Sprig hosted its first-ever Modern Product Leaders Summit in San Francisco, bringing together leading product voices to discuss building and scaling successful products in today's macro landscape. The intimate half-day event included product leaders from top companies like Loom and Figma, sharing their thoughts on the latest trends and best practices in product development, including agile methodologies, user-centered design, and data-driven decision-making. There were four separate content sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of modern product development, and we’d like to share some of the key takeaways and learnings from these experienced leaders with the PM community!
We hosted this event because we heard from the broader product community that there are great events and content for entry-level product managers, engineers, and designers, but there's a void in the community for events for senior product leaders. Many of our customers came to us asking for a forum to network and meet other product leaders. They wanted to share ideas about what's working across their teams and products and candidly discuss what isn't. If you couldn’t join us live, we hope these clips give you some inspiration to apply to your own teams.
*In some cases, these quotes have been summarized:
Anique Drumright, COO at Loom, spoke about Loom's user-obsessed product development process, giving attendees a behind-the-scenes look at how they prioritize user insights and use it to inform product decisions.
Empowering product teams to leverage user insights
“I think the first step to enable product teams to incorporate user insights in product development is to have a couple ongoing surveys. For Loom, we ask users ‘What was the quality of your viewing experience?’ or ‘What was the quality of your recording experience?’. The other ongoing survey to launch is an NPS survey, as it enables you to track progress.
“The second step is to really encourage your product managers to celebrate it and lean into it, versus making it perfect. Do you have a question about a potential feature? Don't wait until the user research team has the perfect study come along. Just go see if your gut is right. Get that survey out, get the data going, and don't be afraid of it.
Prioritizing the right features on your roadmap
“When there's a problem that's identified qualitatively, we then try to match it up as much as possible with our data. When you look at just from a data perspective, you can determine if this is a big enough opportunity. And when those two things overlap, we will generally almost immediately prioritize it.
“If it's more on the opportunity side, then it goes into the regular product prioritization. So you look at the impact on user feedback with the behavioral data to see that it is more widespread than just one person in order to prioritize.”
The value of async product collaboration
“Very rarely do we have a live product stand-up in synchronous time with 12 people. There are a few reasons. First, it means that everyone needs to be in the same time zone, and a lot of those meetings could be five minutes, but they end up taking 30. That's pretty exhausting.
“Since joining Loom, I’ve also learned that not everyone can access information live, and that's actually a really big problem. I think about product design or data reviews, where you often see something too fast. If you would actually slow down and allow your team to take you through the entirety of their work, you all would have understood it way better. That’s exceptionally valuable, as it makes the business more accessible to your team and gives them the time to develop a richer perspective.”
Watch Anique's full interview with Sprig's Founder and CEO, Ryan Glasgow.
Neil Rahilly and Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia
Neil Rahilly, VP of Product, Design, Support, and CS at Mixpanel, and Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, CEO at Product School, gave a talk on the modern product tech stack. They discussed the importance of having the right tools and technologies in place to support modern product development and shared insights on the tools they find most useful.
Modern stack fueling product success
Carlos named a few tools as part of his team’s stack: Segment, Snowflake, Figma, Webflow, Contentful.
“Long gone are the days where we would use a PowerPoint or a spreadsheet to create our roadmaps. There are now more sophisticated options out there for pretty much every single use case from road mapping, analytics, research, AB testing, CDPs, business intelligence, you name it. Those tools are empowering a new generation of creators to be self-sufficient – so many options you can leverage without a single line of code required.” - Carlos
Neil named the following tools as part of his team’s stack: Loom, Gong, Bitquery, Fivetran, Figma.
“You have the ultimate tool with Figma - you can design stuff and visualize what the future should be. With Figma’s emergence, design ideas became links, and we could easily circulate them throughout the company and that really sped up our ability to influence our design vision and socialize new ideas.”
“One of my favorite tools is Loom. Internal communication is better with looms. I get so much more context and nuance with a quick loom and it’s much more engaging than just text. I love products like Loom that do one thing really well.”
“I’ve gotten a ton of value out of Gong. Anything that can bring the customer closer is valuable.” - Neil
Interested in more takes on what other tools fit into the Modern Product Tech Stack? Here’s a round up of the best tools to enable swift, efficient integrations, seamless management of flows and feedback, and actionable use of insights.
