This week, Product School hosted Jori Bell, Sr Product Manager at Spotify, for a special #AskMeAnything session. Jori talks about product discovery through data, as well as tools and frameworks she uses throughout the product lifecycle.
Jori Bell is a Senior Product Manager at Spotify. She’s worked as a Product Manager at SoundCloud, Rolling Stone, and AOL. Jori’s work spans news, advertising, and marketing product. Most recently, Jori is spending her time working on tools for the Creator community through a Marketplace model at Spotify.
How do teams at Spotify prioritize their product discovery efforts and tooling involved with that work?
This really varies from team to team and depends on where a product is in its lifecycle. For example, discovery for a new product that isn’t out in the world is going to look different than discovery for an existing product.
For new products, PMs work really closely with our Business team to discuss the larger impact. We do lots of upfront work to weigh opportunities against one another. That collab with Business, coupled with our collab with Product Insights folks, helps us suss out which opportunities to explore.
Existing Products: We try and drive a lot of our decision-making about discovery through data. Some of my favorite discovery methods we use for existing products are user journey mapping and whiteboarding sessions (we use Mural for that).
Could you talk some more about that data? What kind of data?
Existing user behavior and what we have to work with. For example, if we were trying to understand if users wanted to buy things from artists, like merch let’s say, I might look at the purchasing data that I have available to me. In the case of Spotify, we have a Concerts integration, which serves as a great proxy.
You might also be interested in: 5 Reasons Why Product Managers Have to Understand Data
How do you work with a product where the main objective is to create community and engagement, but ultimate success is quantified in terms of monetary returns to the core business?
A great tradeoff question. To me, this becomes a question of balancing and aligning incentives. In this case, and in many cases, I don’t think incentives need to be competing. But if I felt they were, I would start by really mapping out the competing incentives/goals to see the biggest gaps and also, where overlap lies.
Do your teams have dedicated software tools for Product?
Lots of dedicated tools: loving Airtable and Mural for discovery and collaboration these days.
Get started on your product stack here: Tech Mastery Part 1: Choosing Your Product Stack
Whats the right mix of qualitative and quantitative evidence to explore an idea? Are there any tools and frameworks that can help with this?
Always a balance but also rooted in what’s possible, especially when you’re in scrappy mode. It’s ideal to have lots of quant data but also usually expensive to do this. When we don’t have the right quant data, we lean heavily on proxies. I’ve also always been surprised to hear that you only need about 5-6 qual interviews (in my experience at Spotify) to represent a target audience in terms of supplementing with quant with qual data.
I love the SVPG four big risks framework: feasibility, viability, usability, business risk.
Who is involved in idea validation at Spotify? eg. is UX and Eng involved?
Depends on how big the project is but I like to work closely with my engineering and design leads on this, as well as product insights, when I have dedicated folks on my team. Ultimately, as a PM, I drive the team towards a decision.
How would you describe the product culture at Spotify?
I would say we have a great, Product-driven culture. Spotify has some of the best PMs I’ve ever worked with!
Another great read: What Is the Spotify Model?
When do you know whether to stay improving products at your company or start your own?
That’s a personal one. If I were to go and start something on my own, I think I would if it felt right… It just depends where I’m at and what I’m feeling passionate about.
I’ve been reading about the Swedish concept Lagom and how it promotes “just the right amount.” How do you incorporate this concept into your day to day as a Product Manager?
Never heard of Lagom, but to me it sounds like building a MVP
As a more design-oriented PM, this is a challenge for me because I want to “build it all” but ultimately, I have to balance and account for efficiency. I’ve experimented a lot over the past few years with challenging myself. i.e. what are creative ways to solve technical problems? Could we use a Google form for metadata collection vs. building a form into our platform? I’ve surprised myself going against my default and it’s been fun!
Are there any product discovery techniques that you keep in your toolbelt that have stayed tried and true throughout the years?
So many! I love a good ol’ user journey mapping session. For me, this entails getting a cross-functional group in the room to map out the “ideal” user journey.
Spotify beautifully balances Personalization vs Socialization. What is more important for user acquisition vs user retention?
Good question: I think it’s a healthy mix and again depends where the listener is in their journey with Spotify. If I’m new to the platform I might have really different needs than a long-time listener (i.e. seeing my network using the app might be super important).
How can I prepare for an entry-level Product Manager interview?
Showing your customer focus I think will be key. At the core of PM’ing you need to be grounded in what the needs of your customer are so I think demonstrating that is going to be super helpful. Good luck!
How do you continue to develop your PM skills outside of daily work?
I try and stay plugged in with Product communities (like this one) and I love chatting with people who are moving into Product. I’ve also taken classes outside of work to help me master areas that I don’t feel super strong in.
How do you define success for the feature or functionality of the product that you manage?
I like using metrics and KPIs for success but something we do also do is map products back to outcomes and visions. And we really try to connect it back to how what we’re building might impact a customer’s life. It definitely brings what you’re building to life.
Any final tips?
Aspiring PMs….don’t be scared about not having the right background to be a PM. There is a way in and we have a better community than ever to support you breaking into the field. Your experience, whatever role you’re coming from, can be applicable! I’ve seen it all