Product planning process: how to develop your product into a real thing

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Darren Moffatt (00:05):

Hi there and welcome to the nerds of business podcast. My name is Darren Moffatt. I’m a director at Webbuzz, the growth marketing agency. And I’m your host. It’s great to have you with us for episode three of the product development series. Now, if you’re new to this podcast, our mission is to help entrepreneurs crack the code to growth in their own venture. And we do it by solving the key challenges that all businesses must overcome. One problem at a time. In the previous episode, we looked at the challenge of product validation, but what happens once you’ve successfully validated your idea? How do you begin to take that raw concept into an actual thing that people can buy I think it’s fair to say that most entrepreneurs wing it during this stage. There’s often a lot of trial and error. It’s not uncommon for startup founders to essentially will their product idea into existence with a mix of hope, fear, and determination, but you might be surprised maybe even relieved to learn that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are established planning methods and principles, which you can use to both speed up the development process and reduce your risk of failure. The tech industry is traditionally very strong on this, and there’s a strong argument to make that it’s a big reason why giants such as Apple, Facebook and Amazon have grown so rapidly. But as you’re about to hear in our opening story, even the biggest tech brand in the world can still get it horribly wrong.

Speaker 2 (01:52):

Yeah,

Darren Moffatt (01:52):

He is 2010 and Google already famous for its search. Engine algorithm takes a bold leap into the future. It launches Google X. I secretly research facility devoted to futuristic product development. It’s located deep within a secure compound at the Googleplex in mountain view, California. And one of their first projects is the creation of a new piece of wearable technology called Google glass. Although it resembles a standard pair of reading glasses, Google glass includes a camera, a touch pad, and a small display unit embedded in the lense itself. Whereas can access the web read messages and even record what they are seeing with the built-in camera. It delivers an augmented reality experience reminiscent of the famous Tom cruise film minority report by 2011, Google has developed a prototype that weighs 3.6 kilograms, but just one year later, the design has been iterated and refined to such an extent that it now less than a normal pair of sunglasses in 2013, Google offer a limited release of the product to Google IO developers.

Darren Moffatt (03:09):

The publicity and hype is building nicely. When later in that year, Google invite 8,000 early adopters, they call the last explorers to purchase the first commercially available Google glasses for a cool $1,500 a pair, but soon troubled strikes, Google encounters, a raft of unanticipated problems stemming from concerned about privacy and safety on July 31, 2013. It’s reported that driving while wearing Google glass will be banned in the UK. The department of transport deem it a careless driving offense. Every 2014, a woman wearing Google glass claims. She was verbally and physically assaulted at a bar in San Francisco. After a patron confronted her while she was showing off the device. Witnesses suggested that patrons were upset over the possibility of being recorded. Negative sentiment continues to build and demand amongst the general public never really takes off by 2015 Google halts, the production of Google glass. It’s a rare misstep or the Google juggernaut, which goes to show that even a great idea, with almost limitless funding can fail with poor product planning.

Darren Moffatt (04:37):

Now there are actually many different theories out there as to why Google glass failed on the one hand. Some speculate that although the cool factor resonated with the initial early adopter cohort, the product just didn’t really solve any particular problem in a meaningful way for the wider population or the average person. Others suggested the hefty price tag and the unusual visual appearance were always going to be a friction point to scale. Now there’s probably some truth in each of those, but the theory I subscribed to is that the timing was simply wrong. They might’ve just been a bit too early. I think it’s very possible that if the product was being released this decade, or maybe the next one more people would have been ready for it. Unfortunately for Google, they probably didn’t get out and talk to enough real people in order to sufficiently plan for the product release. Regardless of the industry, in which you operate, if you’re launching a new product or service planning is super important. So what can you do in the planning phase to ensure that the thing you’re putting your heart and soul into will become a product. People actually want to buy.

Darren Moffatt (06:13):

We’ll start the show in a minute, but first a word from our school.

Hi everyone. Yeah.

Ben Carew (06:24):

It’s Ben crew here. I’m a director at web buzz, the growth marketing agency. I work alongside the host of this podcast. Darren Moffatt, if you’re a business owner who wants to grow, but you don’t have the spare funds to invest in marketing right now. You’re not alone. Since COVID hit, we’ve noticed more clients suspending campaigns or delaying their marketing altogether due to cashflow issues. In response to this, we developed a solution called buy. Now pay later digital marketing. It provides eligible small businesses with nothing to pay on SEO, digital marketing, and website development for up to three months, we think it’s perfect for entrepreneurs who need a helping hand getting sales flowing. Again, I’ll be back later in the show to explain how it works, but if you can’t wait, you can download a free info pack. Now at webbuzz.com.au/BNPL, that stands for buy. Now pay later that’s webbuzz.com.au/BPNL

Darren Moffatt (07:26):

So the title of today’s episode and the problem we’re trying to solve is: product planning, how to develop your idea into a real thing. People can actually buy. It’s a fascinating question. And we’ve got some very nerdy guests on the show today to help you get some answers. You’ll hear from the chief product designer at a FinTech who reveals the approach they’re using to steal Gen Y & millennial customers from the big banks. And we also speak with a founder of a HR platform for small business, with 300,000 users. He shares how product planning helps to scale his business. As you might have gleaned from our opening story. This episode does have a strong tech theme, but the principles discussed a universal to all businesses. So stick around because there’s so much to learn here for all entrepreneurs, especially from our two product design experts. But first here’s just a quick reminder that if you’re enjoying nerds of business, to please hit the subscribe button on your podcast player, it means you’ll automatically receive each new episode every fortnight. And it makes it easier for us to stay in touch. I think if you asked most people, what product planning is, they might have some vague notion of a checklist of things to do before you’re ready to release to the market. And to some extent that’s right, but according to the expert, the planning phase is so much more than that. So this, this is what I call strategy phase. This

Ross Gales (08:56):

Is, this is, this is the DNA of, of, of my role within Pollen is working with our clients and helping to define the strategy and the, the, some people call it the product market fit. Okay, fantastic. Yeah. So there’s, there’s three core concepts that I use with all of our clients. And those, those, if you think about them as, as a Venn diagram of three circles, my favorite illustration trade circles, one’s called business context, one’s called customer perspective and one’s called externalities. It’s a funny word, but I’ll unpack that for you in a moment.

