Interview with Adrienne Tan, Brainmates

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First of all, could you give our readers a quick overview of yourself and your work?

9 years ago I left a Cable TV operator in Australia to start Brainmates, a Product Management group offering consulting services and training. It’s been an amazing journey giving me the opportunity to apply my Product Management craft across many different industries and companies. In any given day, I can consult for a health company, move across to financial services and have coffee with a not-for-profit organisation. It’s not unusual to talk newspapers with a media client and get in a cab and go across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to talk about developing a new Broadband service with a telecommunication company. It’s an experience that I certainly wouldn’t have had if I stayed in a corporate, full time job.

Apart from consulting and training, there’s another side to our business. It’s a more intimate, personal side that we freely engage in. We enjoy growing the tribe of Product Managers in Australia and New Zealand, opening our office door to any talented Product Manager who wants counsel or support in regards to their work and career.
I have always been attracted to Product Management. Early on in my career, I saw it as the vehicle for making customers happy. It’s a role that has the ability to influence and affect every customer touch point – from the initial engagement to product retirement.

How do you see product management developing within the next few years?

Product Management is and will become more professional. This means that the practice will become less ad hoc, the focus will be on customers and the market. As it becomes second nature, others without the title of Product Manager will practice Product Management. It will become less about the role and more about the craft and skill.
Those with the title Product Manager will become Social Observers with ninja financial skills, seeing and calculating opportunities to grow their business. It will definitely become more entrepreneurial.

In your opinion, what’s the main difference between large cooperations and start-ups when building new products?

Large co-operations want what start-ups have and start-ups want large corporations have. The grass always appears greener on the other side. It is without a doubt start-ups have agility and large corporations have turf to protect and therefore have processes to mitigate risk. I think each certainly need to learn from each other and adopt each other’s practices… But more importantly, appreciate what they have and use it to the best of their ability.

What can our attendees expect from your presentation and which 3 learning points can they take back to work?


From your experience: what are the biggest mistakes organizations make when going to market?

Most actually forget to plan to go to market…. Many organisations are too focused on developing the product and once the product is live, they think customers will come flocking. There is usually no launch plan. At best there is some last minute communications.

What are the main challenges for product managers in the upcoming years?

I see several challenges:
Product Managers need to learn to play nice with UX people in their business. Without the know-how of engaging with this team and setting boundaries about who does what customer research, there may be some spills.
The usual operational, fire-fighting stuff needs to be managed well or it may define our role in the organisation.
Finding and applying new techniques to doing better Product Management. For example, the use of innovation / gamestorming techniques should be learnt to run workshops so that they become more effective.

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