Productboard founder and CEO Hubert Palan on mastering product strategy

Far too many businesses rely on early-on hunches to inform their product strategies. But as you scale beyond Series A, how can you be sure you’re choosing the right lane?

When it comes to making something people want, Hubert Palan always does his homework. With a background in computer science and an MBA, he soon realized that understanding the markets and customers is as important as building the products. And so, in 2014, he founded Productboard, a product management system that incorporates customer feedback and insights to help product teams build better products.

In this episode of Inside Intercom, we caught up with Hubert for a chat about starting small, committing to a product strategy that helps you reach your long-term goals and making sure everyone’s on the same page.

If you’re short on time, here are some quick takeaways:

  • Understanding how people differ and what matters to them helps you understand the different markets and tailor your approach to better suit each segment’s needs.
  • The best way to know your customers is through feedback. Support tickets, chat threads, and conversations have plenty of information waiting to be distilled. Use it to make better product decisions.
  • Looking at how the best companies operate, Hubert and his team boiled down product excellence to three key areas of action: vision, strategy, and execution.
  • Keeping lines of communication open between product, sales and customer success is essential for a well-oiled, highly-efficient product organization. Information from the front lines is critical when helping product decision-makers prioritize what to build next.
  • Too often, companies make the mistake of going after too many things at once. A segmentation matrix can help product teams be laser-focused on both the long-term vision and the day-to-day plan.

If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.

Rati Zvirawa: We’re delighted to welcome you as a guest on Inside Intercom today. Do you want to kick us off by just giving us a bit of background on your career to date?

Hubert Palan: Hi, thanks for having me! I’m from Prague, the Czech Republic, born and raised there, but I’ve lived here in the San Francisco Bay area for the past 13 years. I got my master’s in computer science back in Prague, then I ventured into the world of consulting and spent several years at Accenture. Then, I really wanted to go to Silicon Valley, so I applied for business school here in Berkeley. I got an MBA and tried several startups – some failures under my belt there – and then ended up at a company in the business intelligence space called GoodData. I started as a product manager and ended up as the VP of product. I experienced a lot of the pain points that product managers have and ended up starting a product management company, Productboard. And here we are, six years later.

A CRM for Product

Rati: What a journey. I’m curious, you’ve mentioned you had a degree in computer science and now you’ve moved on into this world of product. What was that shift for you?

Hubert: It’s a good question. As a kid, I’ve always liked to solve problems and create new things, playing with Lego, building electronic stuff. I was interested in analytical problem-solving. I was into math and physics, and that led me to computer science. It was all about figuring out how to build things, right? How to use technology to create something. But the consulting experience was interesting because I realized that technology is just one part of it – to have a big impact and to build something that’s going to touch many people or solve something important, I need to understand the world and the business side. I need to learn how to build a business and learn how to get others excited to join me, not just tinker with the technology.

That was the business part. That was the “how do I do that?” And I thought, “Oh, well, business school is great. I’m going to learn all these new approaches and theories.” That marriage is what I’ve been benefiting from since. Because the empathy and curiosity to understand the world and see, “Oh, this could be done differently,” combined with the knowledge of what’s feasible from the technology side, how digital products can be applied or built to solve the problems, that’s a unique approach. And if you have both, you’re much faster because you can quickly envision, even before you build anything, “I know this could be built in the digital world.” So that’s the benefit of having one foot in each of the worlds.

Rati: I’m thinking that that mix of understanding the technology and the software side of things, and the business with product, this range of experience, I’m imagining, really informed your decision to found Productboard. Could you tell us a bit more about how this came about and where this aha moment came in?

Hubert: Productboard is a project management system, it’s a system that helps product managers make better product decisions and figure out how to bring products to market faster. It’s a B2B SaaS application, think of it as a CRM. As I mentioned, I was a PM at a fast-growing San Francisco startup and I grew to be VP product, so I’d seen the pain points and the struggles of being an individual PM. Then, being the head of the department, I was responsible for managing multiple teams. Most of my product management work is learning about the customers and their needs, it’s market analysis, it’s looking at available solution alternatives, it’s the identification and assessment, and then ultimately, prioritization of the opportunities that you see in the market.

