The INDUSTRY Product Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the largest gatherings for software product professionals from around the world. The conference is packed with three days of learning, networking, and indulging in the multiple coffee stations and impressive top-notch production that went into this event. We felt like royalty.
Our team traveled from Rochester, NY to experience all that INDUSTRY has to offer; eager to absorb as much as we could and meet as many like-minded people as possible. Growing our networks is a perk, but we appreciate the value in gaining new perspectives and learning from our peers.
Upon our return, and shaking off the post-conference blues, we sat down to answer the question – what did we love about INDUSTRY?
The Value of Telling a Story
Christian Idiodi is no stranger to product management. His tenure in the product space spans over 15 years, and today he continues to mentor new and upcoming product professionals. Christian spoke at length about product during his talk at INDUSTRY, tapping into his experiences to provide a real and engaging conversation.
Put in the words of our team, he was “phenomenal. A great storyteller.” (Something we know first-hand after having him as a guest on our podcast.) His anecdotes were relatable and engaging – the audience couldn’t help but be enthralled by his words.
In that, we understood how important it is to tell the story. The story itself isn’t required to be groundbreaking (lack of inspiration was certainly not an issue in Christian’s scenario). But the delivery must also resonate. Engage with an audience and build content that is relatable and captivating, and they’ll be sitting on the edge of their seats, eager to hear what comes next. We certainly were.
Creativity as a Strength
Our team on the floor wasn’t the only ITX representation at INDUSTRY. Our EVP of Innovation Sean Flaherty was invited to lead two workshops and speak to the masses in a keynote. The vibrant lights and the eyes of the attendees were on him during his talk, and he wasted no time in diving into the conversation.
He emphasized the value of creativity in an organization and stressed how good leadership in the product industry produces creativity. Even though we work with Sean and are quite familiar with his philosophies, we were still blown away by the intent of his words. Maybe we understand it well because we know it’s not a false narrative.
The creativity Sean calls upon is deeply ingrained in how our organization functions. Creativity spurs innovation, and innovation keeps our wheels moving. Not just to create on our own. We are eager to reside within the large community of people sharing their own inspired ideas.
We simply can’t imagine working in an environment where we’re not encouraged to tap into our creativity, experiment boldly, and share what we’ve learned. How else would we be able to grow?
Beyond the sense of pride of seeing one of our own on stage, we were left inspired and eager to try and create new things.
Candid Advice on Connecting with Our Clients
Listening to a problem, providing a solution – it’s a distilled explanation of what product managers do. According to some product people, it’s not enough.
Justin Bauer, Chief Product Officer at Amplitude, brought the hard facts to his panel discussion. A lot of products fail. He listed a myriad of reasons why these products fail, including long iteration cycles and building for trends only. It’s helpful information for us to hear, but it’s still some tough pills to swallow. Justin shared solutions to circumvent this, which included the practice of problem framing. From his talk came a simple phrase that was like an awakening for our team.
Fall in love with the problem, then the solution.
As a company that is dedicated to solving problems for our clients, this hit home particularly hard. We understand what it takes to go above and beyond for our clients. We realize the importance of showing up not only for them, but for the end users as well.
If we’re falling in love with the problem, we’re telling our clients that we want to understand every little detail that relates to it. It’s digging into the roots to find those hidden problems that may pop up down the road. When we understand the entire scope, we can provide a solution to mitigate any potential downfalls that would cause severe delays.
We’re in the practice of falling in love with a problem. It’s a practice that’s been in place for 25 years at ITX. Since hearing it from Justin Bauer, we now have an exceptional way of connecting to our clients and explaining how dedicated we are to them.
The Conversation Around Standing Out
It’s the age-old problem: how can a company in a saturated industry compete and become the top choice for potential clients?
One first activity is to understand which phase of the market an organization lies in. David Cancel from Drift notes the three phases markets go through based on scarcity.
New Concepts and Building Them
Model T Phase
Who Can Build Quickest?
Procter & Gamble Phase
Everything is Commoditized and Anything is Replicated
Our team’s individual opinions on ITX’s placement on this scale sparked an interesting debate – one side asking how we prevent commoditization, and another asking how to embrace commoditization.
Regardless of what side you lean on, the issue we face is that we’re not the only fish in the sea. We must innovate and create new ways to break into the market and find the best ways to prove our value to potential clients. And luckily David Cancel had several different tips for doing just this:
- Talk to users without a proxy
- Research competitors and the market
- Become “customer zero” for products – either our own or for our clients
Bringing It Home
The exhaustion of being engulfed by the pageantry of a conference like INDUSTRY is dwarfed in comparison to the euphoria of surrounding ourselves with passionate and driven people. Sitting with our thoughts and experiences from this conference – on creating engaging stories, tapping into our creativity, connecting with our clients, and standing out in a crowd – has only launched us into a mindset determined to take our learnings and apply them to our normal routines.