Dave Fowler is the Founder and CEO of Chartio, Chartio has one mission in mind: JOIN people ON data. This means empowering anyone—not just data teams—to easily understand the data they need to succeed at their jobs. He talks us through the misconception of product people, the overlap between CEO and PM and the biggest upcoming opportunities in the industry.
Question [00:11:29] What are some of the misconceptions that you’ve seen for folks in product during the last years?
Dave [00:11:40] I see from product people, is that a lot of people feel they have a knack for it. They understand people, they get it and they’re just naturally good at it. I think that’s a really missed serving. I think even if you are good at it or you’ve learned a lot or you’re very seasoned. I think having the attitude that you don’t know, that you want to test it, that you want to get a user test and put it in front of people. The instinct is so much faster, if I just design it, it looks great and launch it. But if you prototype it, if you put it in front of people, if you can really get the data on it, to really prove that it’s working, that’s huge.
Speaking of where you said, like falling in love with the problem, not the solution, we rewrote our data Explorer in this past year. We just launched it and called the visual SQL. And about a year and a half ago, we put out our regular one we got rated, to we’ve been rated for years, the most usable BI product. And we’re kind of content with that. But then I went and the user tested our interface and only one out of 10 people who you hand it to could get it, could make queries. They were all getting stuck on really big things and we tested our competitors too, and the good news was that we were better than them, but it’s still only one out of 10 that wasn’t at all close to our mission. So we wrote all these prototypes and tons of designs and we had to iterate so much cause our first insects were just really, really wrong, and we totally rewrote that. So I guess people think their instincts are great, in short, and you need to have the opposite assumption and assume that you don’t know, and really go prove it and test it.
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Question [00:13:43] What do you think are some metrics or a good approach for product people to not regret?
Dave [00:13:54] First, track stuff, it’s always important. A lot of times you’re already tracking it in your database, just by the fact that every time a new user signs up, you have a new user row in your database table. So just having good hygiene there is important. It’s also important to know whether you’re at a scale where metrics matter and how much they matter. If you’re not going to have, tens of thousands of data points on something you’re not going to be able to really have certainty. It’s still good to be able to watch it, but then you got to mix in that qualitative data as well. So it’s like, is data a leading role or kind of a supporting role? And it really depends on the scale. Once you’re at a huge scale, like Google, they do use data as a leading component a lot more. But when you’re a small startup, it has to be a little more qualitative.
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Question [00:15:10] What would you say is the overlap between a good product manager and a good CEO?
Dave [00:15:18] There’ve been times where I’ve really tried to step away from product, and really kind of kid more autonomy there and then times where I kind of come back to it and help. The best is when we find a really good balance and work on things together. So I think it’s a lot about process having good process, also having a lot of trust with the people. When I am in product meetings, like to reiterate, that I’m here as a co product manager and not as the CEO. I really want to encourage feedback. You really want to make sure that it’s not just, what I say goes. I think even for VPs of products or product managers they have to have the same thing.
You’re the boss, but you want to really encourage a conversation all the way around and make sure that everything is really thought through. I also really try to not, as much as possible. I have a natural tendency to jump to conclusions, get really excited about let’s try this, let’s try that, but I try to encourage more. Did we think about it the right way?, Did we do our research? Did we consider, did we look at, who does this the best in the market and how do they do it? Did we consider the persona coming in, the user, and have we user tested i? I’m more trying to facilitate, the thought process than the actual solutions, and the more facilitate that we get exposure to our customers and the users, then actually come up with the exact solutions myself.
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Question [00:20:47] How you block time to make sure that you are also learning? So the company continues to grow?
Dave [00:20:58] That’s hard. There’s always so much. So I am really intentional. I have a weekend process of me getting things done methodology in the night. I really review and make sure I have the time to be focusing on the right things. Right now a lot of my focus is a lot of CEOs in the area of diversity and inclusion. We’re big supporters of the black lives matter movement. We’re sorry, we’re not big sports, but we’re strong supporters. So how do we really build a great culture of an inclusive, diverse culture? That’s a big part. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the product, but obviously top of mind for me. I’ve got, asked by a lot of people and got a great reading list and movie list and have been finding the time to really expose myself to that as much as possible.
And then the other kind of related is building culture that builds a quality culture. I’ve been friends with and really seen the early days that really amazing companies like Airbnb, Stripe, Pinterest and PagerDuty and I’ve seen those early teams and the culture. They have bigger teams. And I know a lot of people at Apple obviously, and the culture that they have, the product and the obsession they have, with quality is just so infectious. And it takes a lot to build and maintain a culture like that. We’re really working on that, at Chartio. So I study that a lot and I studied how to consider and think about how to build and maintain that culture.
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Question [00:30:34] Where do you think are the biggest opportunities for people building data products today?
Dave [00:30:43] I see a big trend happening and I think a lot of product managers are becoming data analysts, the tools for them to do things are becoming faster, data’s becoming more on their fingertips. I think that’s just a huge part, that you can see the result. When we’re building products, especially old products, like when you start a restaurant and have served meals to people you’d be exposed to be in your restaurant and you’d know people are happy or not. Now it’s almost like we’ve got restaurant chains and you got to look at your Yelp score and you gotta look at all the reviews.That’s where we’re at, and for you to see if people are liking, you have to be able to dig through that data, that’s a lot of your knowledge and then of course, user testing, but then at scale the data.
I see product managers becoming more and more data analysts and hopefully products like Chartio make that even easier, so you don’t have to learn nearly as much and spend near as much time to have that same power but that’s going to be a continued trend.
We’ll be back next week with Rich Waldron from Tray.io with even more of the latest insights from the Product Management world.