Sanna Nilsson | Interview
Sanna is a product specialist who is particularly fascinated by the intersection of product, data, and growth. Her interest in product started when she founded Codarica with some of her school friends — a company that teaches children the basics of coding. Since then, she’s worked as a Product Owner at Academic Work, Product Lead at film studio SF Studios, and is now the Product Manager Play at Tele2 — a Swedish telecom company.
Can you tell me about Tele2 as a company and the sectors they are in?
Tele2 is one of the biggest telecom operators in Sweden with a few million customers. We operate mostly in the Swedish market and we have a lot of sub-brands — for example, we acquired a company called Com Hem in 2018 to strengthen our TV and broadband offerings.
As a telco, we focus equally on mobile, broadband, and TV, and our ultimate goal is to ensure that our customers have amazing experiences across all these different products and services. We want to provide an all-in-one solution for customers to access their everyday needs.
I’m currently working on our brand new OTT streaming service that we recently launched called Comhem Play+. Our team is essentially a startup within the wider organisation, so we’re able to be agile and move quickly.
What tools are you finding particularly useful for the project you are working on?
We’ve recently invested in Amplitude. I was looking for a tool that could help me gain in-depth insights into consumer behaviours and having worked with it previously on streaming services to great effect, I knew this was the platform we needed. We were using Google Analytics previously, but to be honest, I find the tool really hard to work with — you need specialised consultants to get much value out of it.
Amplitude puts user behaviour at the heart of everything they do, and they are clearly experts in this field. A big selling point is the tool’s ability to democratise data: sharing with your wider team and making sure it’s super accessible at all times. I believe in the power of making daily decisions based upon data, and to do so we need a tool that everyone can use – no matter the person’s analytical and technical capabilities.
You can sometimes forget how many potential layers of information there are that you can access (provided you have the right tool). Once you have everything laid out in front of you, it can be really empowering — and you wonder how on earth you got by before.
How does mobile factor into your strategy?
Mobile is incredibly important for streaming businesses. Nowadays, you need to be mobile-friendly — there are no two ways about it. We’re strong proponents of the ‘Jobs-to-be-done’ framework which basically stipulates that the best products are designed to help consumers complete tasks (or jobs). If you focus on this and manage to do it successfully, you’ll always be valued.
How does this apply to us? Well, people are constantly using their phones to stream while on-the-go, to Chromecast, or to airplay whatever they’re watching — so we needed to make sure that our streaming service was mobile-friendly. We recognise that while having a premium big screen experience is the key to driving long-lasting retention and loyalty, content discovery, often takes place on people’s phones. So for us, mobile is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
People are suffering from app fatigue; there are apps for almost everything imaginable. From a technical and product standpoint, it’s a huge challenge… ensuring you provide so much value so that your users remain engaged with your app and it doesn’t get relegated to a folder or deleted altogether.
This is often hotly debated: what do you believe is a role of a product manager?
I think every company has their own opinion on this. Generally, it seems like a product manager is pretty strategic whereas a product owner is more hands-on. I personally love being involved in the development — I want to understand all the technicalities and work out what’s great, what we need to improve on, and to see if there’s anything we have completely ignored.
It’s really important that product managers have a broad understanding of the commercial, marketing, and technical implications of what they’re building… Our job is basically to be complete generalists. For instance, you might think that marketing isn’t really your job — after all, marketing only really takes effect once you’ve built the product in the first place.
However, it’s important that product managers and owners have a strong grasp of how the company utilises marketing and messaging to show people the inherent value of your product. If you don’t do this, your products will be a complete flop, no matter how much time or energy you spent developing them.
Someone once told me that it’s like being the CEO of the product. You’re the voice of all the stakeholders, including your customers, and it’s ultimately your responsibility to produce something that they’re going to love. Ownership of success is what defines great product owners. You have to take complete responsibility at all times.
That being said, I think it’s almost as crucial to learn to not be a perfectionist. A key part of developing a product is being bold enough to release it, get the necessary data, and start again. You always need to let go and start learning — if you never take that plunge, your products will never improve.
The ‘Jobs-to-be-done’ framework
Definition: The ‘Jobs-to-be-done’ framework puts forward that people essentially buy products to complete a specific task. If you can identify what jobs your customers need to do and build a product that will help them complete those jobs, your company will be set up much better for success.
Where did this theory come from?: Tony Ulwick, founder of innovation consultancy Strategyn, first came up with the concept back in 2005 when he released his book, ‘Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice’.
Tony had been working on innovation for over 20 years before the book was released. He saw that all too often, companies would pour all their energy into understanding the customer while forgetting that customers couldn’t care less about if companies ‘got’ them, as long as their products fulfilled their needs.
As Tony puts it, “Success in innovation doesn’t come from understanding the customer. It comes from a deep understanding of the job the customer is trying to get done.”
How can you apply the ‘Jobs-to-be-done’ framework?:
Strategyn has three main rules that you should always keep in mind:
1. Adopt a customer-centric view when considering the job at hand
Herbicide manufacturers might think that the job they’re trying to complete is to kill off weeds and sure, that’s a big part of it. However, from the customers’ perspectives, they’re trying to make sure that weeds don’t affect their crop yields. This may sound like semantics, but the outcomes can be massively detrimental to the consumer.
2. Think big
This isn’t just a standard blue-sky-thinking maxim. Instead, ‘think big’ in this case means to fully consider the entire scope of the job at hand. If we go back to the example above, this might mean that herbicide manufacturers should think about whether or not they could introduce a solution that would only kill weeds, but that regular crops would be completely resistant to and even better improve their growth.
3. Define a market by functional jobs rather than emotional goals
We’ve spoken before about how emotion plays a large part in successful marketing — but this shouldn’t be your sole focus when it comes to producing innovative products. Let’s say that you’re producing an innovative smoothie that’s tailored specifically to your own personal nutritional deficiencies, as well as providing your 5 a day in one single drink and conveniently delivered to your door each day.
The emotional selling point might be your peace of mind and knowing that you’re taking care of yourself. However, without the actual innovation — the tailored drink that’s designed specifically for you and delivered straight to your door — would this be as captivating a proposition? We think not!
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