About this podcast episode

Are you feeling trapped because your product is not delivering value?

Guest David Pereira shares how to untrap your team by prioritizing customer needs and behaviors over backlog grooming, focusing on adding value.

David and Bill will equip you with practical, actionable tips and strategies. You’ll learn how to measure the value delivered by a product or feature and why having honest conversations with customers is crucial to gaining a deeper understanding of their needs. Untrapping your product teams and creating products that deliver value will become a tangible goal.

In this podcast, you will learn:

✅ How to understand customer needs and behaviors

✅ Strategies for prioritizing features

✅ The importance of incremental change over perfection

🚀 Untrap your product teams to re-focus on value


(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)

[00:00:00] Introductions

Bill Raymond: Welcome to the Agile in Action podcast. I am your host, Bill Raymond, and today I’m joined by David Pereira.

Bill Raymond: David, how are you today?

David Pereira: I’m doing great.

Bill Raymond: Wonderful.

[00:00:09] Introducing Background and Achievements

Bill Raymond: David, you are the CEO of omoqo GmbH, which offers native cloud solutions for cargo terminals. You’re the keynote speaker and you are the author of a new book. You just released titled Untrapping Product Teams. David, is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, with our audience today?

David Pereira: Sure. Thanks for the introduction. And one thing that I love doing is blogging. So I’m also the author of the Untrapping Product Teams newsletter, which people can benefit for free and consume some insights.

David Pereira: weekly.

Bill Raymond: That’s a great newsletter, by the way, I do follow all of your writing and you are an excellent writer and you always have some great ideas to share with people. So I appreciate your supporting the community.

[00:00:55] Exploring the Role of a Product Manager

Bill Raymond: So today we are going to talk about avoiding the traps down the value trail and we’ll get into what that means as we get into this.

Bill Raymond: But one of the things that. We will be talking about is what the role of a product manager is and their role as it relates to value. So could you give us a quick overview of that role, the product manager?

David Pereira: Sure. I will give my version. So what I perceive a product manager is the one who uncover what drives value and lead teams to enable that to happen. So that entails experimentation, trial and error, and ditching solutions that don’t work and stick with the ones that

David Pereira: work. It’s a lot of work to do it. It goes from a strategy to delivery.

Bill Raymond: Great. Thank you.

[00:01:47] Product Manager vs. Product Owner: Definitions and Differences

Bill Raymond: And I think one of the most common questions that I get when. Our listeners reach out and send me an email is what is the difference between a product manager and a product owner. So since I have you on the call, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that topic.

David Pereira: Of course, this goes into interpretation depending on the context and so on. And even in my life, I changed my definition several times. When I started, I would say a product owner is the responsible for doing it. things right and the product manager defines what the right things are. And that’s how I worked in the beginning of my career.

David Pereira: But that’s not the best definition one can have. Why? Because in this case there’s a fragmentation of responsibility, PO takes care of the delivery and PM of the strategy. It may work in some scenarios. But unfortunately, I haven’t seen that working well. So today, what I say is a little bit different. I say that product manager is the job.

David Pereira: So that is the responsible for making things happen and PO is actually a role inside Scrum, but that here comes a little bit of things. In Scrum, product owner has a broader perspective. When it comes to safe, the definition of product owner is what I started in the beginning here. So what I like saying is product manager is the best person to fill the product owner role.

David Pereira: And no matter how you work, it is one bus, one driver, end to end responsibility. And that is very important to ensure full accountability. Because going back to the beginning of my career, the product manager would sometimes blame me for poor execution. And I would blame back for poor decision making. No one wins, everyone lose. So that’s the reason it’s important to treat the product owner as a role inside the framework, which can be fueled by a product manager. Of course, how that comes to practice is another discussion, but that’s how I see it

David Pereira: today.

Bill Raymond: It’s interesting, I guess you can’t have strategy with no prioritization, but you still need prioritization. So who best to manage both of those is that product manager? Is it, I think what you’re saying.

David Pereira: Yeah, and I always try imagining a soccer game. Suppose you would have one coach responsible for the strategy and another responsible for the game itself. That would not work because the one who is in the game within the players was not part of defining the strategy, but actually is the one responsible for ensuring the team is going to win the game or achieve the best result possible.

David Pereira: But in football, of course, the coach is always the same. The one coming up with this strategy and leading the team on the field as well. So with product should be the same.

