Paul Blunden: Hello, I’m Paul Blunden, founder of UX24/7, and we help product owners, designers and researchers deliver high performing products and services. Today’s interview is for my series with product owners and leaders.
We’ll be finding out about the challenges they face, how their role and the function has changed in recent times, and even what influence AI is having.
But we’ll get to all of that later, for now let’s meet my guest!
Hello, Tom, and thank you for giving up your time to speak with me today. can I start by asking you to introduce yourself?
Tom Harle: Yeah, Hi! And thanks for having me My name is Tom Hall. I have a small consultancy of one. Me called everybody. Go And currently, I’m we’re working with, a large European sort of financial initiative, a payments initiative. so my background is in in user experience design and before that I was attempting to become a rock star so I was a failed rock star to my Cv. unfortunately, I should have considered trying to do that with a trombone. It didn’t go particularly well. So I moved into user experience design about 15 years ago. And I’ve sort of evolved now into the product space in the sort of last 4 or 5 years.
Paul Blunden: Fantastic and what attracted you into the product space?
Tom Harle: I want to be honest, it wasn’t a conscious decision to sort of to move across. And sometimes I you know, I still wonder if I if I really qualify to speak on issues of product, and probably I’ll become clear as we go as we talk more. but it sort of was a natural evolution. I think the kind of role of view X sort of, you know, junior designer. And then the Us. Leads, and sort of strategy, lead and things like this, as you sort of work up the if you like up the decision making you know you become, you become more senior in teams. you! I certainly felt that I was sort of adopting more of a product role, anyway, that there was so much leaning back into the organizations and kind of coordination stuff that the UX starts doing.
But it just felt like a natural evolution, you know, to broaden that scope and to call it a product role. And I think UX is involved as well as a as a discipline that a lot of the time you can be asking very similar questions as a kind of product or a strategist that a Us. Person is having to answer any way to be able to do their work effectively. So that’s what has attracted me, I guess, is being able to work where I like to be, which is sort of in ecosystems, where the piece that you’re working on is part of a much bigger success story that you’re working towards, and being a mindful of that, and having some influence on those other parts of the puzzle. But you know, with the core focus, and whatever the things that you’re doing, I’ve come through digital sort of pathway. I guess.
So I’ve always been kind of working on apps and websites and things, but like there will be other parts of an experience, and I think product has become the place to discuss those other parts, and to figure out how your part fits, and you know in what timelines and all that kind of thing. But when I started I guess it was more. That was more of a UX question. And maybe your product was a little less material at that point I don’t know.
Paul Blunden: But well, I think I mean, that’s it’s interesting. Because in the email exchange we have before you said, Well, I you know, I’m in the product space. But, I don’t know that I’m a product person. But actually your perspective on how the role and the function of changed. I’m really interested in it because it’s kind of bit the question behind my question. To me it seems to be becoming quite homogeneous, and all the different roles of feeding in and products sort of popping out. So I’d really be interested in. In yeah, your perspective on that.
Tom Harle: Yeah, it’s I mean, like, I say, because I feel like it’s been me that’s changed. Then it’s very hard for me to know whether the roles have dramatically shifted. Because I’ve obviously got quite a limited scope on that. But I think what it’s worth.
Also saying that my background is primarily in agencies and often in those agencies we’ve had quite a green field scope, you know, new product, discovery, ideation, kind of quite creative stuff. Originally I was working advertising, you know, which was very kind of there’s a lot of campaign thinking in there, as well as the kind of platform stuff that we were doing and in those instances I guess the role of a product owner was often confuse the project manager.
You know they were feeling quite. You know. They were the ones who owned the gyro board, and sort of made sure that stand ups happened and kind of you know the kind of procedural stuff. and the UX team at the time, which I was lucky to be part of would be the ones bringing the ideas and bringing teams together and working, you know, kind of going out to technical and figuring out what feasible or looking with different client problems and kind of trying to ideate. And I think I you know, obviously, that is so much. Now, what the product space is about is about that kind of solution alignment across teams.
And is, it is about kind of gaining momentum towards, you know, whatever kind of increment you’re working towards. So I think. how, if they evolved? I think UX is in a really interesting challenging space right now. But it seems like a lot of the lot of the stuff that I love. The z-axis is. Now what? What product has managed to make a name for itself doing, which is really this kind of creative facilitation I think about. whatever your goals are at that time, and how to how to meet them.
