I was fortunate to be invited to represent OneSpring (@OneSpring) and participate in this year’s Product Camp in Atlanta (#pcampatl) unconference held at the General Assembly in Atlanta. I’m sure you’re asking “What is Product Camp?” and what is an “unconference”? first let me explain what an unconference is. It is a gathering where the participants jointly propose, vote and attend conference sessions based on what they feel is of interest to them. The sessions can be “town halls”, “round tables”, or “panel discussions” all being highly interactive. You get 30 seconds to pitch your session topic to the participants. After all sessions are pitched, the attendees then vote for their top three choices. The top vote getters are scheduled and the games begin. Participate in the sessions you like and feel free to leave a session and drop into a different one.
Product Camp is a gathering of Product Managers who are responsible for the product development life cycle from ideation through production, marketing and sales. Those products can range from software to hardware and anything in between.
The sessions I attended included: “What is UX”, “Innovation Killers”, “Strategic vs Product Roadmaps” and “What Leadership Qualities Are Needed to be an Effective Product Manager”.
One recurring theme that was raised in the various forums was the need for communicating your message to your customer. Notice that I said “to your customer” as opposed to “with your customer”. While the role of the Product Manager is to be the advocate for the customer it was interesting to see how often the customer was left out of the conversation. One underlying reason for the lack of customer input was that the product managers did not have the ability to show the customer anything tangible to request feedback on until the latter part of the development cycle.
When speaking with various product managers regarding Visualization and Prototyping it was amazing to see the light bulb go off as they realized that there were tools and methodologies available to get that customer feedback earlier in the life cycle before too much time and money were spent on the wrong product.
Many Product Managers take an agile approach to developing their products. The Agile development process flexibility allows for multiple iterations based on changing requirements and market forces. However, it is not enough for your customer/product owner to participate in the stand ups and see status’s change anymore. Take advantage of the opportunity to get real time feedback, make modifications, get their buy in and enhance their satisfaction level. Or conversely, acknowledge their dissatisfaction and change course or even kill the project before you build a product they won’t use.
The power of Visualization and Prototyping takes Agile development to the next level. Visualization enables you to work more closely with your customer. By walking them through the visualization process you help define their business processes and flows and begin creating a visualized version of their use cases, user stories and business requirements. This minimizes a major risk component in the product evolution process, the misinterpretation of requirements. It is all too easy to lose context when translating user needs and pain points into text. The visualization process shows the customer what he is asking for and allows him to tweak the product early and often to ensure you are producing something he wants, needs and will buy.