User advocacy and the implementation of a customer-focused product development process
Applying theory from The Interaction Design Foundation
I transitioned to Product Management in January 2020, after some time as a mechanical engineer, in order to get more commercial exposure and be closer to our customers at Romax. Shortly after, I began to own the development of Romax Energy, our tool for efficiency, CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and thermal analysis. As a fairly new and evolving product, there is a lot of scope for growth, and I wanted to ensure that the user was always at the front of our minds as the product grew. I felt that, by being a user advocate, I could help to develop the best product possible.
Romax in general has been building this mindset over the past few years, with a major example being the GUI redevelopment in the R20 release. At Romax, we pride ourselves on our close relationships with our customers and partners, learning together to better understand the needs of industry and work out solutions. We have customer advisory boards, interactions with thought leaders and numerous discussions with many of our customers around the world to keep pushing our software to solve both present and future problems.
While learning about the fundamentals of product management, I heard about the Interaction Design Foundation through a colleague and it sounded like the perfect method to gain a user-focused mindset and implement some great processes. I used theory focusing on topics such as Design Thinking, User Experience Design and Adoption to guide my product development process. This involved much greater customer interaction at more stages of the development cycle, from defining requirements to getting feedback on released features. I sought to understand the customers’ own product development cycle, as relating to efficiency and thermal considerations, to get to the bottom of their core needs and pain points.
“Design thinking”. Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
By recognising these fundamental issues and how they fit into the wider organisational process for the customer, I have been able to build an understanding of the impact of each potential development on each user. I have used this knowledge when prioritising roadmap features for development and release, to provide our users with the most value possible, which is ultimately what makes our business successful. The requirements of the development are clarified with those who will actually be using the product, and feedback is obtained both pre- and post-development to ensure the product meets those needs. This feedback is used to continuously iterate and improve the product. The Energy development squad also keep the end-user in mind, and proactively think about the core problems being addressed as they go through the development process.
Simplified product development process, not showing iteration loops.
Almost a year on, I hope Romax Energy customers feel more heard. It is a privilege and a pleasure to interact directly in such a way. This is still a new and ever-changing process, and I am learning and optimising as I go. My goal is to connect with as many users as possible, so that I can ensure Romax Energy is well suited to solving real-world problems across a variety of industries, all around the world. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share your thoughts.
To end on a lighter note, these teachings have expanded into my personal life as well. Outside of work, I have implemented these methods in personal projects, as the course provides actionable tasks to get the most out of the theory. It has led to a fundamental shift in mindset, so that now I have started to notice things like the picture on the right, where the shops weren’t listed in any recognisable (e.g. alphabetical) order, and the impact that had on me, the user!
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Dhruva Aaradhya is currently the Product Manager responsible for Romax Energy. After graduating with an MEng in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cambridge and MIT, he joined Romax in 2018 on the Global Graduate Scheme. Dhruva has applied his experience in thermal and fluids to grow Romax Energy, with a particular focus on developing close relationships with our customers to guide user-focused product development. Outside of Romax, Dhruva is a keen traveller and enjoys exposure to different cultures, and mentors children to progress social mobility.