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On the topic of data-driven product design and growth product management

author

Andreas Grabner

Aug 3

Why data is key to the growth of your company, the development of your product, and the ethics of doing so.

On our latest Pure Performance podcast, we invited Manav Chugh, software engineer and growth product manager at Dynatrace, to chat about one of his passions: data-driven product management. It was great to pick Manav’s brain on the topic, and I thought I would summarize some of the critical points of our discussion in a blog post.

Discussing data-driven product management with Manav Chugh from Dynatrace

Before I begin, let’s have a look at what data-driven product design is.

As the name suggests, data-driven product design is the philosophy of developing a product based on the data you can gather about how your users use the product. It’s not an entirely new way of doing things; however, it has become widely spread in software products because it’s much easier to build in data-gathering techniques directly in the product.

If you’d like to learn more about it, read Manav’s blog post on Data-Driven Product Management as well.

Data-Driven Product Management

Why should we talk more about using data in product management?

Manav believes that we don’t talk enough about the possibilities presented by data to develop products further. Product success is visual thinking, but it’s also about using data to have positive business outcomes that you want to achieve as a company. Initially, project managers would just create new features, ship them out, and wait to see what sticks without setting any metrics or business outcomes based on what the users want. But with the advent of agile and UX, things started changing. Now the mindset is to find out what the user wants, mainly through metrics.

“The regular apps that we use [like Zoom, Facebook] are being tracked in terms of events, and this is being tailored to you specifically as a user to bring you always back to the app.”

Every successful product is only successful if a user comes back to the product and keeps using it. As a growth PM, Manav’s main goal is to look at users and think about “How do we activate users?” “How do we acquire them?”, “How can we monetize our products so they can better understand licensing capabilities or get to know the value of what they’re buying?” and then “How do we retain them?”.

Data is key to achieving this goal because it gives you real-life input on how your users are using your product and their struggles, and you can use this information to optimize it.

Where do you start with data-driven product management?

Having the data is only one part of it. How you use the data, how you implement it, how you collect it are all things that go together to make that product and the organization successful. It all starts with one question: “What insights do I want to have from this data?” or “What is the question you want to answer?”

When you are sure you want to go down the data-driven path, you also need to choose who you want on your team. You need data scientists, data analysts, ML or AI specialists — just generally people who know how to learn from data and turn it into actionable insight. And when you come to the new features you may want, you need to bring other specialists on board like UX designers and project managers. Find an answer to the questions: “If we build this, how does it fit into our business strategy? How does it increase our lifetime customer value? How can we monetize it to reach our business goals?”

Remind yourself that product managers are wrong 80% of the time, even if they have data and evidence to support their hypotheses. You need to be open to a continuous loop of experimentation, failure, and learning to start with data-driven product management.

What makes growth product managers different?

At Dynatrace we’ve started experimenting with the new role of “growth product manager”. It’s a role that’s been growing a lot in companies that have product-led strategies and it stands beside the traditional product manager.

Instead of owning a specific part of a product, as a growth PM, you focus on improving a specific business metric or a commercial goal. You zoom in on a specific problem in a specific point of the user journey and try to find ways to improve it with the help of data; with the goal of achieving a specific measurable metric or goal. Traditional product managers focus on the product as a whole or only on specific features.

“I love the product I’m working on and as a growth product manager I can work cross-solution, over the whole product, and that is amazing.”

You need to have a “growth mindset”: If you only want to cater to one specific target group, your company won’t grow. If you want to grow, you need to think about how to tap into different markets that you may not have done before. And this requires being open to change, experimentation, and failure.

What are the implications of working with data?

Balancing data privacy with data collection is not an easy task, and the implications of doing so depend on what laws are in force. US and Canada’s privacy rules are different from those in the EU, for example.

It’s widely acknowledged that with free products, like Instagram or Facebook, the user becomes the product. Those companies take our data to make the product better and make sure we stay as long as possible on the platform, to expose us to as much advertisement as possible. In a country like the US, gathering this data is not an issue due to lax privacy laws. However, in the EU, a project manager needs to consider the rules and be careful about how and who they want to capture data from.

There’s a vast difference between developing an application that is technically a data farm, gathering information from users for resale to third-party companies for advertisement, and, on the other side, using data to improve a product for the real benefit of your users. And in his work, Manav’s goal is to focus on the latter.

Listen to the full podcast here to get the full insight into What is Data-Driven Product Management with Manav Chugh. Follow Manav on Medium, where he shares his stories on being and becoming a data-driven product manager, and check out his Product Tank project based in Linz, Austria.

And don’t forget to follow the Pure Performance podcast to not miss any future episodes; available everywhere where podcasts are streamed. 😉


On the topic of data-driven product design and growth product management was originally published in Dynatrace Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Andreas Grabner