How 4 product-led companies are staying ahead of the curve in fast-changing times

Written by Tom Relihan  | 

6 min

 

What’s the secret to keeping your org at the top of its game despite a drastically altered business landscape? It’s still all about leveraging the tried-and-true: effective collaboration and product-led strategies.

That’s according to a panel of product leaders who gathered at Pendomonium 2021 to discuss how they’ve been able to remain ready for anything in these unusual times. Each panelist works on a product that saw unprecedented levels of demand due to pandemic-related restrictions and widespread remote work. They shared their experiences and advice for other product leaders navigating similar challenges.

How Quickbase kept up with demand

Quickbase saw demand for its low-code application development platform spike as other organizations scrambled to respond to the pandemic with new digital tools and offerings.

Specifically, municipalities began using it to create digital systems for vaccination registration and monitoring local Covid restriction scofflaws. When they ran into trouble, it led to lots of support tickets on Quickbase’s end.

“Those things all happened in days or weeks. It was definitely a game changer for us,” said Harrison Hersch, Quickbase’s director of product ops. “A lot of things changed as a result of the criticality of the solutions our customers were building.”

To absorb the influx and proactively address common issues, Hersch stepped up collaboration. His team began bringing other functions–including sales, customer success, content, and technical support–more deeply into discussions around how the customer journey plays out, so each would know their role in trying to improve it.

Hersch has also invested heavily into Pendo’s Product Engagement Score as a leading indicator for measuring success. The composite metric measures adoption, stickiness, and growth to paint a holistic picture of product health. The benefits of the increased collaboration, he said, show up clearly in the metric. PES is quickly becoming Quickbase’s north star metric as the organization becomes more product led.

Fostering cross-functional collaboration at Citrix

Citrix’s software enables teams to stay nimble and work whenever, wherever, and however they want. Naturally, their platform was central to the shift to remote work that large swathes of the global workforce experienced.

Cross-functional collaboration and product-led strategies proved critical in ensuring users got the most out of Citrix’s offerings. Stephanie Monk, Citrix’s director of customer marketing, set up a clear governance structure around how Pendo is used to ensure only the most important messaging was put out to the right users, at the right moment. 

Monk also stayed in constant communication with sales and customer success to ensure that the conversations those teams were having lined up with the post-sale messaging, information, and support customer marketing was putting out through in-app guides. The team worked with support to find areas where self-service could be improved to get ahead of support tickets. And when behavioral data identified gaps in the product, they notified the product and engineering teams so they could be fixed.

All of this has built trust between teams and made scaling much easier, Monk noted. “That makes sure the user experience is at its best, from a cross-functional perspective,” she said.

Viewing customers as collaborators at JAMF

JAMF’s remote device management solutions were also a lifeline for many organizations during the pandemic, but Andrina Kelly, director of product strategy, said her team still found themselves working to adapt their offerings to a changed business landscape. In the education space, for example, they had to find ways to ensure student exams could be conducted remotely and securely, with adequate proctoring.

So, they shifted their perspective on what collaboration could look like. They began viewing the people using their platform as collaborators, too. “If we think about how we create the best product experience, no matter what the touchpoint is for our customer, that guides the interactions internally and discussions around who should be speaking to whom,” she said.

 And, JAMF makes Pendo accessible to everyone in the organization, allowing full visibility of each of those touchpoints, whether they’re person-to-person or user-to-product. That’s allowed them to roll out personalized onboarding and guidance flows in free trial experiences to lead users to value as quickly as possible.

A backbone of data for eLearning Brothers

Over at eLearning Brothers, demand spiked to unprecedented levels as most learning shifted into the virtual realm amid pandemic restrictions. Vice President of Customer Success Richard Vass worked quickly to put teams in place to handle new customer onboarding and support tickets. Though many team members have never met in person, they stay in sync through Slack channels, standing meetings, and internal newsletters, Vass said.

Pendo helped drive collaboration by enabling Vass to put a foundational layer of data behind the team’s operations. He analyzed user behavior to ease concerns about low platform use among members of his newly-minted team. Turns out, their users didn’t need to be in the tool all the time to find it valuable enough to return to.

That realization turned the temperature down quite a bit. It also led to major changes to their outreach strategies. “We just took a deep breath and realized ‘It’s fine,’” Vass said. “We didn’t need to be in our customers’ faces all the time.”

Vass also used Pendo to collect NPS responses and pushed that data into a Slack channel the entire org could see. “That tiny integration has driven a lot of collaboration for us,” he said, “If one company gives continuously low scores, that becomes a topic of conversation at a product meeting. We make sure a customer success manager is on that call, then we do targeted outreach.”

Vass is also driving growth at eLearning Brothers using product-led approaches. They’ve designed and deployed a new onboarding experience that delivers the right messaging at the right time to drive up conversion during free trials. “We found over time that we had a 50% conversion rate,” he said.

Beating the virtual meeting blues

Despite all of this, meeting fatigue quickly became an issue as remote work became the norm, all panelists agreed. Gone were the spontaneous in-office conversations. Video call after video call became a grind. The human factor that made work meetings enjoyable before the pandemic began to fade away.

To fix this, Hersch said his team put strict governance around what did and did not require a meeting and allowed more flexibility for team members to skip or leave a meeting if they weren’t finding value in it. Monk’s team grew more intentional about injecting that humanity back into work, and set up daily half-hour syncs for team members to discuss life, work, or both. “It kept us collaborative. It kept us going,” she said. 

Kelly, too, instated casual meetings to foster non-work-related conversations between colleagues. One of their engineers even started a program to pair up colleagues at random for one-to-one introductions and chats. “It’s made meetings a lot more productive because we’re more familiar with each other. We still have lots of meetings, but with more interaction. It’s not just one meeting where one person talks and everyone else is on mute.”