When to Customize Product Features

This week, Product School hosted Klajdi Turlla, Sr Product Manager at Hubspot, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Klajdi answered questions regarding customizing features, optimizing workflow, and product discovery.

Meet Klajdi

Klajdi Turlla, Sr Product Manager at Hubspot

Klajdi is a self-driven user-centric Product Professional with a track record of building, managing, and taking ownership of products end-to-end in an international, cross-functional, and technical environment. He likes to work in small and agile teams to build, design, launch, test, and iterate fast.

How is your work-life balance as a PM?

It’s actually really good. It’s a hard job, but so are most jobs :cara_ligeramente_sonriente: I think bad work-life balance will usually come from the overall culture of the company or the team and it’s less related to the specific role.

Check out: How to Make Time for Individual Work as a Product Manager

stack of multicolored books and wine glass balanced on feet against pink background

What’s your method or workflow to move fast?

First, we try to really ensure that teams have a clear mission and are given the rights skills and space to solve for that mission. That gives them focus, which leads to being able to move fast. We also have trust as a core principle in the way we do products and have invested in robust infrastructure that allows product teams to ship 1000+ times a day in production.

More tactically at the team level, teams will always be running discovery and delivery in parallel. They are also empowered to validate early and often so we use a lot of prototyping, experimenting, and running beta programs. All of these ensures both speed of discovery and continuous delivery of value to the customer.

At an aggregate level, you have lots of users, but at the individual industry/sector level, the number can be quite low. With so many of your SMB customers in so many different industries, how do you decide what features to build that meet a large enough user base to justify engineering effort?

Good question. HubSpot’s userbase is indeed very large and we have customers from all sorts of industries. While we do see specific trends and needs for certain industries we usually try to get to the root of the problem and in most cases, we find that most problems are similar across industries.

We are also mainly persona-driven so we try to solve for a particular user, for example, the marketer, the sales rep, the operations people, etc. That allows us to solve problems holistically. The Jobs to be Done framework is a very good one in this case.

What is the product discovery process you follow at Hubspot for product-led initiatives?

Every team is empowered to use their own discovery processes, so you’ll see a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods.

We partner closely with UX Research, Product Design, and Product analytics to make sure we are using the discovery method that makes the most sense. So lots of times that means speaking to the customers, doing quantitative analysis, running experiments, prototyping, deploying beta versions etc.

Lots of teams will often do design sprints or even hackathons. Is all about validating quickly by trying lots of options and getting hard evidence so we ensure we are solving the problem for the customer. In the end, it’s less about shipping a feature and more about whether we are solving for the customer and delivering value to them.

How quickly should new PMs ship a product at their new company?

We should also adapt the onboarding experience to the needs and preferences of the PM.

Some will want to get into the details quickly and some will want to explore more broadly first. I think I started working tactically with my team within the first 2 months, but I was a fairly tenured PM. I think for most PMs it should be around 4 to 6 months.

Read next: A/B Testing in Product Management – To Learn or to Ship?

ship on blue water

How do you go about determining what pieces of your feature/software should be customizable by enterprise clients?

This is a hard one and it varies so much depending on the specific case. It really boils down to keeping some principles. So for us, we want our product to work for the user and not the other way around and we aim to design something that feels crafted and not cobbled together.

It’s a hard balance and the only way is to tweak it between configurability and more opinionated design. In the long run, the platform approach wins, but you have to do it in such a way that empowers the user and doesn’t put them in a corner. We also invest a lot in education and seamless onboarding experiences so users get the most of our software.

Check out: Best Ways to Analyze and Implement CX Changes Based on Customer Feedback

What does your Product Management tool stack look like?

We use Google Suite and Slack for all things communication and collaboration: Invision for design and mockups, Amplitude, Looker, Snowflake for all things data, and the engineers use JIRA and Github for development.

What are the usual pain points that you face that take up the majority of your time?

I spend most of my time on alignment and strategy. I spend the rest of the time doing discovery and helping the team with any delivery aspects they might need help on.

I think the most painful and most important is alignment, especially when you are impacting users’ lives and you need to be mindful of how they are going to be impacted by your product.

How do you do your roadmaps?

We use various inputs, and historical data is just one of them.

I usually like to rely on the knowledge that we have for our customers and their problems, and then combine that with the company and product strategy.

I’ll usually invest with the team in a strategy for the next 3 years and then we get a bit more tactical for a shorter time frame. But we usually know pretty well where we will focus in the next ~12 months. In the meantime, we are always assessing to make sure we are still solving the most important problems. If not, we will pivot pretty quickly as we are empowered to solve a particular set of problems and not execute against a predefined roadmap.

Check out: What is a Product Roadmap?

crossroad

What are your PM thoughts on the “Shape Up” methodology used by Basecamp?

It’s a good one for sure but it’s hard to make it work in large organizations and continually innovate as it doesn’t empower teams to come up with the best solution. Rather, it relies on handing them over a solution so they can build it. That means that the engineers and designers—the most knowledgeable people on how to best solve a problem—are not being used to their full potential.

Any tips on staying user-centric as a PM on a B2B tool without stepping on the toes of UX, user research, etc?

While the UX researchers will do most of the user interviews, as a PM you should talk to your users constantly and have a few calls with them every week.

Your UX researcher, in addition to conducting research themselves, will help you with the right playbooks and techniques so you as a PM can do your own sessions. That’s how you scale user research.

In addition, as a PM you are really trying to understand the user overall so you are able to give your team the right context so they can solve the problems in the right way, while the user researcher or designer might have more tactical goals based on the answer they are trying to answer or the problem they are trying to solve.

What is the role of the Product Manager when it comes to developing a go-to-market (GTM) strategy for B2B and B2C?

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Similar to many product activities, GTM is something that that PM will likely partner with someone else in the company. This can be a Product Marketing Manager, a GTM lead, someone from the business, or a combination. Also similar to other activities, the role of the PM is to provide the right context, be the voice of the customer and advocate the product vision and strategy.

Read next: Go To Market Strategies: A Guide for Product Managers + Template

How do you create a framework for solving a problem statement?

There are many established frameworks out there, so in general, you don’t really need to create your own framework. See what’s already out there, try a few of them with your team, and adapt to make it your own.

Any final advice?

My final advise for aspiring PMs is to continue being curious. Look out for user problems in your company and try to ask questions to understand them better and advocate for how you could solve them.

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