Productized 2020 Wrap Up 🚀

Last year, we hold the sixth edition of the Productized Conference 100% Online. Digitalization, Product Management, and UX Design were some of the topics of 2020’s talks.

Amazing experience with speakers from all around the 🌏

All the different phases of productization have been covered by 19 global thought-leaders: 7 speakers on the first day and 12 on the second. Check all talks here.

Each speaker holds a live discussion panel on disruptive topics, the fireside chats, one of the best moments of the Conference!

Weren’t you there? We’ll recap some of them for you!

with Sean Silcoff, a journalist at the Globe and Mail, Ken Sandy, Senior Tech Product Manager at Masterclass, and Jasjit Singh, Head of Product at OLX

The discussion panel started from the book written by Sean Silcoff, “Losing the signal: the untold story behind the extraordinary rise and spectacular fall of Blackberry”.

From a retrospective point of view, the seismic forces of innovation were already beyond a certain point and the two co-CEOs of Blackberry couldn’t do anything about it.

“There were two main reasons for their fall. People started to make fun of Blackberry and see it as a bit of a loser. So, they wanted to kind of capture that story on the way up, they also wanted to figure out what exactly happened. And I think they sort of lost sense of how things were viewed within the company. I mean, there was practically a civil war of ideas going on. I think a lot of people were missing the big picture”. Sean Silcoff

When a company is not set up to be innovative, as Ken supported, it starts to create its barriers. It is relevant to create an organizational culture where people believe they can be empowered — also by making mistakes — and that big companies nowadays do not have to be lazy, they need to be able to make fast decisions and adapt to the new technologies. A more digital way of doing business is now essential for brands because, at the heart of their business, everyone cares about the experience of the customer. It is relevant to be customer-centric. Often smaller companies could be very innovative and interesting and this is the reason why sometimes bigger companies need to re-think small too. For example, Ken Sandy was in Masterclass when the company decided to move into the subscription business.

“What I love about subscription businesses is that you’re much more naturally aligned to long-term value delivered to your customer, you have to think about how do you create a relationship and how do you continually try to engage and deliver new value and keep them coming back so they pay you again.” Ken Sandy

One of the aspects that characterizes a great product is the fact that it is well-known in several countries.

In the Blackberry case, Jasjit gave an insight into how the device was seen in India. He personally used the device for several years and in his thought, one thing that has been discounted is the platform. Apple or Android, for example, started to give the possibility to interact with the device by playing games, while other companies didn’t follow the rationale behind the usability of the phone as a game and not as a useful work tool.

Source: Giphy

While seeking innovation, in terms of discovery, it is truly important to understand the usage patterns. A lot of Silicon Valley companies tried (and failed) to put a handheld device together with a computer — having an iPhone in 2000 was still not feasible. On the contrary, nowadays everything has been accelerated by the Pandemic. We are currently facing a new innovation wave and companies are productizing faster to face new diverse types of challenges.

One of the most nested things about being a product manager is trying to coordinate all of that.

In everyday go-to strategy, for Ken Sandy, it is important to introduce frameworks. For example, in terms of pricing, the price may have four different characteristics: too cheap, too expensive, good value, or not-remembered value. While pricing, it is important to come up with a pricing policy that highlights a range in which uses are comfortable — but you do not want it to be too cozy. In addition, a way to set the right pricing is a previous test of the market or looking at adjacent markets.

Looking back at failed great products is easy. The ability of a great product manager is to look at the product having several different points of view and not one single funnel. In this way, it is possible to create possible future scenarios and also reframing the context taking into account different aspects that might affect the product in both positive and negative ways.

🎧 You can listen in more detail to this discussion panel

🔥 Fireside chat: Impact of Covid-19 in Product

The participants of the second discussion panel were Bettina Goerner, Managing Director at Springer Nature, Amin Bashi, Co-founder of Bloom, and Saurabh Gupta, Senior Product Manager at AirAsia.

This second fireside chat revolved around the impact that the pandemic has had on product management. The panel shared some interesting insights into how such crises may bring about unexpected opportunities for those willing to experiment with the product, data, and business models, and what tools can be used in navigating prolonged working from home periods.

