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Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Graham Morley: As head of product, I am responsible for leading the development of Carbon by Clicksco – a world-first audience management platform offering advertisers, publishers, and platforms intelligent, actionable insights to enable one-to-one personalised online experiences and more profitable audience data monetisation, using data science and machine learning.
This means I get to work every day with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met, solving problems for some large and hugely innovative clients.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
GM: We have structured Carbon into cross-functional feature teams, and I work closely with our head of technology to set and deliver the product roadmap across all these teams. We both report directly to the CEO, who is an ex-Googler and very passionate about what we’re building. This means the office has a very enthusiastic atmosphere and the pace is continuously fast.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
GM: I believe people skills are key for anyone in product development. Being able to empathise with people, both externally and internally, is vital to delivering a great product experience. You need to work closely with people right across the organisation, and beyond, and be able to extract the value they each bring to the solution.
From there, you need to be able to strategise the vision for a product into a clear roadmap and prioritise features effectively. To do this well, it is important to keep up to date with market and industry developments and make sure you are innovating.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
GM: I have an hour or so commute to Clicksco’s head office, so I make use of that time by catching up on industry news and podcasts – making time to look outside the organisation is invaluable.
After a quick stand-up meeting (so it doesn’t take too long!) with the feature teams in the morning, I catch up with our user experience (UX) team to review stakeholder feedback, and look at refining our product vision. We aim to run a customer centred approach to product development using the Jobs-To-Be-Done methodology. This involves concentrating on the customer and understanding what their end goals are, and developing the product with those in mind, rather than building a feature first and then making it usable. As such, it’s highly important that we speak to customers and product users at every level, as often as possible.
The rest of my day is filled with meetings with various teams within the organisation to ensure we’re offering value to each department and prioritising the right product features.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
GM: I love the challenge and thrill you get from building something, especially something that has the global reach of Carbon. I get to collaborate with some amazing problem-solvers and shape our platform into a tool that generates amazing user feedback.
We work in three-weekly product development phases, or sprints, and at the end of each one, we hold a demo session with the entire team, which is always insightful as we find out what challenges each group has faced, how they overcame them, and how we can learn from each other. For me, communication is the most important thing to protect in a product-lead organisation, and these sessions are perfect for that.
I’d say the only thing that sucks about leading on product is not being able to do everything at once! There are so many “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas sketched in my notepad that it’s sometimes tough to prioritise tasks, but processes like the Jobs-To-Be-Done theory (mentioned earlier) and the Kano model – an essential tool for understanding and categorising customer requirements – make this an easier task.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
GM: Our vision at Carbon by Clicksco is to become a global leader in audience optimisation, and to do that we need to make sure our customer experience is tight. That means we try to ignore vanity metrics and focus on actual engagement – feature usage over “active users”. We’re also tracking our industry-standard System Usability Scale (SUS) score – to make sure our product experience is top of the class.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
GM: My background is in user interface (UI) development and UX, so the easiest way for me to get my ideas into something tangible start by first using pencil and paper to create a quick, physical sketch, and then translating that across into the Sketch app. I’ve been a user of Sketch since the early beta and it’s a fantastic tool to quickly develop an idea. We’re also complimenting Sketch with tools that fit nicely into our workflow such as Zeplin, Figma and the hugely powerful collaboration tools of G Suite. My inbox acts as my to-do list – though, admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen inbox zero!
In addition to this, I like to keep my development skills updated so I can quickly build prototypes of ideas to test hypotheses, flicking between using Atom and Visual Studio Code, depending on the project.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
GM: I started off at a company called Thap, which was acquired by Clicksco around 10 years ago so I’ve been part of the business since then, in various guises. I’ve mainly worked across different research and design areas, building new ideas and features, and Carbon has come from that. My only plans right now are to continue delivering on our vision. Our aim is to create something that adds real value to other businesses.
I would say the biggest challenge ahead is being able to deliver Carbon on a global scale, across as many sites as possible, and being able to handle that volume while extracting as much value as possible. The biggest value, in my opinion, lies in personalisation and being able to target users on a micro level, but on a macro scale.
E: What are your favourite applications of machine learning in marketing thus far? (campaigns or tech)
GM: Machine learning is best at doing things at scale, and the best application to make use of this is personalisation. Personalisation should provide value, not just to a marketer, but to the end user too. This is only possible by using machine learning to identify the best combinations for the best behaviours.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work on the data side of the industry?
GM: As a customer-centred product person, my advice is to continue to look for ways to provide value to both sides of the data exchange. We’re entering an age where the paradigm of ownership is become decentralised, and things like GDPR and blockchain technology are accelerating this. The industry is ripe for disruption and people who love to innovate within this value exchange will be highly sought after.