Darren Moffatt (09:27):

Well, that really isn’t any, I don’t, I don’t think I’m fairly well read, but I don’t think I know, I know the, uh, the meaning of that word, please, please do share. Yeah.

Ross Gales (09:34):

Externalities are basically everything that’s out of our control or the external forces that influence our product. Okay. So when we’re unpacking externalities, we’re doing market research, we’re looking at competitors, we’re looking at what makes them unique so that we can work at how we differentiate our product. We’re also looking at things like tech trends. We spend a lot of time looking and really nerding out over things like personalization algorithms and people’s expectations about intelligent recommendations. So this is when we’re getting into some of the more powerful aspects of technology that we can tap into to deliver these experiences. And until we really understand all of those externalities, and it’s very hard to shape up the strategy of a product, the other two bubbles on my Venn diagram, one being business context is understanding from a business lens, what it is we really want to achieve in terms of financial outcomes.

Ross Gales (10:24):

How are we getting our funding? Who are our partners in this venture? Um, what technology choices should we leverage? So all the kind of aspects that we can control and that affect our business decisions, um, need to be considered in the strategy of a product. And then lastly, the final bubble is the, the customer perspective as a really important piece as, as, as user centered design, um, it’s about understanding who the users are, their pains, their gains, their behaviors, um, but thinking about the types of benefits we want to create. So that’s really where we get into the customer mindset and understanding is that the intersection of those three elements, so our customer needs our business needs and then broader market forces only then do we have a complete picture? And at the highlight Venn diagram is really where our strategic directions lie.

Darren Moffatt (11:17):

That’s Ross Gales director of design and strategy at Sydney agency. Pollen Ross has designed product solutions for some of the biggest brand in Australia, including Gumtree, which is owned by global giant eBay. Ross is one of our two product design experts for this series. I also asked him why this stage is so important for product development.

Ross Gales (11:39):

This is the phase for me, that starts to define all the problems that we want to solve. And it also defines what our product offering could become. One of the things I talk a lot about is diffusing and differentiating. So two key aspects of any new is how do you diffuse any competitive threats? So, um, come back to the jobs to be done, framework people can get jobs done in many, many ways, and there’s lots of people out there already doing them. So how are you going to diffuse those threats and make your product better by differentiating? So it’s the two balance balancing act. And I talk about ruthless prioritization when it comes to building a product it’s, it’s, there’s so many options of things, too many problems to solve. Sometimes they can feel quite overwhelming. So to ruthlessly prioritize, what do we need to diffuse? And how much do we need to do to differentiate is a really simple way of thinking about refining the brief and targeting just the right amount of effort in a lean way to ensure that we’re delivering a product that meets the customer needs.

Darren Moffatt (12:39):

Yep. So this stage really is kind of where the, to use the cliche. It’s kind of like where the rubber hits the road and, and, and, uh, these, you, you, you know, you’ve, you’ve got the idea, you’ve hopefully validated it. Now. You’re really starting to put it all the pieces together and say, can this work, can we make money out of this? Can, can we achieve the objective we want to achieve? Yep.

Ross Gales (13:05):

Yeah. So that’s it. It’s really about ensuring that we’re getting the right business outcomes balanced with the right customer outcomes, because remember, without delivering value to our customers, the business outcomes won’t come. So I often talk about the creation of value first and ensuring we’re solving the right customer problems. And then we can work out how we’re going to monetize that and

Darren Moffatt (13:26):

Side question here. How long does this part of the process typically take in a client engagement? Like if you’re working for one of your clients, how long would this take?

Ross Gales (13:37):

It can be anywhere from two weeks to two months is typically what I say. And it depends on the size of the business, the size of the market you’re trying to move into and how many user groups you’re trying to service. We can go lean and we can make a lot of assumptions at which is sometimes, okay. We always advocate for doing proper research with customers upfront to better understand their needs. We never want to jump in and assume what customer pain points are. Um, but we, we can certainly, um, take a cursory, look at the market, understand the competitors. Sometimes we go global and we look at global competitors. We look at S uh, relationship. Um, we look at industries that are relevant, that we can learn from as well. So that’s about collecting all those inspirations and insights. So you can go down rabbit holes.

Ross Gales (14:21):

These things can take two months of, of research if you really want to do it properly, but that’s not, that’s not what a small business can afford. They don’t want to do that. So you do have to jump off the cliff a little bit, so to speak, you need to take the risk and make some assumptions to get, to get the ball rolling, but you should always be collecting insights. Even if you do it yourself, you should be looking at your competitors, looking at relevant markets, talking to users, wherever possible. Um, it’s just something that should be an ongoing process of discovery that that never ends.

Darren Moffatt (14:54):

So this is more of a personal question again, without notice. I mean, you know, I’m obviously a director of, uh, of a, of a marketing agency. I find that, uh, in spite of my best efforts, sometimes in my personal time client work, invades my brain and I’m thinking the solution strikes me, you know, it’s like, or just, I cannot stop thinking about a particular client or project it’s quite annoying, but often that is when the best solutions or ideas come. Does that happen to you? Like, do you do, I mean, you know, you, you must be thinking about this kind of stuff all the time. Is it hard to kind of block that out of your personal time?

