Product Q&A with Justin Watt

Justin Watt

About: Whereas attending college for psychology, Justin ventured into challenge & product administration the place he took half in inner merchandise creation for Shaw and IBM. He labored on tasks with MetaLab on the facet beginning in 2012 and formally joined the staff in 2015 the place his formal title is Challenge Supervisor, which at MetaLab contains product administration as a spotlight. He’s labored on and launched merchandise for Fortune 10 corporations and startups. When not doing this, he’s a giant fan of operating, music festivals, and steady studying in all issues product administration.

About MetaLab: MetaLab is an company specializing in constructing world-class digital merchandise for corporations huge and small. They deal with A+ design and associate intently with their shoppers in technique, product administration, design, and growth. Some notable work from the previous few years contains Slack, Notarize, Coinbase, and Sudo with many new, thrilling merchandise coming in 2016.

On the net:

AMA Particulars:

Date: Tuesday, March 29
Time: 11AM PT / 2PM ET
Location: #ama channel

To hitch in on the Q&A, take a look at our Product HQ neighborhood!

Choose questions and solutions from the AMA:

How do you retain individuals motivated who work ONLY on company work?

We preserve groups motivated with numerous freedom and the understanding that they’ll transfer to totally different tasks over time. They’re not saddled with one they usually have lots of autonomy to each do the work they know they wish to do together with elevating their hand after they wish to dig into one thing else.

How do you distribute fairness/incentives to staff in order that they really feel they’re a part of the staff when doing mundane stuff?

Fairness and incentives are available in many varieties for us. The mutual respect all members of the staff has blown me away, so there’s an inherent want to really feel a part of a staff. Outdoors of this, the groups in any respect ranges have a HIGH stage of enter into merchandise, so all of us really feel like we’re constructing one thing collectively. This creates lots of engagement and leads to very low workers churn right here.

So that you don’t really feel that there’s a misalignment of motivation? If I’ve a staff of three builders – we personal the product and eat sleep and breathe getting issues carried out vs a consulting agency with it’s personal agenda and optimization methods round making as a lot cash as potential?

This may occasionally sound too pie within the sky, however we rent individuals who wish to construct cool stuff. That’s the place we differentiate between a consulting agency and product associate. We are likely to work on merchandise that the staff is impressed by and needs to work on. This removes a lot of the misalignment of motivation. We put the product first, all the pieces else second in terms of the work.

What’s your high tip for a challenge supervisor?
Ruthless prioritization. Particularly in an company setting: you don’t have any alternative however to continuously reprioritize your to-dos. There are solely so many hours in a day.

What’s your high interview query to ask junior to mid-level builders interviewing for a task in your staff?

“What requests make you essentially the most pissed off and essentially the most uncomfortable from these outdoors of your developer teammates?” I discover this tells you a large number about how they take care of strain, conflicting priorities, and the way they interact with their work. It’s considered one of many favourite inquiries to ask devs, however I discover that is one query that tells you a large number.

How a lot time do you spend on anybody product and the way do you go about addressing their particular person KPI’s?

PMs listed below are on not more than 2 tasks. I’m presently on 2 and I’d say it’s a few 60/40 break up. One requires extra product work because it’s a V1 product in order many right here know: that’s an even bigger endeavor in some ways. We measure our success by our shoppers’ success. We associate closely at a product stage so we share analysis, efficiency metrics, product KPI’s and so forth. Begin and use that as a staff to make merchandise higher. Our aim is to associate with our shoppers for a long run and actually, we are saying no to many who need a “one and carried out”.

I presently work in a digital company. How is PM work totally different in an company surroundings vs non-agency?

I’d say company vs non-agency is the competing priorities. We work on this by getting our groups closely embedded with our shoppers and making all of it really feel like one staff. Outdoors of this, I discover the distinction is tempo: company work is WAYYYY quicker shifting than non-agency work.

What makes an excellent shopper?

An amazing shopper is somebody who treats you as a associate, not a vendor. We do our greatest work after we collaborate as a substitute of getting prescriptive work fed our manner. Whereas we respect the shoppers as we attempt to work cultural matches solely, we at all times get pleasure from working as a associate greater than something.

