Our keynote this year was Ben Ross, GM of User Experience & Design, at MYOB who spoke about Scaling Product Management.
Ben talked about how MYOB has doubled their development team but kept the product management team the same size. To handle this, they need to be strategic with their decision making & where they invested their time.
Ben shared some insights, tools and learnings he developed/borrowed. He’s a fan of ‘stealing’ aka trying ideas you read or hear about and adapting them to your needs.
There are many ways people have tried to describe product management… the CEO of the product, the conductor of the orchestra but Ben has a different analogy – the product manager as the central nervous system, not the brain. As a PM, you are a core part of the system, linked to every part of the business. You need to know what is happening in each part – but you are not driving each part as the brain would.
Some of the learnings from Ben’s talk:
- Research, borrow, copy or adjust other peoples’ ideas or tools for road mapping, planning, UX docs, assigning work etc. Use what you can get access to and continue to adopt it and change it to make sense for your business and needs.
- Don’t change your roadmap too often – you (& your sales folks) need to remain focused.
- Hire great people! Recruit for agility and the capability, rather than skills. The team needs to continuously improve and develop. Build up a set of capabilities you see fit for your Product Management team and when hiring, choose people based on this.
- The team is incredibly important. Like a good film crew, the production is better if people have a understanding and appreciation of what everyone else is doing and how this contributes to the final product. Use the whole team…everyone does a bit of everything (big letter vs small letter). They realised BAs could be utalised better by letting them do more which helps the product managers. To scale the product team, was important to work better with the project managers.
- Document and codify processes: Have clear tools and structures for communication, information distribution and decision making. #RoadMaps #LeanBusinessCanvas #RAPID decision making
- Work out exactly where the Product Manager needs to be involved in the workflow of product development and ensure the whole team understands responsibilities. Ben recommends Bain’s – Who has the ‘D’ which enables teams to plan and understand who needs to make the decision.
- Enable all members of the wider team to contribute to product related ideas, where it makes sense. For example, everyone should understand how to complete a lean canvas, so when the idea gets to the Product Manager it has been fleshed out.
- Create great physical environment that fosters ongoing interaction and collaboration between teams and within teams. MYOB moved offices so they could have an open space with everyone together on 1 floor. They’re big enough that they needed to use an entire floor of a shopping centre!
- Try and keep a startup mentality in your every day work. No matter how large the organisation.
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz)
- Ian McAllister , GM and product leader at Amazon (@ianmcall) & on Quora
- Kathy Sierra’s Kick Ass Curve
Ben’s recommended reads & follows:
Thanks to Janet Horwell, Liz Blink and Roz (& anyone else I may have missed!) for helping pull together this post.