Ross Gales (15:31):

Yeah, look it is. And, and I’m, I’m, I’m a big researcher myself in terms of always looking for the latest trends, always looking at and thinking about, um, even when using another company’s app, what can I learn to take to my other clients and, and, and, and what will benefit the broader relationships that I have with my clients. So it really is, um, it’s, it’s quite, quite, time-consuming always being on like that. Um, and looking at for market insights, customer behaviors, um, always looking for potential in, in, in, in what, how we can take insights and apply them to solving problems.

Darren Moffatt (16:08):

And Ross was also our first guest, this series to be strapped in for a ride on the Nerdometer, check this out. So Ross, um, a segment that we put all of our guests through here on Nerds of Business is the famous, It’s the Nerdometer. And, um, I mean, what are your thoughts on the, on the, on the sound effect there for the Nerdometer, does that, does that sound like a chainsaw? Does that sound like a 1958 Moped from

Ross Gales (16:36):

Definitely revving up the chain saw on that one? I’m ready to go on this line.

Darren Moffatt (16:39):

Oh, right. Cause I seriously was aiming for the moped kind of scooter sound, but I did have another guest on the other day. I said, no, it sounds like a chainsaw. So I might have to change the sample, but stick with it. I like it. But look, this is the note I made a very simple, um, uh, proposition and we, you know, we simply sort of asked you to self-rate yourself, uh, for nerdiness again, as it, as it sort of relates to what you do, which is product design and strategy design thinking. I reckon you’re pretty nerdy Ross. I mean, what do you give yourself out of 10? Yeah.

Ross Gales (17:13):

Uh, I’m right up there. I think I’m probably a 10 or 11 to be honest.

Speaker 6 (17:17):

Oh, wow. You’ve literally broken the Nerdometer. I like, we love it when that

Darren Moffatt (17:23):

happens. Yeah. So very nerdy. Um, and look, you know, here’s another sort of related question. If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

Ross Gales (17:35):

Look, that’s a really good question. I think about that quite a bit. It’s really at the core of it, I’m, I’m really actually more of a craftsman and I like to, I like making things and I like solving problems. Um, yeah. Design and design in general is all about problem solving. Yeah. Um, but I like

Darren Moffatt (17:50):

Moving out of the digital space. If I wasn’t building websites and products and services, um, I’d be making furniture. I’m actually quite crafted with my you’re handy. Yeah. And I like, I like getting in the workshop and, and designing and making my own furniture. Wow. That’s something that’s a as a, as a little side hustle, but also as a, as, as a passion of mine is it’s something that I really love doing. And it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s just getting, uh, getting, solving the same problems with the quality of it though, with the different media. Yeah, that’s right. Oh, fantastic. So earlier Ross gave us a great summary of what product planning is and why it’s so important for a bit more detail on the key steps that entrepreneurs can implement in their own product development. I spoke with the second of our two product design experts. Carrie Peters is product design principal at Sydney agency, Us Two originally from Oregon via New York, where she designed for the likes of Nike and class pass. She’s now a leading exponent of human centered design. Have a listen to what she’s got to say about the product planning phase.

Carrie Peters (18:59):

So even, uh, like we were saying earlier, even the most brilliant of products and services, um, they don’t really go on to live in a perfect world silo. Um, so what we need to do is we need to simulate that, that world with, um, different environments, other products, other services, and make sure that it’s not all going to turn upside down. Once we get it out there, planning for these real-world context and realities in a discovery phase is how that we make sure, um, our babies are ready for the world and they won’t fall on their faces when we, when we launch them. So in this phase, what you want to do, um, a few things you want to understand who wants the thing. So who are your people? Um, there’s a few different things you can do. You can do. Uh, one of the key things that we do within that phase is obviously the initial research.

Carrie Peters (19:44):

And then we do empathy mapping. So we try to understand what people’s pains, um, what the jobs they need to get done on and what gains they could potentially have in a situation called the empathy mapping. Um, it is good. Um, there’s also just understanding generally how people would interact with the thing. Um, so doing the usability testing, once you have it designed, um, any form of qualitative research, understanding the landscape that the thing will live in. So that’s kind of your, um, competitive analysis looking, seeing what other products or services are out there already doing that thing. Um, see if there’s a sort of niche that’s overlooked that you can kind of slide into and, and, um, solve getting clear on what your thing does and doesn’t do. And this is directly obviously connected to that competitive analysis. You don’t want to be the thing that tries to do everything for everyone and end up doing nothing for anyone you want to, you want to find a specific thing for a specific set of people in a specific problem. Um, that’s generally how the best start

Darren Moffatt (20:49):

Going narrow rather than wide.

Carrie Peters (20:51):

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you can even relate it back to like being a human, if you just walk around in the world and try to get everyone to like you, no one will like you because you’re just, you know, secrets. Yeah. Yes, exactly. And, and I think, but if you, if you have those few people that, you know, you care about and you want to make happy, you can kind of shape your life to be something that, that mirrors the community that you’re living in. Um, and I think if you think about a product as a living breathing thing, you want your product to the same thing. You want it to have a relationship with a few people that you are building it for. And if there’s people that don’t like it, that’s fine. It’s not for them. You don’t want them to buy it. Um, you want your product to be, to be very valuable to a few.

Darren Moffatt (21:37):

Yep. So it’s more about depth rather than breadth.

Carrie Peters (21:41):

Yeah. Eventually products often, I mean, a good product will then branch out. Of course. I mean a good product products do branch out. Um, Facebook is a good example of a product that started out super niche. It was just for like kids at one Ivy league school, right. To just check each other’s pictures out. And, um, and now it’s kind of for everyone and every everything, and it’s obviously turned into a pretty mediocre product.