“The customers and their needs are completely missing from the systems we use. There’s no entity of a customer in Jira, for example, which is mind-boggling. That’s the foundation”

All this core stuff is what people typically do, and what I did back in the day, in spreadsheets and PowerPoints. And I’d try to somehow bring the context from the spreadsheets and PowerPoints later, once you start building things into the product delivery process, and reflect it in the engineering task management tools that we all had available. Back in the day, we used Pivotal Tracker and then later Jira. But it’s really difficult to bring the context of the market and the customers and their needs into these systems because they were designed for engineering delivery – who’s working on what, and breaking it down into smaller pieces when it comes to building things.

The big Eureka moment: If you look at product management, it’s about customers and their needs on one side, and then the products and services that you offer to them on the other. But the customers and their needs are completely missing from the systems that we use. There’s no entity of a customer in Jira, for example, which is mind-boggling because that’s the foundation. We need to understand the customers and then we go and build things. Somehow, these entities are not available in the systems that we’re using. On the business side, we have CRM, customer relationship management, it’s kind of the central business brain of the company – we have all the customers, it’s tied to the marketing automation tools, it’s interlinked with the support and customer success, and it all meets there. But on the product side, or the R&D side, we don’t have a system with customers and information about them and their pain points.

So I was like, ” Okay, let’s change that. Let’s build a system that’s going to be just like a CRM, but optimized for the needs of the product or R&D organizations.” That was the moment, and we started building it. Steve Blank, the father of Lean Startup, was my professor at Berkley and he got me into, “You need to get out of the building and test and iterate.” So we did that. It took us 13 iterations of the product. And ultimately, we launched in 2015 and we’ve been iterating ever since.

Making the move

Rati: That’s amazing to hear. You were saying that the insights and customer conversations were not naturally connected with the tools that we use within the R&D org. I’m wondering, I’ve heard you say before that when you were coming to Silicon Valley, you were expecting to have an excellent product culture. What did you discover? I’d love to hear more about that.

Hubert: Yeah. You’re kind of idealistic, especially given that you’re coming from Europe, Central Europe in my case, and you just look up to Silicon Valley as the Mecca of everything’s done right. I’m an engineer and I think like an engineer, so I’m looking for frameworks and patterns. I’ll tell you, what happened to me was that I learned a lot about frameworks and high-level business strategy at Accenture, where I did consulting for four years, because that’s what you do as a consultant, right? You have frameworks, look at market dynamics, do practical research, and advise companies on how to use these frameworks.

“I saw how companies are relying on early insights of the founders, often discovered by sheer luck, and they’re failing to scale beyond that. They don’t have the discipline”

Then, during my MBA, I went even deeper into the theoretical knowledge – marketing strategy, theory of segmentation, how to do market research, Lean Startup and customer development. All these frameworks and processes help you tackle the complexity, understand the complexity of the world. When I entered the real world of Silicon Valley, I expected the same level of strategic product sophistication. Meticulously defined target segments, drawing blue ocean strategy canvases, deeply thought out product and go-to-market strategies. Maybe not in the seed stage, but then later on, if you’re Series B funded, or if you already have thousands of customers and the company has grown.

But instead, I was a VP of Product at a company with 300 people, and a hundred million dollar raised, Andreessen Horowitz-funded, and it wasn’t like that. The level of sophistication was quite low. I was hanging out with my buddies, other VP products here in the Valley, and I saw how companies are relying on early insights of the founders, often discovered by sheer luck, and they’re failing to scale beyond that. They don’t have the discipline, they don’t have the framework to innovate and find new ideas that would scale. Teams were afraid to focus on just a specific segment of the market or customers. As a result, they would end up building products that were not really great for anybody, and they would be too broad, too in the middle of the road, instead of exceptional for a passionate group of customers.

“There was a bit of confusion between the ultimate long-term product vision and what we can actually deliver this quarter or this year”

And there was a lack of alignment about who the target customer really is. Who is the target customer right now versus where we are going? There was a bit of confusion between the ultimate long-term product vision and what we can actually deliver this quarter or this year. That was surprising. Maybe I was a bit idealistic, but I thought, “Hey, there’s definitely an opportunity, if not to go all the way to perfection, at least significantly help companies do a better job when it comes to product strategy.”

Rati: Hearing you talk there, you’re talking about frameworks and systems that you have in place, and you were describing Productboard as a system for making better decisions. And I’m wondering, what other areas do you apply that systematic thinking? Thinking about, for example, team knowledge or customer feedback.