Paul Blunden: And what do you think sort of a the product owner’s accountabilities are now then.
Tom Harle: yeah, that’s interesting. I think. Well, first and foremost. But if you came into a space where there was accounts for the first thing is to define what it should be, I think, is a lot of you know that I guess you can ask me a bit about success metrics, but I think something that the most successful teams I’ve been on even if I haven’t been necessarily thought it’s on. I’ve been the ones where there’s been really clear outcomes, you know, in everyone’s minds, but also some sort of numerical attributes to those outcomes as well that they’re like they specific goals we’re working towards. And we’re able to check in on those over time.
So I think there’s an accountability to the product outcomes, I guess, is one of the first things I would say and also to the team. I think that that that you, as a product owner, you need to be quite a motivating force. I think there’s some you know, this of season in the kind of the scrumble. But I do think it’s helpful for a product to be quite a quite a motivational person, and someone who can really bring, not just clarity on requirements, but also like clarity on used cases, clarity on user needs and user problems.
And really kind of you know, help development teams understand the value of the thing that they’re working on, what and why certain decisions are being made. And so an accountability in that respect. You know that everyone across the team is really clear on the holistic picture of this product, not just on this Prince’s goals, or what it is that they’re specifically required to deliver people who are thrilled to be making something meaningful on a on a bigger level.
Paul Blunden: Yeah, that’s interesting. And I guess I mean, you talked about a bit about metrics there and I am interested in the kind of toolkit the product owners have, and how that’s changing, or what they’re using to sort of keep a handle on or keep the communication going. Have you got a view on that?
Tom Harle: no, I wish I wish I did. To be honest, I think you know I’ve been on some teams where it’s felt very You know the kind of thing all case studies will be written about this one and you. I’ve been on other teams where it’s been a complete disaster, and I think everyone can recognize whether somewhere things are happening so fast that you know all the things you should be doing at this stage. and you think, well, actually, you know, come on with, it’s just crack for you, because we need to show, you know, show progress on certain things, I think.
I think the key thing that has worked the projects, I think back that have been really great in this respect about really being clear on the success of a certain milestone have been when you’ve used those success criteria as part of the design. Brief, if you like, and it’s that that sounds so obvious but actually, it’s happened so rarely in my career that you know, as a as maybe because of the agency thing that often you’ve already been hired as an agency to do something, maybe a little bit wackier than like an in life team would have would have come up with if they’re sort of on a on a long-standing product. Maybe they, you know teams are working differently, right?
But I think projects that I think, have gone really. Well, there was one where we had what seemed like a really quite a dry brief, which is to re imagine a sign up process for an auction house and it was right at the beginning of the pandemic. Actually, we were sort of working with this company, anyway. So in my old role and they sort of thought, oh, we might need to go digital at some point in the future. We’ve got these really big problems that we’re facing with compliance.
And you know, we often find that people can’t buy a lot even after they’ve won the bids that actually, we don’t know enough about them as a user to kind of be sure that they really are who they say they are, and there’s all kind of money, laundering questions and things like this. So they were sort of like, we know, these are really big problems. We’re not going to solve them just yet, you know. Can you just give us some cool ideas because you’re a cool agency? Can you help us?
And then the pandemic hit. And it was like, actually, these are huge problems now, because they can’t come in and show all this documentation. We have no actual way of validating with these people face to face, which is what they always used to fall back on.
And so that became the basis for quite a dry piece of work to re imagine the sign up process. But we went into it knowing that there were really significant. you know, numbers not being hit that was causing quite a quite a huge workload. For quite, you know, a small number of people who are becoming very overworked about.
Basically, they were able to tell us the exact challenges they were having to solve, and we were able to use those as part of our brief so they can the front end experience? But then also say, right, when are we going to check on this? So we’re going to do it after one week are we going to after 3 weeks? What’s the regular reporting on this when we and that entire process is actually built into our are planning for the project.
So we we’d sort of, you know, right? From identifying what being told the needs and digging into them and turning them into kind of specific interventions we’d already planned out when we were going to check in on the success metrics and what we might do about it. And I think that was a very obvious one where there was such clear needs. and it was a kind of existing flow that we were trying to improve. But yeah, in terms of toolkit. It was just making sure we had that kind of the appropriate things flagged in the right way on the analytics profile. And that we were able to. You know, we could look for what we were going to need to know that we designed all that in advance. That’s also another thing. When you leave analytics to like the last. the last thing in the last print, and you haven’t got time to go not the like. Some bits of code where you need it, or it’s already too like shipped. And yeah, so doing, all that early was really helpful to us, but it doesn’t happen often enough, I can, I can tell you.
