Product Camp Melbourne 2011

2011 ProductCamp Melbourne was a terrific success with product managers from a range of different industries sharing their wisdom and the lovely Liz Blink MC-ing the event. In order to preserve some of the learnings, we have provided a short summary of the day.

Keynote Nigel Dalton from Lonely Planet

Nigel gave an inspiring talk, sharing his experiences during his 25 year career in product management. From the Product Management of microwaves, to the day to day challenges and changes encountered at Lonely Planet, Nigel frankly shared his personal experiences, “warts and all”. He also took us through Lonely Planet’s journey from troubled times to the successful implementation of Agile as a business mainstay, not only in Lonely Planet’s software development arena, but also across several departments, including HR and marketing. You can catch Nigel’s newest adventure as leader of new business Lunatractor ” We could have spent the rest of the day listening to Nigel’s yarns, but he closed off by sharing his passion for increasing literacy, and encouraged us all to read at least one hour a week. This kicked off a theme for the rest of the day, and everyone contributed to a reading list for product managers.

Marketing Your Technical Product/ Service …to my mother” – Charlie Crouch ( from Boston University

Charlie gave us invaluable insight on how to market a technical service/product. He reminded us to keep in mind who our customer is, what they want to hear and to remember to communicate with them in their terms. For example, most customers may not care too much about the technical features of the product, and in most cases will not understand the technical descriptions. The customer is interested in what problems the product/ service solves for him or her and what benefits can be derived by using the product/service.

Panel discussion “Turning Ideas into Business Cases” withChris Billing from iSelect, Jason Gregory from Hitwise and Dale Dixon from MYOB

Nick Coster led this diverse panel to contemplate and discuss their own approaches on how to transform ideas into business cases (how to utilize an effective form of business case model to suit their purposes). Here are some key highlights of this discussion:

Chris Billing, Group Product Manager of iSelect encouraged the audience to bypass the Business Case and instead, create prototypes of the product/service to gain customer feedback quickly.

Dale Dixon, Product Strategy Manager from MYOB agreed it’s important to circle back to the Business Case once the product/service is launched to ensure the assumptions in the Business Case were correct.

Jason Gregory, VP of Product Management at Experian Hitwise, prefers to invest time and energy into customer visits and interviews across the region to gauge interest in his product/service. Unless a significant amount of investment is required to develop the product/service, preparing Business Cases for Jason is less important than spending time with customers.

Applying innovation principals to product strategy” – Ranji Mathivanar from Cochlear

Ranji Mathivanar spoke about a tool called Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI) as a way to capture key user requirements that drive Product Strategy and Product Development.

ODI encourages Product Managers to create user narratives as a way to understand the context in which products are used. A narrative will describe the user’s day and how he or she might perform certain tasks during the day. Tasks are subsequently ranked by the level of importance and satisfaction (of how the tasks is completed by the product/service). Opportunities exist for companies to develop products/service to help users complete tasks of importance but have a low satisfaction level.

“Do I own this product or do I manage it?” – Susan Teschner from MYOB

Susan Teschner asked the very important question, ” Do I own the product or do I manage it?” from the perspective of a Product Owner in Agile and who within an organization should fulfill this very important role. Depending on the size of the business, various roles within the organistion fulfilled the role of Product Owner and in some cases the Product Manager is the Product Owner. The downside of this scenario is the Product Manager must be always available to answer questions, which limits the amount of time spent on product strategy. Another scenario saw the Business Analyst as the Product Owner. The main takeout of this discussion was that no matter what kind of organisation or what type of methodology is used communication and setting boundaries prior to the development stage is key to success.

“The Parallel Universes of UX & Product Management”Adrienne Tan from Brainmates

Brainmates Adrienne Tan took us through the sometimes hazy world of the Product Manager and UX Designer roles and their similarities in key defining points and unique principles in action. Job descriptions for Product Manager and UX Designer appear to be identical. Are they essentially the same role with different titles? Do they complement each other? An outcome of this discussion was although both roles focuses on the customer, Product Management encompasses a financial aspect of managing products and services not required by UX. Further, UX is only involved during product development and does not have to manage the lifecycle of the product/service. Ultimately, Product Management and UX have to work closely together from initial idea through development.

“Does Agile prevent Rounded Topics from being created?” – Mark Mansour from Agile Bench

You can take advantage of Mark’s presentation slide deck here

“How to Harness the Power of Negativity”Jen Leibhart from PlayUp

In this fun interactive session Jen introduced the participants to the Speedboat innovation game. The participants evaluated the new Google+ from a user’s perspective. The speedboat game is a constructive way for product managers to collect user complaints from a group and present the information in a dynamic and visual way. It facilitates discussion amongst the group to quantify in relative terms how much each complaint actually weighs down the product experience.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for ProductCamp Melbourne! It was a great reminder that we are lucky to be part of such a passionate Australian Product Management community!


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