Make sure to ground your decisions in proven concepts if you’re to avoid becoming “The Dreamer.” The Dreamer risks missing the small, evolutionary – rather than revolutionary – stuff that’s important to the customer. Great ideas are the making of great products, but a balance between vision and realism is key to success.



What are your thoughts on the skills of a good product manager? Did we get you right or did we get you all wrong? Discuss with us in the comments below or on @prodpad

The post What Kind of Product Manager Are You? Take the Test appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Oct 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



ProductTank Stockholm – Creating drive in product development

ProductTank Sthlm August was all about “Creating drive in product development”.  It featured three great speakers:

Siavash Ghorbani (@siavashq), CTO & Co Founder of Tictail, talked about Building a Product Driven Organisation:

“I’m planning to talk about the different phases we as an organisation went through as we grew from 4 to 30 over the past two years and how we’ve recruited and structured our organization for high throughput without penalizing creativity.”


Kevin Goldsmith (@KevinGoldsmith), Director of Engineering at Spotify, talked about Autonomous Teams:

“Spotify has made a central bet that we can move faster, be happier and be more effective with autonomous, full-stack teams. We’ve had some great success with this approach, but it hasn’t been without some tweaking and adjustments. I’ll talk about what is critical to think about if you want to try this with your product. ” 


Tuva Palm (@tuvapalm), Group Product Manager Platform at Klarna, talked about Growing from 1 Customer to 3.5 Billion:

“I will talk about how the PM role changes when you grow and what critical ingredients remain the same no matter the size.”


Drinks and a light snack were be provided by Logi Analytics, fueling the energy behind these talks and the great conversations throughout the evening.

The post ProductTank Stockholm – Creating drive in product development appeared first on MindTheProduct.

Oct 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Regenerating ProdPad: starting from scratch for beautiful design

When it came down to conceiving the new design for ProdPad, we wanted this to follow exactly the same philosophy as the rest of this Regenerated project. Much like the complete re-write of our back-end, and back-to-basics wireframes from a fresh pair of eyes, we wanted to create a new ProdPad design from scratch.

For many of the same reasons behind our decision to hire Mojca, our UX expert, we brought in the support of talented front-end developer and designer Beno to take us through this regeneration. Of course, Simon and myself are even less equipped to create a beautiful finished design than we are wireframes and mockups, but in much the same way as Mojca was given a free card on our new user interface, Beno launched straight into the deep end with an interactive redesign process.

In onboarding Beno, we made a conscious decision not to follow the most classic approaches to software redesign, which tend to take one of two routes.

1. Photoshop perfectionism

It’s of course an option to complete all designs in Photoshop for sign off before development begins. A design process heavily lead by Photoshop in this way often goes hand in hand with prioritization of aesthetics. The benefits are that as project or product manager you can be sure that you’re happy with a design before committing development resources. But this approach is usually followed in line with a designer’s skill, rather than by design. Look, feel and readability are extremely important, but the risks of Photoshop perfectionism are that your design can often come out detached from how it will work on-screen.

2. Template compromises

Another option is to use a design template or framework. This is what we did for ProdPad’s first design, on top of the popular design framework Bootstrap. This approach gives a great head-start into a readily interactive design, but is cumbersome and code-heavy, especially as more and more customizations are added on. With these frameworks it’s no easy task to build a unique design that meets your needs, as customization involves mastery of conflicting styles and code.

The third route: Interactive real-time design

Instead, we’re taking a third, alternative approach to the final design of the regenerated ProdPad that works as a natural continuation of our UX designs. This is why finding the right team to work on this project was so important. Beno – much like the rest of the D.Labs team – has experience in building several other beautiful, highly interactive web-apps and has the skillset to jump straight into an interactive design. Above pixel-perfection, we knew that our design needed to reflect great flow and usability, and that would require the flexibility to craft elements for our specific use-case.

A look at the early steps of putting in the scaffolding through to a more final design of the product

A look at the early steps of putting in the scaffolding through to a more final design of the product

Beno is building the app directly from Mojca’s wireframes with AngularJS, without a final design in place, though with an understanding of the flow, and personality we wanted to achieve in the final product. He’s making visual decisions at the same time as he defines precise page layout and interactions, and sharing real interactive designs with us as new elements are built in.

