Product Management Confessions, Part 3 with Satya Patel

Videos, Product Management, PM Confessions

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In our final video featuring Satya Patel of Homebrew, Wizeline Head of Product Matt Pasienski uncovers some valuable insights from Satya on:

  • A VP of Product’s true role
  • Trusting your team
  • The biggest tech trend for 2020

Don’t miss out!

At ~1:55, Satya goes over the 3 steps of his lightweight product management process - from inception to post-mortem.

Skip ahead to ~4:50 to hear which hot new tools Satya thinks is impacting the product development process the most, whether for product owners, engineering teams, and everyone in between.

Missed Parts 1 and 2? Watch them now!

Part 1
Part 2

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Satya Patel at Homebrew HQ

Matt Pasienski: What is it like to keep track of all these different initiatives and are you even driving product direction at that point, or is it herding cats? What's the ... How do you do it and what's it like?

Satya Patel: The good and the bad of being a VP, I think a good VP, is that ultimately good VP's aren't actually making any product decision.

Good VP's aren't actually making any product decisions. They are putting the right people in place and empowering them to make great product decisions. They are acting as, what I talk about as a credit funnel and a shit umbrella. All the credit goes to the people who are doing the hard work and making the decision, and your job is to protect them from all the noise of the organization and things that might get in the way of that. How do you keep track of all of that? You trust your team. I am a big believer in one on ones and making sure you have those on a weekly basis, where the agenda is owned by the person you are managing. They are telling you what their issues are and asking you for help in particular areas. There's all kinds of tools to keep track of status of products and product development procesee's and road maps and all those kinds of things. There are different options for doing that. Ultimately it sounds simple, it comes down tot rusting your team and making sure that you're providing some guard rails, but giving them the freedom to operate.

Matt Pasienski: There still are some command and control ... You have to put in the guard rails, and sometimes people are going to come up hard against them.

Satya Patel: Absolutely.

Matt Pasienski: How do you tell? How do you keep track of that, because it's such a fluid craft. You could just manage up, and you have to be aware of that in the leadership, or just everyone gets confused. How do you enforce guard rails and how do you bring that level of understanding that would allow you to enforce them?

Satya Patel: Again, I don't think there is any right answer here, everyone has their way of doing things. I believe in pretty lightweight process. There is 3 key things I ask from a process stand point or require product managers to participate in. One is, I ask all product people, in conjunction with their teams, to document a use case, or user story. That's a living document that starts at the beginning of a project and includes why they are building something, who they are building it for, what a rough outline of it is, what the impact they think is going to be, how they are going to measure the results. It's kind of a two page document that becomes this resource for everybody on the team to organize their activity around.

The second thing that I really like is a product green lighting meeting or a check in. Where, at the beginning of a project, you have a meeting with your team to say, "All right, this project is a go and you can allocate resources to it." At the end of a project, before it goes out the door, you have the same conversation saying, "Hey, this is what we said we were going to do, this is what we actually did, it changed for these reasons, but this is still how we are going to measure results." If it is a longer project, you might have a check in in the middle. I like that as kind of forcing functions around making sure everyone stays within the guard rails.

Matt Pasienski: Have you ever seen someone actually go ... I think there is a third meeting that's implied, especially when you talked about retrospective analysis and postmortem. Is there ever that time six months later where you go the full reckoning of all of the things you built. What's that like and how do you get people to be honest and really come to terms with the good and bad decisions they made?

Satya Patel: The third piece that I like process wise talks I think to that a little bit, which is the cross functional team meeting. Nothing in a company happens without the involvement of lots of different people and got lots of different functions. I think the product manager is responsible for communicating and setting the priorities and helping to make sure everybody's on the same page throughout the product development process. That meeting can also be used as the postmortem on ongoing basis. I think one of the challenges product people have and product teams have is they push something out the door and then they let it drop. If you have an ongoing cross functional team meeting, then you have got all the stakeholders who care about this thing. Even if the product team has moved on, who are commenting on problems they are seeing or metrics that they are not moving in the right direction or what it might be. I like those cross functional teams to be living as well for a long period of time.