Hubert: Ask my wife how I’m applying systematic thinking to everything, it drives her crazy sometimes. Looking at the world is a complex problem and the way we approach it as humans is that we try to break it down into smaller pieces. You mentioned team knowledge and customer feedback but look at politics. Look at the world problems around us. We just made it through, or we are still in, I guess, a very tumultuous election season here in the US. If you think about politics, it all comes down to looking at the country, looking at the people, identifying the criteria or the most important things that people care about, dissecting them and seeing how the country is segmented, and then going after each of the segments with the right messaging, the right policy, to hopefully satisfy that.

It’s the same thing in product management. It’s the realization that the markets are not homogeneous, that people differ significantly in their needs, and it’s not just functional needs, it’s not just what job you’re trying to get done in terms of utility. It is also the emotional needs, social needs. What is it that makes us happy as people? And you need to understand how the groups differ.

“Customer feedback, that’s the input. That’s how you get to understand people”

To give you an example, this is the Inside Intercom podcast, right? At Intercom, there are different audiences that you guys satisfy. There are support people, marketers, product managers, salespeople. It’s critical to understand how the needs of these target audiences differ and how you’re going to build a product, or multiple products, actually, that satisfy the needs of the customers.

Customer feedback, that’s the input. That’s how you get to understand people. I mentioned earlier we don’t have a system to centralize the understanding around customers, but we have a lot of this input in systems like Intercom, in support tickets and conversations and chat threads – there’s so much knowledge there. There is so much knowledge in the sales CRMs systems. There’s so much knowledge in notes from customer success, quarterly business reviews, and conversations. We can distill it, we just need to get it out. We need to structure it and then turn it into patterns and understanding. And again, whether it’s product management or understanding some other problem out in the world, it’s the same problem. Look, observe, learn, identify patterns, then figure out how you’re going to go about approaching the problem. What’s the sequence? And ultimately solve it.

The three pillars of product excellence

Rati: That’s really interesting. I’ve heard you speak to product excellence and how Productboard helps you with product excellence. I’m curious to hear, what does product excellence means to you? How is it different from other ways of defining successful product development?

Hubert: Yeah, look, we just stuck our feedback in the process and the systemic thinking. There’s a framework. There are best practices for most of what we do as humans. It’s a culmination and centralization of how we’ve been doing things for thousands of years. And in some areas of the world and some areas of our endeavors, it’s much more sophisticated than in the others, because we’ve been doing it for a long time. For example, the Japanese really know to a T how a Zen garden should look like, they’re building it and it’s just getting better and better and better. When it comes to architecture, we’ve been building houses for hundreds of years, and there’s a lot of understanding of usability and how the house should be defined.

“If you look at the sales process, there is an understanding of how that ‘best practices’ sales process should look like”

My point is that these frameworks and best practices are the same in the business processes. If you look at the sales process, there is an understanding of how that “best practices” sales process should look like. What are the stages? How do you define leads and contacts and opportunities? And the more people understand what is involved in the sales process, this underlying framework, the more they have the same mental model, the more efficient they are in collaborating because people know what the framework is and how to navigate it.

The interesting thing is that when it comes to engineering, for example, we have Agile methodology. It’s not that old, the Agile Manifesto was written in 2001, but now everybody gets it, or hopefully, most people in the digital world get it. But that framework and that rigorous process are really about the delivery part of product management. It’s about how you go and translate backlog into the existing product that you are going to deliver. And obviously, there are iterations and tests with customers and so on, but the strategy piece, the understanding of the market, the segmentation, everything that I talked about, is not part of it. And so I thought we should have a framework and a process for product management that would be the set of best practices that would help product teams navigate and go through checklists: Are we following the process? Do we have all the right pieces in place?

And so, we looked at how the best companies operate and we distilled it into three main pillars and we put it under an umbrella of product excellence. If you want to be excellent, if you really want to pursue the craft, and if you want to master product management, how would it look like? And it boiled down to three key areas: product vision, product strategy, and product execution. I already mentioned the product vision. How does my product look like in a long term? What is it that it’s going to solve in the world? How is the world going to look like with my product in it?

“Amazon started with books and then went and, “Okay, now let’s sell DVDs,” and now it’s an everything store. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s try to build an e-commerce solution for everybody for everything from the beginning.'”

But then, there needs to be a realization that getting there is a journey. We can’t build the products, everything, at the same time. It’s a strategic, very thought out, methodical way of how to get to the vision. There’s the pillar of the strategy. How is the first version of the product going to look like? What is it going to solve in terms of pain points for the target customers? How do I go from there? It’s the second key piece.

