ProductTank Nairobi Recap: User-Centered Research & Design for Product People.

The meetup for product people, by product people

The design process at Alpha explained

If you ever wanted to learn about the role of user research in product development, this inaugural ProductTank meetup was specifically tailored for you. It was our first of what will become a monthly meetup of product people in Nairobi.

Date - 4th September 2018
Location - Ki.chen, Senteu Plaza Galana Road, Kilimani
What is ProductTank?
ProductTank was founded in 2010 in London and today spans over 150 cities with over 100,000 members. It is an informal meetup that brings together the local product community in each of those cities — whether they’re Product Managers, Designers, or Developers — to share their experience and knowledge. ProductTanks are always free to attend, organized by volunteers from the local product community, and supported by our generous sponsors.

For more information about starting a local chapter in your city, visit the ProductTank website here.

About ProductTank Nairobi

Founded Aug 4, 2014, the community has been around for over four years but was not active. This meetup was the first of the many to come. The community has a membership of 277 members (on the date of this article). Our goal is to grow a community for people working in products where they are all free to share stories on their product development journeys and compare notes on how it is like to build products, processes they use and team structuring.

Meetup 1

The meetup was titled User-Centred Research & Design for Product People.

About the speaker
Dr. Kagonya explains the role of PM in product teams

Dr.Kagonya leads Human Experience & Design at Safaricom Alpha

Alpha is Safaricom’s innovation team. They build global-focused, human-centered, 
delightful products for their customers.

Before that, she worked at Mobiotrics, Microsoft Research, and iHub. In her work, she applies User-Centered Research and Design methodologies to build innovative technology solutions.

She holds a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from the University of Melbourne and Dual Masters from Carnegie Mellon University, USA and University of Madeira, Portugal.

Topic - User-Centred Research & Design for Product People.

The topic was on demystifying the role of UX (User Experience) in product development.Dr. Kagonya delivered a talk that made us understand, what human-centered design is, and how this plays a role in product teams. She shared her learnings from Safaricom Alpha on how User Experience and Product Management work together.

I personally loved that the speaker used her role in different real-life projects to show how UX was part of the product development process. Her concentration spanned digital platforms to physical products. This was a clear way of how UX is part of our everyday life.

Key takeaways

Some of the key highlights from the talk are:

What is HxD (Human Experience Design)?

This covered the role of UX not just for digital product users but as a full human experience. HxD expands the UX role beyond digital products to the physical products and industrial design. Basically a full view of the experience of everyday things.

Skills in HxD

Dr. Kagonya talked about the different skills that are required in HxD teams and where each of them applies. The scope is wide. Beyond the normal UX researchers and designers, she uncovered different other skills that a UXer can build upon. The information shared here served to guide different members of the skills needed for the future in product teams on the UX side.

HxD Functions

In the HxD functions, the speaker defined the role of HxD in product development. The different areas that the UX team is involved in and how they work closely together with product managers to make sure they develop products that customers love. The focus here was on involving the user in every part of the product development lifecycle.

Role of Product Managers in Product Development

If you are a product manager, you might have faced difficulties explaining to people outside your field what product management is all about. Chances are you have at least gotten mixed up with the project management role.
Here she defined what product management is, how to become a product manager and what the role entails. Dr. Kagonya clearly defined the different ways people land to the PM role, what PMs do and how to get better at being a PM.

Agile Product Management Methodologies

This covered the agile process in product development but with a small twist. Whether your team is practicing Scrum or Kanban, the advice was to have the process work for the team at hand, hence the twist rather than sticking strictly to what the process is defined to be.
The main takeaway was how to borrow concepts from these methodologies and fit them to your team. If a process does not work, feel free to switch it up. Focusing more on the output rather than being stuck on the processes.

How to better work together in product teams

Product teams are big on collaborative work hence the need on how to best work together. Dr. Kagonya covered different ways you can have this work for your team. From having clear communication (more of a need to over communicate) to not making assumptions whatsoever.

User-centered Design Process

The final and most anticipated part of the presentation covered the User-Centered Design Process that the Safaricom Alpha team applies to build their products. From being huge on user research to testing with users before launch and continuous iteration.

Q&A - A conversation
Attendants share their product journeys

We had members ask and share insights on their product journeys. The meetup came to an end after an interesting design talk(more like a debate)on the hamburger button.

In attendance

We had roughly 40 people in attendance and a wide representation of people in products. Some of the people in attendance were:

  • Software Engineers
  • Product Owners
  • Product Managers
  • Product Marketers
  • Designers
  • UX Specialist
  • Engineering Managers

Several local companies were represented in the event. This is a good way for people to compare notes and share tips on processes they are using for different steps in their product development journeys. Some of the companies represented are listed below. Check them out to learn about the awesome products different companies are building in this space.

Elimu — An EdTech startup.ELimu helps primary school students in Kenya learn — It engages children in the learning process by incorporating the element of play.
Paygo — PayGo Energy is a distribution service that harnesses the power of pay-as-you-go-technology
Lynk Kenya — Lynk is transforming Africa’s informal labor sector by providing a technology platform that connects workers to clients.
Utu Design — Utu helps leaders design businesses that succeed on the edge of change
iHub Software Consulting- iHub Software Consulting designs and builds software solutions for startups, corporates, and NGOs
BRCK — BRCK connects frontier markets to the internet.
Mookh — MOOKH is a social-ecommerce platform that allows sellers to quickly and easily set up online stores with installed payment integration.
mSurvey — mSurvey is a mobile survey platform that drives decision-making for businesses across the continent of Africa and the Caribbean.
Koko Networks — KOKO provides a platform for smart commerce in urban Africa. They connect suppliers, retailers, and customers, enabling delivery of a range of consumer and business solutions.
OKhi — OkHi is building the next generation address system for Kenya and beyond.
Tunapanda — Tunapanda Institute spreads digital era vocational education with partners in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. — Gravity leverages blockchain technology to allow anyone to manage and share a secure, self-sovereign digital ID with a proportional trust score based on certified personal data.

Our first meetup was a huge success! Thanks to over 40 participants who joined us, out amazing speaker Dr. Kagonya and the kind people from Ki.chen for providing us a space to host the event.

Want to get more involved with ProductTank Nairobi? Join us here:
Feedback - We love feedback

Help make our next event better by providing your feedback here. Let us know about your experience in this past event and how we can make the future meetups better. Don’t forget to tell us what topics you would like us to cover.

Feel free to share and tag us on interesting product reads and videos that you would like the community to know of or even interesting opportunities that you come across.

To attend the next meetup, join our meetup page to be notified when we have the next event. Our tentative date will be the 4th of every month (if a weekday).