Building Internal Solutions is Product Management

Michael Montecuollo, Director of User Experience and Design at DOOR3, shares how to align stakeholders on a project’s priorities and how he conducts user research when the client is the end user.

I’ve now interviewed over 100 product managers, consultants, and founders about the triumphs and tribulations of building products for both business and consumer end-users. However, as Michael shares in this episode, there’s also a tremendous amount of opportunity in building products that are used by teams within an organization.

The need for an internal solution is often identified by observing teams concocting complex spreadsheets to solve common pain points. Building tools such as dashboards, portals and intranets can save time and increase efficiency. Sometimes, the products are commercialized and sold to other companies to solve the same problems.

However, building products for internal use, particularly as an outside agency, is not without a unique set of challenges. Namely, managing a client relationship and conducting user research when the client is also the end user.

Michael’s company, DOOR3, has experience working with companies including FreshDirect, AIG, and The American Museum of Natural History, so I was thrilled to get his best advice for building internal solutions.

Michael describes how building internal products requires interviewing and observing users just like building any product does. To keep stakeholders aligned on how the insights he gains in this process will be used to inform product decisions, Michael continuously communicates these insights to everyone involved.

However, product managers are often faced with varying feedback and opinions from stakeholders. To navigate these tricky situations, Michael recommends meeting with each stakeholder individually to make sure they are heard.

“We want anyone who would have an opinion, vision or strategy to be involved as early in the process as possible and participate as often as then can throughout that process. That is something that I’m managing on a daily basis in the engagements that I’m involved in - making sure that we have the right people in the room and that there are going to be no surprises down the line.”

He then presents all the feedback he’s gained to the group as a whole and reminds everyone of the priorities of the project.

“Every product that I’ve ever worked on is an exercise in prioritization. And the key to success is understanding what those priorities are and striking a balance between them in order to come up with something that serves all the different groups equally well.”

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about prioritization, communication and user research.

Here are the highlights:

  • How building internal solutions can impact a company’s bottom line (3:50)
  • How Michael manages product development for clients as an outside consultant (7:20)
  • Michael’s best advice for conducting user research for internal solutions (10:40)
  • Michael’s strategies for managing communication with clients (14:30)

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