Keynote: Don’t join the cult

Auditorium

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Keynote

Product Management is not a new discipline. But in recent years, as the internet has made its way deep into all businesses, reshaping them in the process, Product Management has grown beyond it’s origins to become an elastic, ambiguous function, with dangerously misunderstood responsibilities and boundaries. It is not wise to have a role that is all things to all people.

Meanwhile, due to its increase in popularity, communities have emerged. It’s wonderful to be part of a professional community, but realise that this also has dangerous boundaries. It’s not a far leap from here into the myth of cult and a culture of navel gazing.

Customers don’t care about agile, or scrum, or sprints, or story points. In fact, we’ve made all this up. None of it is real, and we can erase it from our collective memory tomorrow. It’s important to ask ourselves whether these things are simply anchors in our imagination, holding us back, or whether they are useful.

As we discuss who we are, all around us business is being reshaped. Customers are changing. Markets are changing. How businesses fundamentally work is changing. We’re at risk of not focusing on the most important things. In truth there are only a few core things that matter.  Focusing on them, and not being distracted by the cult, will bring you success.

Over the past few years, as we’ve built Intercom from a tiny startup to one of the fastest growing Saas companies ever, we’ve had to challenge everything we know about building products people love. And as we grew and grew, we had to do it over and over again. What works at one level of scale doesn’t work at the next. We’ve asked ourselves what is useful, what is meaningful, what is even real. What are the useless constructs of our imagination getting in the way? What anchors has our industry created that are slowing us down?

In this talk, I’ll cover this journey. From the profound changes in how people buy products, to what that means for people making products. I’ll look at the role of a Product Manager in all of this, separating what is real and useful, from what is imagined and counter productive. By the end I’ll hopefully have challenged you to think about what you do, how you work, and how you think about your colleagues and customers. And to consider that most of it is neither useful nor even real, and given you new ways to think about where you go next.