Darren Moffatt (22:04):

Hmm. Yeah. Well, that’s a, that’s a complaint, isn’t it? You know, that particularly people who care about design and who are in tech and so on, you’ll often find a lot of those real innovators, uh, either not on Facebook or they’re just barely there and they don’t go to it very often at all. Um, I’m very interested in a couple of things you said. And so in this product planning phase, you’re obviously, you know, by this stage, you’ve validated the idea. You, you know, it’s, it’s a good idea and your net, you’re now starting to plan for it to life in the real world. Okay. As you said, how often in this phase does the product change? So how often, you know, we’ll, we’ll some of what you find really push it into a different direction.

Carrie Peters (22:54):

Um, so a good product never stops changing ever. You should constantly be feedbacking and changing and tweaking things. That’s the whole reason. Um, the analytics within a digital product are so valuable is they’re literally, it’s the, it’s the, um, the traces of what people want and what they’re doing and, and signaling to you, what, what is, and isn’t valuable. And you absolutely. If you see that there’s like a feature or something that’s not being used at all, don’t spend the time and the resources keeping that thing alive. If people don’t want it, just cut it off. Um, but at the same time, sometimes you’ll see people doing certain things within your product that you had no idea they were going to do. And the best thing that you can do, the smartest thing you can do is follow that and build the thing that they are trying to do. Cause a lot of times people create these funny little hacks that, um, you didn’t see coming. And if you, if you’re, um, observant enough, you can see that. And then you’ll create this feature that they wanted all along and you’ll become that thing they can’t walk away from. So it should change constantly. It should be a living, breathing, changing thing.

Darren Moffatt (23:58):

And is that when you’re designing a product, are you designing it with some degree of flex sort of built in, you know, like, so that you’ve got, okay, you’ve got a core, these are the core elements of the product, you know, but we want this flexibility, this sort of inherent or baked into it so that we can have that dynamic response to.

Carrie Peters (24:22):

Yeah. So that’s, I mean, that’s the core of what agile is so agile, the whole idea, or like an MVP is that you’ve kind of, you’ve got this, this sort of, um, story map, um, that you build out of, of all the different phases of value that you can provide, um, a user or a customer. And, but at each one of those stages, there’s many different levels of fidelity that you could create. So even take something like a signup moment for a customer there, you can literally just be like, do you want into the club high five-year into the club? Um, you can choose not to actually have them sign up at all. They can just download the app and that’s it. Or you can have a 10 step onboarding and send them a welcome to the club pack. You know what I mean? So that’s, it’s the same moment in time, but there’s many levels of fidelity that you can create of experience that you can create for that person.

Carrie Peters (25:09):

So the idea is if you can create one single, like thin line of experience across the whole thing, then you can kind of build up different fidelities of each of those moments, um, over time. And if you realize that like this one doesn’t need any more, you just leave it at that kind of like basic level. Um, that’s great. That means you didn’t build out. You don’t build out like the most robust version of everything from the beginning. You build out just enough and then yeah, you can flex it. You can flex it up, you can flex it down. If you decide something needs another couple of layers of something or, um, yeah, that’s kind of the, the essence of agile.

Darren Moffatt (25:46):

So I just inadvertently, uh, sort of discovered or created agile myself. Like I just stumbled across that. Yeah. There you go. No, it’s good though. Genius lives here.

Carrie Peters (25:59):

I think too, though. It’s good to know that the reason that agile came about is that what, um, the term waterfall, I don’t know if you know that term, but waterfall is kind of how development used to work with within design and dev and you design. And I used to do this. It wasn’t that long ago, but you would design, um, the whole app and you would annotate every single thing and everything that everything would do. And then you’d hand over literally this annotated, um, wireframe deck to the developers and be like, make this thing. And then they would spend hundreds and hundreds of hours peering through all your little tiny side notes and whatnot, and trying to make this, this whole thing. And meanwhile, in the background, if you did any user testing, you would find out that one of those things that you would annotated in some way was actually not quite right. And it actually needed to be slightly different, but it’s too late. You’ve written it down. The engineers have already spent hundreds of hours on it. It’s too expensive to turn around now. So the idea is if you can bite off little chunks at a time, you can turn that ship around before it gets too, too far down the road.

Darren Moffatt (26:55):

The moral of that story is don’t go chasing waterfalls, chasing waterfalls. I couldn’t resist it. Yeah, yeah, I will. I’ll, I’ll drop that in later. Um, okay. So now it’s time to jump out of the theory and into some real life business case studies. Anson Parker is the head of product at, up.com.au. They’re a next generation Australian digital bank Up described itself as a clever way to organize your money and simplify your life, giving you the freedom to do the things you love now amongst the growing neobank scene here in Australia, up with a first to launch in October, 2018, and they’ve already amassed 250,000 very happy customers. In fact, it’s so popular that they even sell out of their very cool branded merchandise, which has to be a first for, for any bank ever. Uh, Anson is the product visionary behind up. He has a long track record in delivering exceptional products. Most recently, working with technology startups in Australia and San Francisco after stints at News Limited and Optus. I asked him to explain his approach to product planning.

Anson Parker (28:14):

Yeah, I mean, I think we, up as sort of a, w w we lack a lot of kind of formal process. We are, um, I guess, being great. Executor’s our greatest strength is being able to execute quickly. Um, and because of that, we often, uh, uh, prefer to, to kind of, uh, I guess, test ideas as quickly as possible with real customers. Right. And, and you’ll see that on up. There’s a lot of, uh, there’s a, there’s a really fast pace of, of, of kind of, uh, features going from sort of the ideation stage into customers’ hands. Um, and so look, we, I think when you, if you broke down a sort of a typical day and looked at how we thought about features, you probably recognize sort of like a kato model style thing. We’ll, we’ll look at what are we, what do we have to have to be a bank?

