ProductCampNYC 2011!

I’ve gone to ProductCampNYC for the past few years, and it’s always a great experience! This year was the first year that I submitted some ideas for speaking, and I was fortunate that folks were interested in HTML5 (or at least, as much as I am!). But my bigger takeaway this year was from the keynote speaker, Brian Fitzgerald of Knewton, and his very keen comments on a “Product Culture.” In short, I think of the culture as the thing that gets everyone pointed in the right direction, while his point about focus gets everyone moving quickly in that direction. I’ve seen situations where Product folks resist investing the time to contribute to the culture, and that’s a real shame. If anything, I believe that Product folks are responsible for motivating customers to engage with the product, as well as motivating the team to build, iterate, and innovate.

I especially liked two points of his that related to build/iterate/innovate, which were:

  • creating space vs. churning features, and
  • iterative process – customer feedback

The first, “creating space vs. churning features,” is so relevant to today’s software products that need to scale. Build a simple product first, then layer on convenience and complexity as needed. In contrast, so many organizations end up trying to build in everything, and end up with products like Microsoft Word where so much was invested in every detail, with only a fraction of its capabilities being used.

The second, “iterative process – customer feedback” is so important to maintaining great products. Ultimately, any product that gets launched will inevitably get feedback. Two lessons that I’ve learned the hard way: first, set yourself up to measure everything about your users. And second, always leave room to reinvent the product. It’ll never be perfect the first time around, and frankly, using a combination of KPIs/quantitative data as well as observations in the field will be a huge source of innovation. There’s no such thing as “build it right the first time;” it’s really more like “build it good enough the first time, and be prepared to change.”

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