Product Camp 2013 – Wrap up

Product Camp Melbourne 2013 is done and dusted and what a fabulous day it was. While Melbourne rained itself out – those of us inside were listening to some great presentations, participating in some awesome workshops, and meeting fellow product managers across industries – and we weren’t letting that weather dampen our fun.
We kicked off the day with breakfast and coffee and an introduction to what the day was all about, we then got people out of their chairs and into the first icebreaker of the day – Product Management speed dating.
With all that noise and energy in the room we got ourselves gathered to listen to our first keynote speaker for the day, Guy Inbar: head of Mail Product Management and Innovation at Australia Post telling us about letter products.  Some fabulous insights into this tough industry were shared with us, including that the 60 cent fee for sending a letter in Australia does not even cover the costs to do that.
We then built out the day, with each presenter wishing to share a topic, letting us know what they would share with us and everyone voting on their topics of interest.  That had us run two group sessions before lunch and then plan out streams for the afternoon.
We started off with a conversation about your product management career.  Steve Bauer and Adam Fry joined up to talk through this one.  With some sharing of experiences and challenges when applying product management across different industries and businesses, to ways to take some time to think about where you want to be next it was a well-run session. It rounded up with time for those looking for their next role to put their hand up and those seeking product managers to share the opportunities they had available.
The next session on the Agile business gap was a hot topic.  Nick Coster split the group into two – those who had experience with Agile and those who did not.  Each group was asked to write down what they thought Agile was.  When comparing notes after this brainstorm, the group who had no experience seemed to sum it up better than those who had experience!  However, this was due to jargon creeping in from those with experience.  The discussion then steered towards how this methodology may not always be aligned or in sync with the product management process.  Gathering new market insight and creating a building a product back-log versus managing it once it is created.  The core summary of this conversation was that Agile is a very small part of the Product management methodology:
Agile fits into the build phase – and there is so much more that needs to happen before you get to that stage.  There was some fun discussion about the difference between the product management role vs. the scrum product owner.  In short, with any expletives missing, they are two people and two distinct roles that should work incredibly closely together.   There is a whole three day Brainmates course to cover all this fun stuff, if a half hour discussion and a two paragraph write-up don’t whet your appetite!
So time for lunch after that rather intense discussion, consuming the fabulous food provided by Mister Close and sponsored by Telstra Wholesale and Seed Talent.  That gave us all the energy to kick-on into the afternoon and listen to our second keynote speaker Marc Galbraith from Thoughtworks on the topic “Jobs to be done”.  Marc is an excellent presenter and obviously passionate about what he has learnt on this methodology. It was certainly insightful, and while some of the tools may be similar but with different names in the product management toolkit, there was definitely something to learn about a different way to ask questions of your customers, to gain a deeper understanding of their decision making motivations.  Some additional reading on some other case studies of applying the “what did I hire this product/service to do for me” can be found here and additional resources for Jobs to be Done can be found here.
We had another fun icebreaker kicked off by Natalie Yan-Chatonsky  asking us to visually outline what product management was, as if aliens had just landed on earth, and we needed to justify not being exterminated :-).  The variety of visual interpretation of the same role was fun to see come to life, and then the chance to use that to explain to others how our pictures described our roles was a good laugh.
We kicked off into streams after this and so in rough order of each topic a little summary or snippet on each:
1. From Conception to the storeStefano Tempesta. You can find a copy of his presentation here.  This was a popular topic, highly voted on before the day, and Stefano prepared well for the session.  The majority of attendees joined this session and got a lot out of the sharing of experiences.
2. From Mortal enemies to best to get the most out of working with sales people.  This session was well  facilitated by Belinda Fry our resident Sales person of the day.  Belinda got us to call out things that create tension between product and sales, and then guided us through some options for preventing that tension from growing or continuing.  Some simple tips such as sharing the process more clearly, working on strategy together, so as to understand when tactical options may be limited.  A good lively discussion that helped us think about the situation from both sides.  Thanks Belinda.
3. Product Pricing: how to extract more value? by Alex Levashov.  The next topic was well hosted by Alex with another excellently prepared presentation.  Always a great subject to dive into and Alex had some case studies to support his approach, which is really helpful as one takes theory and applies in practice.
4. Product and Project management or otherwise known as “the how many different hats do you wear in your Product mgmt role to help get the job done” topic?  Nick Coster from Brainmates kindly stepped up to facilitate this session and it became a pin the tail on the donkey kind of session.  The output of the game (although a little blurry) was this:nick's session.
In other words, there is a lot of shit that needs to get done, and that is what Product managers are so good at making sure it does.  When there is a defined role in the organisation such as Project Manager, you might find you have someone to rely on to get shit done.  But sometimes you even with this support there are still tactical things you have to keep an eye one or your product won’t ship, deliver or launch.  Yet, one must spend some time with their head above water and taking some on strategy or you will end up just moving from one pile of shit to the next… and I think there is something in that for all of us.
5. Customer centre design briefly explained by Roy McBurney. Roy kindly put his hand up to run through this topical topic and present an overview of what the words mean, what it involves from a resource point of view, and why it is worth that investment in the first place.  Roy kindly takes out the award for being the first to mention Apple, which is quite impressive that we had gotten this far and not used our classic bingo word yet.
6. Why should people listen to you? This topic was posted by a PM that could not attend on the day, but really posed a good question for discussion so we gathered around to talk through what it means for a product manager to have influence, as influence is key and there are many people to influence. How do you foster your own credibility? Where does your authority come from? What should you do? What should you avoid? Liz Blink facilitated and first asked about the difference between influence and stakeholder management? And what different skills are needed to have influence?  Some great contributions from the group about the softer people skills needed to create this, the core passion that you run with as the biggest and strongest evangelist for your product, and a deep understanding of what motivates people are all areas to cultivate to build influence.
So it has been a massive day, so many topics covered, so much great insight gained, we pull everyone back together to go through the final topic of the day, brought to us by Brainmates and that is The Idea pad – a simple way to capture your idea and validate it! a very simple concept with powerful ramifications for your every day product management approach.  A great use case for it was outlined by Nick – the next time your CEO, the CTO, your boss or the customer with the biggest spend throws an idea at you that “must be done” then use this template to flesh it out and then say no! This tool helps you to validate whether the idea holds up just be answering four simple questions.  Then if you are going to say yes, you will know exactly why, as you will already know who is the target market, what problem it is solving, what benefits the customer will see if the problem is solved and whether the business would benefit when you solve the problem.  A no with all of this justification behind it will also be far more powerful.
On that great note we wrapped up the day by handing out the prizes of the day. Fabulously our sponsor Seed Talent had offered tickets to King Kong as incentive for sharing contact details.  The lucky winner of those tickets is seen here looking joyful about that cool prize. Our other awesome prize came from our super fabulous sponsor, contributor and co-organisers Brainmates who donated a ticket to their Product Management essentials class, when next in Melbourne.  A sensational give-away and I think our happy winner looks appropriately joyous.  For more photos of the day check out Brainmates facebook page here.
Thanks to Sensis, Brainmates, Product Anonymous, Seed Talent and Telstra Wholesale for their generous support of ProductCamp Melbourne
So thanks everyone for your attendance, your contributions and energy to make this such a great day.  We hope it is not another year before we see you again – so if you enjoyed Product Camp – don’t forget to join Product Anonymous at LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter to keep the conversation going. Our next meeting is Thursday August 22nd.  The topic is being confirmed so watch Twitter & our Linkedin group for more info.  RSVP here: