For the latest episode of Confessions of a Product Manager, we were lucky enough to be joined by SC Moatti. SC is the author of the bestseller Mobilized and a former product leader at Nokia, Facebook, and Trulia. She also founded, and currently runs, the Bay Area product management community Products That Count, and recently organized the hugely successful Mobile Manifesto event in San Francisco.
She's a busy woman, to say the least.
In Part One, the mobile-first pioneer shares with us her firsthand experience in how mobile has changed technology and business over the years. Watch Part 1 of the interview to learn:
- How SC helped transformed the culture of development at Nokia from slow-moving hardware to a more agile software-focused approach
- The importance of building solid relationships across internal organizations as a product scales
- SC's tricks for getting usage on mobile, and advice for emerging businesses looking to branch into mobile
Matt Pasienski: Welcome to another episode of Confessions of a Product Manager. Today, we have an amazing guest, SC Moatti, who just pushed out a book, bestseller on Amazon, which I'll talk about in a second. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background- I know you worked at Facebook, Nokia, a whole bunch of different places. Why don't you go through that, and in particular, tell us how coming from Nokia and then through Facebook at a very pivotal time, you learned about how mobile has changed technology and how it's changing business?
SC Moatti: Yeah, sure. First of all, thanks for having me.
Matt Pasienski: Oh, of course. Yeah.
SC Moatti: I'm very excited to be here. About myself, a few things. First of all, I've been in mobile for a really long time, over a decade, and that started with my electrical engineering training. Then, went to business school and after that, worked at a number of companies, helping them become what is now called MobileFirst. Nokia- I'll start with Nokia- was at a pivotal point because they knew that hardware on mobile was going to become a commodity and that software was going to be the winner.
They created a number of business units, including the one I was running, which is called Point & Find, and tried a different ways to create software on top of what, at the time, was really the differentiator, which was the hardware. Some of them worked, some of them didn't. Our worked really, really well. We got in the top one percent of the app store, millions of downloads, an Emmy nomination. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to save all of Nokia, but I learned a lot out of that about how to really transform the culture from a very slow-moving hardware type of cycle, to a much faster-moving software type of cycle.
Matt Pasienski: Who are some of the main stakeholders? If I wanted to get into a big company, it's a great idea, but it has to be a great idea for everybody. Who are some of the main stakeholders that you had to kind of win over to be successful inside Nokia?
SC Moatti: Yes. It varied, depending on the stage of maturity of our product. When we first started, we were like a bit of a adventurer inside of a very, very large organization. We had one executive sponsor, and that was enough to get us going, get our product out the door. Like any startup, we got the product out the door, and it got a lot of bad reviews. It didn't do that well in its first instance, and that's to be expected. An organization like Nokia, which relied on really reliability and quality, didn't really like that, so we leveraged our executive sponsor a lot to help us go through turning that perception around, bettering the product.
Then, as we started growing and as we started to find ways to grow much faster, we started to establish relationship with what, at Nokia, is called "device teams." Device teams stay together for a couple of years. They plan what is going to be the next big device. Are there going to be one or two cameras? What kind of chips is it going to be? What kind of pricing, positioning? We established relationships with these device teams so that our software would be preloaded on these services. Now, why was it important to us? Because it gives instant scale when you're a company like Nokia that has forty percent market share.
We started to spend a lot more time in workshops, in strategic discussions, in practical discussions with all these teams. Then, as our products started to gain scale and really started to monetize, then we started to establish relationship with much larger organizations, like the search team at Nokia. We build these relationships over the course of one, two years, which ultimately resulted in that business unit being internally acquired by a big Nokia organization.
Matt Pasienski: Got it.
SC Moatti: It really- depending on the phase of maturity ...
