Last year in 2016, I had the pleasure of asking Marc Benioff about the my perceived disconnect from Product Management and its broader user base. I mentioned how I felt that as MVPs we had an opportunity to contribute more to the community and that it felt as though our feedback was more often solicited. I thought that more could be done in this space to provide a wider audience with opportunities to provide their thoughts to the product managers as well.
This year, while I did not have a chance to speak to Benioff again, I did have a chance to affirm to Parker Harris at Dreamforce 2017 that their efforts are working, that I do feel like Product Management is listening to customers and that it has momentum. Force times mass = acceleration. When continued effort is put into something, those efforts will snowball and grow to proportions that one cannot believe. I went on to ask what plans Salesforce has to keep this momentum going. Parker then explained that ultimately, the disconnect I observed was the impetus from which True to the Core #TTTC was born. True to the core is about Product Management showcasing the ideas that have been delivered, as a part of the Core platform, and the plans for changes in the future to the core. It is an opportunity for the community to ask questions about features that are important and ultimately how Salesforce will grow. In case you haven’t gotten the idea, you can and should attend #TTTC each Dreamforce if you can.
But, managing products is hard and there are limited time and resources at the disposal on teams. “Not everyone can have a pony.” Ideally, products should focus on problems that 80% of customers have, at least. Additionally, there has to be a fine balance between innovation and delivering on the “core.” There is a monopoly game where you only have 300 dollars each quarter to spend and you have to choose wisely. There is the fine balance between quick wins and larger items. It’s also important to keep in mind that items with no “points” may still be building blocks for some of the larger scale items to be delivered in the future. Product Management is strategy and choosing what to do and what not to do. It’s hard.
So, if no one tells you enough, thank you! And, to do so in proper, I want to show how I’ve personally seen product management get involved in the community, and by no means is this list exhaustive:
- Wade Wegner – Gave presentations at TTTC, announces new features / products in both the Trailblazer Community and Twitter, asks for feedback and he’s still slinging code with the rest of us on Github.
- Aaron Slettehaugh – The Apex Metadata API is being built out and there is a group on the Trailblazer community for it. On this idea, it’s clear how we can engage but also is clear that engagement is happening.
- Adam Torman – Not afraid to make forward looking statements but also has fun doing it.
- Samantha Ready – You may have noticed her in that last link. She’s been going around evangelizing Trailhead. I’ve seen her at several dreamin’ events vicariously via twitter. And she’s providing comments in the Trailblazer Community about Trailhead as well.
- Daniel McGarry – I had an issue with duplicate management that turned into a known issue. He managed my expectations around the issue, so I, in turn, could manage end user expectations. He’s also answering questions left and right in Release Readiness and Duplicate Management.
- Brooke Lane – With lead convert, he’s been answering a lot of ideas and explaining the rationale for what is being delivered (and what’s coming in the future). At least 5 examples come to mind almost immediately from the Trailblazer Community.
- Shawna Wolverton – SVP of Product, but here is a great example of soliciting feedback from users – tabs and lists.
- Cari Aves – She has always been active on the Trailblazer Community and has been asking for feedback on Person Accounts.
- Damien Joly – LFO guru. He’s great at explaining future plans and existing functionality.
- Fabrice Talbot – Explains all things community – the roadmap and explaining what is / is not supported.
- Alexander Lovell – I’ve had a lot of great conversations with Alex about feedback and the community.
- Michael Orr – In addition to having to answer questions about Lightning in person and in the Trailblazer Community, he’s very active in the Lightning Now! group. Seriously. Join it.
- And so many more…!
One other common theme was transparency about roadmaps and ideas. Since providing this feedback that it’s hard to plan, specifically with the lightning transition and we don’t want to reinvent what will be delivered in a release, Salesforce has released their roadmap, updated with each release.
Some advice to Product Management: Yes, some of us, as customers and partners, get a little carried away in our questions either because we were asked about it by end users (or continually asked) or we are really passionate about a few good ideas that we see. Be patient with us. Be transparent on priorities and why something may not make the cut. Bring us along for the ride. Set our expectations. Show us your vision. Help us, as users of the system to take away the blinders on the one minor thing that we think is really good, but doesn’t satisfy the needs of other customers or only a subset of customers. If you do this, there is no way that you can fail and you’ll keep succeeding.
At the end of the conversation with Parker, he said that he felt that it should not take a question to Benioff to make engagement to happen. “It should be easier than that.” He said that we, as customers, should continue to help encouraging the culture of feedback and growth. How can we do that? Continue to be active on twitter, on the Trailblazer community, at user groups, at Dreamin’ events. Continue to ask questions. Continue to post ideas. Oh, and if you haven’t, sign up for user research! There’s also a Trailblazer group for you to join as well. This is a great way for you to provide feedback when products are under development!