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We recently began doing 1-on-1 video interviews as part of a user research initiative, which we described in a post a few months back called User Research: How to Start Talking to Your Users.
It's been such a rewarding process to spend an hour with a real customer talking about their real problems and how they use Balsamiq for a real use case. This is the kind of thing that analytics will never tell you.
Much of the time even an hour doesn't seem like enough to really hear their full story. So for this month's case study, I spent a little more time talking to Raguram Venkatesan, a customer and Product Manager in Florida. And, with his permission, I'm publishing some of the topics we covered.
Read on for our interview...
(And, p.s., if you want to talk to us - sign up here)
I work in the Transportation industry with a focus on the Trucking vertical. My role at Optym is Product Manager (for RouteMAX).
Using RouteMAX, trucking companies can optimize the first and last mile operations of freight movement. In this role, I find market problems worth solving, guide the creation of solutions and take the solutions to market.
I am very passionate about building decision automation and optimization solutions for trucking companies to improve utilization of assets and resources. It is really interesting to note that every object in our room has traveled in a truck for some part of its journey before it reached us!
Building mission critical real-time execution systems needed to support such dynamic and fast-paced operations is exciting and extremely challenging at the same time.
Lessons learnt as a Product Manager:
Product Management sits at the intersection of customer, technology and business. It is a balancing act between each of these areas, which means involving the right people, in the right ways, at the right times. In this role, you need not always come up with the best ideas, but you do have to create an environment that will facilitate the best ideas to bubble to the top and then guide its timely execution.
Yes, that is indeed a challenge. Fortunately, over 90% of our clients are based in the US. So, we structure our teams in such a way that those who need to interact with clients closely are located in either Gainesville, FL (our Headquarters) or Dallas, TX (the hub for most of our airline clients).
Our development teams are distributed as follows:
User requirements are collected through user interviews, surveys, and field studies.
Technical requirements (functional and non-functional) are uncovered through stakeholder interviews from different teams (Engineering, Executives and SME) and interactive workshops.
Raguram's team uses Balsamiq for wireframing and sketching out workflows.
Over the last six years at Optym, I have been fortunate to wear different hats. I have done Software development, Business Analysis, Project Management, Sales and now Product Management.
As my exposure to business increased, I began functioning as an SME within the team. So, I would often be invited to rapid wireframing sessions (by UX designers) to give feedback on usability/technical feasibility. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in these sessions as it was magical to see the "Design Thinking" processes in action. It was a great learning experience for me to witness how we iterated on each idea until we converged on the final design.
From being a silent onlooker, I became an active participant in these whiteboard sketching meetings and that’s how I got into wireframing. In parallel, I began reading books on UX Design, subscribed to blogs and completed a few online courses to get a deeper understanding of UX design principles and its practical applications. (Completing the UI Design 101 course from Balsamiq is one of my Q3 goals.)
I have a carefully curated social media feed on Twitter and LinkedIn for my daily dose of reading. I read 20-30 articles every day on my areas of interest namely Product Management, Agile Development, UX Design, and Leadership. I have listed below a few communities/people I follow:
@MindTheProduct, @romanpichler, @cagan, @RichMironov, @JoeNatoli, @Balsamiq, @dcancel, @dharmesh, and our very own @Peldi.
Wireframes are crucial in weeding out sub-par ideas. They help us save valuable development time and effort as we get to perform some usability testing early on and proceed with a reasonable level of confidence that the final design will work.
Software Developer → Business Analyst → Project Management → Product Management.
In retrospect, I realized that I have been practicing the "Solve for the customer" principle in all of my previous roles. Now, I am paid to do this full-time 🙂
I have honed the ability to differentiate between user needs and user wants.
In my job as an Enterprise product manager, our Customer and User are different. I have learnt to deal with this dichotomy with these two strategies:
Music (I sing and play on the violin occasionally) and Meditation.
(Editor's note: Thanks for the feedback! In our new Cloud version the canvas size is MUCH bigger. As for the icons, you can add more yourself in the icon library dialog. Read about it here.)
Thank you, Raguram, for taking the extra time to help us understand our users better. We're lucky to have you as a customer!
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