Paul Blunden: No, I can imagine. And you alluded there to quite a few sort of challenges that product owners face, either dealing internally or externally. I wonder if you’ve got a sort of sense of priority around that the challenges products face a product owner’s face. And what they’re sort of biggest challenges are either working internally or working and working with an external agency, for example.
Tom Harle: I mean from my, from where I’ve sat, that the channels have been so different in in different organizations. I’m trying to sort of think of an average of it.
I think what I, what I found, really. what the impact I’ve seen product owners have most is when they effectively connect, when they can work into their organization, whether they’re already in there, or whether as an agency product owner who’s working with a client organization to refocus that organization around the goals of the product. And I think that is that to me is like the biggest challenge that people the product owner will face if the organization isn’t organized in that way already.
But it’s also the kind of it’s not really the product to. In this challenge. I think it’s a bigger challenge that the client organizations you know, with so many competing needs for their time and attention and resource. They will often have not appreciated the great things can happen if they can empower their product owners to work more efficiently.
A more recent project that I’ve been worked on with it with the automotive startup. It was. It was the app team. The was the one who ultimately ended up cutting across the silos of the wider organization with the user experience focus like, no, there wasn’t really another team who was like delivering a kind of multi-siler experience in the way that the app was. And I think that as a product owner of that app it wasn’t me. It was someone on my team. But she you know, that was her biggest challenge, was actually getting 2 different teams with their own backlogs and their own milestones to speak to each other at the appropriate time that this thing, the app could actually succeed and deliver based on its goals.
So I think if you can, the challenge in the various things you need to do to enable that to happen, whether it’s on kind of empathy building kind of alignment. You need to kind of persuade someone in C suite. You need to fund a whole bunch of research. You need to get new funding, whatever it is you need to do to be able to start that pivot towards a more kind of outcome driven experience, delivery organization. I think you’ll do pretty well as a product, Turner, and but it’s incredibly challenging. and it’ll be different in every in every organization
Paul Blunden: that does sound challenging. So is the kind of soft management problems that are the biggest ones in in almost every area, isn’t it? And I’m interested to understand about sort of the importance of the customer in the product development process. I’m particularly interested in, you know. What’s the product owner view of that? Do you see much?
Tom Harle: remember, I come from UX, you know, in theory, I should be telling you 100% customer importance. there’s no I so really difficult one to answer, because I think of course you know, without customers, at some point we don’t have products that are sustainable because they can’t fund themselves, and that kind of thing but I think it’s dangerous to put too much emphasis on the gathering and immediate responding to customer needs piece actually.
And I know, and that I say that with, you know, because I’m definitely going to get to about. But I think what I think happens a lot if you, if you completely do that, if you completely go on discovery and kind of customer needs. And you work really well to that. I think we miss a lot that this, that organizations will do best if people can see in them a sense of purpose, of that organization, or a sense of some sort of personality or set of values that as a customer I can relate to, and I will engage with these products because they fulfil who I am as a person, you know, so like the reason Patagonia or I don’t know. Innocent at the start. You know things that have a really clear personal tone that people get excited about and want to tell each other about, and a proud to associate with.
I think that that has to come, that can’t just come from customers like they won’t tell you that that’s what like there needs to be. You have to come into the world with a sense of who you are as a as a product organization, I think, or a sense of your enemy that you that you’re looking for co-conspirators to solve. You know, if you, you, you make a product that’s against something, and you want people to be like, yeah, we agree. And we’ll use it and kind of stuff like that.
So I think that’s really important. And I think a lot of the time you can put too much on. Let’s do some research and find out. And it’s like, Yeah, but what do we want to say, what do we think we? But what do we believe should exist in this space? And can we build that and see? You know, if we were like, can we kind of create, you know, some sort of Mvp. Or really like kind of really, you know, as real as possible at the at that point for vacation of that.
And let’s see what he we generate about that. And then, you know, if we don’t, why not? Did it? Did the message not come through? Was it not easy to access, should it have been delivered in a different format? What you know? That’s when the to me. That’s when the customer really then takes centre stage again is like, how can we help you discover that And over time that you, you, you grow together. But I think I think a sense of what will be the shared goals between you and your customer. You have to have some as well as an organization to be able to share them. So yeah.