Anson Parker (29:02):

You know? Um, uh, and, but, but we really pair that with, I think, sort of an innovation mindset, you know, from my point of view, as kind of the, the person who really sets what we work on. Like, I’m not happy if we don’t have kind of one big like that we’re working on or anyone time, something that we’re working on, we don’t know whether it’s gonna work or not. Um, but if it does work and it works well, it could be huge. It could be transformational, you know, I think life’s a lot more exciting when you can have those bets going, right. Like, cause you just don’t do I’m I wake up tomorrow and this game might have completely changed from this feature.

Darren Moffatt (29:36):

Yeah. So, um, to your point about stuff that’s been a success already, maybe you just give a little bit more detail or some, some, uh, concrete examples on, on what has worked so far at ups.

Anson Parker (29:47):

Yeah. I mean, I guess the, like the core sort of premise of our, in some ways is if we can make you a bank and really engaging, um, you know, both from an experience point of view, like it’s an app that’s just super easy to get into and it’s really displays the information a really pleasing, understandable way. Um, and if we can make elements of it even fun, right. If we can really succeed at that, you know, I think, um, you know, like part of, part of that for us was for example, just making the display of information really clear and readable. And for us that made like, let’s just get rid of since, like, since they’re kind of this, that annoying noise on the end of every, you know, every transaction that just adds this kind of visual clutter, like it’s people’s money, like we’re not going to round the cents off and take the money from you, but if we could find a way to make every transaction, just an even dollar amount, and that’s going to be a much nicer screen to look at and, and hopefully stay engaged with.

Anson Parker (30:44):

So from day one, we had this idea of roundups so that if you did spend $3 50 or $4 50, probably these days on a coffee, and it would just appear as $5. We could take that 50 cents and put it into a savings account for you. Um, and it gives you this really beautiful, clean, uh, experience in the app where everything was around dollar amount. Um, but the one thing that I always thought at us was the account balance, right? Your account balance was always had the sense. And so we were like, how do we, how do we get rid of the sentence on the account balance? And we always had this idea, like, could we have this way where you can, you know, like long press the sense and send them away or, or do something. Um, and that kind of morphed into this feature that ended up being called pool to save where, um, at a point in time, we’ve got our technology to the point where we customers didn’t need to refresh anymore to see like the latest updates, it would just push, push it out to the, to the apps. And we realized that pulled a refresh pattern. We can reuse that and instead of reloading the screen, it would flick the cents, like tossing a coin almost off the screen and be this really kind of fun, delightful experience. And so that was kind of the Genesis of that feature idea. And it really just came back to giving people this really fun and lighthearted, but engaging view of their finances.

Darren Moffatt (31:58):

Yeah. Fantastic. I mean, um, your banking is obviously has got a reputation as being staid and terrible, uh, product are clunky and all the rest of it. So you’re, re-imagining that for a younger audience, I mean, is your core when you’re planning products, are you looking at, uh, um, what time of year, what type of sort of user persona by persona are you considering here?

Anson Parker (32:20):

Yeah, I mean, I think we would probably say like, we’re all about, you know, like psychometrics psychometrics and all demographics. It’s like, it’s about your state of mind more than your age, but, but I think certainly, um, it’s about being open-minded and the way that you, um, uh, uh, you know, talk to your bank, understand your money. I think that,

Darren Moffatt (32:41):

Yeah, and I mean, you know, you, you touched on that difference between demographics and psychographics, right? So here’s my take on it just so people can get a bit more of a visual picture. Okay. Um, and Anson please, correct me if I’m wrong, if I’m going down the wrong track. Okay. But from a demographic point of view, it seems to me, it, I mean more sort of, uh, gen Z and millennials, and, you know, there’s a really clever use of emojis, you know, people can, for instance, um, you know, set up a little, um, savings plan within the app, they can name it, uh, like a goal, for instance, if they want a holiday or, um, obviously no one’s going to Bali anymore, but you know, they, they could have put some sort of holiday emoji or something next to it, you know? So there’s, there’s that from perhaps that demographic angle, but from a psychographic psychographic angle, the focus on really great design and UX and almost an aesthetic of irony and cool. Um, I re I, when I was really first looking at the site at was really striking me that, you know, people in Fitzroy or Newtown would really dig this bank. So what do you make of that?

Anson Parker (33:54):

Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s a good summation, um, you know, from a product point of view. I mean, we, our focus today is, uh, spending and saving. We don’t have credit cards or, or mortgages today. So typically, uh, you know, when you’re in your thirties and forties, you might be after those kinds of financial services. So I think that alone will mean, you know, up, up as sort of a, an all encompassing, uh, bank for you is going to work best if you’re in that younger age. And we say, you know, I’m happy to share that. I think our median age is about 24. So half of our customer base is in that 16 to 24, uh, demographic about 80% under 35. Um, you know, again from a product point of view, I mean, I, I sort of that to some extent obviously reflects the offering, but it also means that we can sort of grow with our customer base.

Anson Parker (34:43):

Um, uh, you know, the, the banking is this very mature industry, right? Like banks have been around for hundreds of years. Uh, they all pretty much do everything that most people can think of today that that need from a bank. And so when you’re coming into that with an agile mindset and minimum viable product, it’s really difficult because people’s expectations is, is, is everything. I mean, one thing that we typically try and keep a good eye on is, you know, like there’s, let’s put the financial products aside and trying to understand what, what are people actually trying to achieve here and where are they in life and, and what are they sort of short term and longer term goals? How does this thing all sort of connect together? Um, and you know, like the classic, you know, people say these kinds of cliches all the time, like, uh, you know, like, like people don’t want a mortgage, they want to arm and stuff like that.