Bettina kicked off the discussion by sharing how the pandemic created an opportunity impacting not just economics, but society at large. Springer Nature Experiments is a collection of a vast amount of data on how to conduct correctly a variety of scientific experiments. In just two weeks, the product team was able to add a module on Covid-19 detection, at a time when the understanding of the virus was less advanced than it is today.

A similar unexpected upside of the pandemic was seen by Amin in his previous role as VP of Product at CareGuide, a marketplace for household services, which saw a surprising surge in the demand for pet sitters, babysitters, and eldercare providers, as professionals and schoolchildren alike were held at home by widespread lockdowns, while some seniors found retirement homes to be less safe than their private homes.

Saurabh contributed the perspective of one of the industries most severely hit by the pandemic: the air travel industry. The crisis served as a potent accelerator for innovations like facial recognition and contactless travel, which have been implemented in several airports, where, in normal circumstances, would likely not have made an appearance for years to come. The unprecedented circumstances also motivated Airasia’s product team to experiment with a subscription-based model, which led to the creation of a new department.

The panel also discussed how their respective teams tackled the challenges of remote work.

Bettina’s team was tested by an anomalous amount of non-work-related stress, and by differential impacts of working from home on team members’ work-life balance. Fostering team spirit was key and that was made possible by virtual occasions to come together and unwind thanks to pop quizzes, crazy hat challenges, and similar playful initiatives.

Amin’s team, on the other hand, experienced a shortening of the timelines and a surge in uncertainty. A powerful tool to respond to this was McKinsey’s three horizons framework, which differentiates between ordinary actions targeted at defending the core business.

McKinsey’s three horizons framework

The first horizon, which became crucial in such uncertain day-to-day, higher value, and longer-term initiatives. The second, key in a market with rapidly changing consumer habits, and big bets with a low likelihood of success and a very high potential payoff. The third, which must not be neglected despite the urgency of the short term for the business to prosper in the post-pandemic.

Saurabh concluded with a reflection on the importance of ensuring effective communication within the team, regularly aligning on the roadmap, and ensuring occasions in which team members feel able to voice their ideas.

🎧 You can watch this in more detail this discussion panel on our youtube channel.

🔥 Fireside chat: Product hubs around the world

The main theme of this discussion panel focused on product hubs around the world and the possible reasons for the failure of the digital transformation of products within companies. Radhika Dutt, Co-Founder of the Radical Product Thinking Movement, Kavita Appachu, Product Strategist at Moves The Needle, Shobhit Chugh, Product Manager at Google, and Fabrice des Mazery, Chief Product Officer at Thiga, were present.

According to the Harvard Business Review’s statement on projects that fail within companies, Kavita Appachu explains that if organizations continue to think just about technical aspects of digital transformation, they will not find the recipe for success. She emphasizes three important points to consider:

  1. “It’s not about digitizing your products and having all the right technology in place. It is also about focusing on the business aspect, in terms of making sure that you have a diverse portfolio that includes digital products, an online presence, that actually can then help you achieve your business goal.”
  2. “You want to be sure that your organization has the right mindset to help drive digital transformation. And that involves a cultural change, making sure you are going bald, you’re following the evidence, and you are taking informed risks.”
  3. “Make sure that your leadership is all committed to it and bought in and everybody is thinking about it the same way, not just with the technological aspect, but also with the business side of things.”

Adding to these conclusions, Shobhit Chugh, who works in one of the largest disruptor companies in the digital world, shows us his vision on the subject in larger companies like Google, or Amazon, and Facebook that are on the same scale.

“The role of large companies, at least way back in the past was, “Hey, this is a large company”. Now, they’ve gotten slow and sort of ready to be disrupted by other companies. Not only with Google, but with Amazon or Facebook, all these large companies have a lot of thinking and looking at what’s going to happen next. Not now, maybe 5 years from now or 10 years from now.

Placing those bets is enabling those new technologies to come out, and that ultimately helps other companies go through this large digital transformation. Whether it’s web services, whether it’s any sort of infrastructure, like all those things that the large companies are doing.

On the other hand, I see them enabling all these services, leveling the playing field where digital transformation doesn’t have to happen at other mid-sized companies. You can focus on truly your users and the unique value you’re providing. So, that’s another case where they become enablers to accelerating the digital transformation, whether it’s happening at other companies or even entrepreneurs who are starting afresh.”

