Emerging Product Themes From Pendomonium 2019

Published Sep 20, 2019

Last week, the ProductCraft team headed to the Raleigh Convention Center to support our colleagues at Pendo as they put on their biggest event of the year: Pendomonium. For the third year running, hundreds of product and customer success practitioners headed to the conference to hear advice from experts in the field and network with other members of the industry.

On both the main speaker stage and in smaller breakout sessions, a number of themes emerged. Some of these we expected, but others surprised us. Read on for four of the product-related themes we found most compelling at Pendomonium 2019.

Friction and Behavior

In his keynote address, popular author and Duke professor Dan Ariely talked about the elements of behavioral change. He likened it to sending a rocket into space: you need to reduce friction (effort) and add fuel (motivation).

And so it is with product experiences. To get your users to do what you want them to do, you need to reduce the effort it requires. Let’s say you want them to try out a newly-released feature that you think will offer them real value. Do you place that feature in an unexpected part of the application? Should you require users to click through multiple times to reach the target feature? No — you make finding and using the feature as easy as possible, perhaps through guided messaging or in-app alerts.

As product managers examine user behavior and analyze feature adoption rates, they should keep the concept of friction in mind.

Refinement and Mastery

Products are ever-evolving. Think back to your application’s MVP (if you can even remember that far back). Now picture your product as it is today. Most likely, the difference is dramatic, and in a good way. Over time, you’ve improved your user experience, overall aesthetics, functionality, and just about everything else. You’ve tested, iterated, and refined to make your product the best it can be.

At the event, the Pendo team shared a video featuring local masters of their craft, including chocolatiers, artisan jean makers, and furniture designers. And Day Two’s keynote address was delivered by chef and television personality Vivian Howard, who spoke about refining her culinary style over time.

When you think about it, great product leaders aren’t all that different from master chefs or renowned artisans. They’re dedicated to continuous improvement, constant refinement, and moving their product toward its ideal state.

The Power of Habit

In our personal lives, most of us are trying to cull bad habits and foster good ones. According to quite a few Pendomonium presenters, we should be doing the same in our lives as product professionals. Plenty of product managers want to do things like communicate regularly with customers, organize and visualize their data, and share progress with their executive teams. But all too often, these initiatives fall by the wayside in the hustle and busyness of day-to-day tasks.

At the “Habits of High-Performing Product Teams” session, speakers from DocuSign and CarMax told the standing-room-only crowd that the only way to get to these bigger-picture items is to habitualize them. Instead of saying you’ll “communicate more regularly with customers,” actually make it a habit. Create a monthly or weekly task for yourself that forces you to send a message to those customers. Add discipline and repeatability to your process, and you and your team will reap the benefits.

The PM as Storyteller

Among other things, product managers have been described as “CEOs of the product,” “servant leaders,” and “jacks-of-all-trade.” Now we can add “storyteller” to the list. PMs have a wide variety of responsibilities, ranging from the technical to the interpersonal. And at Pendomonium, a number of speakers cautioned PMs against focusing on the former at the expense of the latter.

At its core, product management is about empathy with the customer, which involves listening to — and telling — their story. Customer feedback, particularly when combined with usage data, helps PMs follow their users’ journey from start to finish. Communicating that journey and its highs and lows is an important skill for every product professional.

All in all, the ProductCraft team really enjoyed attending Pendomonium and listening to leaders in the PM field share their thoughts on the industry and where it’s going. We’re sure we’ll be there again next year — hope to see you there, too.