Product Camp Sydney 2012 – Wrap-Up

Brainmates would like to thank the great bunch of Product Managers for making Product Camp Sydney 2012 such a success. There was a wealth of experience to draw on in all the discussions by professionals in product related roles, from start-ups to larger corporates. The upbeat vibe on the day was a reflection of how Product Management Community has evolved positively in the last few years.


Michael Pearson, Expedia Australia’s E-commerce and Product Director, was the keynote speaker, sharing a behind the scenes walk through of the evolution of Expedia as a company. He described Expedia’s focus on rapid testing of the digital user experience as well as how they apply an Agile discipline to differentiate their product offering in the fastest way to market.

The keynote from Michael provided the basis for themes that were further developed during the day. The first one around how user experience as a professional domain intertwines with the Product Management domain. The second one being how Agile practices are become more integral to the product planning and development stages as most companies appear to be embracing Agile in some way.

Discussion sessions:

After collating the online and ‘in person’ votes for each topic, Nick Coster was voted to present three of the eight sessions mainly because he had listed numerous topics to get the ball rolling for others! Nick’s first two sessions were facilitated discussions around the Product Launch process and “This Profession called Product Management“. During that session the Product Managers in the room revealed that while most of their their time is spent on tactical activities, more Product Managers seem to have more strategic responsibilities than ever before. His last session was about how to be an Agile Product Manager which can be viewed on Prezi.

The other topics were diverse and fascinating, allowing us to hear what challenges other Product Managers face in their organisations and industries. These sessions were

  • Peter Cleary‘s (Soprano Design) facilitated discussion about how Product Management can educate their sales force more effectively.
  • Mike Biggs (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority) asked us to compare the role of the Product Manager and User Experience and describe the differences and the overlap.
  • Simone Jeha (Cochlear) talked about her market requirements gathering process as a part of a new product development initiative in emerging markets.
  • Jutta von Dincklage (Cancer Council Australia) talked about her project in creating a wiki platform for developing cancer treatment guidelines that has made dramatic impact delivering up-to-date medical information to her target market of clinicians.

Hot Topics:

Some of the more contentious discussion points and questions that were raised included:

  • Is one of the responsibilities of a Product Manager to support sales?
  • What ethical role does a Product Manager play when it comes to making their pricing a product in less affluent markets to make it affordable, yet still maintain healthy margins in markets that are both able and willing to pay more. This question was particularly curly in the context of a healthcare product that while elective, can significantly improve the quality of life.

Community Handover:

Leading up to this Product Camp the Brainmates team felt it was really important that the event should handed over to the Sydney Product Management community that has developed around it. Just after lunch the attendees were invited to volunteer to form a new Product Camp Sydney committee. 12 enthusiastic members have stepped forward and we look forward to supporting the handover and seeing what they will have in store for us next time.

Tough Questions:

We rounded off the day with a “Stump the Product Manager” panel with Clive Lam (Style Tread), Mary Nolan (News Digital Media), Jen Leibhart (PageUp) and Jason Wong (Vodafone) who were put on the spot in a round of challenging questions from the other participants.

The panel thought that with more Australian digital products being developed in Australia, there is a demand for Product Managers who can effectively articulate the market problems that need to be solved by product design and development. Previously, many Australian Product Managers were only responsible for the product marketing of products developed offshore by their multinational headquarters.

Overall, the ProductCamp attendees indicated that they had personally experienced increased recognition within their organisations of the strategic importance of Product Management. Nick Coster described it as being the “central nervous system” of an organisation. Jen Leibhart shared that she’d had at least two recent instances where people in other parts of her business had asked her what was the path becoming a digital Product Manager.

The panel thought that in terms of career progression, there were 3 main paths that many Product Managers could go down:

  1. Becoming a head of a product team, which is the most traditional route.
  2. Starting up their own company, given that they gain expertise in all areas of the business as Product Managers and are already the “CEO” or “founder” of their products within an organisation.
  3. Continue to be a Product Manager with no people responsibilities, working on a variety of different products or services.

Final Thoughts:

I walked away from ProductCamp Sydney feeling exhilarated to be part of the Australian Product Management community at this point in time. I have the sense that Product Managers are finally being taken more seriously than before and as the profession matures, are being given more responsibility over strategic initiatives, and their role in tactical operational activities is diminishing, as organisations realise that they can be building longer term sustainable value to their customers experience with their company and using their commercial acumen to assist in contributing to the bottom line.

Please share your experiences or thoughts in the comments below. We would love to keep the conversation going till next year.

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