I’ve just completed the setup, organisation and running of a customer user group for a large (~$1BN) software company. It’s been an interesting experience and as I had very positive feedback on the event from the client and customers I can safely say, “it went well”.
One aspect I was concerned about at the start was my position in the industry, as a recent ex customer of the company that was now paying me to run their user group. How do I retain the trust of the customers and the company? On the positive side I knew my previous positions and experiences allowed me to understand both sides of the customer-user interaction.
It got me thinking about the importance of the user group and the role of customer feedback for product managers in the software industry.
Customer feedback is an important part of product development and the customer feedback loop needs to be very direct when you are dealing in the B2B market (Beyond Mobile’s core business).
Getting this direct feedback can be difficult however and It doesn’t help that the role of the product manager is still not very well understood. One thing I have seen in customers is the marketing team might organise user forums and even set the agenda somewhat in isolation or with feedback from sales teams ensuring a bias towards the sales/marketing teams outcomes.
I started to do a bit of research and enjoyed reading Josh Elman’s article on what a product manager is and is not and also read many of the related articles below. I picked up these 3 simple bullets from that research.
A product manager MUST be responsible for the following;
- Setting a vision
- Getting stuff done
- Generating insights
The customer feedback loop could fall into 1 and 3 of the steps below. All in all, it’s pretty important to do this right. I’ve also written previously about the role of independent research groups in Getting killer product features you always wanted. The more scientific research can complement user groups .
So why? do a lot of product managers outsource the responsibility of user groups to marketing teams?
Put simply my conclusion is time (or lack thereof) . They are time consuming events when done properly. Often a product manager is too busy doing 2) from the list above and only does 1) and 3) when time permits.
Beyond Mobile is here to help and has developed a very simple but effective methodology which is outlined above. Ive now been involved in this at a few different organisation.
There is obviously more to it that 5 simple steps – so why not contact me to find out?
- Presentation: What is Product Management? (sachinrekhi.com)
- Be a Great Product Leader by Adam Nash
- Good product manager, bad product manager by Ben Horowitz
- What distinguishes the Top 1% of Product Managers from the Top 10%? by Ian McAllister
- How to hire a product manager By Ken Norton
- Shared Context in Product Development and the How of “Why” by Satya Patel
- The 3 Skillsets that Make Successful Product Managers by Kinton Kivetsu