Product org influence is growing
“The worst case is building something that nobody wants and squandering that time; product plays this really critical role in listening to the market and integrating the whole business strategy, and ultimately allocating those engineering and design resources as efficiently as possible.” -Neil
"That is insane considering not long ago the highest ranked product person either reported to Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Technology Officer, so having a seat at the table is also trickling down important decisions -- like hiring design or engineering as part of Product, and not the other way around.” -Carlos
“I remember someone from Gartner saying, ‘Look, the basic shift of our time is from the age of the brand to the age of the product.’ And the reason is because people are just so much more informed - there are so many more channels to find information about new competitors, players, smaller companies out there and it forces the product to really speak for itself. It's still true that you have to have excellent marketing, and sales to support your product but now the product is more and more a direct driver of your growth.” -Neil
Get buy-in through demonstration and visualization of ideas
“I remember the design team asking, ‘How do we get a seat at the table? How do we get influence in this company?’ And my response was, ‘Well, you should lead with designing; similar to how Engineering leads by coding things and prototyping ideas, that's how you can ultimately show your ideas and persuade people.’” - Neil
Watch Neil and Carlos' full interview with Kristina Chen, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
John Cutler, Product Advocate at Toast, gave a talk on his learnings from his last fifteen years of building products and partnering with stakeholders and his lessons learned along the way.
Find time to talk to customers
“Everybody knows you should be talking to customers, but…somehow it doesn't happen at most thousand person companies.
“There are two causes of this, you have strategy and structure. And if those two things are aligned, teams can move quickly. If you don't have a strategy, well it's just lights out. But assume that you have a strategy. Often the structure of the company is out of alignment with a strategy and you can't really move all that quickly. You need a lot of human load balancers, like program managers to get anything done. Ultimately to prevent this ‘I don't have time to talk to customers’ narrative, you have to be fearless in terms of reorging around your strategy, making reorganization an okay thing to do with the company.
Have a strategy for roadmap prioritization & funding
“If product doesn't come up with a governance model, you will be handed a governance model. If you can't come up with an economic model that demonstrates why building the $4 million feature is not worth your time, you're going to end up building the $4 million feature and you're going to create a lot of debt and your product's going to slow down. You have to be in lockstep with finance so that you can enable your product managers to do the best job they can.
“Product-oriented work is funded, like a startup is funded. It's funded by funding a value stream that will continue to put money into it as long as we're making money out of it. It's literally a startup funding model with pivots and perceived points along the way. And you will get more money if you get to this spot.
“We don't want to optimize for project-oriented work, because it is not very valuable work for us. It's very one-off and a lot of dependencies.”
Strategy Has to be Top Down
“I was thinking the other day that there are only a couple of things that need to be top-down in a company and strategy is one of them. But companies tend to think that so much needs to be top-down. I think that top-down is mischaracterized, but I think that top-down in many cases can be the four or five key decisions that need to be made.”
Watch John's full interview with Brett Berson, partner at First Round Capital.
Yuhki Yamashita, CPO at Figma, spoke about insight-informed product development in a time when you can't afford to make a miss rather than a hit. He discussed the challenges of building products in a constantly-changing environment and shared insights on how Figma uses data to inform its product decisions.
Metrics can’t replace user feedback
Yukhi Yamashita discussing Product @ Uber:
“Ratings were really important because at the end of the day, we don't have that many signals as to how good that driver/rider experience really was, right? We would always debate metrics like ‘What made a good pickup?’ We came up with crazy metrics like ‘How often did the driver need to call the rider?’ ‘What is the distance between the pin and where the driver actually picked up the rider?’ At the end of the day, there are just so many circumstances around why? And oftentimes, even though the metric says it looked like a bad pick-up, it was actually a good one. For example, we learned in India that it’s actually convention for drivers to call the rider ahead of time so the rider would come down. Those interactions, even at scale, you can’t really understand unless you get the human input. And that's why both the rider and driver rating each other is really important.
“And it allowed us to do a lot of interesting things, too. For instance, certain drivers might say that, in the evenings, they would prefer to only get riders with a certain rating or above for their own safety.
Balance your feedback sources
“When I joined (Figma) the first hire I made was our head of research and a lot of that was motivated by this idea and this observation that, it's great that we have this amazing connection with our community, but we really need to look at all the different channels and proactively talk to the people not saying anything on Twitter.
“We also started to build out a data science function. That brought a little bit more balance and encouraged a lot of interesting debate when what we're seeing on Twitter is different from what we’re seeing from the metrics or from our research. And that was a great opportunity to strengthen the team and make both channels of input more valuable.”
Innovate efficiently through testing & prototyping in tough times
“We were just asking ourselves - what’s our third product that we work on after Figma Design and FigJam? We just met about this and there was the classic last slide where we're like, ‘We need X more engineers to go build this thing.’ And we’re kind of looking around the room, ‘Where are these X engineers?’”
“Then it was great because Dylan (Figma CEO) turned around and said, ‘Hey, why don’t one or two engineers start to work on prototyping a few ideas and get it to a point where everyone internally loves it. And then, at that point, let's talk about scaling it.’”
“And so that was an important moment of exercising restraint where we just don't assume it's a good idea even though it looks good in a deck. We’re embracing this culture of prototyping and testing and putting concepts in front of ourselves and users more because we're all working with fewer resources to some extent.”
Watch the full interview with Dan Levine, partner at Accel.
Are you attending any conferences or events this year? Check out our round-up of the best events in product for 2023, and maybe we will connect in person there.