And then, execution. Execution is about making sure everybody’s on the same page. Everybody shares the mental model. Everybody understands who are the target customers, what pain points they have. The strategy informs, it’s like a filter. What is it that’s going to hit the execution pipeline? To give you some examples, Amazon started with books and then went and, “Okay, now let’s sell DVDs,” and now it’s an everything store. It wasn’t, “Let’s try to build an e-commerce solution for everybody for everything from the beginning.” Tesla started with the Roadster and then built a Sedan version, Model S, and then later they got into the mass-market vehicle. There’s a methodical approach.

If you look at the digital world, Salesforce as a company started in sales, focused on the sales use cases and built a CRM sales system, and then later added the marketing cloud and analytics cloud and services support cloud. It’s a methodical approach very much driven by the strategy. And so that’s how I hope that we can all operate in the product management world and that we can have this framework and we can always ask ourselves, “Okay, what’s the vision? What are we going to focus on now?” Because if you start building too many things at the same time, you slow down, you don’t have the focus. When Steve Jobs went back to Apple, back in the day, the first thing he did was cutting down the product portfolio and saying, “We’re just going to focus on a few.” It’s the same mindset. And it turns out that’s how the best companies operate, so let’s replicate it.

Keeping communication lines open

Rati: And mentioning product managers, how important do you think it is for people that are in this discipline to be engaged directly with customer feedback?

Hubert: Oh, it’s critical, the knowledge of the customers. I mean, who’s a great project manager? The product manager is somebody who has extremely high empathy and understanding of their target customer. And how do you get to know the people? How do you get to know the customers better? Go and speak to them directly. To Steve Blank, in Lean Startup, which is, by the way, a methodology and a framework on how to get to product-market fit, one of the key aspects of that is getting out and speak to the customers directly. Observe them, see what they say, have the empathy to tell when they’re fooling you or when they’re saying something just because they feel like you want to hear it. If you ask them, “Hey, would you use this product?” It’s like, “Oh yeah. It looks great, I would totally use it. I would pay so much money.” But it might not be true. So it comes back to empathy. Direct customer contact is critical.

At the same time, direct customer conversations are not the only way to learn about problems and to observe the market at scale. There are so many pieces of conversation and so many insights about the market floating in all the systems and support conversations. And there are many people at the company on the front lines who are talking to the customers on a daily basis, even at a higher frequency than product managers do, because the product managers are focused on not just understanding the customers, but then also building the product and turning these insights into products.

“If the sales account executives channel feedback into the product team and know that they will act on it and that the product will get better, well, it will be easier for the account executive to sell the product”

But the support folks, the sales folks, the customer success folks, they spent so much time talking with customers. And so the product managers need to figure out a way to tap into it, to have that communication line and flow of information from the people on the front lines. We need to create a system that’s very efficient in funneling the understanding and helping the product decision-makers understand the needs as much as possible.

I sometimes use the metaphor of a Star Trek captain bridge. The team’s there and they have all the systems and all the exploration ships and all the technology at their disposal. Or think of it as a war room – if you’re in a battle, you have the soldiers on the front lines, and then they funnel all the information about what’s happening into the central decision war room. And you make sense of it. And then, okay, this is what you’re going to do. You devise the objectives or figure out what your strategy is going to be. And then you go and execute.

And in my mind, this is how the product organization should be designed. There should be a connection from everybody else at the company to the product teams and vice-versa, so that you operate in a highly functional or non-obstructive manner with free flow of information. I know I took it a little farther than just product managers understanding customers, but…

Rati: No, this is great.

Hubert: I hope it made sense.

Rati: This is great. It kind of puts into perspective the entire company, because it’s not just the product manager who’s working on the entire product.

Hubert: Yeah. The whole company, that’s so important.

Rati: Especially that internal collaboration, I imagine is key to keeping that connection. I’d love to hear some examples on, within Productboard, what’s helped to keep this connection.

Hubert: I mean, we’re using Productboard as a system. Look, tools are important, software is important, but at the end of the day, people need to know how to use them, people need to configure them properly. And the organization as a whole needs to buy into that way of thinking.

“We need to create an environment where this collaboration happens and everybody wants to be part of it”

And so the systems and the process, how product teams cooperate with engineering and with customer success and with sales, they need to be set up in a way where people understand the value, that if they contribute to the product teams, that the product teams will benefit. And they need to be motivated as well. Not just by this intrinsic, “I’m going to contribute and help better products.” If the sales account executives channel feedback into the product team and know that they will act on it and that the product will get better, well, it will be easier for the account executive to sell the product. So there are very strong incentives for these people to be part of the project management process.

