Pendo Community

The Intersection of Form and Function: Inspiring Product Creativity at Front Utah

Published Jun 11, 2018

Last week, the Pendo team joined hundreds of passionate product practitioners in Salt Lake City for the annual Front Case Study conference. We came together to learn, train and inspire each other in our crafts, and have some fun in the process.

So what is a case study conference anyway? The Front team pulled out all the stops to put on an insightful two-day event featuring product leaders from coast-to-coast at the stunning Eccles theater in downtown Salt Lake City. The in-depth series featured case studies from the trenches of product management by some of the country’s most innovative experience designers and product managers.

Our goal was to learn from some of the best product teams at leading SaaS companies who continue pushing forward in their roles to change the way our industry looks at digital products and the way people use them. The energy in the theater was electric, as ideas flew freely and interactions evolved naturally.

  • We heard from Cameron Moll, Product Design Manager at Facebook, who shared three aspects of alignment within various systems (ex. design) and the remarkable outcomes that take place when we align.
  • Chris Mayfield, VP of Product at Pluralsight, spoke about surviving as a designer or PM in the era of the algorithm, sharing personal experiences on leveraging data science and machine learning in his products and tips and tricks on how to do both practices well.
  • We also dove into the idea of fostering a culture of empowerment and autonomy with Nate Barrett, VP of Product at Canopy. As a seasoned product leader himself, Nick advised leadership to not get in the way of progress with too much process and hierarchy. He shared how a culture of autonomy flips traditional organizational thinking on its head with a focus on product outcomes, servant leadership and bottom up thinking.

The conference also featured a keynote from a power duo from the product team at Pendo. Chief Product Officer Brian Crofts and Senior Product Designer Adrienne Gajownik teamed up to share insights on the evolution of product team functions and to delve into their philosophy on managing creativity.

Brian spoke about the increasingly blurred lines between product managers and designers, the intersection of these roles, and how to move past discomfort to ultimately create the best experience for our customers. Getting the team right is even more important than getting the idea right, he believes. Excellent teams will take every idea thrown its way and fix it, scrap it or come up with something even better.

He also shared personal experiences from his previous roles at Intuit and Namely to illustrate how user observation, team collaboration and data are the pillars of creating delightful product experiences.

Adrienne illustrated how word of mouth is No. 1 for a product to go viral, sharing examples of how she spreads the good word about her favorite products to family and friends. This highlights a topic we have discussed before: a great product markets itself.

Brian and Adrienne also reminded the audience  that designing and building exceptional product experiences requires more than a great idea. It requires a lot of iteration, a maniacal focus on your user and the commitment to  producing something both useful and beautiful. Finally, it requires product managers and designers to come together as cross-functional teams to listen, learn and create side-by-side.

The Pendo team came home with new ideas and fresh perspectives and a renewed energy to continue improving in our own product craft. To learn more about the evolving role of the modern product manager and check out the latest best practices, check out the Data-driven Product Manager Handbook.