[00:04:34] Untrapping Product Teams: Understanding Traps

Bill Raymond: You just released a book. It’s titled Untrapping Product Teams. Before we get into untrapping product teams, let’s define what a trap is,

David Pereira: A trap is something that blocks you or slows you down. from doing what you should be doing. Something that distracts you from creating value and may even hurt you from doing that. The problem is that sometimes we don’t even know we are trapped and that’s what happens. Some traps are very clear.

David Pereira: Sometimes we want to achieve something and we cannot get there. And then we realize that there is something on the way. For example, you cannot talk to the customer because someone is blocking you to talk to the customer. That’s a clear trap you can see. But then I say about an order, you have a huge backlog. At first glance, you may say, that’s good. Everything is clear. We know what to do, but actually that is a trap because when you have a bloated backlog, you get so focused on the past instead of looking into the future and adapting according to your learning. So trap is a distraction. It’s something that you don’t want to have when you are creating value.

Bill Raymond: We’re going to talk about how we define value in just a minute, but I’d like to drill down on this a little bit more because, we all do this, right? We work day to day. We have our backlog of things that we’re doing. We’re getting the work done and we feel like we’re moving forward.

Bill Raymond: I understand what you’re saying about value, but I guess the There might be some inflection point where we should recognize that we are in these traps. Can you share some things that come to your mind when you say that maybe you’re falling into these traps?

David Pereira: Sure, it can happen without knowing, as I said, I believe that no company will be perfect. They will have different things that distract teams. For now, I have worked for more than 10 companies and I have seen different traps on the way. But one thing, the beginning of my career, I got promoted because I helped the team increase velocity and we keep delivering more and more sprint after sprint we got it right how to make delivery accelerate and that was nice to me I was excited. It was nice to see the graph just pumping pumping and so on until I realized actually to delivery more feature didn’t mean create more value.

David Pereira: I got excited with the wrong thing. Problem was stakeholders also got excited about it because they liked seeing the team delivering more. I got promoted by that, but once I realized that we couldn’t increase the value for customers on the contrary. Some customers even told me, I used to like the product, but now it’s so bloated with features. I don’t even find what I liked anymore. I got distracted.

[00:07:20] Defining Value in Product Management

Bill Raymond: Let’s hear your definition of value.

David Pereira: Sure. So value for me, it’s two sides. It will be a transaction. So customers collect value when we do one of the three things. We solve a pain they have. We deliver on the need they want to cover, or we deliver on a wish. Let me elaborate a little bit on this with some aspects here. For example, I live in Germany.

David Pereira: When I moved to Germany, there was something quite painful for me. which means tax declaration. I had to do that not knowing the language and it was very complicated but then I found a system that I could just take a picture of my paper there and then boom it would do everything for me. It removed the pain I had.

David Pereira: And what did I do for that? I paid a subscription in exchange, so it means that the company received monetary value. That is the pain that it solved. But I had a need at some point in time. I didn’t want to be outdated in my field, so I had to level up my knowledge. There are different ways of doing that.

David Pereira: One of the ways for me was learning from practitioners. So someone who is doing something. And I found in Udemy, many people were sharing their experience and homemade courses. And I like that because it was honest. It was authentic. What was value for that? I had a need of developing my skills and Udemy helped me connect with someone who had done what I wanted to do.

David Pereira: And this person was sharing. I collect knowledge as a value. The instructor collect revenue share as a value for the instructor and Udemy collected a revenue share for them as a business. So that is related to the need.

David Pereira: And then we have the wish. And some people say wish? What is that? Sometimes we pay for something just because we want to have, we don’t really need that. When I got married, I love eating, but I realized that neither my wife nor I were good at cooking. We could survive, we wouldn’t starve. We could do some things. But we wanted to level up. But then we said, how do we do that? We had a wish of becoming better at cooking. Then we heard about HelloFresh and what HelloFresh did for us was simplifying the game.

David Pereira: So they would send us three dishes a week with all the ingredients and the recipe, and then we would cook. We covered our wish. We level up our cooking skill, had tasty homemade meal, and HelloFresh got a monthly subscription for me. So value is about the transaction, but it doesn’t need to be monetary all the time.

David Pereira: For example, when you use a social media, you may not pay anything for that, you think at the first glance. What is value for the social media in this case? It’s your time, your attention, because they can use your attention as a value exchange for advertisers. So they say, we have this amount of active customers per hour and you can advertise for them.

David Pereira: So that’s how it collects. And once we understand this equation, what value means for our customers, each product has a different definition for that or a different way of delivering value. Then we can figure out what we need to do to deliver on that.

Bill Raymond: We talked about wishes and we talked about adding customer value. Sometimes it’s very clear. The customer demands a certain thing. And sometimes you need to think ahead. What is the future of our product or service going to look like?