Paul Blunden: that’s an interesting perspective. Do you think an organization can connect as you’ve described and also be customer-centric.
Tom Harle: yeah, I think so. I think I think if you need, I think you need to establish the terms of reference between you and the customer, and then I think so in, you know, in the sense of it’s great clothing of performance where? But there’s also, you know, a lot that that they’re frequently talking about. You know what they’re giving back. What are they? You know what they do is climate change and all these things.
So there’s a whole the dialogue that it’s kind of been implied, I think, in in the kind of customer relationship between Patagonia and its and its customers, and then within that, obviously, then, you, you make the best versions of those products that you can by the customer, and you know the appropriately priced and easy to purchase and all that kind of stuff.
But I think you need to. Yeah, I’m going to keep referring to the whatever this kind of ecosystem is between you and the customer. You’re both in this this shared community of other brands, other like, you know, other moments in people’s lives. And how do you fit into that? You? You obviously need to understand that fully. So that’s customer centricity as well right, but I think you need to come with it yeah, I don’t think you have. No one just wants someone kind of following the customer saying, what can I get for you next? Right? You. You need to be a leader as a product creator and sort of to find some of those terms yourselves, otherwise people won’t get excited about you. I don’t think.
Paul Blunden: No, I think you’re on. It’s that sort of secret source thing, isn’t it? But I was one with start up. It’s the same, I guess, with every product. You still got to stand out and differentiate them.
Tom Harle: That’s not always going to come from the customer. In fact, not often. You’re going to come from the customer, I guess. I think. Yeah. And I think one of the there the challenges. You know, a lot of research work will go to where the customer is today. And you know, the more forward thinking organizations might already have a view on where the world is going, and be working towards a product that they think will be the exact right thing at some moment in the future. You know, they can see the kind of tectonic plate shifting and the saying, Okay, we want to be standing across them at that moment and be the right kind of bridge between these different trends and there can be some challenges in.
And then, you know, making sure that you’re right by the customer, because they’ll see they’re not there either. So that that’s a real issue. And in gathering that data and making those bets, I guess, on what should be the next things to do. But I think if you already have a kind of a north star of your own as a as a product organization, you probably more able to track when new trends are coming up that detract from that. You know you. I think if you’ve got a sense of where you’re trying to get to. then, as you see, other things coming in new research insights whatever you can kind of chart.
Yeah. you know, you can decide whether it’s a pivot or persevere, or whatever the proper words are. It’s a you know, with. I think you need that needs to come from inside the organization. I don’t think it can be completely cover from the in the customer.
Paul Blunden: No, and the interviews I’ve done so far. The one thing that’s emerged out of them is that product owners almost seem to have taken ownership of the customer in terms of whether they’re doing what you describe or they’re doing more research or less but they they’ve sort of taken the role of representing the customer within the organization. And I wonder whether you’d noticed anything of that from your observations around product owners or that space.
Tom Harle: I mean, it’s not something I particularly observe, but I can I can. It makes. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that. I think you know it is the person who’s bridging internal teams trying to align whatever it is that that you need as a product, Turner, to be able to. you know, to ask your team to be able to deliver for the customer.
You know, if you’re set up correctly and you’re tracking this metrics, you’re probably going to be the first person who you. He’s back from the customer as well. Right? So I think that makes sense that that you, as an owner would. Yeah, just like you facilitate discussions between you are the stakeholders. You would bring the user in as well. That doesn’t surprise me.
I think you know potentially it. It does a disservice to people who may be on your team. Who, could really lighten the load of a product or no. That seems quite hard to also be, you know, having to represent the customer in a in a fair and effective way, when you also have all these other conflicting kind of priorities. and there are, you know, hopefully, people on teams like UX researches, potentially market intelligence.
People like that, who you know, have dedicated years of ways of seeing and sharing what they’ve seen into meaningful ways. So I you know, I think ideally the product owner, would brief those teams in just the same way as anyone else would to you know, with that kind of what it needs, you know, internal, you know. What? What is it we’re looking to do in the next year? What’s our sort of roadmap looking like? How can we best validate that. But we set up for the challenges we might see ahead in terms of you know, the other entrance to the market, or also of technologies coming in that it could disrupt us like that can’t all lie on the product owners. No, that’s too much.
