Andrej Danko, VP of Product at productboard, recently joined Travis Kaufman, VP Product Growth at Gainsight, for a webinar discussion. The two had a lively chat about the Product Excellence methodology, the challenges of modern product management, how to improve products with customer feedback that is already being collected, and when not to take customer feedback at face value. 

We thought we’d recap the key takeaways from the webinar. Let’s get started.

What is Product Excellence?

Andrej began by explaining a bit about product management at productboard, where the team has interviewed thousands of product managers. These interviews not only continue to help the product team make productboard as useful as possible for PMs, they have also taught the company in general about how to build products that people use and love.

Thus, the leadership team coined the “Product Excellence” methodology and identified three pillars that lead to its achievement — deep user insights, clear product strategy, and inspiring roadmap. 

Read more about the Product Excellence methodology.

Today’s product management challenges

Andrej identified three major challenges that PMs must overcome in order to achieve Product Excellence. Each of these challenges has the ability to undermine your efforts and can result in an unsuccessful product.

modern product management challenges

Insights lost in the noise

Insights lost in noise leads to a lack of pulse within an organization. You end up missing key opportunities and wasting time on the wrong features.

Strategy in chaos

When your product strategy is in chaos you lack focus. You prioritize reactively rather than proactively. You also end up with “black-box decision making,” where PMs make decisions without any transparent reasoning.

Teams are disconnected

If your teams are in disconnect there is an inherent lack of alignment and trust. The feedback loop breaks and key insights fall through the cracks.

How a product management system can help

Product management systems can help overcome today’s product management challenges. They allow PMs to set up infrastructure around their work, process a variety of incoming feedback and data, make informed prioritization decisions, foster transparency, automate their processes, and more. In essence, they are a PM’s secret weapon. 

According to Andrej, the perfect product management system enables these core product management tasks:

It starts with the feedback channels you have 

Customer feedback is often collected across multiple channels, including email, social media, support systems, and more. Andrej explains that you should then “consolidate ideas, requests, and feedback into one centralized repository.” This helps you to identify exactly what users need.

Consolidate ideas, requests, and feedback into one centralized repository.

Next, prioritize what to build next

This is the part where PMs shine. They can balance demand with business goals to decide which features to work on next.

Once priorities are in place, add them to your roadmap and share with the rest of your organization

Andrej added that it’s also important to sync the roadmap with your development tools. This makes progress easier to track.

Validate, validate, validate

This is where you make sure that you’re building the right things. If you are, then great. If you aren’t, then maybe you need to circle back around and start again.components of a product management system

How do you consolidate feedback?

Andrej believes that consolidating feedback is key to product management success. But this in itself is a great challenge due to the feedback, requests, and more coming in from all angles. It can often feel like chaos from PMs trying to manage it all.

Sales conversations, for example, often end up left in CRMs, invisible to PMs. Any user research conducted often ends up visible only to a handful of PMs, a problem that Andrej refers to as “tribal knowledge.”

Andrej also advises PMs to capture “ad hoc requests” from customers that often slips through the cracks. To do this, you need to implement a system. Examples of these systems include creating a Slack community, adding a feature request widget to your app, or using a structured feedback form.

Despite these difficulties, Andrej reassures us that “there are a couple of things that can be done in order to make feedback actionable and visible to the organization.”

First, you need to consolidate feedback. This means keeping it all in one place, making it actionable and accessible. After all, democratizing knowledge in an organization is key. It needs to be easy to search for and retrieve relevant feedback. Cross-functional teams such as customer success and sales should also have easy access.

You can then spot any trends, find out the most requested features, and associate them with user needs. A good example of this is productboard’s “user impact score,” a data point for prioritization that considers the number of people who request a feature and how important that feature is to them.

You then need to tie your roadmap to these user insights.  As Andrej describes, “data-driven roadmaps give you the ability to point to user insights that inspired each item on the roadmap to everyone in the organization.” It enables you to share the rationale behind decisions, and therefore earn your colleagues’ trust.

Data-driven roadmaps give you the ability to point to user insights that inspired each item on the roadmap to everyone in the organization

When you shouldn’t take feedback at face value

After Andrej’s valuable insights on user feedback, Travis takes the mic. Immediately, he acknowledges the value that feedback can provide for PMs. However, he warns that not all feedback is worth acting on.

“If it were as simple as listening to and acting on every single piece of feedback,” he said, “then there would be no function of product management.” Instead, he explains that you need to make informed product decisions that provide value to your customers and business, as well as encourage alignment within teams.

If it were as simple as listening to and acting on every single piece of feedback, there would be no function of product management. 

To prove his point, he shares an example from his work at Gainsight.

At the end of the trial period of Gainsight’s PX product, they send out an email to ask users for feedback. In Travis’s example, a user replied saying the product was “too advanced” and the price point “too high.” He decided to dig a little deeper.

After asking “why,” the user responded by saying that the co-founders of his company were already familiar with Mixpanel, and he believed that Mixpanel would be far cheaper. 

To get even more context, Travis then looked at what the user had actually done in the product during the trial. Interestingly, the user had invited their Product Leader, who spent three minutes in the product and no time whatsoever on the site. The user only reviewed the pricing after Travis had asked for clarification.

Travis realized the problem was a lack of market awareness and that the benefits of Gainsight’s product wasn’t clear. As a result, they made efforts to improve awareness and added benefit statements within the product in an attempt to better educate trial users.

By not taking feedback at face value, Travis uncovered a completely different problem that his team was then able to solve.

Key takeaways

  • Achieving Product Excellence requires deep insight, a clear strategy, and an inspiring roadmap.
  • The perfect product management system allows you to consolidate user feedback into a centralized place, link it to user needs, and communicate those needs on your roadmap.
  • To identify emerging patterns, you must consolidate feedback from all channels — including email, social, sales, and more – into one place.
  • Don’t take every piece of feedback at face value. Take the time to dig deeper or you could end up building the wrong thing.

Listen to the full webinar discussion. 

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productboard is a product management system that enables teams to get the right products to market faster. Built on top of the Product Excellence framework, productboard serves as the dedicated system of record for product managers and aligns everyone on the right features to build next. Access a free trial of productboard today.

Dottie Schrock
Dottie Schrock Nov 22, 2019