Video Vault: Pivoting with Agility

When Covid hit, the technology needs of small businesses owners changed almost overnight. Suddenly they needed contactless everything. This was true from ordering products, to accepting payments, making deliveries, and even delivering services in a virtual fashion.

Businesses that could get away with credit card terminals from the 1970s plus sticky notes now needed to adopt the latest is digital customer experience technology.

At the recent Localogy 2021 event in Los Angeles, we invited two veteran product leaders to talk about the product-development process. The discussion started on how Covid redirected the focus of product teams toward enabling small businesses to function in a contactless world.

And we got into a discussion on the disciple of product. And how the increasing pressure to build quickly is helping to professionalize the product discipline. For better or worse. Joining the panel were Kim Little of Newfold Digital ad John Foreman from Podium.

Pivoting with Agility

During a dynamic time for the world, we’ve seen tech and media companies rewrite their product road maps, listening to the prioritized needs of their customers. Is the shift to customer-centric development sustainable? Will fast-tracked product development itself reveal new methods to accelerate cycles and speed-to-market?

Kim Little, Newfold Digital
John Foreman, Podium

Here are a few highlights from the panel.

The Big Pivot

First, we asked each speaker to cite an example of a product or service innovation they made as a result of the pandemic.

The panelists agreed that Covid either created or popularized a host of solutions that are likely to endure well beyond the pandemic.

Podium rolled out a text-to-pay solution in response to the pandemic that now is processing about $3 billion in payments on an annualized basis. While the product was a response to an immediate need for contactless payments, its popularity will outlast the pandemic.

“Once this happened, businesses were like, wait a second,” John explained. “Even if people can come into the store, boy, is it nice to just text them and say ‘Pay me’. Especially if it’s past due.”

And Newfold Digital quickly pivoted to bolster its website self-service capabilities to help businesses suddenly inundated with a need to rapidly change content on their websites to address new operating hours, Covid protocols, and so on.

“One of the things that we pivoted in product was how do we enable our customers to be able to log in really fast and be able to change those things on their websites? In the past, they might have called us to help them but that they needed some customers needed to be able to do it real-time,” Kim said.

Covid’s Impact on SMB

We also asked Kim and John whether they saw Covid produce a dramatic small business digital upskilling. They said the piture was mixed. But they agreed Covid was a huge wake-up call.

“So we’ve seen it in a few different ways,” Kim said. “One is that we do see people logging in to their builders to the websites a lot more and they’re asking us more questions. So we are pushing more information out to them to help them with updating their website or doing the tasks that they now need to do more readily.”

John said many businesses have had to scramble to adopt technology just to get through Covid.

“COVID hits and people realized they just can’t rely on these crutches that they’ve always relied on, right? Like my technology sucks. It’s is mostly a phone and some sticky notes. And I’ve got a calendar on the wall for auto parts that I write things on, right? And all of a sudden they realize I need technology too.”

Going Pro

The discussion eventually pivoted to the professionalism of the product role in software companies. Both agreed the role has become more formalized, which is mostly a good thing. But it also has potential drawbacks.

“I remember sitting there one day and thinking, wow, this new person just joined the company and he has a fancy name for product management. And I’m like, What’s that? And he tells me a little bit I’m like, oh, I’ve been doing that for years,” Kim said.

John said that the need for speed to market has helped to professionalize the product role. But he doubts it will reach the level where you can get an undergraduate degree any time soon. He also said that the really important skill set for a product person is the ability to work across disciplines.

“All of a sudden now I have folks who can speak a particular language, but they still might suck at their job,” John said. “Can you really work with all these different folks? Can you have great relationships with engineers and designers and marketing to get this thing done? And can you understand our customers really well?”

We’ll pause there and cue the full video. Stay tuned for more deep dives and video footage from Localogy 2021…

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