But we need to create an environment where this collaboration happens and everybody wants to be part of it. Other than the systems, you can set up a process where if there’s a customer conversation happening, other people can come and listen to it, whether it’s a user research session that product management or design team is running or a sales call, and people can listen and be part of it, or listen to the recordings.

And communication needs to run both ways. Product teams, when they’re listening, when they’re using tools, they need to then tell the company what they did with it. For example, I talked with a chief product officer at a public company. They regularly present what they’re hearing from sales and customer success and marketing on all-hands. They use Productboard to show it and to kind of show directly the quotes, but they open up on what’s happening, how the company is acting, how the product team is acting. And they talk not just about what they’re going to build, but also about they decided to de-prioritize, and that maybe fits in the bucket of, “Hey, we know this group of customers is asking for something, but we are going to get to it later, that’s not the focus.”

They use the opportunity to reinforce the strategy and the shared understanding of what people need and what you’re focused on right now. People ask us all the time, “Hey, can you build even more functionality for product delivery, and we would love to use a product board for the engineering task management tools as well, and we would replace JIRA.” And that’s great, but that’s not our strategic focus. That’s not what we want to be focused on. We want to focus on the needs of the core product management persona. And we want to partner with JIRA and have engineers leverage JIRA. That’s an example, but it’s the kind of culture that is evaluated and appreciated. The product team talks and gives recognition to people who contribute the insights and become part of it.

Going to market with a segmentation matrix

Rati: I’ve seen how hard it can be if you don’t have the right inputs to say yes or no to things, things that you will build and not build. You mentioned earlier how important it is to have a good segmentation process, especially when you’re getting customer feedback. I’d love to understand how you see segmentation in terms of getting customer feedback and understanding your customer.

Hubert: So, what’s segmentation? As I mentioned, the market is not homogeneous. Different people have different needs. If you just stand in front of a whiteboard or whatever digital tool you’re using for that and put the different demographic segments or personas – in the case of Intercom, sales, marketing, customer support – in rows, so a simple matrix, and then you put the jobs, the needs, the problems these personas have in columns, and you start filling out this matrix, you will see that some of these problems and segments are completely independent and there is no intersection, and in some others, there is a big intersection and the needs overlap.

“If you have many rows and many columns and you’re trying to build everything at the same time, well, that’s not possible. If you keep going like this, you’re going to die as a company”

The great thing about doing it visually like this is that you can have a conversation with other people on the team. You can stand in front of it, and you can say, “Okay, in this quarter, let’s focus on the salespeople and this first couple of pain points,” and kind of just making a circle around it and estimate how big of an opportunity it is and how you’re going to tackle it. And then later, in the next quarter, you’re going to expand to the adjacent use case. And you’re going to be kind of drawing a map of how you’re going to market and how strategically you intend to approach it. What is the initial segment and how do you go from there? And again, and again, and again.

We’ve done this and I’ve seen customers trying to go through this journey. And it’s interesting to see how much people differ in just filling out the rows and the columns. Like, what are the audiences? What are the pain points? And then, okay, what are we actually building? And if you have many rows and many columns and you’re trying to build everything at the same time, well, that’s not possible. If you keep going like this, you’re going to die as a company. Somebody else is going to be focused on just a subset, is going to move faster, and will out-innovate you in that area.

It’s a combination of the demographics and the descriptive characteristics of the audience, something that you can kind of get from LinkedIn profiles. But then the pain points, the jobs, the behavioral characteristics, that is the job of the product team to figure out.

Rati: Amazing. Thank you for sharing that.

Hubert: There’s more. Look, this is where marketing strategy and marketing research techniques come into play. This is what is valuable about business education, this is what companies have been doing for a hundred years. Procter & Gamble and other fast-moving consumer companies have been doing user research – they go and survey people and translate this qualitative research into a quantitative understanding of the market.

“The conversation about what is day one, what is day two, what is day three in terms of the segments that you’re going after, it’s such a critical part of product strategy.

For example, we’ve just done a big pricing study and research. We started with qualitative interviews and distilled the key dimensions from them, and then we ran a survey of hundreds of prospects and customers, analyzed it, looked for clusters, and did very sophisticated market segmentation. This is something that you should be doing even if you’re a small startup. Maybe not so sophisticated, but that framework, the thinking and the understanding that you’re not going to be the best, next conversational marketing tool for everybody from day one, that there is a way how to get there, that is critical. And then the conversation about what is the day one, what is the day two, what is the day three in terms of the segments that you’re going after, it’s such a critical part of product strategy. And if you can do something, do that with your team.

