Despite all the political, social and ecological upheavals in 2019, it’s been a busy and successful year for Mind the Product, not to mention the evolving product management community we aim to support. Here’s a look at some of our highlights and learnings of the past 12 months.
For starters, we’ve loved catching up with members of the product community throughout the year, especially through our ProductTanks all over the world. We have enjoyed learning from all of the incredible ProductTank talks and are so excited that the community itself is so strong. This year, it hit 175,000 members and saw 60,000 attendees across 700 events in 195 cities!
Hitting New Locations
We debuted not one but two new conferences – MTP Engage Manchester and #mtpcon Singapore. Both of these exciting launches came in response to growing demand and got off to flying starts. We learned so much at each event and can’t wait to do it all again in 2020.
Our Singapore conference was also the catalyst for another new initiative this year, #mtpontour. That’s right, Mind the Product officially went on tour for the first time in 2019, with some of the team travelling to AsiaPac in the latter months of the year to learn more about product practice in the region.
Of course, we’ve been travelling to and through the AsiaPac region regularly over the past few years and have always been astonished by how big the market opportunity is – and how quickly the product community is growing and maturing to meet that opportunity. There are some true world-beaters coming out of Asia that we can all learn from and we’re excited to help them tell their stories.
— James Mayes (@James_Mayes) October 12, 2019
As our CEO James Mayes comments: “The sheer variance in product challenges and levels of product manager maturity across ASEAN is one of the things that makes the region so interesting and vibrant. There was also a huge passion and appetite for learning present in every conversation I had. I returned to London with the distinct feeling that, in many aspects, the region will accelerate through some of the challenges it currently faces, and at a pace which surprises many in Europe and the US.”
2019 also saw the launch of Mind the Product’s weekly Wednesday podcast, The Product Experience. Listening figures are going up and up every week, and to date the most downloaded podcast has been the chat we had with Melissa Perri. It’s a wide-ranging conversation, encompassing how you can focus on the right thing, how to move up the ladder in your product career, why good people fail, as well as other insights and helpful observations you might expect from someone who’s often been called the product manager’s product manager.
Episode 35 with Ryan Singer from Basecamp was also hugely popular. It included the opportunity to download Ryan’s free e-book, Shape Up – Stop Running In Circles and Ship Work That Matters. It’s a conversation in which Ryan shares the Basecamp approach – one that challenges most of the orthodoxy around Agile as a framework, but retains all of the spirit of agile as a philosophy. Another much-downloaded podcast episode is the conversation with Gabrielle Bufrem (who also gave a great talk at our new MTP Engage Manchester conference) where she talks about prioritisation frameworks, scalable product strategies, and how to say no.
And let’s not forget that we hosted our second annual World Product Day in May – a day when 90 product events took place across the globe and thousands of celebratory messages exploded across Twitter in a single 24-hour period.
— SafeBoda (@SafeBoda) May 15, 2019
Talks you Loved
Our most popular articles and videos over the last 12 months are, as ever, a mix of the practical and philosophical, and they provide a good guide to the state of current debate and thinking about product management. A look through the most-watched conference videos of the year shows that we definitely now all understand and appreciate how difficult it is to make successful products.
It’s pleasing to see that the year’s most-watched #mtpcon talk Lean, Agile and Design Thinking by Jeff Gothelf, was delivered from the stage of our new Singapore conference. In this talk, Jeff goes through the basics of the three main frameworks – Agile, Lean and Design Thinking – and offers a set of principles that can help product managers meld them together.
On a similar theme, Marty Cagan’s ProductTank London talk was much viewed – it also looks at how we use Lean and Agile techniques, and at the difficulties of producing products in the internet age. Patrick Roelofs’ talk from MTP Engage Hamburg was another highly viewed post: in it Patrick looks at what it takes to be a successful product manager, and stresses how important it is that we think about how we look after ourselves and our relationships in order to be successful.
Articles you Couldn’t Get Enough of
If building products is hard, then maybe getting their positioning right is harder, and Vikash Koushik Sreenivasan’s article on product positioning was a much-read blog post this year. As Vikash says, brands need to stand out clearly and connect with their audience to be successful, and this requires companies to go beyond just stating features and benefits. He says: “Focusing on the market and its maturity will let you weave a story that stands out, focus on the customer, and differentiate yourself.”
Managing your roadmap is a perennial topic for us at Mind the Product, and Janna Bastow’s post this year on ditching your product roadmap timeline was hugely popular. Janna wrote the post after her tweet that “timeline roadmaps set up product teams to fail” went viral, and it serves as a FAQ for anyone trying to move away from a timeline roadmap.
Kate Hopkins’ article on How to Spot a Partial Product Manager was our most-read blog post this year. We’ve all met a partial product manager, says Kate, perhaps we’ve even been one. These partial product managers are all people who have allowed themselves to be sucked too far into one aspect of a product manager’s role, and who need to take a step back and re-centre themselves.
Digital transformation has been THE business buzzword of the past few years, so Martin Eriksson’s much-read post on Why Digital Transformation Requires Product Management clearly resonated with many of you. Martin pinpoints the problem with many digital transformation programmes when he says that “most organisations going through a digital transformation think of it as a transformation project, rather than an ongoing cultural change”.
Solving the problem starts with tackling how digital transformation is funded and organised, he says. “Instead of investing in a project, invest in cross-functional teams with a broad remit to reimagine what your business can be in a new digital context. Staff that team with in-house experts from across the business and back them up with new hires who can bring new skills and different contexts to the table,” says Martin. Sounds like a product team…
News to Your Inbox
Finally, a quick nod to your reactions to our Prioritised newsletter, which each week rounds up the best articles from around the web on product management, design, and development. The top 2019 read from our newsletter was Claire Donald’s account of how online print and design company Moo implemented and adapted the Spotify organisational model.
Over the last couple of years, the conversation has shifted and we’ve definitely taken steps forward. Judging by what product people most want to read, we’ve moved beyond obsessing about which framework to use to talking about product outcomes. We’re therefore more focused on ensuring that the organisation, its people and culture, both around a product and across a business, are set up as they should be to understand the customer and deliver those outcomes.
Here’s to Next Year
As ever we’re grateful that so many of you turn to Mind the Product for guidance and allow us to sustain our position as the foremost community and authority for product people. Please keep on contributing your own lessons learned through guest posting, engaging with our Slack community, or attending and speaking at our ProductTank meetups all over the world.