How do you differentiate challenge administration vs. product administration work at MetaLab?

They’re a really blended function presently. Challenge facet of the function is answerable for timelines and budgets and resourcing. Product facet is answerable for roadmap, options, and technique. We now have a method division so it’s not a solo present the place persons are unfold too skinny; it’s undoubtedly a staff sport.

What can smaller businesses ($1mm income) do to extend income? (outdoors of elevating charges) – additionally, do you assume it’s higher to deal with month-to-month retainers or one-time jobs?

Smaller businesses can deal with pursuing shoppers that might be very long time companions and have a product you wish to develop with. The income comes out of that. I firmly consider one-time jobs are one to steer clear of. If the “one-time” job is a method to construct a relationship in order to proceed working collectively, that’s nice. But when the intention is merely to do one thing and transfer on, it dilutes the funding your staff has in engaged on the product.

What was it wish to work with Slack in the course of the design course of? What design rules did they battle for?

I wasn’t working straight with MetaLab when Slack was being born, however I first met Andrew in 2012 and have carried out some work on the facet with him since that point. I’ll say that the groups principals on that challenge carry over to all of our tasks: serve the meant consumer first.

We’re not robots and Slack doesn’t deal with individuals as such. It has a “life” of its personal (aka character) identical to the folks that use it. Subsequently, it creates that connection and it’s grown from there.

The place do you see your self in 5 years?

Main a staff of Product Managers. I really like engaged on product and searching for out new methods to convey “outdated” methods of doing issues into the twenty first century. is considered one of my most fav current examples of this.

Are there some other industries or particular verticals that you simply’ve personally been considering in terms of bringing “outdated” methods of doing issues into the twenty first century?

Automobiles are trendy within the grand scheme of issues, however my god the ergonomics, GUI’s, and UX of these GUI’s are so…dated. That’s one thing I’ve a eager curiosity in. Outdoors of that, issues which might be managed by antiquated corporations with antiquated methods of doing issues is a giant curiosity. I look to looking out, reviewing, signing for, and dwelling in a rented condominium/condominium a HUGE alternative. The methods through which you could possibly streamline that course of, make it simpler for each renter/rentee (not a phrase, however going with it) all through the entire course of from shifting in to shifting out is one thing I’d love to resolve for.

What’s your method to constructing a roadmap with a shopper? Even after we keep actually versatile, the shopper tends to need some form of agreed-upon characteristic set very early within the course of. How do you steadiness that?

We often get the entire intentions out of the best way first after which from there: who’re the meant/aim customers? What does success on this product seem like? and so forth… As soon as everyone seems to be on the identical web page there, I discover it’s a lot simpler to get buy-in on a product roadmap that serves these wants. There are at all times competing priorities – you simply should be proactive about that vs. reactive. Board members, competing stakeholder concepts, and so forth. all should be accounted for. It’s a balancing act, however I discover that defining the consumer and success first are keys to roadmap success.

We use the technique time collectively to both reinforce a characteristic request or make it clear that’s not a very good/excessive precedence proper now. Inquiries to a shopper/stakeholder comparable to: what’s the enterprise worth for this characteristic? does it clear up an issue for the meant consumer? is it differentiated or aggressive out there? is it a constructing block to a serious, future characteristic?

Questions like this have a tendency to permit the shopper to determine for themselves if a characteristic they need is certainly a characteristic they want.

We are likely to assign “Enterprise Worth” and “Technical Complexity” rankings to product options. That manner, it’s clear if one thing is 4/5 worth and 1/5 tech complexity, we will all agree that we pursue that. If it’s 1/5 biz worth and 5/5 tech complexity, it tends to be simple: “let’s not do that proper now”

Tech feasibility is a giant one. I’ve learnt the lesson the very laborious manner: engineering groups have to be concerned at the least considerably on the technique/product roadmap part to outline if a characteristic (even at a excessive stage) is possible within the launch timeline.

How do you monitor worker hours/work?

Harvest is our go-to for that. We respect the time that the shopper has paid us for and we respect the autonomy that we attempt to supply workers so we work to steadiness these.

How usually do you may have inner workshops regarding product and technique? Who’s concerned and are these recurring occasions?

