He Who Owns the Code, Must Be Convinced

Talking to Colleen Tiner about Her International Journey for Credibility

Business colleagues chatting together in the office.Pragmatic Marketing is a major training resource and thought leader in the world of product management and marketing. It is also a source of compelling content and features some of the best and brightest industry minds. Beeline was thrilled when our own Vice President of Product Management, Colleen Tiner, had her own Pragmatic Marketing story featured in an article that she wrote titled, “Use the Market to Gain Credibility.”

Colleen’s article discusses how she was advised by Pragmatic Marketing’s Jim Foxworthy (no confirmed relations to Jeff) to tackle the two biggest challenges facing the product management team:

  • Development and product management were not aligned
  • The sales team resisted product management involvement

Jim communicated that it was a credibility issue and that credibility comes from the market. His prescription was N-I-H-I-T-O mojito with an “n” instead of an “m”, an acronym for “nothing important happens in the office.” Clearly Jim has not been to Beeline on Halloween.

I asked Colleen a handful of questions about her article: 

What were the barriers keeping development and product management from being aligned?

Battling opinions was the main barrier. And he who owns the code, must be convinced. Product Management found that credible market research prevailed and offered more tangible requirements than opinion and hypothetical information and desk research.

The NIHITO approach put data in the driver seat, but there seemed to be a positive emotional reaction. Is that true and how does that emotion play into product development?

Yes, the positive emotional reaction was two-fold. First, confidence is a powerful influencer. When a product manager is confident in their product and in their knowledge of the market – they are comfortable in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining strategy and cannot be easily misunderstood. The second speaks to trust. When developers who are analytical by nature trust that a product manager has invested the time and energy in understanding the needs of their consumers, they trust that the work they are doing will truly add value. Engineers want what they produce to be used and stretched; they don’t want it sitting on the shelf.

Is there any compromise when it comes to NIHITO?

Time and expense. It is difficult to restrain analysts and engineers from pushing ahead with what they think is the right solution to the wrong problem. Prioritization is always the biggest area for compromise. There are always more problems to be solved than time to build.

Has NIHITO permeated the company as a whole?

Yes. Whenever a debate ensues that involves the phrase “what is the real problem?” – everyone knows to stop and go back to the source…the end user, the buyer, the stakeholder that has the most to gain. Whenever we start getting creative in describing the problem we know we are using our own experience and opinion and not the market.  Creativity should be reserved for the solution.

Is there still an issue with credibility?

Occasionally, but much less frequently. We have found that new product managers experience a pretty steep learning and credibility curve because the bar is set very high. As soon as a product manager says “I think…” the challenge begins.

What is the most effective way to facilitate a feedback loop?

Conversations, notes, social media. While the instinct is to create a formal way to provide feedback, we have found that the formality stifles the truth. Creating a culture of feedback and conversation that is natural and fluid provides more meaningful information. Asking questions is actually a really easy way to start a conversation. A five minute conversation or a Socialcast thread is much richer than a “feedback form” or rigid process.

If someone came to you asking about implementing NIHITO for their organization, what would you say the three most important things to consider would be?

First, practice. Practice calling to set up the interview, practice the interview itself, and practice the summary. Second, try to get face-to-face for the first conversations.  A script can also help – but I recommend just having a few “ice breaker” questions and “go to” questions for the when the conversation lulls. Don’t ask for too much time – 20 to 30 minutes works great. Taking a course on how to interview (like a reporter or researcher) could be helpful for the inexperienced. Talk to people in conversation and as friends. Not as a surveyor.

What was your favorite stop on your whirlwind, international NIHINA tour?

My favorite stop was probably Dusseldorf. The people are incredibly hospitable and collaborative and open to sharing. We were taken to a beer festival and enjoyed the company of the local community while taking in a beautiful fall evening. Paris was also quite fun. In one meeting, the person I was interviewing thought my “twangy” accent was hilarious and wanted me to keep asking questions…it was quite funny. Have you ever had issues with credibility in the marketplace and how did you approach them? We would love to hear your story in the comments section below. Be sure to continue to check out our blog for other stories of creating opportunity when faced with industry challenges and problems.

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