Anson Parker (35:31):

But I mean, th there’s an element of truth to that, right? Like people don’t, you know, people are, they do want a home and they, I necessarily, no one wants a mortgage, but, but I mean, that, that, that kind of journey doesn’t start at, uh, applying for a mortgage, right. It starts a lot earlier than that, and probably saving for a home deposit and trying to understand where you would want to live and what kind of house you want to live in. Um, so typically we’ll try and try and map those customer journeys, I guess that’s, uh, and understand what, what, what can we do to help more in the earliest stages. Um, and you know, one of the ways, I guess we’re very conscious that, uh, you know, that there is this kind of barrier to understanding that exists in banking, and it’s typically it’s called financial literacy.

Anson Parker (36:14):

Um, but it’s also just understanding banking, jargon, and, and sort of a lot of stuff in finances, sort of opaque. I mean, we products come with these huge booklets, so very small type, uh, with fees and charges. I mean, it’s not a, it’s sort of an easy to understand space. Um, I don’t think for most people and like really understanding how buying a house works until you go to the experience yourself, and then you start to get a sense at that point. So that was kind of like, what can we do? We have to use the certain language, but how, what are ways we can help, um, I guess more directly connect to how people think about this and how bankers want to talk about it. Yeah,

Darren Moffatt (36:49):

Well, no, that’s great. And I mean, um, I think something, our listeners might be interested here on that particular topic regarding customer journeys, from a practical perspective, like how do you guys kind of map that, you know, like, so what tools are you using to map at, um, your, what does it look like if you, you know, taking that example of that, that young millennial, for instance, who maybe in your app app has set up a savings goal to save for a, um, a home deposit. They put a little emoji in there. Um, you know, they’re, they’re into that phase. Um, you know, maybe step us through that, you know, like what, what, what, how do you, how do you map that visually map that journey from there all the way through to actually potentially buying a house or getting ready for a mortgage?

Anson Parker (37:41):

Yeah. Wait, wait, typically you use just a whole range of all of tools like we were a really big, big, big company, a white borders, deferential. It’s all kind of a, yeah, I think we’ve, we’ve suffered a bit, uh, but everyone’s suffered a lot, but, but not having the whiteboard to jump around and sketch stuff out is tough. Right. But, um, you know, we, we do have, you know, just hurdles of doubt or right. We have too much data. We have, um, you know, that’s just the nature of a digital business where everything your customers do is digital. Um, as you have that understanding, you don’t have to go and necessarily like, like to your point about savings, right. Necessarily to have to ask what people’s goals are, because they’re, they’re mapped out in the application. Um, uh, you know, there’s interpretation of that data.

Anson Parker (38:24):

Like we, we might think, uh, 30,000 customers want to buy airplanes, but they, they may actually just want to go on a holiday and infuse the airplane emoji. That is probably more realistic. Um, but we also will understand the data. We will pull out the right sort of data, you know, sometimes we’ll prototype even prototype stuff and on mobile or, um, on web just to get a feel for how something’s going to work. Um, uh, but there’s, yeah, I think it’s sort of a combination of those things. Uh, we do a lot of wire framing. Figma is a fantastic tool. That’s um, you know, particularly when, Oh, here we go. Here we go.

Darren Moffatt (39:02):

You’ve you’ve got, you’ve got the Nerdbot going again. She’s um, she’s woken up, uh, wireframe. So, uh, uh, maybe, uh, just to sort of explain that, that concept to people.

Anson Parker (39:13):

Yeah. So like a wire frame is kind of a way to an abbreviation, I guess, of, of, of describing, uh, an experience that like in an app, for example, uh, without going to the effort of having to design all of those screens, it’s kind of a very low, low fi low fidelity we’d call it way to just kind of map out. You can do them, you do a wire frame with, uh, like a marker on a white board or a piece of paper, or you can use like a piece of software, but you’re not trying to sort of do highly resolved, um, designs. And that means you can do it much faster. Right. So you can do it.

Darren Moffatt (39:45):

So, I mean, it’s essentially, yeah. It’s like a, it’s like a sketch it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a rough mock up or, or, or sketch of, um, schematic of, of, of what you ultimately want to produce. Yeah. If you’ve ever run a business, you’ll know that managing employees and staff is often the hardest part of all. Well, our next guest is the founder of a software company that is rapidly making that problem disappear. Ben Thompson is the founder of employment hero, a complete people, payroll and benefits solution for small to medium-sized businesses. Apparently employment hero can reduce admin time in your HR function. By up to 80% employment hero has over 5,000 paying businesses and collectively manages over 300,000 employees. Ben himself is a seasoned entrepreneur and investor. And in the chat, you’re about to hear he shares some really useful insights into the internal processes his team used for their product development. Yes.

Ben Thompson (40:48):

So, um, uh, I’m not the engineering type. Uh, I love technology, but, um, I’m not good at math, so I’m not an engineer. Um, but my co-founder Dave, Tom is brilliant and a great engineer and very disciplined in his data driven way of thinking. So I think what we’ve got is a great blend of, of entrepreneurial gut instinct and engineering intelligence. And, and the way that that came together at the start of the business was I stood in my office at a whiteboard and mapped out my vision for what employment here could deliver or should deliver and brought Dave into the, you know, to the team at that point and said, mate, this is what I want to build. It’s all up on the whiteboard. And we still refer to it to this day. Dave, Dave will say it, you know, um, we’ve, we’ve got to do X, you know, it was on the whiteboard and this is going back six, seven years.

