Productized Notes: Moving From a Feature Factory to User Value Creation Organization by Michael Rutledge

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In his talk, Michael Rutledge from OLX Group is talking about going from a feature factory to value creation at the organization. This summary will help you dig into important paths of product management. Learn how to balance your internal and external data, define value over time and enhance the strategic functions.

WHAT IS A FEATURE FACTORY?

How many times have you felt that you are delivering without thinking if it’s valuable for the customer?

Michael brings up the importance of connecting the delivery with the user value. Speaking from his professional experience, Michael refers to the concepts of the feature factory by John Cutler. Michael finds John’s article to be one of the best articles on product management for the past 5 years. In this piece, John Cutler analyses how delivering software can sometimes remind us of the factory. “Sitting in the factory, cranking out features and sending them down the line. “

There are many reasons why ‘feature factories’ fail to deliver real value. Factors include:

  • Working on features with no follow-up analysis afterwards
  • Lacking a product strategy
  • Defining success as making releases without any struggle/failures
  • Developing “shiny objects” to cover the lack of product value (success theatre)

Often, product managers start looking at success without the metrics on their failures. A lot of times you launch a product and nobody complains about it, the so-called concept of “shiny objects.” Lack of product strategy, on its turn, happens when you are unable to take a step back. When you’re hearing and delivering all the time, it becomes hard to dig into why you are doing the things in a certain way.

VALUE OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT

A lot of articles on product management focus on the concept of strategy vs execution. Nowadays, there’s more and more data and tools coming in for product managers. But how do you actually project this into something compelling for the customer?

The main problem might be the unbalance between the strategy and the execution. Business with immature product management functions have two main problems:

  • Strategy comes from internal and siloed sources. There is no one to manage product strategy.
  • Product managers are used as development coordinators or project managers.

Sometimes, a product manager can feel like a delivery boy or girl. He or she is always shuffling between the engineers, designers, CEOs and deadlines. This can lead to unbalance between the internal and external data. External data analyses, like A/B testing, can be a great solution to it. The more you are looking at your customer, the more you understand how they feel and experience your product.

Just go to your customers and talk with them about their lives and the use of your product.

UNBALANCED TEAM FOCUS

In the absence of other data and a strong basis, product managers tend to feel unbalanced. As a result, they skew their product roadmaps. Often, it happens that revenue market teams, sales, customer service are putting pressure on product managers. It can lead to problematic products.

Source: Productized SlideShare

SHUTTING DOWN THE FACTORY

Customer focus
If you are stuck in the feature factory, how do you break it down? Before starting to build anything, think why and where it will drive you. Then, follow up on the features and pay attention to transactions, A/B testing and user research. Your goal is to be the voice of the customer in the first place.

Data democratization
As a product manager, you live and die based on the data. Ask everybody for data, even if it’s uncomfortable. Get access to it, even if it takes months. It’ll worth it. In the end, knowing about the data is incredibly important for having any sort of pull for your stakeholders. That’s where you can really start to build a voice.

Balance short & long term thinking
If you look at the public companies that have recently died, it happened to them because they were only looking quarter by quarter. Even if your OKRs are fantastic, make sure you have a longer-term view. Ask yourself: Where are we working towards? How are we going to start to improve this product in the next three years?

Balance those things and you won’t need to rebuild your strategy every three months. That can help to break down these elements of the feature factory. Practice the cross-functional discussions as a group (not in silos). Only then define your product vision, long term strategy and big hypotheses that you want to validate.

ENHANCED STRATEGIC FUNCTION

As a product manager, you are ultimately delivering a product value. Your job is to take the ideas, add product analytics and come up with an actual plan. All of that should be done without “divorcing” with your customer.

Enhancing strategic function:

Step 1: bring the stakeholders into the development;

Step 2: gather all of the data;

Step 3: focus it on the customer;

Step 4: deliver value over time;

You are not launching shiny objects, you are launching something that fits into your plan. So start with the customer focus and then build on top of that!

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Watch Michael Rutledge’s PRODUCTIZED talk:

Hand-drawn Sketch of Michael Rutledge’s talk

Access Michael Rutledge’s presentation on SlideShare:

About Michael Rutledge

Michael Rutledge is a Product and Transformation leader that has built products and coached teams all over the world. Most recently he led an agile transformation within Emirates Airlines and currently works as a Senior Product Manager with OLX Group, based in Lisbon. Previous companies include Audible (an Amazon company), American Express, and LexisNexis.

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