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How Product Managers should be using insights to improve product innovation, business value and user experience in the enterprise

Enterprise software organizations are more likely to pursue the science of delivery instead of the art of discovery, according to Harvard Business Review. Yet this seems to be the antithesis of what software development really is: data-driven, risk-taking, innovative.  

Innovation blind spots are the number one reason for failure in large software companies, such as Polaroid, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard. Who killed Nokia? Nokia killed itself: failing to transition from hardware to software, missing the mark on innovation altogether.

For software development to thrive in the enterprise, business strategy must align with innovation strategy. In order to cultivate a culture of innovation in enterprise software, the people behind the software need to understand the people who use the software.

When Product Managers adopt a data-driven approach to software product management, they gain user insights that fuel better decision making and deploy better software. Discover 3 ways in which PMs can use insights to innovate in enterprise software.

1— Insights for the empathetic Product Manager

“A great product vision comes from knowing your customers so intimately that you can design a product that perfectly meets their needs.” Christian Bonilla, Mind the Product

Empathy is the capacity to recognize and understand your customer’s needs and motivations in order to provide a valid solution. For PMs who are often caught in a vacuum somewhere between the business requirements and developer code, empathy brings them back to the user experience and the innovation hub.

As PM Catherine Shyu explains, PMs are always at least one degree away from the actual work. Nevertheless, they are also the glue that holds the project together, and as such, must keep a firm grip on its going on. By gathering data and insights into their software project, not only will PMs stay informed on project progress and be able to measure milestones, they will also gain a better understanding of how users are responding to their software.

A PM study by Mind the Product tells us that 62% of enterprise software PMs feel that market research and gathering use feedback is the most important tool in validating whether the market truly needs what they’re building. Microsoft is a great example of how enterprise software benefits from customer insights. According to Overview, Microsoft has developed “Partner Advisory Councils (PACs)” which meet on a regular basis in order to gather very valuable customer insights. These insights are used to influence new product ideas, validate product roadmaps, marketing plans and more.  

How to be an empathetic PM: do UX research

Gathering feedback and insights from your customers needs starts with UX research at the beginning of the software project. Early user research helps PMs validate product decisions with real users rather than assume what customers want. Empathetic PM: happy user.

Remember, collecting feedback doesn’t have to be costly. PMs should actually get started with user research as early on as the low-fidelity wireframes stage to get first impressions before moving on to more interactive, high-fidelity prototypes (both of which PMs can create with Justinmind). Leaving this process to the development stage and beyond is a mistake, as UX Research Lead at Shopify Alëna Louguina points out: “Poor insight can bog down the product development process and result in a bad decision based on incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate data and/or conclusions.”


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2— Metrics and analytics to influence new product development

“Innovation, if it is to operate as a constant in any business has to be in the real context, of real conditions, in the real world.” Henry Doss, Managing Partner of innovation science consultancy Rainforest Strategies

For years now, software companies have been solving the same problems with variations on the same technology. The mobile phone, for instance, has been providing a communication service since the 1970s through making and receiving calls, text messages and data. We’ve gone from big, to small, to medium-large in just over 40 years. Admittedly, the features and devices have changed, but the core user problem – not being able to reach people remotely – hasn’t.

Building innovative products comes from finding gaps in the market through market research. Product Managers can use big data and metrics to explore new user behavior, forms of churn and triggers for bottom line costs which will help them reinforce the business’ value proposition, gain traction with stakeholders and optimize existing products.

Big data, such as the data provided by Google Analytics, helps PMs with the innovation process by providing them with a well-rounded view of the customer and helping them convert their assumptions into validated ideas. And, as IBM has it, we need a 360-degree view of customer information, demographics, and interactions alike to successfully serve our users.

How to build product innovation: measure analytics

Around 40% of large organizations are still in the dark regarding the power of analytics, according to Bunchball.

Make sure you are measuring the right metrics in order to find synergy between market needs and your business capacity. What you chose to measure will depend on the size of your company and industry, as well as your particular type of software. Measuring the ROI on your software is a good place to start.

Conversion rate, drop-off rates, and error rates are some metrics that could help you increase your software’s usage and reduction in internal trainings. Read more about calculating the ROI on your software’s UX here.

Once you’ve chosen your metrics, create a priority matrix and prioritize the most important feedback you get out of them in your product roadmap.

3— Drive predictive thinking for product manager innovation

“A sense of control — which is a hard-wired cognitive requirement in the brain — speeds task completion and makes people feel good about what they’re using, what they’re doing and what they’ll be able to accomplish.” Give Good UX

Users are predictable, they fall into habits when engaging with technology just as they conform to norms of expected behavior in social activities. Collecting data and observing users helps us understand user behavior better, and this enables us to predict user movements, build more accurate user expectations and create more predictable UI patterns and interactions. Reducing variability in our designs will help us gain the user’s trust as it lowers the cognitive load and the user will start to feel more comfortable using our software.

As the hunt for innovative enterprise software solutions continues, new UX patterns, predictive UX and anticipatory design have emerged. UX Researcher Alipta Ballav explains how predictive modeling statistical techniques such as data mining and probability with decision trees and linear regression can help software companies predict future user behaviors.

Predicting user behavior not only affects how the user will interact with software. Knowing how users are going to respond to a feature or product gives the Product Manager the information the need to accurately estimate deliverables in terms of schedule, scope, and quality.

How PMs can drive predictive UX: perform quantitative user testing

Adopt a user-centered process in all aspects of your PM duties. When evaluating product strategies, deciding how to prioritize feature requests and conducting usability testing, always keep the user in mind.

Consider using a quantitative approach to user testing (where the user is being observed in real time in front of you). This will help you pick up on behavioral patterns more easily and get immediate feedback.

The takeaway

Data is now at the foundation of most successful products. Innovation doesn’t come from nothing, it is fueled by insights and measurable metrics. Insights are not only needed for better user-centric product development but for software survival in the enterprise.

So PMs, before launching and implementing your next software feature, plan what needs to be measured throughout the project and bring data into your decision making, your team’s day-to-day and your innovative deliverables.download_free

Emily is Marketing Content Editor at Justinmind

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