Matt Pasienski: You create these stakeholder groups and then they keep the product owner or the product manager more accountable.

Satya Patel: It's great as the VP because you are not the one providing the checks and balances. You put in a place a system that provides the checks and balances.

Matt Pasienski: That's fantastic.

Last topic I want to consider is, you always see a lot of companies coming through.

Satya Patel: Yeah.

Matt Pasienski: You have obviously seen tremendous change from pure agile, or sorry, pure waterfall to pure agile to everything in between. What are the new hot tools that are coming in that are really changing how product owners, engineering teams, everyone is changing their level of communication. Either within the team or external ... A couple that we use, a shout out to InterCom and Slack.

Satya Patel: Yeah, yeah.

Matt Pasienski: We love those types of things and they really just completely changed our day to day. We use them all day, continuously. What are the types of things that you are seeing emerging that are really shifting and maybe bringing a new paradon past the what would happen for the last 10 years?

Satya Patel: There is probably buckets of things. There is certainly collaboration app's like Slack, Shrello is another one that is really popular amongst some of our companies and companies we see come in the door. You are seeing people just able to collaborate more easily in real time. That's one bucket. The second is analytics have gotten a lot more sophisticated. Whether its mobile or web or the intersection of the two, segmenting your audiences, all that kind of stuff, has become really sophisticated. Everything from mixed panel to amplitude to omniture of course, and all these ... Google Analytics, all these other things. The third one we are seeing adopted more and more are continuous deployment tools. We are starting to see that emerge on the mobile side as well, which is really interesting to see, given the traditionally the difficulty of pushing updates to mobile. Those are some of the things that we think are impacting the product development process. There's varying degrees of adoption of those things, but I think the general trend is all those things are going to be adopted by a product development teams. It's going to helpfully improve the pace at which teams can execute.

Matt Pasienski: All right, last questions, because I want something kind of punchy.

What's the biggest tech trend for 2015? This will help us get tons of views. This is ...

Satya Patel: Wow. Biggest tech trend for 2015.

Matt Pasienski: Say something controversial, not necessarily right. No one will hold you accountable.

Satya Patel: Okay, yeah all right. That's a tough one.

Biggest tech trend of 2015.

Matt Pasienski: You have your big list.

Satya Patel: Yeah. Yeah, what's on my big list?

Matt Pasienski: Let's see as we go.

Satya Patel: These are pretty forward looking for the most part.

Matt Pasienski: So maybe the biggest tech trend of 2020 then.

Satya Patel: Biggest tech trend of 2020. I do think drones are going to be a real thing. Maybe that's not that controversial, I don't know, but I think less on the B to C side and more on the B to B side.

Matt Pasienski: Okay.

Satya Patel: Actually B to B side probably even in the next couple of years. We are really excited about the idea that not just the hardware, but the software used to manage these fleets. The intelligence around routing them, and all these kinds of things is going to develop really quickly. As long as the FAA doesn't get in the way.

Matt Pasienski: You kind of have drone road right on Brandon Street here.

Satya Patel: That's right, exactly on South Park.

You are seeing these companies that are in the US and have freedom to operate in the Reno, Nevada area go after customers in New Zealand and in Africa and the Middle East and all these places that have much less regulation. You are already seeing the four looking use cases in those markets and they are going to come to the US, inevitably. The other thing that I think is super interesting is this notion that the entire way we eat is changing. The way that food is produced, the efficiency which it can be produced, the way it is distributed. All of that is going to change fundamentally and I think there is going to be more and more opportunities for people to eat just for nutrition than for taste and experience. Which is sad for me because I am a foodie.

Matt Pasienski: Right.

Satya Patel: I think it is going to happen in a major way.

Matt Pasienski: Fantastic.

Well, we have covered I think everything I could have possibly hoped for. Wonderful to talk with you.

Satya Patel: My pleasure.

Matt Pasienski: Thank you very much.

Satya Patel: Thanks.

Jen Chien Posted by Jen Chien on Friday, March 6, 2015.

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May 29, 2017

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