Takeaways From Our Mobile Product Management Roadshows

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This year, we held our first annual Mobile Product Management Roadshow event series where we brought in expert panelists to talk shop, and invited PMs to network and share their experiences. We’ve found there aren’t enough community building events for mobile product managers, which is why we set out on a roadshow tour in five major cities across the U.S., including New York, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, and Chicago.

A huge thank you to all of our panelists for taking the time to share your knowledge and expertise with all of our attendees! And thank you to everyone who came out to learn, chat, and strengthen the PM community in your cities.

Panelists at Apptentive's Mobile Product Management Roadshow in Dallas

The panel at our Dallas Mobile Product Management Roadshow.

We learned a ton during each roadshow, but we walked away with a few key takeaways. Below are the top five things we learned during the five roadshows.

1. No matter the app, it all comes down to improving the lives of customers

Some apps focus on driving revenue, others focus on driving transactions, and others focus on driving engagement. During our Mobile Product Management Roadshows, we learned that no matter what metrics matter the most for apps, the main goal is always to make the customers’ lives better.

For example, McDonald’s makes their customers’ lives better by offering discounts and through mobile order and pay functionality. That’s much different than the approach BMO Harris takes, which is to make it easier for customers to manage their money by offering a check deposit feature and making it possible to withdraw cash from an ATM using the mobile app.

At Allstate, the focus is on hiding the complexity of the insurance claim process from customers in order to reduce customers’ stress. With Quick Auto Claim, customers can submit photos of an accident for claims processing without having an adjuster take a look at the damage.

In each case, the product managers thought about the pain points their customers’ experience and built features in the app that solve those issues. As you think about your customers’ journey, identify where you can reduce friction and create a mobile experience that does just that. Whether it is saving customers time, money, or stress in general, you’ll earn loyalty and customer love by making it your mission to make your customers’ lives better.

Attendees listening to the panel discussion at Apptentive's Mobile Product Management Roadshow in San Francisco

The panel at our San Francisco roadshow.

2. Waterfall is on its way out—Agile is on its way in

Most product managers we spoke to at our roadshows—including our panelists—have either transitioned to Agile already or are in the process of transitioning to Agile.

The reality is not all teams can become Agile because they’re not customer-facing. If they involve compliance or payment systems and claims processing, Agile may cause too much disruption to the ongoing business to make as frequent changes as you would like to see. However, many mobile product managers work within an Agile framework, even if their organization follow the Waterfall methodology.

For example, to reduce double the work, Brianna Elsass, Head of US Digital at BMO Harris, recommends you first write your stories in JIRA and put your stories as requirements. Trying to work within an Agile framework while having to follow a Waterfall methodology isn’t ideal, but for the best outcome, focus on efficiencies and communication. By doing so, you can help teams get to a more Agile environment without doubling the workload.

Group discussions at Apptentive's Mobile Product Management Roadshow

Group discussions at our roadshow in Boston.

3. Effective mobile product management requires continued learning

To continue your professional development, many of our panelists recommend collecting mentors—formal or informal. Ask them what they hate about an app or what they love about an app; you’ll be able to see how their brain works in detail. How can you spot a good mentor? The best mentors are obsessed with and have a lot of empathy for the customer. They aren’t necessarily the people who know exactly how Agile processes work, but the people who are obsessed with apps, good design, and understanding the customer.

Our panelists also recommend attending industry events, such as the Mobile Product Management Roadshows, to stay up-to-date on what your peers are up to. Twitter and industry publications are also a good way to stay in the know.

Aside from collecting mentors and following your peers, become obsessed with apps yourself. Download the most popular apps to figure out what, exactly, makes them so loved. Try going through the checkout process, or engaging with some other flagship feature to experience the world as a user to gain perspective on how you could improve your customer experience.

Mobile Product Management Roadshow Dallas

4. The “HIPPO Drive-by” can derail your progress, but only if you let it

Most product managers struggle with people who have strong opinions about the product who don’t own the product in any capacity. HIPPOs, otherwise known as the highest paid person in an organization, are usually well-intentioned, but oftentimes can be ill-informed.

So what is a HIPPO drive-by? It’s when a HIPPO stops by your desk, sends you an email, or calls you out of the blue and asks you to fix something immediately or build a new feature that hasn’t been proven out yet.

Our panelists’ advice on how to deal with HIPPOs focused on asking the right questions. Figure out their motivating factor by asking “Why do we need that?” Every now and then, HIPPOs will have a great idea. But when they don’t, be armed with data in order to push back objectively. Data helps you push back on people who are above you on the corporate food chain or who might have a louder voice than you do. HIPPOs don’t want to build something that isn’t supported by data either, so it’s a win-win line of defense.

Attendees networking at Apptentive's Mobile Product Management Roadshow in Chicago

Attendees chatting during our Chicago roadshow.

5. Feedback: Use it to figure out what’s valuable and what’s noise

App Store ratings or reviews often contain really important feedback, but we know that they tend to skew negatively. Human being are more likely to raise their hands when they’re really upset than when they’re happy. So how can product managers figure out what feedback to listen to and what is just noise?

There is a lot of software that can help you identify trends in your app store reviews, such as Apptentive, that saves product managers from having to do the manual work of sifting through reviews to find common themes. It’s important not to focus solely on negative reviews, but instead figure out who your power customers are and figure out how to better serve them.

Our panelists also pointed out that feedback unrelated to the product shouldn’t always be viewed as noise, but instead as an opportunity.

Cars.com, for example, receives a lot of reviews complaining that the car the customer bought was a lemon. Even though those reviews have nothing to do with the app, it sparked an idea for a certification program Cars.com could build. Keep your eyes open for how to solve problems that have nothing to do directly with the app.

App reviews can benefit the entire company, since they don’t always revolve around the app itself. Be sure to share the feedback with the appropriate teams to make sure your customers’ voices are heard.

Companies that switch to gathering customer feedback proactively are able to avoid receiving reviews that have nothing to do with their app. By giving customers a direct channel to voice their opinions, you’re showing customers you care about their experience and you’re also able to reduce the likelihood that negative feedback will make it to public channels.

Taco cart at Apptentive's Mobile Product Management Roadshow in NYC

The delcious taco truck at our roadshow in NYC.

Do you agree with what our panelists had to say? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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