[Inside Nomadia] - The key role of the Product Manager
How does Nomadia ensure that its software closely matches users’ needs and expectations, without multiplying specific versions? This is the role of a player we don’t often talk about: the Product Manager (PM). Alexis Berger, Nomadia’s Head of Products and in charge of the PMs, explains how they work to reconcile Nomadia’s strategic objectives with the specific business and customer requirements.
What is the role of the Product Manager at Nomadia and what are their missions?
At Nomadia, the Product Manager is a fairly central figure whose job it is to ensure that our products, in this case our software, are aligned with the company’s strategy and the needs of the market. This means listening to everything that’s going on inside and outside the company, so as to gather as much information as possible, and pinpoint needs in as much detail as possible. To this end, he/she works with customers, as well as with most of the company’s departments: sales, technical developers, marketing, sales administration, general management and executive committee. In order to offer functionalities and products aligned with the objectives of all stakeholders, it is essential for the PM to have a global vision of the product for which he/she is responsible, to understand the underlying complexities and possible connections with the rest of the offer. It is on this basis that he/she can make informed decisions that will have a positive impact on both users and the company.
From a practical point of view, how is the Product Manager’s work organized?
There are two complementary aspects to the PM’s work: delivery and discovery. Delivery mainly consists of making technical specifications for and in collaboration with the development teams, as well as some project follow-up on the product. In the product release phase, it also involves ensuring that sales go smoothly with and for all internal stakeholders (marketing, sales, training, etc.).
The discovery part feeds the delivery part. It covers the study and understanding of the environment, the market and the users. This takes the form of classic aspects like competitor research, but also regulatory studies to identify specific opportunities. For example, if a country introduces new obligations for employers in terms of workplace safety, the PM in charge of our lone worker protection solutions will look into the matter and determine whether this is an opportunity to push the marketing of our lone worker protection products in that country.
Discovery also means capturing the knowledge – which is always very rich – gathered by our colleagues in contact with customers, especially technical support, who report recurring problems, and sales staff, who are often the first spokespeople for customers and their needs. Finally, in discovery, there’s immersion at customer sites, which is essential to get first-hand experience of what our software users go through.
How does this immersion approach benefit customers?
The PM needs to understand, assess and therefore meet the users. Of course, he/she has an idea of what the product should be and how it should evolve, but he/she sees things as a computer scientist, not from the point of view of end-users such as field technicians, delivery personnel, traveling sales representatives, planners, etc. These professionals know their job better than we do! If PMs don’t leave their office, they become disconnected from reality. On the contrary, by going out into the field with them, they live the user’s day-to-day experience, in real working conditions. When you’ve seen a delivery driver get upset because his application isn’t working properly, and that’s causing him time loss and stress, you don’t think in the same way about the features you want to develop. The whole point of immersion is to understand the qualitative and sensitive issues in order to anchor the product and the experience it should offer in actual operational situations.
How does immersion on a customer’s premises work? How do we capitalize on the lessons learned?
PMs carry out between 6 and 10 immersions a year, representing up to 10% of their actual working time. When the PM goes on site, he/she is often accompanied by a UX designer, and the two of them have a “live my life” type of day: they’re in the truck with the delivery driver, in the supermarket with the salesperson doing a shelf-space survey, or with the technician who has to carry out an installation. After a morning with the field user, they spend the afternoon with the solution’s back-office users: planners and/or administrators. They observe, ask questions and also make a records of the needs.
The PM then spends a day formalizing the information gathered from the customer. He/she creates at least three documents: an empathy map, a journey map and a persona sheet. These are graphic documents. The journey map, for example, is a large, phased table that lists all the delivery driver’s daily tasks. Typically, the first line will correspond to an event observed during immersion, the second to the emotion this event has aroused in the user. A third line will indicate opportunities to improve the software in terms of functionality or process. The PM also produces emotional graphs that identify the times of day when the user is in difficulty, dissatisfied or, on the contrary, satisfied.