Does the difference in size between countries have any impact on the implementation of this vision too?

Radhika Dutt agrees that Singapore can benefit from being a small country (5.5 million inhabitants), but what fascinates her most is just the very systematic approach that they’ve taken in terms of engineering change.

Singapore (Source: Giphy)

“The main thing about engineering change is really that it starts with a very clear purpose. Whether it’s digital transformation, at a large company, or talking about a whole country transforming itself, it really all starts with a very clear purpose and then being able to spread that purpose. How do you spread that purpose… is a big piece of it. And spreading that purpose has been very hard at the moment in the age of disinformation. (…) yes, Singapore has an advantage because they are smaller and they’re able to engineer change, and they’re that change happens faster here. But if we had a vision in a larger country, we could also take a similarly systematic approach.”

How would you frame that into companies, Radhika?

“What goes wrong in terms of building products, or what goes wrong when we’re trying to build successful products is often even when you start with a good vision. Somewhere between vision and everyday activities, there’s a break in the chain.

To be able to engineer change, we need to start with a clear vision and then very systematically translated it into everyday activities. And so in a large company, if we’re able to do that as one of the critical ways that vision versus sustainability because that’s one way of constantly thinking about every decision that we’re making. (…) if you’re a larger company, maybe you can invest in the vision, or let’s say you have lots of money that you’ve gotten as venture capital, maybe you can invest in the vision. And so it’s a matter of building that alignment and how much can we do in each quadrant and creating that alignment?”

To affirm this vision, Fabrice Des Mazery adds the importance of ethics and responsibility.

“It’s not important for now, because I can do it later and try to correct it with technology’ (…) It’s a problem, the responsibility. There’s been a debate around: is technology responsible for the arm or are the users responsible for the arm? And actually, none of the answers are great because we don’t sell technology, we sell usage. We never sell technology itself. It’s inanimate. If we sell the usage, we are responsible for the behaviour that is created by a product. We can’t just say so responsible because people are dumb, like the classical excuse from weapon setters: ‘weapons don’t kill, people kill’. The problem is that in our case, we need to think about what could go wrong before releasing anything.

So what is important to draw from this debate in order to help these world hubs to fail less in the product?

  1. Present the company with defined goals
  2. Make sure the company has the right mindset for cultural change
  3. Leadership within the company should be aligned
  4. Big companies as facilitators for the acceleration of digital transformation
  5. Have a good vision defined and able to adapt to circumstances
  6. Add ethics and responsibility throughout the process.

🎧 You can watch this in more detail in this discussion panel on our youtube channel.

🔥 Fireside chat: Products for Good

In the last Fireside Chat, the guests focused on some issues about products for good. On this panel were Mihaela Draghici, Product Manager at VWDSC, Mario Araujo, Product Growth at OutSystems, Sabrina Rzepka, Co-Founder of Product Professionals, Karolina Kohler, Design Researcher at Frog and Tony Fernandes, CEO of UEGroup.

How can we include more environmental scopes in the products we build? How can we focus on inclusion and on products that have a change in society? How can we push more people into solving hard community-changing problems instead of sometimes useless apps?

How do you see the future of digital transformation? What advice do you give product managers when building products for companies that are still living in the past?

For Mário Araújo, the future of digital transformation for these companies is about replacing their technology and the ability of the people who work there to adapt. Replacing technology does not mean replacing people because there are more and more technologies that help and enable teams to improve, says Mário. These companies that ‘still live in the past’ aspire to be a cloud software company, like Amazon, where the product must always be the most up-to-date, and that is the challenge: to have the advanced technology and the workers keep up with that advance.

“There are solutions for this issue, there are multiple technologies out there that will enable you to that, will enable you to take your own people, and upgrade the team to act as a cloud software company.”

How important is it for product managers or product builders to think about the negative side of what they’re building? How do you believe they can add this into their scopes? How do you deal with this on a daily basis?

As a Product Manager, thinking about the negative impact we can have on the product is as important as thinking about the experience and positive influence we can have on people’s lives. However, sometimes it gets forgotten, Mihaela Draghici sums up.

