Product Conference Ignites Momentum in Software Product Community

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As markets shift with end user needs and preferences, product people respond. The pace at which problems are solved is exceeded only by the next round of challenges that rush in to replace them. This unrelenting cycle generates two kinds of momentum: first, at the micro level, product teams generate momentum by aligning around a Vision and Roadmap that are brought to life by Motivated teams who have the Capability to solve complex technology problems.

The second kind of momentum is more macro. It’s the kind that ignites when a community of product people come together to grow and share their knowledge. What starts out as just a kernel of an idea soon finds itself nurtured by the broader community’s thoughtful care and feeding. Before you know it, the community eagerly throws open its doors, inviting  business leaders and entrepreneurs; designers, developers, and architects; and industry leaders to join the conversation.

Enter Product Momentum: Beyond the Features. It’s hard to believe, with all the high-tech expertise and opportunities in the Greater Rochester area, that ITX Corp.’s product conference was the first of its kind in the region.

But there we were, shoulder to shoulder with industry influencers and best-selling authors Dan OlsenChristina Wodtke, and Nir Eyal. Each conducted an intimate, mid-week workshop in support of product people generally, but with a special emphasis on the product manager – a role that sits boldly at the hub of the product development wheel.

Christina’s keynote address, Influence Without Authority, tackled one of the most significant challenges faced by product managers today. “PMs have much of the responsibility for a product’s success, but little of the authority to actually make it happen,” she suggested,  before offering tips and best practices to establish strong relationships across the organization. Christina stressed “creating ‘psychological safety’ that allows colleagues to have the difficult conversations and make the tough decisions.

“To be a successful product manager,” she added, “you need to be curious. You need to be good at self-learning. Because if you love learning, you’ll make a great product manager.”

Right on cue, Nir took the stage and picked up on Christina’s theme. “What can we learn from all the successful companies and business leaders we see out there?” he asked. “Apple, Facebook, and Slack…” Each of these great companies, Nir said, builds their products with specific intent, with designs meant to trigger the impulsive behaviors that consumers give little or no thought to. One of the biggest challenges product managers face, he added, is deciding what to build. There’s no shortage of suggestions. The boss, your investors, the loudest customers. They all have opinions. But with such an overwhelming backlog, how do product managers prioritize?

Dan Olsen took the stage next, wasting little time to address that question while concluding the conference with a comprehensive discussion of the Product-Market Fit. He offered The Kano Model and Value Proposition Grid as valuable tools to help product managers prioritize customer needs and weigh the impact of feature importance vs. customer satisfaction. Dan also offered advice to the product managers in attendance: “Put yourselves in positions to learn more and to grow more. Compare notes with others,” he said. “Find someone to talk to, a peer or maybe someone who’s 10, 15 years ahead of you in your career. Learn about the other functions within adjacent knowledge areas. It’s hard, but it’ll make you a better product manager, and a better teammate.”

Inquiring. Learning. Sharing marked the essence of ITX’s Beyond the Features product conference. Actually, it was the whole vibe of the place.  Momentum may well be the straw that stirs the product development drink, the key to success within a team and throughout an entire tech community. Vision, tactics, roadmap, and capability coming together to deliver technology solutions that improve the lives of our users.