But it doesn’t surprise me that that’s happening, of course, because if you’ve had to pull the whole organization around supporting you as a product owner to deliver a product. then they probably are not quite aligned on the feedback as well. So yeah.
Paul Blunden: And obviously, we’re well, not necessarily, obviously. But you know it’s only for some. We’re mainly a design research agency as much saying so. I want to do understand the sort of one of the greatest challenges the brands or product owners face at the point where maybe they are going to do some research. What? What are the challenges they face making that happen
Tom Harle: budget is obviously a huge one at the right time planning it. You know something that suddenly turns up on it on a friendly. You think I’d be great to validate this? This is actually we hadn’t thought we hadn’t understood the complexity of this interaction.
Let’s run something really light, touch, and just find out, still cost money still quite difficult to achieve within the timeline that you need it. So the planning side and being kind of knowing how high in altitude you take in that planning. You know that. Oh, yes, we’ll run some research in 3 months.
Do we need to know exactly what’s in the script yet. No, but we need, you know, we need to know the kind of recruit we know it might need to do, which nations will be in all that kind of stuff like, at what level do you plan? And then, obviously, then, how do you get buying for the budget that you put together around that This is then, in the moment needing something quite, quite directly, that you know, you’re not able to deliver because you haven’t. You haven’t got that budget, or there’s some sort of cycle that you need to be part of that that you’ve missed. I think that’s a huge issue.
But I think the other thing like I was saying before is like asking the right kinds of questions. I mean? yes, of course, usability questions and validating stuff that you’ve built is really important. using all kind, you know. Some of that stuff you can do with quant as well, and do it kind of one stuff out in the field. So hopefully, that’s a bit easier.
But I think, knowing like being really clear on what you’re trying to like? Are you actually trying to learn what a user thinks about it today? Or you trying to sort of track where they’re heading. What else other things they might be coming up with in future, and whether you’ll meet later on. I think that that sometimes.
Paul Blunden: I’ve worked on projects where there’s been a real usability focus. But actually, the most value has come about informing future new stuff on the sometimes you wonder if they would. It would have been more effective if you just focused on one or the other from the outset. But And it’s not happen because of a sort of a narrow focus or lack of understanding about the opportunity or something else?
Tom Harle: Yeah, I mean it. I mean it. You probably see this as well as an agency side, but I think a lot of the time agency product teams will have been hired. My baby, one stakeholder with one set of goals, and you know they’ve got the funding for what they’ve needed to do with the agency by setting out on a journey and you very quickly realized that there’s more to that journey than they expected, and it has much wider implications you know it across the business, and so suddenly that you think oh, it would have been great. Suddenly there’s all this new value you sort of discovered in a way. That was probably it was always out there.
But you go into a process with one interview plan. And suddenly all this other stuff comes up doing the sessions that that you need to pass on somehow, or you need to respond to. So you start ideating there. And suddenly you know, you’ve got an entire kind of product suite. They’re ready to go.
But so I think that. I think if you’re mindful that those things can happen, and you sort of make sure you can check on it. We actually in with my current client. We that’s exactly what we’re working on right now is, how do we make sure we have the budget for the next year or 18 months, when you know we only know our product roadmap for the next 3 months, because we’re sort of we. We get into a big master, and we’re looking to do quite a lot of testing at that moment.
so should we just massively over pitch and just get a load of money? Well, that doesn’t sound like a great idea from the kind of planning perspective and money might not be there, we might fail. So how do you? Yeah, appropriately. Kind of make space for those discussions about, you know getting who you need around a research plan pretty quickly to be able to inform the team so that they’re not blocked by not having information it would really help them.
Paul Blunden: Right? We’ve we spent quite a bit of time so far talking about the challenges people face. I wondered if you could tell me about a product related success story that you’re proud of?
Tom Harle: yeah. yeah. One. I mean, there’s a really the kind of the celebrity one that I like And then there’s a that I’ll be already talked about. The one. Which is this sign up journey for the auction house. I think that was just such a like on all levels. That was a really successful project, even though they actually outcome. If I if I the you know a this sign up flow probably won’t make it many people’s portfolios anytime soon. But it was a really successful product that really helped the client a lot. So it’s really proud of that. we had one more recently with the automotive startup I was working with where they were about a year from delivering the vehicle that they were planning to deliver.
