42 episodes

Amazing digital experiences don't just happen. They are purposefully created by artists and engineers who strategically and creatively get to know the problem, configure a solution, and maneuver through the various dynamics, hurdles, and technicalities to make it a reality. Hosts Sean and Paul will discuss various elements that go into creating and managing software products, from building user personas to designing for trackable success. No topic is off-limits if it helps inspire and build an amazing digital experience for users – and a product people actually want.

Product Momentum Podcast ITX Corp

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Amazing digital experiences don't just happen. They are purposefully created by artists and engineers who strategically and creatively get to know the problem, configure a solution, and maneuver through the various dynamics, hurdles, and technicalities to make it a reality. Hosts Sean and Paul will discuss various elements that go into creating and managing software products, from building user personas to designing for trackable success. No topic is off-limits if it helps inspire and build an amazing digital experience for users – and a product people actually want.

    41 / No Such Thing As The ‘Perfect’ Product Manager

    41 / No Such Thing As The ‘Perfect’ Product Manager

    Alicia Dixon

    Apartment List

    41/ No Such Thing As The ‘Perfect’ Product Manager


    Not every product management role is the same. Each requires a different skill set balance, a different temperament, and a different approach to problem solving. Why is that? Because users are individuals. Unique individuals. And while we share basic needs, ranging from physiological to self-actualization, each of us draws satisfaction and delight in different ways and from different sources.

    Given all that, can there be such a thing as the perfect product leader – the superwoman or superman who knows everything there is to know about a product, technology, market, set of users, and the team who builds it? It seems the space too complicated for that to be possible, right?

    That’s precisely why, in this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul were so eager to speak with Alicia Dixon, senior product manager at Apartment List. Alicia brings a hands-on, no-nonsense approach to doing product.  And she speaks from a rich, wide-ranging experience. Alicia started in product as a technical designer in the fashion industry before bringing her perspective to software.

    Alicia comes from the “builder sense,” she says, “the wanting to make things, and getting a sense of joy out of seeing someone use or wear what I worked on.” No matter your industry, she adds, “You really have to put yourself in the shoes of [each unique user]. I took the same approach then as I’m doing in product now. You know, understanding the user, knowing what their problems are, and solving for those problems. There’s actually a continuity there.”

    Lean in for more of today’s pod to hear Alicia discuss how equity and inclusivity must be part of every product conversation. Catch her thoughts about whether product managers can remain relevant as the lines between specialties begin to blur. Her takes on these and other topics are seriously on point!

    [02:09] Product managers are high achievers and go-getters. It’s a common thread that connects us.

    [02:09] Job descriptions for products managers stink. Not every product management role is the same, and some roles need skills that others don’t.

    [03:58] Three steps to building better product teams. Be intentional about team needs. Take time to develop people. Target specific learning.

    [05:28]  Driving equity and inclusivity in the product space. If product people are to serve a diverse set of users, we must do more to reflect the composition of our markets.

    [06:56] Tangible benefits of addressing inequity. There’s definitely an economic side to addressing problems.  There’s a very real return on investment.

    [07:42] Portability of product skills. Making things, experiencing someone’s joy, connecting with users.

    [08:08] Empathy. My work is to understand the user, know their problems, and solving for those problems.

    [09:16] Diversity is empowering. Geography, socio-economic, experiences…all contribute to the perspectives we have and can bring to the table.

    [11:32] Are product managers still relevant? If we get to a place where all those specialties can talk to each other and everyone’s working toward a shared goal and not their individual KPI, product management could go away.

    [13:13] Flow. We’re living at the intersection of everything, and it’s very hard to stay in flow.

    [14:28] Leading big products vs. leading small products. The elements of your day-to-day are similar, but what changes is how much you roll up your sleeves to help out.

    [15:51] Ambition.

    • 27 min
    Special Edition / Delivery + UX = Client Value

    Special Edition / Delivery + UX = Client Value

    Nancy Neumann and Lisa Young

    ITX Corp.

    Special Edition / Delivery + UX = Client Value


    Strong leadership and eager collaboration serve as the hallmarks in the long list of contributions made by ITX veterans and Vice Presidents Nancy Neumann and Lisa Young, the company’s most recent additions to its Board of Directors.

    In this special edition of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome fellow ITX leaders Lisa and Nancy to better understand the secret to their decades of success.

    Individually, they are responsible for establishing, growing, and retaining ITX’s global Delivery and User Experience organizations, respectively. Together, they share in each other’s challenges and successes, building a collective product team that delivers client value and improves users’ lives.

    “We look for people who have the right core technical competencies,” Nancy says, “but we also want people who are a fit for the work we do and how we do it.”

    Nancy and Lisa believe in ‘hiring hard, managing easy.’

    “What’s really important,” Lisa adds, “is that we encourage the growth of our people, helping them to feel related to each other. So that’s the collaboration we have…and it stems from the leadership team’s capacity for caring. It’s what makes people very sticky to ITX.”

    Listen in to catch more leadership insights about hiring, mentoring for growth, and empowering teams toward autonomy.

    [02:36] Access to experts in every department is key to our ‘special sauce.’ We work with our teams to break down the silos that divide us, which makes us much more collaborative.

    [03:51] We’re a collective product team. When we need expertise outside the team, it’s easy to reach out because we’re not just one team of one particular specialty.

    [04:48] It’s all about the people. Teams of people working with people to build software products that improve people’s lives.

    [05:10] Hiring hard, managing easy. Candidates need to have the core technical competencies that every manager is looking for. But we look for the person that is a fit for the work we do – and how we do it.

    [05:40] Passion and curiosity. We need people who have a passion for technology and are curious around where it has been, where it is today, and where it is going. That’s what’s going to drive innovation in digital product design.

    [06:16] Context. Putting together all the threads that make up a user in a way that we’re able to walk in their shoes and build empathy so that we understand the experience we’re delivering to them.

    [07:49] Finding the right fit. Our culture is so important. New hires need to be a good fit for our culture and our values.

    [09:51] There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team.’ If we find great individual contributors that love shining on their own, that’s really not what we’re about.

    [11:53] Capacity for caring and management continuity. It makes people very ‘sticky’ to ITX.

    [12:48] ITX designers don’t ‘push pixels.’ We give our designers ownership of their work and turn them loose, empowering them to participate in our client’s work and in internal initiatives as well.

    [14:13] Relatedness, Competence, Autonomy. Self-Determination Theory personified.

    [16:37] Our job is to make people’s jobs easier. We have to get what we’re doing out into people’s hands to find out what’s working, what’s not working. And be prepared to respond to change really fast.

    [17:39] Heartfelt congratulations. We can’t think of two more qualified individuals to serve on ITX’s board of directors; and we’re excited to see how your fresh perspective helps ITX craft and realize its long-term vision.

    • 20 min
    40 / How A Well-Told Story ‘Weaves In Your Why’

    40 / How A Well-Told Story ‘Weaves In Your Why’

    Mark Cruth


    40 / How A Well-Told Story ‘Weaves In Your Why’


    The simple act of telling a story well helps the audience believe that the story is actually happening to them. Whether you’re pitching a product idea to a group of users or to your team, the well-told story resonates. It identifies the key players. It describes the conflict. And as the plot unfolds, it delivers the  narrative and dialogue that best describes their journeys. And at the story’s climax, it reveals how the conflict is resolved.

    In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul catch up with Mark Cruth, part-time storyteller and full-time Enterprise Solutions Architect at Atlassian. When product managers weave just the right narrative, Mark says, we help our teams connect the dots between themselves and the experience they’re creating for users. We help them understand who they are, who their users are, what their mission is, and how they add value to the organization’s larger ambitions. In other words, we Weave in their Why.

    Tune in to the pod as Mark weaves his own engaging narrative about the power of storytelling.

    [02:17] The difference between user stories and storytelling.

    [03:29] Knowing your persona(s).

    [03:55] Anti-patterns – e.g., does our product serve only one persona?

    [06:57] Storytelling is how we talk to people, how we sell them on our ideas.

    [07:53] Oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol.

    [10:25] Use the backlog to tell the story of your product’s evolution.

    [11:26] Value stream mapping the product backlog to describe your user’s journey as a narrative.

    [12:29] How the story plays out in product, we can build a better experience.

    [14:59] Integrate a team of teams to weave the story together.

    [17:06] Rapid prototyping to potential users.

    [18:21] Build advocacy by sharing the product story with users and the product team; both benefit by knowing what the next stage will be.

    [20:54] Communicating value. “Hey, we contribute to this part of the journey.”

    [21:45] Product Manager tip #1: Ask your teams to create their own canvas; talk about who they are, who their customers are, what their mission is, how they add value.

    [24:47] Product Manager tip #2. Ask yourself: When we implement this, what do we expect to happen? Make it a quantitative metric…and then measure it over time.

    [30:20] Connect the dots from the organization’s strategic level down to each individual user story.

    [31:36] What’s the why? Stories have a way of helping organizations discover their why and communicating it to their teams.

    [33:11] Innovation. Innovation is something that we do all the time. It’s allowing ourselves to let go of our preconceived notions and think differently. Thinking differently, that’s innovation.

    Mark’s Recommended Reading

    Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, by Chris Voss.

    Long Story Short, The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Margot Leitman.

    About Mark

    Mark Cruth is an Enterprise Solutions Architect with Atlassian, working with organizations around the world to improve the connection between the work being done and the goals being pursued with the help of Jira Align.

    An Agile advocate since 2009,

    • 40 min
    39 / Behavioral Science and Product Design

    39 / Behavioral Science and Product Design

    Nate Andorsky

    Creative Science

    39 / Behavioral Science and Product Design


    As product builders, we use data science and behavioral science to help us design software solutions that line up with our users’ initial intent. Data science helps us understand who’s likely to take some action. Behavioral science looks at the factors that drive us to take action in the first place. With so many inputs influencing our decision-making process, it’s hard to know where to start.

    In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Nate Andorsky, CEO of Creative Science and author of Decoding The Why. His many contributions to our space appear at the intersection of human behavior and the ways in which it can improve human outcomes.

    Nate recommends taking a behavior-first approach to solving product design challenges. “Zero in on the behavior you’re trying to change and work backward from there,” he says. “Oftentimes when we build products, we get into this habit of thinking solution first.”

    We collect all sorts of information about users from focus groups, surveys, and in-person interviews. Much of it lands in two big buckets: what people say and what people do. All that is great. But too often the say and the do don’t line up. So as product leaders we need to continue our discovery process to better understand the “Why?”

    Tune in to the pod as Nate shares insights around his concept of “say data, do data, and why data.” The why data explains the subconscious factors that are actually driving user behavior, the types of things your users aren’t even aware of themselves.

    Once you understand that, Nate adds, you have a foundation and a decision-making framework to create amazing products that make a positive impact in the lives of others.

    [02:28] Behavioral science vs. Data science. Behavioral science looks at what factors drive us to take action? Data science looks at who’s likely to do what.

    [03:06] The $64,000 Question. How do product builders get people to do that thing. That’s where behavioral science layers back in.

    [03:47] How to institute change in a product ecosystem. Zero in on the behavior that you’re trying to change and then work backward from there.

    [05:09] Say data. Do data. Why data. Decode the WHY to understand the subconscious behaviors that drive user behavior.

    [06:36] The 15-year delay. Academic research precedes implementation by about 15 years.

    [07:17] The need for sophisticated individuals. It takes a sophisticated individual to understand how to convert academic theory into product solutions.

    [09:16] Hyperbolic discounting and present bias. How we think about our products doesn’t always align with how our users feel in the moment.

    [13:39] The ethics of product design. Use your powers for good; that is, design product solutions in ways that line up with users’ initial intent.

    [16:06] How do product managers discover the delta between say-do data and extrapolate the why?

    [18:25] Top 2 behavioral economics heuristics. The identifiable victim/beneficiary effect and the power of storytelling.

    [20:24] Personalities and behaviors. Behavior might not be driven by one’s personality, but even more so by one’s environment.

    [21:34] Digital experiences as motivators and organizers of behavior. Hopefully, behaviors we want to see in the world.

    [22:35] The value of personas. They’re definitely informative. But they’re neither industry specific nor individual specific...

    • 31 min
    38 / How To Recapture Lost Innovation ROI

    38 / How To Recapture Lost Innovation ROI

    Mark Zawacki

    650 Labs

    38 / How To Recapture Lost Innovation ROI


    Investment in innovation will bring business energy, they say, and will enable new revenue growth. Investment in innovation will lead to more efficient business operation and will deepen your brand’s hold on existing clients while attracting more prospects. Investment in innovation will help level up your team’s skill set. 

    Innovation is powerful. Investment in it is a necessary condition for any growing, visionary organization. But investment in ITD (innovation, transformation, and digital) is a means to an end. Growth remains the objective. According to Mark Zawacki, it’s a difficult lesson many have learned the hard way. 

    In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Mark joins Sean and Paul to closely examine true impact of investment in innovation on organizations large and small. As Founder and CEO of 650 Labs, Mark is intimately aware of the challenges confronting today’s businesses. And the news is troubling.

    “We’re experiencing a real crisis in corporate innovation,” Mark says. “Tens of billions of dollars invested every year, and it doesn’t appear things are coming out the other side. We’re finding it difficult to see the relationship between investment in innovation and ROI.”

    Much of Mark’s analysis stems from his work with large multinational organizations, but he makes clear that the same issues scale to the business unit and team levels too. “When you unpack it, we see the same issues appearing in five key areas: Structural, Organizational, Methodology, Cultural/Political, and Advisorial.”

