Session cards at Product Camp London 2016

My Product Camp London 2016 Recap

Product Camp was the first product event I ever went to, many years ago, and it remains my favourite. A full day unconference, its a chance for Product Managers to get together and learn from each other.

The great thing about Product Camp is that there are so many sessions going on, everyone sees something different, but here’s my recap of the sessions I attended. Thanks to all of the speakers, and everyone who helped make the conference run without a hitch, it was a great day.

Product Roadmapping Tips by Roman Pichler - Roman Pichler

Roman Pichler has written to book on Strategy (literally, it’s out next month), and in this session it wasn’t hard to see why.

Roman talked about how your roadmap should focus on goals, not features (for example ‘Reduce Churn’). He’s a fan of dates on roadmaps, at least for internal people, and although he thought you should have one or two features for each goal, he sees the roadmap as a very different thing from your backlog. He spoke about how having a high level roadmap can help you with stakeholders who prefer that level of overview.

The goals themselves need to be validated before you put an item on the roadmap, after all, as he mentioned, unreliable roadmaps don’t help your credibility. From the roadmap you can create your backlog, and the two feed off each other.

One thing he posited that I hadn’t thought about before was how the stage of your product affects how often you need to update your roadmap, from once a month for a young product to once every 3–6 months for a mature product in a stable market.

Introduction to Data Science by Kevin Wong

Kevin works for the Data Science retreat in Berlin, a three month intensive course in Berlin for teaching data scientist, but this was happily a higher level introduction to Data Science for Product Managers. The techniques of Data Science, Kevin told us, are not new — what is new is the technology that allows us to store and process data much faster. This increase in speed has meant things have changed a lot, and opened up a world of possibilities for products. He spoke about some of his experiences making fashion less of a ‘bet’ by data analysis, and made it sound like a Data Scientist was someone you wanted on your side!

How to Not Fuck Up the Tech by Paul Lomax - Paul Lomax

Slides for How to avoid screwing up Technology by Paul Lomax

Paul’s talk was a hilarious romp through working with developers (or engineers as he likes to call them, so they know they don’t have to solve problems with code). It’s his idea that the thing wrong with technology is people, and 3 groups of people specifically, 1) Developers, 2) Customers/Stakeholders and 3) Product Managers for not controlling 1 and 2. There were a lot of gems here, but some of my favourites were:

  • Don’t buy any technology with the word ‘Enterprise’ in it, unless it’s a starship
  • Look at the UI and APIs of any product you’re looking to buy, if they’re a mess, then probably so is the back end of the product
  • Get involved in estimation, teams might be overengineering the problem
  • The Product Manager should have a role in deciding when to tackle technical debt, after all it should be about creating business value
  • Your job as a PM is to work out the part of the iceberg that is under the water

and finally

  • Ban ‘requirements’, have ‘discovery’ instead

How to Fix a Failing Product Team by Charlotte — @thenewcharlotte

Charlotte’s session was of a type that I love — real lessons from an actual experience. She walked us through her experience coming in to a team that was doing badly, and how she turned the situation around. She started by talking to each member of the team separately, and then bringing them together to realise that they actually wanted many of the same things. She managed (through a bit of tough love) to get the board to agree to a three month roadmap, and even managed to agree a buffer of two weeks for logo changes, so that the endless changes of the company brand slowed down. It wasn’t a story with a unequivocally happy ending — she cautioned us to keep selling ourselves and our products, as after delivering a great app in three months the whole team was canned due to cost cutting, but it sounded like a great achievement, with some key lessons to take away about improving team performance.

Data Viz in Your Product by C.Todd Lombardo - C Todd Lombardo

There was a room full of people working on data for this talk which started with some great looks at data in current products and how they could be improved, then looked at approaches to getting to great data visualisations, starting with the audience and what they wanted, and going on to knowing the data and context. I think there are some things we could all learn here, when we’re looking at presenting customers with any type of information.

Replacing User Stories With Job Stories by Prad

After a positive mention by a couple of people in the previous talk, I thought I’d go and see what all the buzz around job stories was about. Prad talked us through user stories, and how for universal products, the persona or user story can stop being helpful.

Job stories move away from defining a specific user, but instead look at the context a user is in and what they need at that specific time, using ’When_, I want _, So I can _’

Prad’s talk was a really interesting introduction, and I’m definitely going to be checking out the Jobs To Be Done framework to see how this can help me build better products in the future

Web Analytics by Imran Ghory — Imran Ghory

Imran engagingly talked us through the 5 generations of web analytics tools, from server analytics to images, through Javascript (tools like Google Analytics), event analytics (like Mixpanel) and finally onto the newest wave of analytics, tools like Snowplough and Segment, which take inputs from all kinds of data sources and allows you to work with them all. There are no pretty interfaces for the moment with these kind of tools, it sounds like there’s still some way to go, but they allow you to deal with all of your data, not just part of it.

Each stage of analytics has been a jump forward from the previous one, as we need to track new behaviours. With the current need to see what customers are doing cross channel, the need to have all your data in one place is growing. It’s interesting to hear about where we may be with analytics soon, and where we have come from.

Thanks to all the speakers for their inspiring talks and hope to see you all next year!