Monday, October 01, 2012

Thoughts on Mind the Product conference

As I mentioned in the last blog posting I was at Mind the Product last week in London. For the first time in a couple of year I was just a paying punter at a conference, I was not speaking!

Here are a few notes on Mind the Product - partly as feedback to the organisers, partly for myself, and partly to encourage more people to attend next year.

Good points

  • That the conference was happening at all in London was perhaps the best thing for me. 10 years ago product management (as practices in Silicon Valley) didn’t exist in the UK. 5 years ago a few forward looking companies got it. Now it is more broadly known but still not widely enough.
  • Two concerns I had about the conference before hand both proved unfounded. One that it would be a little basic in terms of content and two that it would but all very Lean Start-up orientated. There was lots of mentions for Lean Start-up and “pivot” seemed to be the word on everyone’s lips but neither fear played out.
  • Marty Cagan as a keynote, I’m envious, I tried to get Marty to speak at Agile on the Beach but he was already booked of this. I was interested to hear him say that he thought the UK was improving with product management over the last few years. I’ve been saying the same thing.
  • Tom Hulme of Ideo London gave a great talk about purpose, although I think it was really a talk about business strategy.
Things that weren’t so good
  • Some sessions really lacked focus or content - e.g. the talk on the games industry had lots of good ideas but they were not finished, they needed more research and thinking; some of the other presentations left me wondering “what is their point?” but then, Marty Cagan and Tom Hulme set a high standard to match
  • The venue made things difficult, it was spread out, several vertically connected locations, getting food at lunch time involved finding the end of a queue and waiting. You could tell it was an old theatre where the intermission spaces were not meant to be occupied for long.
  • The format (one track, presenter talking to the audience, no interaction) left us sitting in our seats for too long without enough breaks
  • Recruitment is often an undercurrent in conferences but this time it was too much, everyone who spoke seemed to say “we’re hiring”. Many of the people at the conference had their tickets paid for by companies who would rather their people were not lured away. A bit of recruitment is to be expected this was too much. (At Agile on the Beach we made a conscious decision to not take sponsorship from recruitment agencies.)
  • As is so often the case at conferences the wifi kept coming and going - maybe this was on purpose to stop too much twittering and checking of e-mail
I hope the conference runs next year, in which case, this is what I’d like to see change next year:
  • Have two or three parallel tracks to give choice
  • Have some interactive sessions to move away from the chalk and talk
  • And thus allow for more frequent breaks
  • Different venue: one that promotes mingling, discussion and interaction
Having said I hope the conference runs next year I have an even bigger hope: that product management becomes a feature of other conferences in the technology sector. Product Management shouldn’t be its own ghetto with product managers talking only to other product managers to agree that if only product managers ran the world everything would be right.

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