Daniella Patrick is an Innovation Lab Product Manager at Accenture, which is one of the largest global consulting firms in the world, with clients and partners like Microsoft, GE, HP, and IBM. Accenture now has over 400k people employed, and offices in over 200 cities across 55 countries. Daniella’s educational background is in mechanical engineering and mathematics, and her professional experience includes operations, engineering, and design roles at several startups. In her ProductTank NYC presentation, she discusses her team’s role at their company and how they go about identifying problems and developing solutions.
What are we Solving For?
At Accenture, Daniella is a part of a design team whose primary goal is to research, ideate, prototype, and test solutions to improve the experience of their candidates, employees, and alumni. They try to bring an “outside perspective” to Accenture and work at improving every stage of various employee related processes at Accenture, from candidacy, to regular employment, to leaving the company.
They want the entire experience of working at Accenture to be completely seamless. The company has a lot of separate teams focusing on their own individual goals, but Daniella’s team looks at the bigger picture and works to bring all of the teams together.
Daniella’s team is focused on innovative product development, but many people have trouble defining “innovation” because its subjective nature. “Innovation” means different things to different people. Daniella shares that “Innovation” for her team is “executing well on the right idea, be it new or recycled.” What she means by “right idea” is that the team has to look at their company priorities. For example, one of Accenture’s goals is to recruit and hire more women professionals. Accenture would like to eventually reach 50% women and 50% men, so solutions and ideas that could help meet that goal will get a higher priority over others, and could therefore be that “right idea.” Executing well simply means that they carry out their experiment in such a way that their company and employees benefit.
Daniella’s team operates with a process of ideating, prototyping, testing, and learning. Ideating involves doing external research to discover existing technological solutions that could benefit their employees. They also look for inspiration for solutions from day-to-day communication with other colleagues within the company. In Daniella’s team, prototyping means developing minimal experiments with products either internally or externally through collaboration with other companies. Testing means they select their population, define their success and failure, and carry out the experiment. Finally they learn by gathering results, getting feedback, and deciding how and where to move forward.
Pros and Cons of Being an Internal Team
Daniella explains that her team is unique in that they are entirely internal within Accenture’s company culture. One benefit of being an internal team is that often the team’s coworkers and even the team members themselves are the product users. This can be good because they have that familiarity, but it can also create challenges because it can create bias if they are not aware in given moments. Another benefit is that since they are internal, they have a very intimate knowledge of the business and how everything works.
A key reality that Daniella keeps in mind, is that any product idea they develop is never guaranteed to launch. It can be challenging to see a product that went through every stage of the process, and that you are passionate about, get scrubbed at the last minute because of a shift in company priorities. However, scenarios such as this is expected by Daniella’s design team. As a product team, pivoting due to a shift in priorities is something that she recommends we must be prepared for, because no organization, large or startup, is exempt from this reality.
As a Product Manager, Daniella’s first lesson she learned is to user test continuously. You need to understand the “why” and “how” behind people’s actions and tailor your experiences to match. The more opinions and results you have, the more accurate and effective your final solution will be. Daniella also says that small changes can make huge impacts. It can be easy and exciting to have expansive goals and expectations, but often times the smaller differences are what have the biggest impacts on your team and business. Finally, you need to ask the right questions. Who are your users? What are the right questions to ask them? When is the right time to ask them? How do you ask them? Daniella explains that this is more something of an art form that you will learn over time, and it will make a huge difference in your career.