Bill Raymond: And can we reinvent ourselves or reinvent our product and things like that? And that’s when you start to get into thinking about value that no one really quite knew that they needed.

[00:11:00] Incorporating AI and Innovation: Adding Real Value

Bill Raymond: I, for example, look at a lot of products right now that are throwing AI into their products. And they think that they’re adding value and they can just charge me an extra upcharge a month because there’s AI in the product, but very often the AI actually gets in my way more than helps.

Bill Raymond: I’m thinking specifically you’re a writer, so I think you’ll appreciate this. I am as well. I have some writing tools at my disposal and one of them incorporated all these interesting AI features, but what they would do is just overwrite what I’m writing.

Bill Raymond: It’s saying, oh, see what you wrote, I’m going to write something better or what have you. That to me isn’t adding value, but I think in their minds they thought that they were. And I feel like sometimes we get on this train of here’s the new shiny thing. The, there’s a browser now there’s apps now there’s AI.

Bill Raymond: And I think it’s interesting. You almost have to step back when you’re creating value from these things and say, but what really matters to our customer, but also we know this is going to be the future. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on. Yes, there is a big, shiny new thing. Yes, customers are expecting it to be in your product, but no, the customers probably don’t fully know where it belongs in the product.

Bill Raymond: How do you think about adding value to a customer when you’re quite not quite sure what exactly that thing will be?

[00:12:22] The Importance of Problem Understanding in Product Development

David Pereira: Yeah, it is about understanding the customer. So today is very easy to jump into the solution space with AI is even easier. There are many tools out there. You can just prompt and say, create a design of an app that will do A, B and C. I’m pretty sure you’ll get that done in 30 seconds. And you have a sequence of wireframes.

David Pereira: It doesn’t mean you understood the problem customer having. So great products, they come from great problem understanding. And then what am I saying here? Do you understand the jobs to be done the customers are trying to do? If we look at the product that became global and it’s almost a verb, Uber, for example, what is the job?

David Pereira: A person wants to move from A to B. Okay. And hiring a taxi to do that is not always easy. It’s not always fun. There’s. Some pain. And then you can ask the question, how many customers have this kind of pain? How much do they care about this? And what is our ability to provide a solution that is better than that?

David Pereira: And if you can provide a solution that is not just incrementally better, but 10 times better, then customers will change how they get the job done. So today what I see is, instead of talking about which job are we making better, we start saying like, how we are making the solution better. And that’s not something I like.

David Pereira: Going back to your example of tools for writing and so on, I have been using a few tools. I like Grammarly, for example, and I used to say that Grammarly was good for me, not because it corrected my typos. Because it made me a better writer, when it helped me see what I was not seeing. But when Grammarly started saying, I’m gonna adapt with this AI, I actually just turned off that.

David Pereira: Because that was distracting me. I don’t want Grammarly to do that, I want Grammarly to make me a better writer. So great products help you do a job and make you better at that. But to enable someone to do that, it means you need to have a deep understanding of the problem space, instead of moving straight ahead to the solution space.

Bill Raymond: And I think that’s interesting. And one of the things that does get exciting is when you unlock this new customer potential and you’ve said, oh, we found a way to do this new thing, create this new app think about the future and, redefine how our product works and things like that, those are really exciting times.

Bill Raymond: And that gets people super excited to build more on top of that product and keep adding customer value. But that initial excitement, everyone getting in and saying let’s do this thing together and adding feature after feature, you can get right back into that trap state again, can’t you?

David Pereira: Yes, very easily. And that is the misunderstanding, because there are many people that think that that a great product is the one you have nothing to add. So it has all the features that are necessary. And I say, it’s different, a great product, it’s the one you have nothing to remove because it does a job done super well.

David Pereira: That the customers know exactly what to do. You’ll go back to Uber. It’s very simple. You just go there, you put the address where you want to go and it shows what is available. But to get to this level of simplicity, it means loads of optimization. So the initial excitement, you put an app live. And that’s actually the moment the real job begins, because you need to see how people understand that.

David Pereira: How do you help them get the job done? And once you start tweaking here and so on, you are making the real change. But it’s very easy for us to say, hey, let’s implement voice recognition instead of just typing the address. Let’s do some AI here. Let’s start doing this and that and that. But that is the point I would say, are you developing something that is rational for the user or natural?