Ben Thompson (41:43):

Wow. Um, we still haven’t got to that yet, but in between those big elements of what we’re building, um, he and the whole team, and even now it’s made us something to a large extent, take that very sort of lean startup methodology to experimentation and incremental improvements around ideas and, and particular features, um, to make sure that we’re delivering what the customer needs, but, um, ultimately most of our decisions and most of our product roadmap has been driven by first principles. Going back to that first realization, 99% of companies on the planet need help being great employers and employees want more from employment. They want, they know they, that’s where they get their wealth from. It’s where they get their sense of purpose from. They want more from employment. So how can we design a platform that makes employment easy for employers and makes being an employee, um, easier and better and more rewarding than it would otherwise be. And, and, and it’s that first principles thinking that drives 90% of our, of our product roadmap. And then

Darren Moffatt (42:51):

You’ve mentioned, Dave, your co-founder. So the problem we guys in this episode, you know, there’ll be a lot of people listening to this podcast who have an idea for a business or an entrepreneur. So the problem we set out to solve that skill planning, technology, how to develop your idea into a real introduction, actually, by having no more design, how did you guys meet?

Ben Thompson (43:15):

It was very, very normal in that I recruited him. I, yeah. Yeah. So I, um, I had used an agency for, uh, an external agency to do first iterations and prototypes and some early roadmap stuff. Um, and then I got to a point where I was like, I don’t want external agency driving this. I want it all in. I want to bring it internal. And I just had to recruit somebody who was a great engineer and used a stave and forgetting his surname now is going back quite a long time. Who, who, you know, lined up five or six great candidates. And Dave walked in, we sat down and spoke for a couple of hours. And, um, and I was assault. I thought he was a good guy and he’s proven to be an incredible guy. Yeah. Wow. Um, and so you mean,

Darren Moffatt (44:01):

And, you know, lean methodologies and, um,

Ben Thompson (44:05):

A moment ago, uh, when it comes to validating, you know, the product or a feature,

Darren Moffatt (44:11):

You know what I mean? You guys, obviously now fairly mature business you’re in scale-up plays or you’re out of this startup

Ben Thompson (44:16):

Mode. Um, yeah. Tell us a little bit more about how you, how you validate an idea or a feature, an idea for me, it, that it’s back to that first principles thing. So I, this is where if, if we had Dave and I at the table, that’d be completely different, um, same outcome, but completely different approach. But yeah, you know, again, mine is first principles. So, um, let’s just look at, what’s happened over the last six months with remote work. We know that 75% of employees want to continue working remotely. They enjoy not having to commute. They enjoy more time with their families. Um, and we know that employers want the access to the best talent, um, on the planet to be the, you know, that’s the secret to being great is to find good people like Dave, Tom, um, therefore, how do we help businesses find remote talent in new and better ways than ever before?

Ben Thompson (45:17):

That’s, that’s the Genesis of an idea that that has some sort of first principles behind it. And, and, and so where, so in that case, whereabouts of launch, what, we’re, what we’re calling our global teams solution, which gives us the ability to employ people remotely on behalf of other businesses in 54 countries around the world. So that’s going live next Monday. And, um, and there, the other first principle behind that is that, you know, I stopped and thought about, well, if I’m a small business and I want to employ remote talent, it’s really hard. Like if I just, even within Australia, if I wanted to employ somebody in another state, I have to set up a separate workers’ compensation insurance policy. I have to start paying work payroll tax in another state. I have to start managing different public holidays. Um, you know, it’s not just easy.

Ben Thompson (46:10):

Yep. It, it takes a lot of effort. And then if I was thinking, well, how do I get somebody in another country? Forget it. So if we want small business owners to feel confident about employing in the best possible ways, then we have to actually lay out the rails for them to do that. And so that’s, that’s where, that’s the way I come to these decisions, Dave, or we’ll look at that same thing and say, okay, well, I get where Ben’s coming from here, but how do I develop the product to deliver on that? And then he’ll take the engineering approach to, or what’s the best UI, what’s the best UX. Um, what’s the best, um, infrastructure, you know, we’ve had to, um, now that we’re international, we’ve had to completely rebuild our infrastructure to remove latency in the product. Yep. So there’s all sorts of, you know, there’s just different ways to cut the cloth really.

Darren Moffatt (46:57):

And do you do, um, a lot of, um, you know, user testing and, and, um, user feedback, how much of that plays a role in your product development?

Ben Thompson (47:10):

Lots at the, at the feature level. Yes. So lots of closed beta. So lots of customer interviews initially in closed beta testing and open beta testing, then, then, you know, full

Darren Moffatt (47:22):

That’s nerdy. Now that’s pretty nerdy, Ben. Um, I know what a closed beta testing and open beta testing is, but you might just want to explain

Ben Thompson (47:30):

That for our listeners, right? So you, um, effectively start with, uh, with a product that no one wants to touch because it doesn’t work. Um, and then you get it to a point where it’s just working. And then you share that with a user group of people who have asked for that product, or have shown interest in that area. And you say, look, we want you to be part of our closed beta experiment. It’s a dodgy product. It’s got bugs in it. If you sign up, you’re going to have to live with that, but we want your feedback. And we want you to help us drive the improvements to the product. You get that user group to start using the product in its current form. That’s closed beta, open beta it’s past, you know, you’ve got rid of most of the bugs, but you’re not confident that it’s, that you can warrant that it’s going to do everything it’s supposed to do. So you put it into an open beta. So you allow more and more people to come in and start using it and providing more and more feedback. And then once it, the open beta has got to a point where it’s working well, then you becomes, it becomes part of the whole product finished, complete public product. Yep, yep, yep. Right.

Ben Thompson (48:32):

And now another word from our sponsor.