    Here’s a quick look at the root causes of what Mark refers to as poor ITD performance:

    * Structural. Large organizations are built for stability, reliability, and predictability with executive compensation aligned with near-term results. This is hardly the environment for nurturing innovation and a new way of doing things.

    * Organizational. Digital leaders in larger organizations are rarely on the fast track to the C-suite. This suggests that they are more interested in securing the incremental innovations that come along and not the big, strategic shifts that innovative organizations pursue.

    * Methodology. The traditional companies, the incumbents, follow a pretty standard playbook. But they’re aren’t showing results for a variety of reasons – mostly because their playbook has become obsolete.

    * Behavioral/Cultural/Political. So many organizations are filled with smart but risk-averse people who tend to hire in their own image. Organizational politics is the result of individuals acting in their own self-interests. Progress grinds slowly in that environment, and radical ideas are ridiculed.

    * Advisorial. These issues arise when your incentive/compensation system is misaligned with actual problem solving.

    So, how do we break through these big, hairy challenges to build an environment where innovation and risk-taking are not only welcome, but encouraged?

    The answer lies in creating a new “edge” business that operates separately, but in parallel, from the company’s “core” business. Where the core is focused on delivering short-term results with incremental innovations, the edge business is built for flexibility, uncertainty, and long-term growth opportunities.

    The key, Mark says, is to make sure you keep separate the core and edge pieces of your organization. Historically, we’ve tried to create the edge business within the core – and that’s where it’s not working. The edge business is designed and operated to ultimately replace the core business’ declining revenue.

    • 41 min
    37 / Validate and Verify the Customer Voice

    37 / Validate and Verify the Customer Voice

    Ash Maurya


    37 / Validate and Verify the Customer Voice


    Whatever we think we know about our users doesn’t always hold true when we release our products into the wild. Faced with compressed cycle times and pressure to release something, product managers sometimes fall in love with a product only later to discover we were among the few who did. Our mistake isn’t being passionate about the feature or solution; our mistake is failing to first measure our users’ response to it.

    In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Ash Maurya, founder and CEO of LEANSTACK and creator of Lean Canvas, a popular business modeling tool. “It’s about bringing in the customer voice,” Ash says, “and gathering the right qualitative and quantitative metrics – starting with qualitative.”

    It’s the easier place to start, Ash continues. “With qualitative, we get to see patterns and learn the big themes – what I call ‘the signals and the noise.’ Validate qualitatively, but then verify quantitatively because otherwise you can get a lot of false positives.”

    Throughout the pod, Ash shares insights about how product teams can close the gap between pre-launch conjecture and post-launch reality. By bringing the customer into a Discovery phase conversation where probing and listening are front and center, we’re able to sharpen our focus, test theories through experimentation, and create new experiences based on what we’ve learned.

    Product leaders come to understand their customers in a deeper context. When we engage them beyond the functional nature of their challenge, we’re more likely to understand the problem they’re trying to solve at a truly emotional level. With that depth of appreciation, we can create impactful product design.

    Be sure to catch the entire podcast conversation to hear Ash share the following:

    [01:44] A big movement putting product at the center. In some ways, it’s always been there, there’s just a new awareness of it.

    [03:40] The first order of business. Are we building something that gets used? Are customers engaging with this? That’s where I like to start; everything else layers on top.

    [04:04] Qualitative metrics. Qualitative can give you a very strong signal one way or the other that you may be onto something. It’s very effective in finding problems.

    [05:39] Validation and verification. An interesting distinction in light of the role qualitative and quantitative research plays.

    [07:44] Jobs to be Done (and other frameworks). At first, I’m fascinated. But the thing that always troubles me is that it feels a bit like a magic trick. I see the result, but I don’t know how they got to it.

    [08:19] Hiring and firing products. Even as I look across disruptive products, for every product that you build, there’s already a product, an existing alternative, that you are replacing.

    [09:00] The bigger context. With every product, there’s the functional job, and there’s the emotional job.

    [09:00] The drill bit example. Why are you drilling the hole in the first place?

    [11:39] Understanding irrationality. How behavioral economics helps the marketer, innovator, and entrepreneur.

    [12:59] Quantitative metrics. The quantitative is where the data proves the thing working at scale.

    [12:59] Insight generation. That’s where all the interviewing and the qualitative learning comes into play.

    [14:15] New products are fundamentally about some kind of behavior change.

    [16:32] Habit loops and reward loops. As product folks, we sometimes have to add some kind of feedback loop that this produ...

    • 35 min

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