David Pereira: Because if it’s rational, then you are relying on luck. The person needs to understand. rationalize and use it. But if it’s natural, they just go and use it. That’s the reason that some apps becomes, became so popular. For example, Tinder swipe right or left, and then you may have a match or not. And it’s a very simple app, but it became popular because it became natural the way it is. So the core is let’s not start bloating our product. Let’s focus on a problem worth solving and solve it in a good way. But not everyone is so excited about this stage of growing the problem, understanding and solving it better, making it more natural instead of rational.

Bill Raymond: And we talked a lot about the role of the product manager taking on some of this, but really the entire team needs to be involved, don’t they?

David Pereira: Yes, of course, I’m talking about product manager, but if you remember the beginning I said, uncovers what creates value and lead the teams to create value. And what I say, we don’t need separated roles of product managers and product owners. That entails that software engineers are part of the problem understanding and the solution definition.

David Pereira: There should not be coders. Coders, I mean in a negative way that the product manager say this is a solution and you should build it. That doesn’t work because then you lack the power of the creativity of soft engineers, product designers who know a lot. So what I like saying is product manager needs to understand the business viability.

David Pereira: How does this make sense from a business perspective? Software engineers need to collaborate on feasibility, given the constraints. The product manager needs to say, the worth of this for us, we can invest, for example, a month. So that will make it viable. And then engineers will say, given these constraints, let’s figure out a solution that fits.

David Pereira: And the product designer needs to ensure that we create something And that is desirable and understandable, in other words, usable. So the overlap of all of this, it is what makes a product that is worth building. If you lack desirability, then nobody’s going to use it. If you lack feasibility, you will always be spinning, but you don’t deliver because you cannot.

David Pereira: And if it’s not viable, you create something awesome, but then the business won’t fly

Bill Raymond: I was recently talking to a designer and they said to me, you need to covet every screen you design, because I was thinking about that in, in response to your Uber point, you open up the app and right there, it says, where are you going? Where do you want to go?

Bill Raymond: Maybe it already understands where you’re at right now. And all it needs to know is where do you want to go? But you, if you go and put a whole bunch of other features on top of that, maybe it’s three screens to get there. People aren’t going to want to do that. Now there’s friction.

Bill Raymond: And what they’re saying is covet the screens. Covet the capabilities of the product. So that when you’re adding it, it doesn’t feel like you’re making the customer do more work. And if they do more work, then that means they should hopefully get more out of it than they put in. I’m curious what do you think about that particular thought process?

David Pereira: It reminds me in one of the place I was, we had a situation with the customer service. They were overloaded with requests and I went to talk to them to understand what was going on and what surprised me 50 percent of the requests like cancellations refunds changing bank data could be done in my account. The users were able to do that.

David Pereira: The only issue was they couldn’t find it because my account was bloated with so many functionalities. In other words, it was not prioritized what made most sense for the users. What we did there, which was unconventional for many, I hid the menus that were not used that frequently. And just by hiding that, it dropped the customer service calls by half. Very fast because users could find that and then step by step. We started adding the the menu, but in a more prioritized way. So it’s about making prominent what the users want. So when you understand the job, you start saying what is the user journey? What does the user need now? You said about Uber.

David Pereira: I know where I am. I don’t need to type that. I can tell you where I want to go. And then later you decide, for example, which vehicle you

David Pereira: have, but at this point, you’re not even talking about payment that is in your account as before you decide that you’re not making this decision. So when you understand the decision process and what kind of job you’re doing, then you can prioritize having more features.

David Pereira: It’s not something bad, but not prioritizing where you present the features and showing all the time everything that is bad.

[00:21:20] Untrapping Product Teams: Strategies for Improvement

Bill Raymond: I’m curious you’ve explained what it feels like to be in a trapped state and how to untrap yourself and how to think through that and the mindset that’s required. But let’s just say for a moment that and I think a lot of people might relate to this that are on product teams.

Bill Raymond: Let’s just say for a minute that you do want to do that. Step back. You want to untrap yourselves. You’re saying, we’re prioritizing features and we’re not sure the value and that can happen and that’s real. And it’s okay that happens. It’s just the fact that you recognize it and you’re going to fix it.

Bill Raymond: But sometimes you’ve already filled the product up and some of the team members might feel that the product is getting a little bloated now. So how do you step back to do this untrapping with this knowledge that maybe you’ve over engineered for all the features, but you’ve delivered that to the customer.

Bill Raymond: How did, how do you address that?

David Pereira: Yeah, about untrapping product teams, you need to prioritize actually which trap you want to overcome. So what I like suggesting is, let’s step back now. And have a health check, and you can have the health check in different flight levels. You can look at the company, the strategy, discovery, delivery, and then you say, where are we here?

