The role of the Product Manager is a vital one in the product pipeline. The Product Manager is responsible for guiding the success of a product and influencing the teams responsible for building or improving it. The role itself can be a complicated one as the manager must ensure that the products they are designing not only fall in line with the business requirements and goals but also meet the user needs versus reacting to the user wants.
Ultimately we're designing these products for the customer's use. So if we aren't listening to the customer from their feedback, or we're not looking at how they're using the product it would be pointless developing it.
In an upcoming podcast, we interviewed Carl Naysmith, Spearline Product Manager, who spoke about his role, how collaboration changed due to remote working, and any new products that are set to be released. When speaking about shifting the entire product development process to his living room for a number of months he mentioned that he did find it slightly challenging. “The main reason why I found it so challenging is that I quite like the office interaction itself and it helps give me the drive to actually get the work done. But on the plus side, remote working has allowed me to focus a bit more and concentrate as well due to fewer distractions. So, half and half, I guess.”
Carl expanded his point further by talking about some of the benefits of remote working, how it was actually easier to communicate with teammates, further progressing the product development. “Usually in the office, you would have to get up, go downstairs and find somebody to ask a specific question, spending ages looking for a person. While remote working you can literally just hit the button and away you go, there’s a video of them straight away, or you can ping them on the text. It made things quicker for me and I’ve noticed that people respond quicker when we’re all online.” For some companies, there was a general fear that remote working arrangements might reduce productivity. Thankfully this was not the case for the Product and Development teams. Because Carl was overseeing the Product team he found collaboration between teammates improving tenfold.
When asked about the telecommunications quality assurance products they have been developing, Carl began talking about voice service supports and the benefits for Spearline customers. Users can log in to the Spearline platform, dial a number from within the country of their choice using the extensive Spearline network, and they’ll be able to see if they can connect. The user also has the ability to check passcodes to validate DTMF entry into conference applications, as well as traverse through their IVR system. “Because this is all done in real-time, this is quite beneficial for the customer.”
Creating a product that would be highly beneficial for Spearline customers meant heavy involvement in market research and listening to customer feedback. The product should always appeal to the customer’s wants and needs while also staying integral to the business requirements and goals. “If we’re not listening to what the customer is actually wanting, how do we even know if we’re actually building the right product for them?” Carl pointed out that the feedback is only truly valuable and useful if you are asking the right questions to the correct users, the users that are actually interacting with the product.
“The right feedback lets us understand if the product is actually working as expected, and that can help in creating personas, and journey maps, and so on that we can use again for a new iteration of the product itself.” A member of the Development team went out to the customer and received feedback on a previous product. Using this feedback they were able to progress and develop these new future products, which then involved sending customers the beta versions. This was vital as it gave both the Product and Development teams a sense of how customers felt about the product, and even discover any possible issues they had, which in turn allowed them to resolve these issues, perfecting the product. “It is pretty important because they’re the ones using the product. They’re going to give you the best feedback you can get.”
Continuing on from that question, we then asked Carl what types of market research are usually done for products once they’re launched. “There’s a lot of methods you can actually use and it depends on the type of information you’re actually after. For example, we can use embedded analytics, which will understand the type, the percentage of user interaction with the product itself, how often the features within the product are actually used, and how long a user spends interacting with it. Abandonment rates are also useful because if somebody jumps on, tries to use it, and then drops off after a few seconds, obviously suggesting there are possible issues there.”
Standard research such as surveys, questionnaires, face-to-face meetings, observational studies, were also carried out. These methods were extremely beneficial for gauging a user’s feelings and thoughts as they use the product itself. They were able to show the product’s suitability, not just depending on the user, but also what the product’s usage context is and the goals that they’re trying to use, or set it for the task at hand.
We as an organization might have a view on how the product should perform. This is basically how we've designed it, expecting it to be used in a certain way, and in a lot of the cases the user actually uses it in a completely different way than what we've actually built it to do,
Carl stated. “And that’s not that they’ve found workarounds for it, it’s just the way their mind actually works. So, understanding the product’s usage context, how it’s being used in a particular environment, the goals that the user wants to achieve by using the product, and their understanding allows us to better serve the customer.”
Carl then concluded by talking about how essential the product life cycle is, stating that it should always be ongoing, like a loop cycle. The product is developed, sent out to customers, feedback is received, changes or iterations to the product are made, and then the cycle repeats. “It’s not to say that everything a customer wants, we’ll actually input into the actual product itself as we obviously have to meet with what our business goals want. So it’s depending on what the customer wants, what our business goals are, and we meet in a happy medium in the middle.”
For more, be sure to tune in to the next episode of the Spearline podcast, set to be released 27th August.