And they had a big press event planned where people could come and drive the first types, and it was all you know. It was in a kind of for Fancy Hotel and all that kind of stuff, and we really pushed, and we didn’t need to. But we really thought it was it. It was a really good master for us, anyway, because we could see what we then would need to achieve before the customers got delivers of these cars, we really pushed to have our product, which is an app linked to the car as part of the experience of these journalists.
When they came on this came to this event, and I was chatting to one who’s like a huge YouTube star who I’ve been following his channel for under 15 years or something. And this guy is now one of the presenters on it. And so we’ve built this up. And he’s like we never see apps at these events right?
Because they’ve always, you know, so many automotive companies just like we were actually at the time as the organization. We’re leaving that kind of stuff to the last minute that it was all like finalization of stuff, like putting the app together and connecting it and integrating it. But we’d really done the work.
And it was hell. It was absolute hell that for about 3 months to get these teams to work together, we had an agency helping us with a new team, new product owner. but we did the work, and it really You know, the what it needed to do was demonstrate the value of this particular start up in in in real terms.
And it showed that because we put the data in it, we’d actually integrated something like a year before we needed to and it actually impressed the audience as well, which was a journalist at the time. So it was just. It was just really nice moment of like, actually, when you when you really live. the kind of Mvp mindset, and you really push to actually show something working from end to end, even if it’s just one thing, and you get that in someone’s hands, it can be magical. So I was really proud of that.
00:35:46.430 –> 00:35:56.530
Paul Blunden: Yeah, that’s a I mean powerful outcome. And is it? It was the reason behind the success because you were working in this kind of Mvp. Mindset and getting everyone together.
Tom Harle: I mean, the reason behind the search is because we’re working with a bunch of amazing very talented, very committed. you know, developers, designers and colleagues across the business like that, you know. They came together around it really amazingly, but I think the fact that we went in. We went to 2 or 3 months before that moment we had said, right, this is our scope for this thing, and it was. you know, if you think of it as a car. It’s a car app, and I think of all the things car apps can do these days.
And what you might want to show off. We like, we’re not doing any of that. We’re going to show one piece of data. And we sort of divided out. So there was a data piece. There was like a front Mps. Everyone had like the same load, you know. So there was like some really nice front end interactions. It was on 2 platforms. there’s some nice graphing and there was this really nice piece of data that was coming from the cars. and that was it.
But it was enough there to tell a story to hold up and show and point at that one thing, and I think if we tried to do any more than that, we actually wouldn’t have hit any of those goals, you know. But we would just really clear we’ll have one really cool interaction. We’ll have 2 really nice screens.
You guys work on the graphing. Let’s get an agency to help with some animation. Let’s make sure we’ve got that data which was the hardest part actually to get it to get it. you know, from through the various bits of car and out and over the cloud and back into A into our phone. and it all came together. And it was yeah, all the messaging we needed to do with stakeholders is like, this is all we’re doing. Okay, that’s what we’re working towards it. Just this and there. Oh, but couldn’t you add the Nope if we if yeah. So it was, it was that Mvp focus that you talk about. it. It looked shinier than what I consider most Mvps need to look like, but in a way that was part of the M, I guess, was that it was sort of it needed to be journalists, appropriate and sort of set the tone for what we knew was going to come next.
But yeah, it was yeah, that that minimal focus really helped us and paid off massively. So yeah, it sounds like it.
Paul Blunden: And Tom, you’ve got such a wide range of knowledge and experience across such a different range of areas in the sort of product space digital space. I’m really interested to ask you if you have any thoughts about sort of chatGPT and AI, and how that might be changing things from your perspective, if at all?
Tom Harle: I’m just so conscious of the about of LinkedIn. Pt, related predictions. And I’m definitely, you know, not I don’t aspire to be one of those people who has any of those I think, actually, today heard of a really powerful use case that we’re working on in in my current setup, which is in I guess in customer support. Actually, that that you find with kind of distributed teams, not and agile teams, that a lot of the it kind of linking knowledge isn’t necessarily where you need it to be. There, there’s documentation over here and over there, and someone’s had a really great meeting about that one thing, but they haven’t then written it up, or whatever.
And I think as a way into as well essentially search as a way, as a way into more nuanced questions about how things are going or what you should do next within an organization. I can imagine an AI assistant could really help kind of sign post in in really rich and like useful ways. So I think internal search is always a bit crap, right? And so you sort of it. These knowledge bases where everyone has to kind of tag themselves on stuff that just seems complete. And they, these things tend to go off into a world and die.