David Pereira: And then you can say, what is the one thing we want to change? We want to see differently right now. Let’s start working on this one and seeing what we could do differently, doing today for a better tomorrow. And many times what happens is, we realize the product is overengineered and there are some symptoms showing that it takes very long to deliver new features.

David Pereira: Customers are not using everything you have. Then you can say, what is the easiest way for us to start changing this right now? Select some things to remove from the product.

David Pereira: Let’s retire features. Let’s develop a culture of retiring. Let’s experiment with that and see how that helps us. And one thing I like telling team is don’t panic when you do a health check because you may find many things that you don’t like.

David Pereira: And that’s fine. There’s no product team that is perfect. No company that is perfect. And if you try doing like I did in the beginning of my career, which is: One, fixing everything at once. Two, lecturing people is not going to work. People don’t like being lectured, and you cannot fix everything at once. No one is going to support that.

David Pereira: It’s too big of a change. But you can make incremental change, show the result, And then you start receiving positive feedback and support to change the other things that you don’t like. So you go on this step by step gradual change and so on. And the others, you just make peace with them, accept the way it is.

David Pereira: And you take this as a marathon, not a sprint. It’s something that will take time. And here we are not talking about months. There’s a big chance, depending on how trapped you are. We’re talking about a few years to change everything for scenario, but you can see a small improvement. It’s like compound interest in the beginning is slow, but then it gets big and nice.

Bill Raymond: Sometimes we hear customers, they can get loud. I’m one of them, right? This is the new feature I want in a product that I love. And I share that information and maybe there’s a website that you can go on to say, I would like to see this feature.

Bill Raymond: And people vote on it, and they do plus one. And people say, yes, we need this now, exclamation mark! And then you start to see, oh, this is something we really need to look into. I do think, though, as much as people want a feature, and as much as they might be frustrated that feature doesn’t exist, I think they’re okay waiting a little bit longer, so long as it’s done right.

David Pereira: Yes, the core is understanding what is that feature for. So what do you enable the customer to do? Because when the customer asks for a feature, it means the customer is trying to achieve something. And if we jump exactly to the feature, I like making the doctor example. As a patient, I go to the doctor and say, hey, I have some pain here on my back, and I’m here today because I just want you to operate me.

David Pereira: So I’m gonna lie there on the bed and please just operate. The doctor will look at me and say, hey, let’s let’s have a conversation here. What did you do yesterday? I said, no, nothing special. I was at home and so on. The doctor, did you carry anything? Yeah, I helped just a friend there. They had some box to move.

David Pereira: I just helped, but it was from the first floor to the fourth floor, but nothing really annoying. I’m young, I’m strong. And doctor would say, just go home and sit and relax. It will be fine. The thing is, the doctor is a specialist. But the doctor can only provide a solution once the doctor understands the problem. And it’s fine for me to think I know the solution because I know my body and I may think I know, but I’m not a specialist. And as customers, we start using the product and we think we know exactly which feature we want and many times might be the right feature. It can be. But if you are the doctor. You don’t need to understand what that is for so you can measure if customers are achieving the desired result, because then you are again delivering value and collecting value.

David Pereira: So this conversation and exchange are highly important. And one thing that I write a lot in the book is nothing can replace contact with real customers. So if someone is so excited to recommend a feature, talk to this customer, understand the real scenario and so on, and talk to them. And then you can decide when you’re going to do this. But first you need to understand.

[00:27:00] Closing Thoughts and How to Reach David Pereira

Bill Raymond: This has been a great conversation, David Pereira, I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared today. Before we wrap up, could you share how people might be able to reach you?

David Pereira: Sure. So you can reach me out on LinkedIn. I’m quite available there. Also, you can find more about me in my website. There you’ll find courses as well as my book with a sample. So you can get the book sample there for free. So that’s how you can reach out to me.

Bill Raymond: Wonderful. And I will make sure I provide all of those links on the https://agileinaction.com website. If you’re watching this video on YouTube, or if you’re listening to the podcast in a podcast app, just go down there to the show notes, the description, and you will find all of those links to reach David along with the full transcript of this podcast.

Bill Raymond: David Pereira, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it!

David Pereira: Thank you. It’s a pleasure being here.

Speaker: Thank you for listening to the Agile in Action Podcast with Bill Raymond. Subscribe now to stay current on the latest trends in team, organization, and agile techniques. Please take a moment to rate and comment to help us grow our community. This podcast is produced in affiliation with Cambermast LLC, and our executive producer is Reama Dagasan.

Speaker: If there is a topic you would like Bill to cover, contact him directly at Bill.Raymond@agileinaction.com.