Matt Pasienski: I think what's interesting there is- to back what you say at the beginning- At the beginning, mobile apps- They don't work well. Again, that's like a pretty general thing. I mean, some, they just hit, but most of them, they require weeks, months, in very rare cases, can even make it a year where your app's really not taking off. You used that ... business sponsor to really sustain you through that period. What have you seen is the average kind of early life of a mobile product that business need to understand, hey, it's going to take a little while? What is that normally like before you hit and you really get user adoption?
SC Moatti: I'll tell you how long it takes. It takes as long as you get bad reviews. Unfortunately, it is true. At the time that we were doing this at Nokia, people were a lot more forgiving because there were a lot less applications and a lot less outstanding applications. Today, I think there are so many apps, half of them never getting even downloaded. Very few of them get a real meaningful share of usage, so users are a lot less forgiving.
It doesn't matter whether it's a consumer or a business. People are just a lot less forgiving because it's their personal device. What I would say is that to experiment today on mobile, you want to use a lot tricks. You want to use, for example, mobile web technology, which is a bit of a more forgiving way to experiment on mobile because you don't get the reviews. You don't get people to stop downloading you or even delete you from their phone.
Matt Pasienski: What are the advantage- If you do go, and you go with web, or even some other technique, to discover if this is a viable idea, if this is something that users will actually incorporate into their lives on the mobile phone- What are the advantages of going into a native mobile app? To the point, when are you going to make that decision to switch over?
SC Moatti: Yes, so that's a very complicated question. What I would say is for businesses who are early in their stages of mobile and what to experiment, definitely go with web. Now, there are circumstances where it's difficult to do things on mobile web. Basically, a mobile web strategy will be, "I'm taking my big, complicated website, and I'm taking one or two features and putting them on a mobile website. It's response. It works on any-sized device."
Now, to go from a responsive website to an application, you need a compelling use case. You need to make it clear for people that it's better for them to download your app, which is more painful, than to use your website. You want to use the capabilities that apps give you that mobile web doesn't give you. For example, you want to use integration with the address book or with the camera or with push notifications, all these different signals and sensors that allow you to personalize the experience.
Matt Pasienski: Yeah, and you look at some of the most popular and fastest-growing applications, they're really centered around things that could only be done on mobile phone, like Instagram.
SC Moatti: Absolutely. Yeah.
Matt Pasienski: I think it would be a good- We've waited long enough. You have just published a book. It's called, Mobilized. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to this idea, kind of the people that you've been speaking with and then where you think this book fits in and why it's going to be ... It's already doing very well.
SC Moatti: Thank you. Yes, of course. After Nokia- and there's a point to your question- After Nokia, I started my own company, which was acquired as a talent acquisition by Facebook. Facebook was undergoing a massive mobile transition, and I was a part of that. Now, every company that I talk to today is undergoing a very similar transition. When a publisher reached out to me a year ago and said, "How about you write a book on mobile?", I thought it was perfect timing because my experience at Facebook and, previously, that experience at Nokia were very relevant to what I think most companies are seeing today.
What I'm seeing and what the book is about is that a lot of companies see mobile as a technology, as opposed to a culture. They see mobile as kind of the next generation of internet. When they go back ten, fifteen years ago, they had big catalogs, and they were telling their IT or back office or technology department to put that on a website. These websites today, they probably make you laugh, but back then, at least, they made me cry because they were big, heavy, static websites-
Matt Pasienski: Well, they were replacing someone literally calling you on the phone-
SC Moatti: Exactly.
Matt Pasienski: Or bringing a giant book in the mail. Then, the transition happened where we have much different expectations now. That's happening again for mobile.
SC Moatti: Exactly. That technology transition, right, from paper to online, was really about technology and understanding the business models. If you do that in mobile, it's not working. Why? Because mobile is a personal technology. It's the first time we have one device in our hand. Let me tell you- Let's say I'm checking my cellphone right now or my iWatch or some glasses, and you're talking to me. Oops, you've lost me. I'm distracted. The context that everybody experiences on mobile makes it a completely different experience. We're not trapped in front of a computer or trapped in front of a catalog. That's the challenge. That's why it's a cultural change.