If you’d like to hear more about our ProdPad Regenerated project, you can get in touch with us – and even find out about getting onto the beta program – here

The post Regenerating ProdPad: starting from scratch for beautiful design appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Oct 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



Psych-savvy product management for truly human technology

Your average product management team is fully behind the concept of user-centric design and development.

But what about people-centric products? What we still sometimes fail to remember is that we are building for human beings with deeply human desires, flaws, motivations and limitations that don’t stop when they become users of our products. Psychological principles become increasingly important when we consider customers and users in this way, but what is the role of psychology, neuroscience or social behavioral study in real product management? How can it be harnessed to build better products?

In this article we take a look at 3 key principles of a more psych-savvy approach to designing and building products.

Understanding customers is about understanding people

One of the most valuable but perhaps most abstract changes that psychology brings to product is a different way of thinking about your users. At this year’s Mind the Product conference, Interaction and Experience Research Director for Intel – Genevieve Bell – shared with us an understanding of human behavior that could transform a product manager’s typical approach to their users. She highlighted that while we’re tempted to believe that changes in technology reflect changes in us as human beings, what makes us human in fact changes very slowly.

An appreciation of this bigger picture can make us better product managers. Genevieve herself – an anthropologist – is an example of Intel’s appreciation for a different outlook on understanding customers. And she’s not the only one; from psychology-led design consultancy Behaviour, to psychology graduate and founder of Fitbit Tim Roberts, many more with human behavior in their blood are turning their training to building and making products.

Don Norman even calls for changes to design education to better equip designers for the social experiences they are creating:

“In the early days of industrial design, the work was primarily focused upon physical products. Today, however, designers work on organizational structure and social problems, on interaction, service, and experience design. Many problems involve complex social and political issues. As a result, designers have become applied behavioral scientists, but they are woefully under-educated for the task.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that every product manager needs to rush off back to school to get their psychology degree. But perhaps reading a book or article here or there, re-educating your team to consider the humanness of your customers, could give you the perspective you need to take your products from average to awesome.

Building sticky products is about habit forming

Getting into the heads of your users can be applied much more directly than a general approach to product, however. One of the industry’s leading thought leaders on the intersection between technology, business and psychology – Nir Eyal – also spoke to us at this year’s Mind the Product on the power of habit forming in your technology products.

“The hook is an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution, with enough frequency to form habits.”
How Facebook, Twitter and other major technologies have exploded into our lives in the past few years is no pure coincidence. In theory, all product managers can use the science of habit forming to figure out how to trigger desired behavior in their users. Of course, that’s no simple task, but a little part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens can help to give us a head start. This stimulates the stress of desire, and it is these cravings that move us to action. Moving users to strive for rewards from your product, which might take the form of social, resource, mastery, or investment-based rewards can help you encourage them to come back again and again.

An example of this habits-based approach comes from Behaviour, who worked with psychologists at University College London to build behavioral insight into the design of an app for breast cancer charity CoppaFeel. Elements such as taking a pledge when starting the app to encourage a long-term commitment, and data on how many other users have ‘copped a feel’ for social proof, were developed to encourage young women to form a habit.

Perhaps an element of your product could be reimagined to encourage more habit-based behavior in the hunt for one of these basic human rewards.

Good products treat customers as humans at every step

Your users are probably not this ecstatically happy

Your users are probably not this ecstatically happy

As businesses we are sometimes guilty of investing all of our empathy for customers into the initial development of our products or marketing, but forgetting that these people face the same challenges when they’re using our products too. Kathy Sierra delivered a very strong message at Mind the Product, urging product people not to trade personas for stock photo images of their users after the sale.

When we’re trying to build great products it’s not just about motivating users, but keeping them on track in face of lagging willpower. So how can we overcome this derailment of our users? An important psychological concept to be mindful of when assessing your entire customer experience is cognitive leaks. Don’t suck away your users cognitive power when they’re trying to use your product; instead limit choice, provide clear instructions and support and offer clean feedback so your users’ brains can rest assured you’ve got it covered.

Don’t forget that your users never stop being the very human people that they are, and account for that at every stage of their customer journey.

The post Psych-savvy product management for truly human technology appeared first on ProdPad :: Product Management Software.

Oct 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow



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, 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.

Sep 2014
POSTED BY Janna Bastow