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In the second installment of our chat with Wizeline's very own Head of Product and UX Wendy Johansson, she and our host Matt Pasienski cover:

  • The importance of segmenting customers by user/buyer persona and making the time to speak with all of them, a la Mark Cranney of a16z
  • How Product, UX, and Customer Success are intrinsically interconnected
  • The benefits of ‘drinking our own champagne’, aka how we use Wizeline across organizations to manage products and stay aligned on initiatives

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1Up next in the series: Part 3.


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Wendy: I think a perfect example of that is actually one of our favorite customers and neighbors, Yahoo!. Earlier on, actually, you were the first Product Manager working with Yahoo!, and you came to us and you said, "Hey, Yahoo! needs these things around request management," and we're all just kind of like, "Okay. That's interesting and completely different, Matt."

Matt: I think the approach that you've been outlining, both in terms of what Wizeline does and what you're trying trying to do, is that the Product Manager's acting as a bit of a solvent to break down barriers between teams, to break down barriers between the customer and then your engineering team as well. As you've gone into large enterprises generally, one of the things that Mark Cranney told us is that there's three different layers pre-sale, and of course, as you're going as a Product Manager, as you're doing the customer success function, there's the baseline users, there's the people who are enabling and managing those processes and want to see them improved, and then there's the C-level people who are just looking, "What's the impact on the top line, the bottom line, and so on?" What is your experience in going in and navigating all of those post-sale, and as a product team and as a customer success team?

Wendy: I think it's actually very useful to have all those layers because each of those goals typically, at least for our Wizeline Enterprise customers, they roll into each other. The base layer users, the ones who are entering all their features and all their requests and turning that into road map are feeding up to the people who are saying, "Okay, let me approve or deny your capital expenses, your resource allocation for these projects so that you can basically consolidate into a smaller road map that we can actually pay for and complete this year." That rolls up into the executive level of, "All right, we've given you guys this much money and these many resources. How are we doing this year in terms of actually delivering value back to the company?"

Matt: Do you see an interaction where the more information gets communicated across these generally separated zones, that you see more value for the platform?

Wendy: Yes. Just how I've kind of been talking about breaking down barriers of communication between teams, Wizeline is able to do that with companies in this tier level where you're coming in and, let's just say, that guy at the bottom who is entering all his features on the road map, he's probably never met that C Level Executive that gets to see the final report, but he's able to say that, through all the data that he's entering, he understands that he's adding that value back all the way upstream. Let's think of that as a funnel where that data is siloed into this little segment of a road map where the C Level Executive, for his five minutes every Friday afternoon in the Exec Review meetings says, "That's what we're doing. We're on track." "Okay, let's move on."

Matt: We have strategic initiative for 2016, but I see that there's seven different teams working on it and they're all on track. As you navigate, because obviously you have to go and talk to each of these in a sales situation ... Like Mark Cranney said, you have to go address each one of these to sell, but post-sales, what is it like going and talking to the C Level, talking to that management layer who has a responsibility for all of these deliverables, and then also the users who are interacting with the platform?

Wendy: Actually, all three of my roles right now are very useful for that. Starting from that base user level, I'm able to go in as a user experience designer and speak to people and have empathy for the problems that they're having, their day-to-day solutions. Sitting in front of a super deep monitor versus the guy who actually has a fancy new Mac to use, and all the different problems that they actually have around their ergonomics and usability. Then, be able to move up level one, to talk to their Directors of Product, or Program Directors, and as a head of Product myself, be able to speak to them about best practices that we've seen from our other customers in the market, and even things that we do ourselves in Wizeline. Then, move up one level more and be able to speak to the CTOs about, "All right, here are the actionable items that we're going to drive within your company to get them on-boarded, to set up the success criteria, and here's how we're going to measure that. Here's when we're going to sync back with you on how we're doing, every quarter or so, and basically have those QBR reviews."

Matt: You're making sure that all of this stuff is aligning as you implement a platform that's really trying to get an engineering team and a product team on track. It also syncs at each of those levels as well.

Wendy: Yes, and Wizeline helps Wizeline with...

Matt: How does Wizeline use Wizeline? What are the things that you found using your own platform, because I think that's always a question that you get. "Hey, you're a Product Manager who makes a product that helps you manage products." What is the inception? What is that like?

Wendy: Mind blown. For a lot of the use cases that are ascribed around empathizing with the user, being able to continue up-leveling, Wizeline's been really helpful for us for that, so not only can we capture all those little UX improvements but we can go in and make real feature requests to solve the problems that we're seeing different levels of users have, and then, finally, be able to use Wizeline to be able to capture the actual QBRs that we have with each strategic customer. We use initiatives for example to say, "Okay, across Q1, we want to work on better integration with some custom workflows with different users." As you know, with product, everybody within [cure 00:05:31], within the [sun 00:05:31], within the spreadsheets, everybody has their own product development tools and processes, so we have to offer a level of configuration that really works with every process. Being able to capture all of this in Wizeline and see not only here are the longer term things we need to think about, here are the small features that we can deliver in the next quarter, and here are the little UX fixes that we can fix either as bug fixes or on a daily basis. All of these things are contributing to us moving our product forward.

Matt: It's really interesting that you can drill down and it's really about accessing how are the little changes we're making that are maybe too small to think about in aggregate, how are those driving the big things that, when you're reporting to your board, is like, "We're making progress along these things." You worked at a lot of start-ups and as a company grows, I think the task of planning and the task of communication changes a lot. You're going from having a product, which just does one thing, to have a platform that has a lot of different functions involved. Then on the other hand, you go from having the team sitting with you in the 400 square foot office, to having a sales team that's doubling every six months. How do you handle those types of challenges at Wizeline?

Wendy: Wizeline's been helping us a lot with that, with that massive growth. Let's start from the base. Back when we were really small, we were able to put some features in Wizeline and those features represented large level ideas. We want to let people have some product intelligence. We want some requests management. We like people to have surveys and measure ROI. As a small group, and you were there too, the five of us would sit there and we'd send a survey. Let's go ahead and validate that these are things that we've heard from the customers that we were talking to at the time, and let's go ahead and decide between the five of us through the survey what do we think is going to drive the most immediate value for Wizeline? From there, we decided these are the priorities. We'll build from there.

Matt: Then you go from that, five people sitting in a room, and then now you have a large company with a lot of new people coming in all the time. You need to keep them educated. What do you do now?

Wendy: Now we have a sales team who, every single day, I'm hearing these guys on the phone and I'm at my desk and I'll hear somebody be like, "Oh, road map customization." Oh, I heard that. Who said that? It's impossible for me to actually keep up with this on a person by person basis, so we do use sales force product tracker, our sales force integration ourselves, so our sales team will get on calls and chat with people and find out their needs and problems and be able to match that up with either existing features that are already on our road map in Wizeline, or go ahead and submit new requests. What that helps us do as a product team today as we're getting more and more market input is be able to say these are the things that we've already built that we should continue to expand on. Road maps. These are the things that we're seeing are up-and-coming in terms of how people plan and naturally progress from product teams to larger teams using Wizeline.

Matt: You're acknowledging the tension that what worked before when there was few people absolutely does not work when you get over about the two pizza rule. 20, 30, 50, 1000 people. Those processes break down. On the other hand, how do you communicate to those people and how do you really drive home the important changes that you're making in your platform once you get to a bigger scale?

Posted by on Thursday, March 24, 2016.


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