5 Minutes With Lucie McLean, BBC - Leading The Product

5 Minutes With Lucie McLean, BBC

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Lucie McLeanWe met the lovely Lucie McLean at The Product Management Festival in 2013 and enjoyed her talk on persona development and storytelling. She’s joining us at Leading The Product, Melbourne in 2016. We recently chatted to Lucie before her arrival from the UK and here’s what she had to say about Product Management and her experience at the BBC.

In what ways has Product Management evolved over the last 5 years?

I’ve seen a major growth in an appreciation of product management over the last few years – which is fantastic. In terms of how it has changed, device fragmentation has also had a huge impact on product management. I was a mobile product manager for years – and that involved looking after products on a range of devices with fairly similar screen sizes and capabilities. But today everyone is a mobile product manager. A product manager today needs to understand what kinds of devices people are using at different times of day and what they are using them for. And with usage patterns changing so quickly and so often, staying on top of audience behaviour is tough but really exciting.

Why is Product Management important in your business?

The BBC needs to provide great content and services to everyone in the UK. We’re funded by the licence fee that our audience pays and it’s really important that we spend that money on the right things. Product management plays a key role on this in helping to make sure that we launch the right products to meet the needs of our audience. We’ve got a great audiences team who help us gather audience insight and a brilliant team of business analysts in my team – the Children’s Design and Engineering team – who help us understand what users are doing with what we’ve got. That really helps give us confidence in what we’re doing.
A key function of product management is also to help the business identify the assumptions it is making about the audience and look for ways to test these before committing significant investment to projects. This might involve using existing tools to test the appetite for new content types, using MVT, prototyping, launching beta products and other methods to get insight and feedback before committing significant investment. When we do commit to new products, we adopt a minimum viable product approach to make sure that we’re meeting the core audience needs from launch and are doing that well.

How do you lead teams to develop and launch products in your business?

In my area, BBC Children’s, we’ve got a very diverse audience but we try to do things in a consistent way – starting with audience need and developing the best product to meet that need. Our product managers build small, tight, multidisciplinary teams with their editorial colleagues to work together and properly understand the audience, their needs and any assumptions we’re making about our ability to meet those needs. As already mentioned, they increasingly look for ways to test our hypotheses before committing significant investment to products. We also make sure we involve children and parents regularly along the way to make sure we understand why things might or might not be working.

Are there specific leadership qualities that a product manager must possess to be effective at the role?

A product manager needs to be comfortable with ambiguity, flexibility and change. Very little is black and white. There’s rarely a completely right or wrong thing to do when building a product – more pros and cons that need to be weighed up. Therefore a product manager needs to be able to lead others to be comfortable with this too – so good communication and influencing skills are important. Behaviours are really important too. Treating people respectfully makes it much easier to get things done – and done in a nice, fun environment.

How did you get into Product Management? 

I was a journalist for nine years working in television and online news. However I always wanted to get closer to the technology and get involved in more shaping what the BBC did online beyond the content we published. That’s why I became a product manager.