Should putting yourself in someone else’s shoes be intuitive to working in product? What’s so beneficial about building products based on a foundation of feedback?
We picked the brains of Adam Dille, Senior VP of Product and Engineering at Quantum Metric, to find out. Adam took us through his product leadership journey; combining product and engineering to allow customers to thrive, uniting teams through continuous product design, and more.
Here, we’ve got the highlights from the Q&A, but if you want to take in every last morsel of inspirational insights, listen to the whole thing below. 👇
Q: How did you end up at Quantum? How did you know it was this perfect place for you?
A: I joined when we were just 10 people back in 2017. This was the smallest group I'd ever been a part of during my career. To be honest, I've fallen in love with that model now. It was fun to go from small to now being a company with 300 plus people.
I’ve realized that I love that journey. I'm someone who loves change, and I love that I’m doing something new every day.
I ended up at Veritas early in my career. I did some defense contracting and then landed at an affiliate marketing company. That was small for me after going from Symantec, and Quantum was even smaller than that. It’s been a great journey going from organizations of different sizes.
Q: What was the product vision when you came in?
A: Very often when you put a digital product out there, it becomes this kind of black box of what's happening. It’s difficult to gauge how people are interacting with it. Is it doing the things that I built it to do?
Quantum gives you insight into that black box, and it does this in multiple ways. The first way is with a session replay. This gives the individual user a kind of picture of the journey, but it marries that with analytics data in some really creative ways.
If my conversion rate is down, for example, I want to look at that segment of users who didn't convert and analyze how they’re behaving in those situations. Another example is if someone is having a specific problem with the product, I can look up that specific session. But then I can also look to see if this is a problem that’s affecting a large percentage of our traffic, and judge whether this is something that we should really spend our time on.
I can draw significant insight on what specific factors are affecting our conversion rates and I can begin to address them.
Q: What is truly special or unique about this tool?
A: We had customers praising the tool for its wide data set, and for the fact that the product is able to look at analytics from a lot of different angles. We realized we’d built something that could potentially unite a lot of different departments and functions within an organization.
We've redefined the process to be something that we call ‘continuous product design.’ The process is centered around the customer across multiple teams. And these teams are in alignment on the essential things to work on. It’s not just a process that the IT people or engineering team are focused on. It’s something that can truly unite people in different roles.
Q: Tell us a little bit about this journey to continuous product design
A: After we had this feedback from customers, we decided to build some features in the product. We created a team that could segment down the data, and based on that they can segment down the features in the product.
We had different teams focusing on the things that mattered to them. We finally decided this is worth creating an educational process that teaches our customers how they can climb a maturity curve of continuous product design and do things differently in their organization. Quantum is here to help them to enable that process.
So, we went from just building some features to creating a website that could help them get certified in that process. We built the materials around how our customers could mature their organization, based on the role they have.
Quantum is the most meta thing I’ve been involved with. You're essentially building a product for people who are building a product. You're looking for insights into your own product, and they help you to build a better product. We look at the customer subscriptions and identify where customers are perhaps not having the best experience.
Q: How did you engage with customers? What was their reaction to the product?
A: Customers knew that we weren’t just another vendor trying to sell them something. Product teams have engaged with us really well, and they respect the fact that, like them, we’re trying to create a good product.
We communicated with them that we were trying to be more iterative. We spent a lot of time engaging with customers and made sure that they were really collaborators in the process. We want to get to this place where we're building things based on a foundation of feedback, chasing after problems that are real for our customers.
Our customers just love that. We wanted to build the best thing based on their feedback.
Q: How did you approach building out a product organization at Quantum? What was the process?
A: I definitely didn't come into Quantum prepared to eventually take on the head of product role. I come from a background wanting to create products that solve real customer problems. That's the foundation that my work is built on top of. It’s not just about building some mechanical thing and disregarding it.
The aim is for a product to be really hitting the mark more on customer problems. When it goes out the door, it has to be polished, and it has to be consistent in the problems that it solves. These are the things that can really help you to nail a product as your customer base grows.
Something that I love doing is taking a step back from a product and imagining that I’m seeing it for the first time. I want to put myself in the shoes of a customer seeing the product for the first time and imaging how they’ll react to it. it. I feel like this is a really intuitive approach to product building.
When it comes to the engineering side of what I do, I love to see groups working together very cohesively. I don’t like teams working separately in silos
Q: Any advice for those who are worried about making changes to their organization?
A: I would say that avoiding the struggle ends up costing you more than just addressing the problem. Growing your startup really creates opportunities for new people to step into leadership roles and for new teams to be formed. Unless you’re willing to take the risk and struggle for a while, there isn’t really much opportunity for growth.
Q: Let’s talk about young vs mature companies. How can we excel in both?
A: It‘s important to maintain the things that make you special as you grow. It depends on how well the leadership of that company is able to maintain the culture as you’re experimenting with new modes of business.
You can go both directions. You can end up kind of slowing down and losing some of the people who love that fast-paced iterative way of doing things, or you can end up with more of a group that likes stability.
Neither one is necessarily bad, they just fit different people's personalities. For me, I can be in a more mature organization as long as I can still get things into customers' hands quickly. I’m fine with stability as long as we can continue to iterate and innovate.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in getting customers to engage?
A: We find that a lot of potential users are nervous about protecting customer privacy. They find the tool kind of creepy. You need to know about aggregate groups of customers and how they're struggling or whether they’re having a good experience. It’s less about who they are, and more about what they’re doing.
In the past, we’ve had FinTech customers who are concerned about how and where you store the data. Those industries are already moving towards the cloud anyway, so the objections about storing data in the cloud are going away because customers are already making the shift towards the cloud. As long as people are assured that their data is being stored in a secure data center, they’re happy.
We made sure that we were strictly GDPR compliant from day one. User data is strictly protected, and of course, you can always remove user information if that becomes an issue. In the end, it’s really just a case of getting on the phone with customers, hearing those complaints, and reassuring them.
Q: Was there a moment when you realized the impact your product could have?
A: I think it was when we realized that we could really go from micro to macro in terms of the broader impact these metrics can have. When you can actually pair analytics with the real experience that a customer is having, then you’re really on to something. Analytics are no longer just numbers on a dashboard.
Instead of just solving problems on a case-by-case basis, we need to really hone in on the critical problems that are losing customers. Quantum has always been about focusing on the issues that actually impact the business. Focus on the things that matter.