We are likely to do lots of inner, casual data sharing on Slack. We now have a complete analysis channel in Slack the place PMs, Technique, and design leads submit issues usually and share ideas round product & technique there. As for precise workshops: that’s one thing we’re engaged on implementing. The staff has greater than doubled within the final 6 months, so it’s one thing we consider to be important however simply have to search out the time to make occur.

I admire the template of questions you may have given for speaking to a shopper/stakeholder. How have you ever gone about dealing with intense disagreement over technique? Physique language, or different stakeholders to again you as much as come to thoughts or communication kinds?

Due to the best way we attempt to border these questions (we’re working to construct an excellent product vs. turning it into an us in opposition to them method) I discover that the stakeholders are likely to take it nicely. When it’s clear that the intention of the query is to serve their product greater than anything, it dilutes the depth of the dialog. There have been events the place you simply know that there are particular hills you don’t have to die on however I consider that goes for everybody working in product, in all places.

When shoppers rent your staff to go in and assist with product, what’s the huge ache level or want that they’re experiencing which ends up in their resolution that it’s time to get severe about having company assist? In a manner, what’s the downside that Metalab, as a product, is tackling? How did work with corporations like Slack come about?

Q2: Most work we do is referral from nice companions we’ve labored with previously together with that challenge. As for the opposite questions: There are such a lot of solutions to that, to be trustworthy. Generally it’s that the shopper doesn’t have the sources/capability to do the product work within the timeframe they wish to get it carried out, generally it’s that they’re new to the patron product trade however have an excellent concept and wish help with product and execution of getting that to market, and generally it’s as a result of they’ve a big staff and we assist that giant staff with complicated wants type out what makes one of the best product. I wouldn’t say there’s a typical motive, however a mixture of all of these.

In the event you may advocate as much as 3 books/thought leaders to observe/articles for somebody new to the world of PM, what would they be?

E book-wise, I’m a giant fan of: Hooked & On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Sure, a e book on writing by Stephen King. That doesn’t appear necessary however with the quantity of written communication {that a} PM has to do, that is a vital learn. As for articles, I’d level individuals to and sort in “product supervisor”. There’s a wealth of sources and I feel it’s extra about what resonates with every PM. There is no such thing as a clear, one approach to do issues. Each state of affairs we’re put in as PMs is totally different so I feel it’s discovering what works for you and studying from others alongside the best way.

That’s a obscure reply, however it feels as many are searching for that one article or e book or individual to information them when it’s a group of steerage and insights from many various areas and making use of it in a manner that works for you and your function and your staff.

At Meta Lab – you probably did end-to-end product growth – so shoppers primarily come to you with an concept in the back of a serviette? what do you cowl within the first assembly?

It actually is dependent upon the stage the shopper is at. I’ll put it this manner: with my two present tasks, one is a Fortune 10 and one is a startup launching V1 of their product. Each needed to begin with a dialogue round: who’s the product for? what issues are they attempting to resolve? and what excites them in regards to the potentialities of their concept/product? From there, you may have a good suggestion of what they need and what they’re attempting to realize. Then the product is fleshed out from there.

So irrespective of the dimensions of the challenge & shopper, it is dependent upon the stage the product is at and understanding what the objectives are.

How do you’re employed with founders or executives who’ve a powerful private opinion about product/characteristic, however it’s not primarily based on consumer analysis/suggestions, solely on their intestine?

Illustrating very tactfully and respectfully why idealism and guts are proper far much less usually than analysis, consumer interviews, suggestions from goal teams, and so forth.

Everybody has seen The Social Community and thinks, “His intestine was proper! Mine might be too.” However illustrating why that’s the exception, not the rule is essential.

Not that each one of our shoppers assume that, however in all features of product growth, displaying why analysis, information, and focused suggestions are the best way to go is crucial I discover.

Somebody who has a mature product and traction/DAU’s to assist their guts findings previously is a unique story, however once more, that’s the exception, not the rule

And I discover with exec stage, pure bullet factors of findings are key. Give all of them the dates, however they need the outcomes, not the context of it. That’s purely private expertise, however helps promote the concepts higher I discover.

Each startup workplace wants a poster giving a 10-second explainer on affirmation bias and methods to keep away from it.

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