How to take the mess out of LinkedIn mess-aging

On my journey to becoming a Product Manager, in the middle of a history-altering pandemic, I made a new best friend, complete with social distancing – LinkedIn!

Having coffee chats to meet and learn from people are so 2019. Virtual conversations are all the rage right now. This starts off my connecting with people on LinkedIn and having a conversation with them.

I have been reaching out to many people on LinkedIn to increase my product management knowledge and also of course, reaching out to recruiters.

Naturally, I used LinkedIn messaging. A lot. Not having an option to save specific messages always annoyed me. A barrage of messages exchanged, but no way to save or bookmark the important ones. Womp womp. That’s how the idea of improving the LinkedIn messaging interface was born!

A problem is only worth solving after you validate that it is indeed a problem that needs a solution. This is where validation comes into play. Validation was performed using different methods – interviews, polls and surveys to name a few. Understanding the market by learning about competitors is also key. The Return on Investment should be positive for any change that one plans to bring in, so the team had to dive in and understand the user’s problems aka their pain points.

LinkedIn is used by over 700 million people all across the world. But not all of them use LinkedIn messaging often enough. We had to zoom in and take a look at who exactly the target users for our problem space are. We had to find out answers to some key questions to narrow down our target users

  1. What is the purpose of using LinkedIn messaging?
  2. What are the different kinds of users who use LinkedIn messaging?
  3. How often do users use them?
  4. What kind of accounts (Free/Premium) do they have?

Answers to these questions along with survey results, gap analysis results and market research results helped us narrow down our target users to Job Seekers and Recruiters.

However, no product can be developed with one survey. It is an ongoing process to collect data and thus make the right decisions. Some of the other surveys gave us answers to

  1. What users like about LinkedIn messaging?
  2. What users dislike about LinkedIn messaging?
  3. Do they switch to other platforms because of pain points? If so, why do they do?
  4. What changes might delight our users?

The next step was to move on to setting the direction and strategy of the product. And this, like everything else is market- and data-driven. There are different tools and frameworks available in the market. We decided to use the DHM framework which helps answer the question – How will our product delight customers, in hard to copy, margin-enhancing ways?

DHM Framework

“A roadmap is an expression of your strategy. It shows how projects fit together, along with a rough time estimate” – Gib Biddel, VP Product, Netflix

Using our potential strategies, we came up with a high-level roadmap.

Product Roadmap

The next step was to dive into early solution concepts. Product Managers do this by sketching what the solution might look like. It’s always a good idea to start with rough sketches because they take less time and you can make changes as and when they validate and receive feedback. We took a step back and used the traditional method of drawing on paper and this is what it looked like.

These sketches were converted to low fidelity wire frames using iRise so that early validations could be performed as part of the validation process.

But how does the product team test before releasing a product to the market? The product/solution might look perfect to the product team but not make sense to the users. So instead of spending all that sweet, sweet money on developing the product and launching it to the market only for it to fail, product teams create prototypes which can be tested on test users. Multiple changes are made to the prototype before making the final design decision.

We used Balsamiq and Invision to create working prototype/mock ups, including one of the following.

The mock up that you can see is that of the hybrid chat feature. Our research showed that a lot of messages are not responded to by recruiters because of the overwhelming number of messages that they receive. Hybrid Chat can reduce the amount of work for the recruiters by answering the common questions that job seekers have.

Feature releases usually cater to 3 different kinds of user needs and they are Must have needs, Performance needs and Delighter needs.

The next step is to list and sort all the requirements. This process is called creation of a product backlog. This is comprised of many user stories that are sorted using different frameworks. We prioritized the user stories using the Impact and Effort framework.

The result of the matrix was a prioritized backlog. Jira was used to prioritize the user stories. Here is the screen grab of the same

We then moved on to user story mapping where we segregate essential and non-essential stories as part of the MVP. We decided to roll out three features for the MVP:

  1. Pinning – Important conversations can be pinned and moved to the top of the list of conversations so that you don’t miss out on messages from important/ongoing conversations
  2. Saving – The ability to save specific messages in a conversation so that users have important messages handy for future access
  3. Hybrid Chat – a bot which can be used by recruiters to cut down their work

Finally, user story mapping followed this step where stories were further broken down to sub-stories and tasks so that the team (designers, developers and testers) pick up and work on smaller bits in an agile fashion.

Once the MVP has been released in the wild, with our beta users first, of course, we intend collecting further feedback and use that to improve the product and the features we offer.

In conclusion, we learnt a lot during this process. Having had no idea about frameworks for Product Management to actually using them, and learning about the different wire frame building products, was an immensely valuable experience. It was a lot of fun as well, discovering and learning things we didn’t know. We came through this with a renewed sense of understanding and respect for what Product Management is all about and what Product Managers do.

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