How product managers can get market-driven data to make product decisions quickly
This episode is sponsored by PDMA, the Product Development and Management Association. PDMA is a global community of professional members whose skills, expertise and experience power the most recognized and respected innovative companies in the world. PDMA is also the longest-running professional association for product managers, leaders, and innovators, having started in 1976. I have enjoyed being a member of PDMA for more than a decade, finding their resources and network very valuable. Learn more about them at PDMA.org.
PDMA invited me to their conference, which was in Orlando, Florida, to interview some of their speakers. This speaker spoke on the Three ways to escape gut-feeling and boost innovation rapidly to markets. The topic is about techniques to increase the innovation success rate. For example, by applying Lean innovation, you can speed up development by up to 60% and increase profitability by 31%.
Ulrike Laubner-Kelleher is a sought-after mentor, educator, and presenter on the topics of product management, innovation and teams efficiency. She helps product teams get ahead of their competitors by finding innovations quickly and developing and launching complex hardware and software products on time.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:04] You shared a method during your talk called CuCoCo for getting market-driven data to make product decisions quickly. Can you walk us through the method?
CuCoCo is an abbreviation for Customer, Context, and Company. It’s a method for market-driven analysis. In many companies, data to make market-driven decisions is missing for several reasons—people don’t have time, they don’t know how to do it correctly, or nobody tells them what to do. CuCoCo is a method to empower product managers to find the right data.
First, we need to talk to the customer. We should have innovation that fulfills a purpose for the customer. The customer tells us about their problems, and it’s our job to find the right solutions. We need the right questions to ask customers. The product manager needs to get the answers that are used for setting up the product strategy and for marketing and development, so we have clarity.
Start with the customer and find out what the problem is. The questions we equip product managers with help them find clarity on the buyer persona (used for marketing) and the user persona (used for development). The more interviews you do, you see the priority of problems and requirements. You also get information to help with promotion, pricing, sales, and marketing.
[6:53] What are some of your favorite questions to ask customers?
My favorite question to start with is “What does your typical day look like?” This serves as a bridge to make the customer start talking because they know their day very well. They say what is good and what is not very good about their day, and then you dive deeper and follow with other questions.
[7:43] Tell us about Context.
The context surrounds the company and products. First, what is the competition doing? Where are they positioning their product? What marketing and sales are they doing? Where are they selling it? What are they not doing? The things they’re not doing make good entry points for us. For instance, if there is a market segment they are not serving, we can grow our company in that direction.
The next part of context analysis is a PESTLE analysis, which looks at external factors—political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental—that is, all the trends impacting the business environment. There are so many new laws and environmental factors impacting our businesses that weren’t there 50 years ago. If recycling is important to customers or there’s a new law coming up, and we forgot about those things, we’re going to need to make a lot of changes. Those changes are very expensive and take your development people away because they don’t want to amend the product, work on it again, test it again, and launch it again. Then you won’t have the resources to work on the next product, so it’s very important to look at PESTLE factors upfront.
As a product manager, know what your company is doing. Half of the product managers in my masterclasses say they don’t have clarity on the strategy of the company. They’re very frustrated because they put in a lot of work and present their concept, but if it doesn’t follow the direction of the company’s strategy, they can’t execute it. It’s better to understand the company’s vision, strategy, and competence upfront and align those with the product strategy.
Many product managers spend too much time firefighting and being distracted from spending time with customers. Say no to many things that distract you from focusing on customer interviews.
[20:11] Can you give us an example of how Lean innovation practices can improve success by reducing waste?
One of the biggest problems in product management is the waste of neglecting talents. A lot of teams struggle with their roles and tasks. They spend a lot of time discussing decisions and waste time with meetings, emails, discussion, and frustration before they make the decision. The team is empowered by knowing their roles, tasks, and responsibilities.
Each role should have the best person for that role—someone motivated and skilled who would like to do the work. We’ve seen if you have the right person in the right place, you are nine times faster.
We try to figure out how we can improve the work without a huge investment in technology. We find the best template and tools that we can use to facilitate the work and speed it up. If we facilitate product management with new templates and tools and give information to development, marketing, sales, and customer service so they have compound information, they can all work more efficiently. So many times I’ve seen people say, “Thank you, for the first time I really got all the information I need.”
[25:37] You also talked about the secret behind Tesla’s speed and profit—the Four-P Pyramid. Can you take us through that?
Elon Musk is a great innovator, and I was analyzing what makes a good innovator. Tesla is a newcomer in car manufacturing, but they’re leaving everyone else behind since they’re so much quicker. One of Elon Musk’s principles is to be very fast in innovation. He innovates the product and the service. He’s the first CEO I’ve seen who talks about the whole product—not just the car but also everything around it. The profit on Teslas is 4.5 times that of any other electric car manufacturer. As I was looking into this, I found that successful innovators use the Four-P Pyramid—they care about the product, people, and process and make a profit.
Tesla cares about a product that solves a problem in the market. They would like to have a solution that helps the customer and the environment. Tesla makes the next feature as quickly as possible and uses a lot of feedback to make small changes they can launch quickly.
The second part of the pyramid is about the people. Elon Musk says he needs motivated, skilled people who can change throughout the product. He needs Agile teams that have knowledge. People don’t have to ask all the time, “Am I allowed to do that?” Musk needs a team that makes decisions independently.
Third is process. Tesla has slick, automated processes. They get rid of waste that does not add any value by automating tasks like copying, pasting, and searching.
If you care about the product, people, and process, then you have a profit.
Elon Musk says innovation is a risk and you have to allow mistakes. If you punish your people for taking risks, they will not do it again.
Action Guide: Put the information Ulrike shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Visit Ulrike’s website, RedStringMethods.com
- Connect with Ulrike on LinkedIn
- Learn more about Pro Produkt Management software
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.