Speaker 3 (48:38):

Hi,

Ben Carew (48:39):

It’s Ben again from Webbuzz, the growth marketing agency. I mentioned earlier in the show, how we’ve developed a buy now pay later digital marketing solution for small businesses, if you want to grow. But cashflow is holding you back where buzz offers you a way to invest in marketing with no interest and nothing to pay for up to three months. It’s a simple five-step process. And here’s how it works. Number one, book, a video meeting with our team to choose a digital marketing package. Three apply online for funding for get approved five, start your campaign with $0 to pay up front. You can use it for lead generation content branding, SEO or social media campaigns are buy. Now pay later. Digital marketing is just the thing you need to get sales flowing again. So get that life is good. Feeling back in your business, go to webbuzz.com.au/bnpl that’s webbuzz.com.edu/bNPL, and download a free info pack to learn.

Speaker 3 (49:45):

Okay.

Darren Moffatt (49:45):

So the problem we set out to solve in this episode was product planning. How to develop your idea into a real thing. People can actually buy our product design experts, Carrie Peters from us too. And Ross Gales from Pollen reveal the theory behind effective product planning and why it’s such an important step for all businesses to take. And we’ve also heard some fascinating, real life stories from our entrepreneur, guests, Ben, Adam employment hero, and Anson at Up bank. I hope their wisdom and insights have given you ideas to crack the code to growth in your own venture. Now, as you might’ve gathered already, today’s episode was extremely nerdy in the history of Nerds of

Darren Moffatt (50:28):

Business. I don’t think the Nerdbot has ever been quite so active. I know some of the jargon might’ve been a bit overwhelming at times, but hopefully my guests and I were able to break it down and make it a bit more relatable for you. In any case for me, there are three really important takeouts from this episode. Number one, talk to your customers. It’s amazing how many startups and entrepreneurs fail this step. If you don’t devote enough time to get out and talk to enough of the real people who will buy your product or service, you’re more likely to fail. So don’t fall for the lazy appeal of the easy path. The hard grind of customer interviews and user testing is essential. Number two, aim for product market fit ASAP. The planning phase is where you’re really trying to lock down both the core problem you’re solving and the commercial viability of your design solution to that problem.

Darren Moffatt (51:22):

If you don’t have product market fit, you can iterate further or pivot, but these delays all suck valuable time and resources and our common killers of promising startups. Number three, keep to first principles. As we heard from Ben at employment hero, their initial whiteboard session seven years ago is still informing their product roadmap today. Now that shows not only a clear vision for the problems they’re trying to solve, but an unusual level of focus and discipline in executing their product solution. It’s no coincidence. They’ve raised $30 million in capital and achieved scale. As we heard at the top of the episode in the Google glass story, product releases can quickly become derailed by a bunch of seemingly random factors, but they’re actually not random at all. If Google had properly considered all the externalities as Ross called them, they might have seen many of the privacy and safety issues that subsequently emerged. And if they had, you have to wonder how things might’ve turned out differently within the whole product development cycle planning is not as sexy as ideation or the go-to market phase, but it’s perhaps the last meaningful chance for you to get the core principles, right? And if you care about the future of your company and your people, that’s not an opportunity you want to squander

Darren Moffatt (52:51):

We’re coming to the end. But before we go, it’s time for our regular segment nerd under pressure where a guest has to share one tequila hack or tip, they recommend for you. Our listeners let’s find out who our nerd under pressure is today. So Carrie, we now come to a special recurring segment about episodes of business,

Speaker 10 (53:15):

Under pressure under pressure.

Darren Moffatt (53:20):

God many have come before

Speaker 10 (53:22):

Many have failed. Um,

Darren Moffatt (53:26):

So this is your moment under the, um, uh, the audio spotlight, so to speak. And, um, you are the product design and development nerd. Um, and we are asking Kari, uh, for one killer hack that you could recommend to our listeners for the product planning phase. And I’m going to give you five seconds thinking time.

Carrie Peters (53:52):

Okay. Um, I think I’m going to go with, don’t do it alone. I think one of the things that, especially if you’re, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re, and you come up with the idea, um, by yourself, the tendency is to just let yourself kind of keep going. Um, and I think one of the best things that you can do is get a group of people around you that have different perspectives that have different skill sets, uh, and do it together because the more perspectives that you have in the room, the stronger the idea will be the more that you’ll have already validated things, just because you have different people looking at it in the room before you take it to the streets.

Darren Moffatt (54:30):

So thanks for listening to episode 15 of nerds of business. If you’ve enjoyed it, please leave a review on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. It helps us to climb up the ranks and become more visible to other people. Just like you remember, we want to help as many entrepreneurs and businesses as possible. If you’ve got a question or some feedback we’d love to hear from you, you can engage with [email protected] forward slash nerds. That’s web buzz.com.edu forward slash nerds. So feel free to reach out and say hello. I want to thank all of our guests and the team at web buzz for helping me put this show together. We’ll be back in two weeks with our next episode, which is prototyping is fun. How to bring your product or service to life for testing and production until then I’m your host, Darren Moffatt. And I look forward to nerding out with you next time. Bye for now.

 

Ben Carew

Ben Carew

Ben is the Director of SEO Services & Analytics at Webbuzz. He started in graphic design and web development in 1999 and has ridden many of technology's waves since then. He co-founded social media site Housenet in 2013 and began moving into digital marketing & SEO from his experiences growing this tech start up. Ben co-founded agency Webbuzz with former band mate Darren in 2014.

One Comment

  • Pierce says:

    I must say this is a very useful and inspiring article for improving one’s design sense and creativity. Be inspired as well by this website https://a2designlab.com/), check their team environment and strategy, and how they pulled off good product designs.

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