In the world of product, the part of the process that often gets lost happens to be one of the most important, Kara Chiles, Gannett’s vice president of consumer products, told attendees at the recent Methodologies to Launch and Innovate Products Master Class.
“The last part of our role is often the hard part, which is communicating what we delivered and why it’s important,” she said.
One essential question that must be addressed is why teams and individuals should care about the information that’s being shared.
“For the person that we are communicating to, it’s really important for them to understand that that time that we are asking from them — be it to sit in a meeting or to read an e-mail or a report — is because we have something important to convey on their terms,” she said. “We have to make sure it translates into their business needs or criteria for them to really start to be invested in what we’re telling them. We only win when we can show how it adds value or is detracting value from how it’s supporting the overall business.”
That is why, before communicating with teams, it’s important to think about who the message is for, why they should care, and what points need to be delivered to make them care. Every message must be delivered with purpose; otherwise, it can easily get lost in the noise. She said there are other virtues that must be communicated as well, such as setting context, prioritisation, forecasting, and creating culture.
“That last one is really important,” she said. “This is a way that you are showing the voice of your organisation. It is how you are conveying what matters is equally as important that you are doing it at all.”
The Straits Times
V’ming Chew, lead product manager at Singapore Press Holdings, and his team recently worked with The Straits Times (ST) to gamify the company’s reading experience. During his presentation, he led INMA members through five experiments and then shared lessons learned across them all.
In this process, Chew learned the importance of stakeholders. One of his key stakeholders is the editorial team, with others being ad and subscriptions sales, marketing, customer service, and management. He emphasised the importance of effectively managing those stakeholders and getting their support through clear, consistent communication.
“Engaging key decision stakeholders one-on-one really helps make sure they understand certain complex concepts before a large meeting, because you don’t want to explain specific concepts while you lose the rest of the room,” Chew said.
He advised to always remind stakeholders of why you are doing this before explaining what you are doing. Pitch data at the right level and be empathetic — know what drives your stakeholders.
“Rather than a whole wall of text, visuals are worth a thousand words,” Chew said. “And finally, make sure you document everything. Some projects can stretch over a few quarters. There is a high likelihood to forget things. Remind people why you are doing what you’re doing.”
At the foundation of roadmap creation is clear communication, Jason Jedlinski, general manager at The Hill and former digital media leader at Gannett and The Wall Street Journal, said.
Building a business roadmap that addresses customer needs while also achieving stakeholder goals is a challenge within businesses, but it is possible to get these two groups on the same page, Jedlinski: “Yes, you can please both. It is possible to have users be happy and customer centered, and have stakeholders feel like they’re getting what they need to achieve their business goals.”
Getting a clear vision of business goals after understanding the customer needs is a crucial part of the roadmap foundation. Jedlinski shared his team's four main business goals, also mentioning it takes time to get clear and concise goals such as the ones he presented.
“Many of you know it doesn’t start this clean. This is an exercise about getting the business down to some very succinct and clear objectives and goals,” he said. “This is the outcome of ‘Tom, Jane, Sally, John’ ... all of you are trying to do ‘xyz’ in your business, but that ultimately means we’re trying to expand ad inventory, etc.”
Many experiments can be run within a company, and teams want to consistently run them. Quarterly roadmaps can help companies go from hundreds of ideas to actually experimenting, testing, and then implementing the successful ideas, Katie Bloor, product director of experimentation at Dow Jones, said.
“We make sure we are really aligned on the quarterly objectives for the teams that we’re working with,” she said. “We don’t want to be running experiments that don’t really tie into the objectives or KPI of the business or the team.”
Thinking about next quarter is helpful for the experimentation roadmap. Being prepared for future quarterly projects allows experimentation projects to run smoothly and effectively: “If you’ve got a redesign project coming up, experimentation is a really good way to get insights for that redesign ahead of time.”
Defining and structuring monetisation strategies requires communication, Caitlin Clarke, global head of strategy and growth at Financial Times, said: “What’s key to successfully monetising a product is strong working relationships within whatever business structure you’re in.”
Clarke then shared some of her “ways of working” best practices, one of which focuses on the “why.” Before the launch phase, there must be a clear understanding of the “why” to properly align the team around opportunities.
Teams must have clear, transparent communication and expectations of the products, strategy, and visions to be successful, Clarke said: “As products develop, they get better and you can charge more for it and monetise it more successfully.”