“We don’t want long-term negative impact, but we rarely think about that, right? For me, for example, I see the social and environmental impact as the critical ones to consider when you think about, ‘Okay, how this would impact negatively people or the environment around us?’. And if you look at things, there are a lot of companies that have already started including points around the environmental impact, or social impact around their values or their OKRs, which then gets trickled down to the product teams.”

For Mihaela, it is important to measure this impact in order to conduct the process including KPIs, scope, frameworks, and other discovery processes with potential scenarios in order to measure risks.

“That could help us evaluate whether products help or affect our users and the environments around in aggregate”.

How do you convince product builders to focus on hard problems? What’s your advice for those who are in tackling these real community-changing columns?

Tony Fernandes, from UEGroup, adds to this panel the importance of language and the arguments we take to reach the best solutions, people, and customers so that they align with their business goals. Tony finds a problem with young product managers, young UX designers because they enter their careers with the goal of doing good. However, “when you spend enough time doing research with real customers and users, you sometimes realize that they are not willing to pay for some of the best solutions that are best for them, whether they are green solutions”. In relation to UEGroup and its experience in the healthcare sector, Tony explains that “our approach is to speak the language of business and help people understand how to align these business objectives with opportunities to really bring benefits and positive change to the world”.

What’s the role of research in changing habits in creating a society and products that enable better consumption? How do PMs face this obstacle of changing habits for product success?

Karolina Kohler, from Frog, also argues that the change of habits of a society has to start from it. Speaking from her own experience, let’s think about agriculture or food production… Karolina notes that this change is already happening and that there is an increasing interest in the service, what is planted, or what kind of fertilizers are used. And this has one objective: to understand how we can improve and make our agriculture more sustainable. Technology is an important factor, but we really have to focus on the behavior of people, and of our customers, in this case. “when we think about behavior change in this context, it’s not just about the customers, it’s themselves. It’s also about the stakeholders in the business, as well as us being responsible for products.” For Karolina, it is important that the brand also has environmental and sustainable awareness.

And here comes the role of PM where “you’re going beyond like corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility measures, and really create a story around a product where people can identify with. When it comes to the behavior change in the organization, with our stakeholders, I totally agree with Tony, that we need to work internally and try to understand how we can have those difficult conversations to push our leaders in organizations to change behaviors, to think differently, help them envision a different future.”

What’s your advice for product managers that should also focus on making their products more inclusive, instead of being just margin or revenue focus? How do you increase the social impact of building your products?

Once we understand our purpose behind building a product, customers will be more willing to pay a price, says Sabrina Rzepka, co-founder of Product Professionals. For this, Sabrina points out three aspects that can help in this deconstruction of thought:

  1. Offer free for the consumers. The users have the possibility to try out things. If you take that approach to your own product, and you are able to give away maybe a smaller cut from the cake. You can make them see the value in that product first and you create a bigger range of diversity. So, the more you make your product or your service accessible to the world, the more diversity you create.”
  2. Think of who you monetize. If you still want to make revenue and margins, you don’t have to always look at your end customer or the b2c (customer first). So again, if we take examples like Google, or Facebook, or Instagram, for example, they don’t charge us as end-users anything, but to be a part… They make their money with ads and something like that. If especially in educational technology, you can go with governments, you can talk with the city you’re living in, anyone who can subsidize or ‘Yeah, we can get like funds for or support your idea and the purpose that you’re following, I think with that this is also something you have to think about who do you monetize in the first place.”
  3. Make your product more inclusive to others. Build a community because the strongest thing that you can do today is providing a product that actually doesn’t need any work or effort from your side to be creative and to be filled with content. Again, this is also the same approach as many of the social network platforms follow... And, if a community feeds content or provides the service itself, maybe already, you don’t even have to charge anyone for that. So, a community is easy to join. Not easy to build, but easy to join. And once you have that, you can also give your product more or less, or make it more inclusive for a lot of people, if they just joined the community then.”

We have come to the conclusion that all the speakers have similar views: we need to include people to create better products and make society better. And here the PM will face different challenges.

🎧 You can watch this in more detail in this discussion panel on our youtube channel.

All these are lessons learned that make us grow and want to improve every day.

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