Product Camp Sydney 2010 Review

Organised by Brainmates and hosted by Atlassian, Product Camp Sydney was held on 20th March 2010. Dubbed an “Un-conference”, the event was a collaborative, user-organised get-together in which participants shared ideas and experiences, met and networked with like-minded individuals and learnt more about the many facets, directions and opportunities in product management in 2010.

The event was informal, fast-paced and fun with great feedback from the sixty or so people who took part. There were a number of discussions held on the day with participants presenting their ideas and thoughts on a subject before inviting the group to contribute.

It was certainly a lively affair with different opinions, perspectives and thoughts being aired. Below we’ve summarised the key messages and take-aways from the presentations.

We’d like to thank our sponsors for helping to make the day such a success: agile bench, Atlassian, Pragmatic Marketing and The 280 Group.

Given the success of Product Camp Sydney, we’re hitting the road and will be hosting Product Camp Melbourne on 26th June 2010. Stay tuned for more information.

Summary of Product Camp Sydney presentations

“Enhancing shareholder value” – Tim Buntel, Atlassian

Tim’s keynote presentation kicked off with a humourous look back on his career contrasted against the evolution of the internet. Tim shared his views on the strategic importance of product management and gave advice and ideas on how to manage the day-to-day with bigger picture tasks, how to engage with customers and keep them at the centre of development and management focus and methods for balancing customer requirements with those of shareholders.

“Brutal Brand focus” Mick Liubinskas, Pollenizer

Mick gave a lively overview of a common pit-fall for product managers: not having the guts to say no. Mick shared candid examples from his own experience of trying to design products to be all-things-to-all-people: and he explained why this almost always results in failure. Inviting confession-like sharing from the audience helped to understand why it can be better to focus on micro-segments and be brutal about what product features to keep or kill with the aim of vastly exceeding their expectations rather than aim broader and missing.

“Is Innovation just good Product Management?” – Nick Coster, Brainmates and Simon Cant, Cantt Associates

Nick and Simon led a discussion that sought to understand how innovation and product management interact. Questions were posed to the audience and opinions voiced – was innovation a separate business activity? Or was it a fundamental aspect of effective product management? The discussion investigated whether product managers can be truly creative and deliver disruptive innovation or if the restraints of process and policy restricted this ability.

“2010 Product Management Survey Results” Steve Johnson, Pragmatic Marketing

Each year Pragmatic Marketing runs a product management survey and Steve shared the key learnings from the most recent iteration. We looked into differences in job responsibility between product managers, product marketers and technical product managers; learnt about some causes for gender and role salary imbalances; found out more about the importance of education in career trajectories and the impact of this on compensation.

“The market opportunity formula” Nick Coster, Brainmates

Nick took the audience through a very useful formula in understanding and quantifying a market opportunity. The formula defined a market opportunity as the sum of: market problem, likely volume, earning potential and the duration of the problem. This formula allows product managers to gain a holistic overview of the opportunity and be able to focus market and product requirements to solve the customer’s problem.

“Defining Product Innovation and adding Social to Product Development” Denise Tung, Media Monitors

Denise imparted her views on product innovation and facilitated a discussion on the distinctions and potential overlaps between disruptive vs incremental innovation. She presented examples and invited contributions from the audience that focused on ‘outlier’ opportunities across the elements of products that add most value to customers.

“Agile vs Waterfall – the great debate” – Michael Pearson C4 Communications and Adrienne Tan and Lisa Simons, Brainmates

Mike, Lisa and Adrienne organised a spontaneous debate between the Agilists and Waterfall enthusiasts at Product Camp. Steve Hopkins arguing for Agile got the crowd off their chairs by spontaneously initiating a scrum meeting. Duncan Strong argued that everything in life required a leader and waterfall offered the leadership required to develop successful products. Mark Mansour from Agile Bench simply laughed at his Waterfall opponents saying that Waterfall definitely promised a delivery date; at least a date that the project team will miss.

Skate to where the puck is going to be” David Jones, ThreatMetrix

David shared a case study of his company, ThreatMetrix, a Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) business. He said that as a startup, ThreatMetrix had to pivot as the huge eCommerce market shifted around them. His advice, don’t simply pivot, or change company direction based on single customer feedback. He also got the participants thinking and talking about the challenges involved with validating the market for a global enterprise product when based in Australia.

“Crafting products based on value-adding features” Mike Knapp, Shoes of Prey

Wrapping up the day, Mike Knapp got the participants up and moving by working on a real case study application. He asked the participants to create the product and prioritise features with the most opportunities for an online second hand bookstore. The results were impressive with teams identifying their target markets before defining the product and its features.

Did you attend Product Camp Sydney? Please share your thoughts, key take-aways or insights gained and any other comments.