Understand How Product Managers Use Crowdsourcing

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the role of a product manager.
  • Describe the product planning process at Salesforce.
  • Describe crowdsourcing and other inputs that a product manager uses to define a product roadmap.

Great Ideas Make Great Experiences

Jose Figueroa is a sales manager at Cloud Kicks, a company that specializes in high-end custom sneakers. He’s passionate about developing his team of sales reps and celebrating their success. Each month, he takes a moment to recognize team members who have closed new deals. However, Jose wishes there were an immediate way to congratulate a team member every time they close a deal—and he’s got an idea.

Jose asks his Salesforce admin, Linda, if she can customize Salesforce so that when a sales rep changes an opportunity to Closed - Won, an image of a high-five appears. Linda isn’t aware of something that can easily allow her to do this, but thinks it’s a great idea. She wonders if other Salesforce customers will find the idea valuable. Although she could do it on Jose’s behalf, she suggests that he post the idea on the Salesforce IdeaExchange so he can see what other Trailblazers and Salesforce product managers think.

The IdeaExchange homepage at ideas.salesforce.com shows trending ideas, category filters, and the Post an Idea button

Who Decides What Makes It Into Salesforce Products?

The short answer is you get to shape Salesforce products! We explain how, but if you’re wondering who at Salesforce makes the call—that’s the job of a product manager.

Salesforce product managers are responsible for continually improving and evolving Salesforce products so that customers get the most value out of the platform and, in turn, do amazing things for their users and customers. Product teams innovate and improve the experience throughout the year. For most Salesforce products, new features are bundled and released three times a year. These releases are named after the corresponding season in the northern hemisphere: Winter, Spring, and Summer. At any one time, a product manager is thinking about three releases. They:

  1. Communicate about features in the latest release (such as Winter).
  2. Work with user experience and engineering teams to develop features for the upcoming release (such as Spring).
  3. Plan what to include two releases out, that is, the release after the upcoming one (such as Summer).

It’s like patting your head, rubbing your belly, and… jumping up and down. Don’t try this at home unsupervised.

Product managers consider a variety of inputs to choose innovative features that meet customer needs and improve current functionality. When deciding what features to include in a given release, they consider:

  • Customer insights gathered by Salesforce research teams
  • Product usage data
  • Feedback from the Salesforce Customer Success Group
  • Strategic priorities set by leadership
  • Technical feasibility
  • Competitive research

When product managers begin planning for a release, they identify common themes coming from all inputs. They begin to define and refine the plans (or roadmaps) for their products. In prioritizing what to focus on, they consider the top two Salesforce values: Trust and Customer Success. 

Features that ensure the security, resiliency, and availability of the platform are put at the top of the list. Features that enable customer success follow right behind. But with so many inputs and customers, how does a product manager know which features will be most valued and used?

Crowdsourcing

Imagine you’ve just sat down to dinner and then the phone rings. Robocall? No, it’s a Salesforce product manager. They want to know what you think about an idea they have for their product. While you might appreciate the chance to provide feedback, you can probably see the challenges with this approach. 

First, a phone call during dinner is just plain annoying. Second, with hundreds of thousands of customers, it’s impossible for a product manager to speak with everyone individually. We want our product managers working on features, not spending all their time on the phone. And a phone conversation is only shared between the two people on the call. No one else gets to chime in to share their “ah-ha!” moment.

Using the IdeaExchange, anyone can openly post and share an idea, allowing Salesforce product managers to source feedback from the community—the crowd. This allows a few magical things to happen.

  1. Community members enrich others’ ideas and share use cases.
  2. If an idea is unclear or can be interpreted in multiple ways, community members and Salesforce product managers seek clarification from the original poster.
  3. Popcorn. In the beginning, kernels pop few and far between. But after the first few, more kernels start popping more frequently, and it’s not long before the bowl is full of popped corn. Ideas work this way too. An openly posted idea can spark additional ideas from others, which in turn spark more ideas, and so on. You often end up with a more complete idea from the diverse set of perspectives built upon the original submission.
  4. Community members show their support for an idea by upvoting (liking) it. This helps other community members and Salesforce product managers see which ideas may deliver the most value to the collective community.

After sourcing ideas from thousands of customers, product managers focus their energy on exploring the ideas that receive the most support from the community. The IdeaExchange is an always-on feedback, or crowdsourcing, platform for Salesforce.

Kicking It to the Crowd

Jose takes Linda’s advice and decides to share his idea with others to see if it’s something they may also find useful. He heads to the IdeaExchange. Read on to see what he finds there.

Resources