Q&A with Expert Product Managers: Eric Evans from Excentus
Welcome to the 10th installation of our product management interview series, where successful product managers across various verticals share where the PM industry is going, how to overcome challenges, and general advice. If you missed our last interview with Denise Law from The Economist, we recommend giving it a read, as well!
As mobile engagement continues to increase, companies across all industries have shifted product strategy to push their mobile experience toward the top. The product management world has gone mobile, and PMs have had to adjust to strategic changes big and small.
To explore what’s changed and what’s next for product managers, we’re bringing you the best minds in product management to share their thoughts on what’s top-of-mind, and where the industry is going.
Today, we’re excited to bring you thoughts from Eric Evans, Senior Product Manager at Excentus. Here’s what Eric had to say!
Q: How did you get into product management?
I started in a User Experience position with a company called C Spire in Ridegland, MS. In that role, I helped build experiences in retail stores throughout the state, and at the same time I was working on launching exciting new internet, TV, and home automation products. Through that process, I picked up product management and began to handle beta programs, user experience design, and product design for their major initiatives around the state.
Q: How do you think mobile product managers’ roles in the organization are changing?
I see that product managers as a whole are starting to be expected to perform far more than traditional product roles. Project management, user experience design expertise, vendor and partner negotiations, and many more duties are all now included in what I would call the “New Product Manager” role.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a mobile PM? How do you overcome those challenges?
Justifying cost is the number one problem I run into. Many times, setting an expectation for the cost of mobile development is challenging. I’ve found that building an ROI that completely factors in all revenue sources and costs associated with a mobile project can result in really promising numbers if you plan right. Mobile is profitable and as long as you can show that, it’s easier to get executive buy in to a project that has a large up-front cost.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to your peers?
I see so many product managers that get so excited about innovation that they forget to focus on making the company they work for successful. I always approach my job in a way of “make the company way more money than you cost them.” Plenty of big projects cost a lot up front and you have to be able to justify those costs by showing that you will make your company more successful than it is right now. At the same time, please don’t forget about your customers and how quality their experience is within your product.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
I have a lot to look forward to this year. I’ll be in a learning routine for most of the year as I gain understanding of all new products. Mostly, I look forward to being able to bring customers’ voices to life. I’m fortunate to be put in a place that lets the user determine our product’s direction.
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay up to date on all things product management (publication, blog, newsletter, etc.)?
I almost always spend at least an hour of my day browsing sites like Engadget, The Verge, Digital Trends, and others in an effort to stay on top of where trends are going. While these sites aren’t specific to product management, there are product managers behind all of the great ideas that these sites write about, and more often than not, these publications interview product managers that have championed the launch of some of the greatest products launching now and in the near future.
Q: With no resource constraints, if I could work on any app, it would be [fill in the blank]. Why?
Any major newspaper app. The industry puts so little money toward development that there is a huge amount of room for improvement. The customers tell you exactly what they want and you could give it to them if there weren’t any constraints. Along with improvement, news readers are some of the most vocal I have ever been around and always thank you for any improvement they see. There are so many easy wins in that industry.
Q: I feel [fill in the blank] without my smartphone.
Broke. So many ways that I conduct transactions occur on my device. Without Android Pay and without Amazon’s app, I feel pretty disconnected from the ecommerce world.
Q: Android or iOS?
Android. Everyone uses their device in a different way and Android encourages users to use it and customize it however they would like. Also, to be completely honest, Apple’s app approval process can be frustrating to say the least. I say that while being an iPhone user. Apple Watch is good enough to justify having an iPhone.
Q: What does customer love mean to you?
Go ahead and say your vows. Love means being on the customer’s side. Putting them at the forefront and considering them in every decision. I used to work at a company that put stick figures on the walls of every meeting room to represent the customer and their feelings. We conducted meetings as if the customer was sitting in the room with us and I believe that is the right way to go about business.
A huge thank you to Eric for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon, and check out our first nine interviews from these expert PMs: