In a recent meetup of ProductTank Tel Aviv, I had the chance to learn from Boaz Katz, Co-founder & Chief Product Strategy at Bizzabo. Katz opened the kimono and shared some of Bizzabo’s internal product and R&D processes, from prioritisation to production.
Boaz katz is one of the co-founders of Bizzabo, an event success platform. Katz is 35, and a father of 3. Katz enjoys building products and understanding how people use their solution in an optimal way. Katz holds a computer science degree and serves as a product manager at Bizzabo.
Bizzabo, started as a networking app 5 years ago as part of the Zell entrepreneurship program in the Interdisciplinary center in Herzliya. Throughout the years, the team pivoted a number of times, ultimately transforming into an event success platform. Today Bizzabo employs about 40 people, 25 in NYC, 14 in Israel, and runs around 30-60 business conferences every week.
Katz believes that the most important asset of a company is its culture. Having a culture of innovation requires effort, investment, and determination. Culture should not be taken for granted. As part of this approach, Bizzabo constantly runs iterations on their own cultural values, sales processes, and recruitment process, in hopes of always improving and inventing.
In his talk ,Katz described the product processes in Bizzabo using 4 steps, which he explained in detail:
Team Structure -> Prioritization -> Spec-ing -> Developing
Bizzabo product and R&D team structure is based on the Spotify model, where the product owner is in the center of a squad. The R&D is divided into “houses” where the PM serves as the landlord. Every house is independent and consists of 2 front end developers, a back end developer and a designer. The rationale for this structure is that a small independent team is more efficient than a larger structure would be.
As an independent team ,each house can choose their own tools and manage work their own work processes, as long as the team hits their business KPIs. For example , if a PM writes a PRD in Google Doc or JIRA while the other house uses a different format, that is completely fine. Each house can even use different task management tools such as Asana or Trello. As long as both teams get their deliverables on time – that’s fine. Maybe at some point in the future the team structure will change but the current structure seems to be working well for now.
Prioritisation in Bizzabo is driven directly by the company goal. Even if a specific metric or KPI is not refined, the overarching company goals are necessary for the team functionality . A company goal can be yearly revenue goal, churn goal , NPS goal or maybe # of DAU. The CEO and the management team decide on the company goals.
Every activity in the company should contribute to at least one of the company goals. To make sure the teams work on moving the needle, time is split into buckets. One bucket might be churn and will be allocated with 30% of the time. Another bucket could be competitive advantage and a third bucket can be engagement. The idea behind the buckets system is to put the emphasis on what the company seeks to achieve. Buckets may change every quarter to align with the shift in these metrics over time.
Product managers deal with everything from the goal and below. The PMs sit together with BizDev to better understand the strategy and the business. After sitting with the business the buckets are defined together with the bucket goal l – a quarterly KPI. Each PM chooses their own KPIs and their own features and it doesn’t matter how much time the PM allocates to each bucket as long as the company goal is achieved.
There is no split among the PMs for features or areas, each PM owns one feature at a time and there is a weekly forum for the product managers to discuss and consult with each other.
After covering the team structure and the prioritization process, Katz described the specing process that includes the breakdown of the big idea into a list of user stories that can be translated into features. The specing process can be divided into sub processes:
Grooming -> Goals/KPI/Stories -> Design -> EPICs -> Improve
Grooming is a simple term which basically means listening to customers and collecting their needs, problems and desires. The most important action a PM can do during the grooming phase is to listen and talk to the customer – with extra emphasis on the “listening” part. The PM should try and sit with all of the stakeholders and let them talk and say what they think and what the product/feature should include. The grooming phase is the part in the process when the PM expands the idea and then cuts the scope after understanding the most burning issues or “itches” for the customer.
After understanding the customer needs and focusing on the core issues, the PM needs to ask what is the goal of the feature? What is the expected result? Let’s take for example a signup page. What should the signup page do? The signup page should make people sign up! In Bizzabo, they found that it is very effective to create a mockup of the chart that the PM will use to measure the success of the feature, and have let the developers build it.
A house only works on one item. A pm works only on one feature at any given point in time. The PM divides his time to be 80% planning and designing and only 20% supporting development.
Katz is a big believer in rapid prototyping and the close work of the PM and designer. Bizzabo was able to reduce design time by 50% using close involvement of the designer from the first moment. In Bizzabo, product managers do not work on mockups. The designers are involved from the first moment – from the grooming. They know the KPIs and the stories, and while the PM is writing them on the whiteboard, the designer is already working on the mockup and the prototype. Katz recommends doing as many iterations with mockups, and to use InVision to make them dynamic so they feel more realistic. When in a session with a customer, the designer works during the session and the customer sees the results immediately. Having the designer’s involvement in the session with the customer can save up to 4-5 weeks of design.
After the thorough and iterative design process, the developers get the full interactive mockups in invision. Invision and sketch together provide the design CSS so the front end developers can save precious time when building the product. The feature development cycle should not take more than 4 weeks and during that time the PM serves as a contributor.
How do you know if your process is good or not? How do you improve a process or a product? This is the art of product. How do you improve the art process? Each team gives themselves a score for features and for each step in the process. For each feature we give a total score. We took all of the numbers and create a line chart. From this, you can notice how well the goals are defined, and what to improve over time. In a very subjective way, it’s possible to improve the process.
While Bizzabo is relatively a small company, it continuously adopts and invents new product development best practices that are both effective and efficient. It seems like their secret to success is rapid prototyping as close as possible with the customer to find the holy product market-fit.