But I think AI could really help. you know subtly do that without anyone really having to give more than they already were. But just through, you know, listening to the right sources, could be a really powerful thing that I think would help teams work better a lot better. I’ve seen a lot been in contact with an AI user research platform. I think that’s really interesting.
I think I would have to be really careful about the kinds of questions I would ask from that process. The amount of weight, and how much I would ask my stakeholders to believe in what I was recommending as a result of an AI based user test. There’s a lot of thinking to do that about what is user testing. I don’t think it’s running it through a machine necessarily. but I think it’s really interesting. And I think there are specific moments when it could be really helpful.
But yeah, I don’t I think. I have a bit of a blind spot actually on what some of the opportunities might be, or what some of the threats might be. As we go forward as product to this, I think we’re okay, for now there’s this meme. Isn’t there like you need to describe the you need to tell AI what you want from it to work, and then it’s like a couple of line breaks, and it says, like, we’re safe you know, I think it’s I think it’s developers written like the client would have to appropriately ask for the thing or something. I that yeah, I think product is so multifaceted right now, I can’t imagine.
I’m sure you know at the moment. Today, in my limited 2023 brain, I cannot imagine a world where AI is appropriately taking decisions, but also maintaining that purpose and that kind of sense of belief that product teams need to have in you know, in a path that their products can help with. So I think we’ll probably get that. But I think at the moment I think there’s enough to do.
Paul Blunden: Yeah, I think you’re probably right, and you’re not the first person who sort of talked to me about back office, you know, back office stuff that, AI’s going to do. And I can’t help but feel that that’s possibly where the most value will end up. Being is in all the mundane stuff. And it just does simple things like you described. So this meeting note problem, you know, and stuff like that. But anyway, I should probably have retired before it’s making me redundant. But that’s my hope, anyway.
Tom Harle: Yeah, me, too.
Paul Blunden: absolutely. Anyway. Finally, some I wanted to ask you, what’s your sort of biggest learning since being in and around the product area or your biggest learning for product owners, perhaps.
Tom Harle: Yeah, I think I think the personal journey I’ve been on, and I think it’s really helped. I think it’s helped me be better in a product kind of experience lead person is about the value of inclusivity and the value of it’s actively seeking alternate views and things and like, really, actively. So I think this there’s been a whole, obviously, last couple of years a big thing about you know, certain movements. about broadening participation in general. you know, black lives matter like me to all these things that I’ve obviously like as a white straight man have been you know, really on me to on me to do the work right and I think that there’s one thing to do the work, but I think it’s really actively like not just do what like the bare minimum, but also to really seek out what more you can do.
I think as a product owner, you know, if you if you’re talking about gaining different user perspectives like, really on the edges of your what you would consider your normal use cases like going really to the edges of the edges and using those as a reference points and gathering those inputs, but also in terms of the people you bring on board and your teams, and how they, you know, may not have the sector experience, or maybe they may not come from quite the same line of work, but they will bring something really rich and amazing into your team if they if they join, I think that’s something that I found really rewarding and learning that. I it’s very rare that I will have the answer in a team.
But if I can put the right people together, then then great things happen. So yeah, that’s been something. I think I maybe it’s just the kind of confidence of youth that I’ve now lost. I don’t know. But yeah, definitely, yeah of have gained a lot from seeing other people flourish by, but just really seeking and championing the perspective. So yeah.
Paul Blunden: Fantastic. A good note to end on, Tom. Thank you so much for the spending time to talk to me today. It’s been a fascinating hearing your thoughts particularly. I mean, having been in product and sort of looking in on products. I think you bring a really fresh set of ideas to the this into these areas. I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
Tom Harle: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Paul Blunden: You’re welcome.
Paul Blunden: Well, I hope you enjoyed hearing from Tom and getting his perspective. He certainly bring something different to this interview series, having been not only involved within the product development process as a product, you know, or managing product owners, but also outside it through UX design and strategy, and a pricing as an agency providing services even into to brands doing this kind of work.
Anyway, my name is Paul Blunden, and I’m founder of UX24/7. And we help product owners, designers and researchers deliver high performing products and services. You can find out more about what we do by visiting our website. That’s ux247.com, or find me on LinkedIn and tap me up there, and of course subscribe to this channel, and there’ll be another interview coming on soon.
Thanks very much for watching.