Jenny Wolochow, Senior Product Manager at Coursera, and Todd Olson, CEO and co-founder of Pendo, discuss how to use data to your advantage when roadmapping and building products.
Faced with competing priorities, ideas, and customers, Coursera, an online learning platform, set out to gather more user data in order to discover which areas of their platform needed more investment.
And about a year ago, they found a perfect match in Pendo, a software tool that helps product teams better understand their user’s behaviors.
“The biggest challenge I see facing product teams is how do you prioritize what to build next? It’s hard because you have to synthesize a lot of disparate information,” says Todd, who co-founded Pendo. “Data can come from internal stakeholders like sales and customer success, or external stakeholders like customers. It can be qualitative data, it can be quantitative. How do you make sense of that?”
Pendo’s work to help product managers turn the data that’s in front of them into smarter product roadmap decisions aligns well with some of Jenny’s specific challenges at Coursera.
Coursera’s customer base can be broken into two users: Those who sign up to take online courses, and the educators who teach them. Jenny focuses on product management for the education side of the business, where she’s faced with two dilemmas:
- There are fewer education partners than there are course-takers, and they have less time than their counterparts, leaving Coursera limited in large-scale experiments they can run or direct feedback they’re able to get.
- Because each university’s programs and roles are structured differently, every partner has a unique problem or use case to address.
“Prioritization is one of the hardest parts of being a product manager, and I think that’s where data can be really helpful,” says Jenny.
She aims to collect data wherever and however she can, whether that means doing user research, getting customer feedback from account and support teams, or partnering with Pendo to generate insights about usage.
“Last year [at our annual partner conference], I used data from Pendo to find out which pages were visited the most often by partners and what they interacted with the most on that page. And from that data, we were able to pick a high leverage page to invest in improving the UX,” explains Jenny.
Both Jenny and Todd say it really helps to bring data into conversations, and it’s a great way to backup product decisions when it comes time to insert one feature over another in a roadmap, notify a customer that you’re sunsetting a feature, or tell a stakeholder no (or not yet).
In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about data-driven decision making, gathering and incorporating customer feedback, and product roadmap strategies.
Here are the highlights:
- Coursera’s approach to product decision making (2:30)
- Common challenges that Jenny and Todd face when building products (4:24)
- Ways to use data to validate — or invalidate — ideas (6:28)
- Best practices for product roadmapping (10:03)
- Why it’s important to keep customers informed about product updates (16:18)
- How they see the future of product management and decision making evolving (20:42)