Leading a team out of beta

A beta launch is a great milestone for any team working on a product. It’s the moment you put your product in the hands of people outside of the safety net of your team. You celebrate your first article in the press, then your first user, and then you get back to work—which picks up at about 10x the speed. 

Each department has a new set of goals and new projects, and with real customers, sometimes a whole new way of looking at things. It’s an exhilarating time, led by one coach who holds the team accountable, answers our questions, and ensures we meet our deadlines while delivering the best product possible.

Switch Communications Product Manager, Michael Chang, walks us through what it was like leading the team out of beta and getting Switch ready for the public.  

 

You’ve been the Product Manager for Switch since the first conversations. Tell us how you took it from a concept to a live product.

The first stages involved a very small group of folks. We held discussions around things like features, functionality, and the overall market....which is usually how a lot our processes start. We have an idea and a concept, and our UX designers are first to tackle it by going through different sketches or concepts, doing some initial user testing with clickable prototypes, and interviewing people about what they were currently using.

(You can learn more about the Switch design process in this post by our UX Designer, Jerome Tavé.)

That all led to establishing our initial direction, where we looped in visual designers to come up with the visual design language and branding, and our engineers to lay out the underlying framework. As time went on, Switch starting to move from a concept to a more concrete product.

Michael Chang, Switch Product Manager

Michael Chang, Switch Product Manager

After months of internal testing, we handed Switch off to a group of trusted testers. That time was 100% focused on integrating all of the usage feedback we got from them, which meant tweaking visual aspects and specific flows.

From there, we were ready to release Switch to a wider audience of people. From the beta launch, we wanted to make sure we got actionable feedback so that we could refine more of the user-facing stuff, like onboarding and managing your account.  

There’s a whole roadmap of things that we know we want to do, but once we start getting feedback from real customers, it changes the direction a bit. It was great insight into what people really want. Everything we heard from users had been something we at least talked about internally, but it helped to hone in on the urgency and the other things that needed to be addressed.

For example, it’s not just about adding porting, but also thinking ‘Okay, how is this going to function once it’s implemented?' We wanted to make sure that porting was something the user could easily do, and make it as self-serving and seamless as possible. It’s one thing to make it functional, but it’s another thing to make it a delightful experience for the end user. We didn’t just want to say ‘Switch can do this.’

What are some challenges you face as a product manager?

Your product is never done. You release it to the public, it’s not done. You have one million users, you’re still not done. Product management is continuous — you’re constantly making things better for your users. There are so many things you want to do, and we have a lot of great assets to do almost anything, but it takes time to do it right. As a startup, the challenge lies in realizing priorities when your ideas are vast, but your resources are limited. It’s figuring out the best way to fit those things together to get the best possible product out there.

It’s one thing to make it functional, but it’s another thing to make it a delightful experience for the end user.

What do you love most about your job?

I have insight into every single part of the company. I work directly with each team, and because of that, the things that I get involved with are very diverse. There are times when I need to provide feedback on UX, a particular engineering functionality, or marketing emails and content. There are even times when I interact directly with customers and act as voice of the company.

The fact that I’m able to have experience in all of those different areas is fun. There is always something new, and I think that’s part of what keeps me on my toes. You also learn the difficult process of putting out a product, and I like that challenge.

You’re going to be thrown into challenges and get questions that are not easy to answer. In the end, you’re going to be in the position to help get to that answer because you’re connected to all the different parts of the company.

 

Michael and the rest of our product team want to hear your feedback. Tell us how you’re liking Switch.

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