See the first part of our interview with the product team here, where we interview bepress Product Managers Nicole Johnson, Ann Connolly, and Anne Stringer.
BP: What is most important to you when designing a new product?
NJ: Value. In every sense of the word. It must be valuable to our company’s vision and mission, it must be valuable to the community we are accountable to.
AC: For me it’s about the user—bringing pleasure to the user—both in terms of interaction with the product and in meeting a specific need that they have.
AS: Creating something users will love and that will make them excited about the impact of their faculty’s works. I think the dashboards and readership maps are two great examples of that.
BP: We’ve recently moved from quarterly releases to a continuous release model. What motivated this change?
NJ: In our community, needs change and emerge very quickly. The primary benefits of this model are faster delivery of features, with less risk at release time and faster iteration. If a way to improve the feature is discovered, we can do that as soon as the necessary work is done and our users can see value immediately, instead of next quarter.
AC: The Expert Gallery Suite was rebuilt on a new platform that allows us to iterate and release quickly—we start building the feature, release, get feedback, iterate, release again, and get more feedback, refining the feature over time as new needs in the customer base emerge. For us the biggest challenges are about communicating all the changes both internally and externally. Our new Product Updates pages are something we’ve developed to make sure our community can stay updated with this rapid release process.
NJ: While we have also moved to continuous release in DC, we are still working on a big infrastructure shift that will give us more of the agility that the community has been seeing in the Expert Gallery Suite. The challenges right now primarily involve the amount of architectural changes we have to make before we have adopted this model 100%. But we’re almost there and it’s exciting to see huge benefits already!
BP: We often talk about helping the library say “yes,” but, Ann, you have a big red “No” button on your desk. What is important about being able to say no?
AC: Every “no” is a “yes” to something else—that’s one of the most difficult, and most challenging, things about product management—weighing all the things we could do against one another and making decisions about what to say “yes” to. So I like to think of “no” more as an affirmation of some other thing that we are going to do, rather than a rejection of something we’re not going to do. And a “no” now can sometimes turn into a “yes” later.
BP: How do you work together as a team?
NJ: We go to almost all of the same meetings! Aside from that, our platforms deeply depend on each other and that dependency is only increasing as we move forward with merging them into one, integrated, platform. Almost every new feature process involves working together to assess the rippling impact on all of our platform’s features and discern if there’s a place to play to the strengths of a feature in another part of the suite.
AC: For example, right now, Anne is working on some improvements to the Expert Gallery Suite that also have big implications for Digital Commons, so she and Nicole are meeting and talking regularly to make sure that the work that Anne is doing on the Expert Gallery Suite will integrate smoothly with current Digital Commons functionality and workflows—we’re always thinking not only about how the technical pieces will impact each of the platforms, but also how workflows between the two are affected by any given feature.