As these renderings are graphic, they can be read and understood very quickly by everyone in the company. This is what will enable developers to realize that a particular function, at a particular time of day, is difficult for a delivery driver or technician to use. This leads to an approach to designing things with greater empathy for users.
What other inputs do PMs rely on to develop Nomadia products?
Immersions provide invaluable qualitative elements for improving the user experience and overall ergonomics of our software. But we also need a quantitative approach to make sure that our decisions are in line with the PM’s fundamental mission: to have a positive impact for the maximum number of users (use, speed, operational efficiency, customer satisfaction), as well as for the company, in terms of product performance and market differentiation. Various tools are available for this quantitative approach. We keep up-to-date dashboards listing all our needs, which gives us an idea of their recurrence. When someone in-house relays a customer need or a functionality idea, the PM refers to the dashboard. If he/she finds that this feature has not been requested by any other customer, that means that it is not a priority. However, the idea may be interesting because it reflects an emerging need that may concern other customers in the longer or shorter term.
We also use statistics provided by the WalkMe digital adoption platform and Microsoft Azure. They enable us to measure the frequency of use, connection and activity of users, as well as the number of pages viewed per session. All these elements must be taken into account when assessing the impact of a new feature or enhancement. Under our impact-based arbitration and prioritization rule, it makes more sense to focus on a home page that thousands of users log on to every day than on a configuration page that only a handful of administrators use from time to time.
Nomadia’s software and applications are used by a wide variety of trades and sectors. How do you take into account the specific characteristics of each sector and/or business?
Nomadia has chosen to verticalize its solutions. This verticalization is based on highly advanced parameterization capabilities that enable the user experience to be customized according to business sector and profession. This approach meets an essential expectation for users: to find in their software the terminology and specificities specific to their business. To take a very simple example, users in the healthcare sector legitimately expect to be told about patients, prescriptions, consultations and so on.
Beyond the terminology, the software must be able to deliver the results the user expects, according to his business and persona. This touches on more technical parameters. For example, in our optimization engine, we have parameters that only make sense for the rat control industry, and others that only apply to the healthcare sector or to sales forces working with the retail sector. The parameterization and capitalization of our business knowledge enable us to build vertical solutions where users find terminology, best practices and tasks and processes specific to their sector and activities. This ability to customize parameters offers three advantages:
- faster deployment on the customers’ premises, because they don’t need to carry out specific developments to adapt the software to their needs;
- faster adoption by end-users, because they immediately find in the software the operational logic and vocabulary of their business;
- the ability for Nomadia to rapidly create “specialized” versions of the same software, integrating the vocabulary and parameters specific to a sector or trade, without having to start from scratch to address new markets or market segments.
Every business has its KPIs. What are the most important indicators for the Product Manager?
The first indicator is the annual recurring revenue generated by customers. If it’s bottom-up, it means that Nomadia wins customers and keeps them because its software meets their needs. The second is churn. The fact that it is increasing is a sign of a loss of alignment between the product and the market, for reasons of functionality, ergonomics or price positioning. All the PM’s work is aimed at maximizing the company’s annual recurring revenue and reducing churn.
As head of Product Managers and Head of Products, what is your personal mission?
It’s about having an overview of Nomadia’s product offering, ensuring consistency and complementarity between products. Nomadia meets the needs of all nomadic professionals, and is positioned as a leader in the management of technical interventions, the optimization and traceability of logistics activities, and the improvement of sales performance. All these skills and our different areas of expertise enable us to differentiate ourselves on the market in terms of products, in particular by embedding the technology of one solution in a product range dedicated to another sector. For example, we have integrated a ‘route optimization’ module into the Solvnet CRM designed for mobile sales forces. We have also integrated a lone worker protection brick into Nomadia Field Service, our field operations management solution, to provide greater safety for technicians working alone in potentially dangerous conditions. None of the solutions on the market integrated technician protection, even though the need does exist. Seeking this type of synergy will enable us to bring added value to our customers and provide us with genuine market differentiators, so that we can continue to win new customers, build customer loyalty and strengthen Nomadia’s leadership in the market for solutions for mobile professionals.