And one other thing. You ask me what we’ve done at Productboard. I know there are many people out there saying, “Yeah, but my boss is not thinking that way. I’m just the individual product manager.” And I understand it. It’s very hard to get everybody on the same page and into this mindset. But what everyone can do is just to take a crack at it. So you can sit down as an individual product manager and try to fill out this matrix. You can try to write a one-pager on what you think that the product strategy is and how the market looks like. And then you can go to your boss and say, “Hey, I’ve been trying to understand the market, and this is what I came with. Do you see it the same way?” And it’s incredible what kind of conversation it can spark. It’s like, “Oh no, this is different.”

And maybe the Head of Product has a clear idea, maybe it’s just going to be an alignment conversation, but it’s more likely than not that there’s going to be learnings on both sides because, typically, the individual product managers have a good understanding of the particular area they’re responsible for and they can contribute to the overall product strategy definition as well.

Rati: I love that tip because it gives them the ability to be proactive about contributing to that strategy or even driving it forward. I know myself, having been in that position before, that it’s nice to have something to bring to the table and spark that discussion. That’s a good piece of advice.

Finding inspiration in product-driven organisations

Rati: One thing that we typically like to ask guests on Insight Intercom is whether there is an individual from your discipline or in your experience, in your profession, who inspires you.

Hubert: Yeah, look, this is kind of the question where people are like, “What am I going to say so that I’m different?”

Rati: I know, right?

Hubert: And people say Steve Jobs. I mean, I watched every video of Steve Jobs I could find.

Rati: Who hasn’t? Who in product has not?

Hubert: Yeah. But I’m going to give you a broader answer. I studied the work of all the founders and all the people that discovered some new market opportunity early on, especially in our domain, B2B SaaS. Des Traynor from Intercom included. What’s increasingly interesting to me is the people who end up scaling the product organizations and the people like Tamar Yehoshua, the chief product officer at Slack, or Shawna Wolverton, the SVP Product at Zendesk, or Oded (Gal), the CPO at Zoom. These people have to figure out the process, the framework, how to structure the organization. And there’s a lot of hard work that they are doing because the founders, including me, have this aura. We can kind of get away with things because we have the founder protection. It’s like, “Oh yeah. Unique insight.”

“When you’re a founder and a CEO, especially if you’re a founder CEO, product ends up being just one of many things you need to work on. And the reality is that you might have, in some cases, less of an understanding of the market than your product team”

But when you’re scaling the team and you really need to figure out what the structure is, what the organizing principle’s going to be, how you will lead across the company, how you’ll become the voice of the product organization, and how you build partnerships, it’s just awesome to be talking to these people. Whenever I talk to them, I always learn so much. And they’re also laser-focused. When you’re a founder and a CEO, especially if you’re a founder CEO, product ends up being just one of many things you need to work on. And the reality is that you might have, in some cases, less of an understanding of the market than your product team. That’s what delegating is all about.

And that’s where I go for inspiration – how they do it and what I have to learn. You have 10, 20, and in some cases, hundreds of product teams. It’s such a hard job. Study those.

And then one other thing that I wanted to mention is that I still follow some of the great design thinkers, and I’m trying to see how they think about patterns and new ways of data visualization. Because I feel like the product management system is such a multi-dimensional space. There’s still a lot of opportunities to innovate in how we visualize the information so that the patterns and the relationships in the data are visible, so that they allow us to identify problems that we didn’t know about in the first place. There’s this great agency called Stamen Design here in San Francisco, and they do an incredible data visualization job. I discovered them because there was a MoMA exhibition – this is pre-COVID, a couple of years ago – and there was just incredible data visualization work. They were visualizing the genome and some other complex set of information and it was super inspiring. So check them out. Stamen Design.

Rati: I’ll definitely check them out. Finally, before we let you go, Hubert, is there any way people can keep up with your work? Any websites, newsletters?

Hubert: You can Google Hubert Palan. I’m the only Hubert Palan. Well, technically, I’m Hubert Palan IV, but I’m the active one. And on our website, we have a newsletter. We don’t have a podcast yet, but I’ve been speaking with folks on many other podcasts. And then my Twitter handle is @hpalan. You can find me on LinkedIn, as well. And read our blog, we blog there quite a bit and we also interview people. It’s a lot of good content.

Rati: Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Hubert: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.