There have been substantial strides in the evolution of analytics since first taking over the data scene as web analytics in the early 2000s. For product teams, the growing ability to put data at the core of product decisions has fundamentally changed the way that features are built, prioritized and measured.
Those who have successfully developed a data-driven product culture are reaping a slew of benefits, from accelerated knowledge of their customer base to significant savings in time, energy and resources.
To understand this transformation and how product teams can take advantage of it, we spoke to product experts across various industries to hear what their doing to be more data-driven in 2017.
Our featured subject matter product experts are:
Sachin is an entrepreneur and Product Expert Blogger. He’s the founder of Notejoy and former Director of Product Management at LinkedIn.
Ross is the Head of Product and Operations at Marketly. He’s a tech entrepreneur with years of experience leading product teams across multiple industries.
Gabe is the Senior Product Manager at Conversica, a Silicon Valley company focused on artificial intelligence. He’s crafted six product lines from the ground up and managed the product department of an industry-leading software business.
Jake is the Director of Product Management at Klaviyo. He’s led go-to-market strategies for technology companies and built software that offered online to offline marketing technology.
Elie is the CEO and Founder of Woopra, the leading Customer Intelligence solution. He was chosen as a top innovator under 35 by MIT Technology Review and co-founded YallaStartup, a non-prfit organization established to foster entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Evolution of Analytics for Product Teams
“In the realm of analytics, the 2000s were all about traditional traffic metrics- page views, visits, uniques, etc. The rise of page tagging added more event tracking, but initially it was still all about marketing,” said Ross Reynolds.
“Product Managers and their marketing teams focused on understanding traffic sources and conversion funnels. Social Media added engagement metrics to the mix. Click Analytics and true behavioral tracking was relegated to those UX guys in the corner with their crazy ideas about Design Thinking. Only Product Managers, at larger consumer companies, with products that were truly sensitive to design and usability issues looked closely at user behavior metrics.”
“Only Product Managers, at larger consumer companies, with products that were truly sensitive to design and usability issues looked closely at user behavior metrics.”
Ross explains that at the time, “most business managers didn’t see a direct tie to revenue for feature usage.” However, with the mobile app revolution something interesting happened. “First, mobile analytics tracked a whole new level of user behavior,” he said. “Second, almost every product manager in large and small companies, B2C and B2B, started looking at analytics across web, mobile and social.”
From 2010 to 2014, mobile analytics solutions took off. The mainstreaming of mobile analytics and the availability of new levels of behavioral data raised the bar for digital analytics in general.
“Today, product managers have greater access than ever to very granular behavioral data to segment high value user groups,” he said. “And, as more and more Digital Natives enter the work force, “we’re seeing the consumerization of all software, so product managers are pushed now more than ever to look at usability and user behavior to drive revenue. “
“Product managers are pushed now more than ever to look at usability and user behavior to drive revenue.”
So, how are today’s product teams leveraging data to inform and influence product decisions in their organizations?
“It’s more important than ever in product development to deeply leverage data to inform your product decisions. To truly do this, you need to create a culture of data-driven decision making,” said Sachin Rekhi.
“One of the ways I do that on my teams is by formulating all product strategies as hypotheses to be tested. And then, to clearly articulate what measures would indicate that you’ve proven vs. disproven the hypothesis prior to launching the associated new functionality,” he said.
Sachin said, “as easy as this sounds, I see many teams skipping this important step and instead just analyzing a whole bunch of metrics post-launch instead of appropriately validating their specific hypotheses.”
“Any good product manager listens to the voice of their customer”
— Gabe Martini
“In our case, we have a strong process to document customer feedback in Salesforce, and can then run reports on that feedback (especially why they churn or put in a cancellation) to help drive product roadmaps and feature improvements,” said Gabe.
“We use an immense amount of data to help us identify which area of the product we should prioritize and focus on next”
&mdash Jake Cohen.
For Jake and his team, “everything from customer requests, to help center ticket content volume and prospect inquiries feed in to the decision making.”
“First, big data drives our product,”
— Ross Reynolds.
Ross said at this company, Marketly, “our industry enforces on close to 1 Billion URLs a year with the major Search Engines. All of that data is publicly available, and we use it to inform product decisions,” said Ross.
“Secondly, we target content creators from the individual to the major film studio, so how users use our product is important to us. As our platform grows, we are adding the capability to track behavioral data not only down to the feature level but also tie it to useful information like account profiles.”
For Woopra, “the product is the center of everything,” said Elie Khoury. “The product manager is responsible for feeding the whole organization with the right data to help them make informed decisions,” he said.
“Sales people are equipped with engagement data. Customer success teams have access to user engagement to better serve the customer and diagnose experiences. Our Marketing team looks at metrics like subscriptions and churn further down in the funnel to optimize top of the funnel spend. It’s the role of the product manager to make it all possible by democratizing data throughout the organization.”
“The product manager is responsible for feeding the whole organization with the right data to help them make informed decisions.”
What is one thing Product Managers can do in 2017 to help their fellow employees leverage product data to make better informed decisions?
“The biggest advice I can give is to think about every time you’re having a debate about a given product decision and ask yourself (and the team out loud), how might we leverage data to make this decision? Sometimes you’ll decide to postpone the conversation until you get the data, other times you won’t but it’ll still be a valuable exercise for next time as you plan and implement new features and realize you could collect this necessary data up front.”
“Don’t hoard the data! Pick a solution that makes data sharing and understanding widely available in the org.”
“I’d say the best way to do this is communicate. Be open about the roadmaps, provide updates to both Sales and CS roles at the minimum of once per quarter, and have clear rollout plans when new features ship (both internally and externally). Everyone needs to be on the same page, from the outbound Sales rep to the SVP of Product. Otherwise, people head in disparate directions, or give misleading info to their clients or potential customers.”
“Give people a tool to visualize the frequency of requests in product areas; highlight your intent in terms of which areas to work on next with at least four weeks notice so other team members can do great thinking and exploration for you.”
“Make product data visible and accessible throughout the organization. By showing your co-workers just how influential product engagement is on customer success, they’ll begin to leverage it themselves to write better content, pitch a prospect differently, answer a support ticket with greater depth, proactively fix bugs and so on! Empower the people sitting next to you and, in turn, your customers will be empowered.”
A recent report on Data-Driven product management revealed that “only 9 percent of product managers believe their teams are “incredibly data driven and nearly 1/3 of product managers reported that their teams don’t even use the data they have to drive decisions.”
“Nearly 1/3 of product managers reported that their teams don’t even use the data they have to drive decisions.”
There is no one-size-fits-all method, but hopefully these tips from product management experts can help your organization make fundamental steps toward leveraging product data to make better informed decisions.
What tips do you have for product managers seeking to become more data-driven in 2017?