The Department of Product


Thursday, 10 November, 2022

A new customer service tool for product teams, Figma’s CEO talks acquisition, the layoffs continue, Zoom’s new set of products, how to structure your day using energy levels

Thursday, 10 November, 2022

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Hello product people,


One of the inevitabilities of building products which acquire lots of customers is that you not only need a solid product to keep users engaged – you also need customer service tools to solve customers’ problems. Some product teams end up building their own from scratch and many of us rely on third parties to do the job for us. Step forward a new contender called Plain which has set out its own take on what customer service tools should look like in 2022. The problem for many customer support teams, according to the founders of Plain, is that supporting customers involves disjointed context switching between different apps. The company is attempting to solve this with an API-first strategy which allows separate apps to be unified into the elusive ‘single customer view’ that so many teams aspire to – all in one product. Not only that, Plain also says its API-first approach means developers can customise the front end experiences using this unified backend for both customer service agents and users, alike. 


First Twitter, then Stripe, now Meta. The layoff bloodbath continues this week with the announcement of 11,000 job cuts at Meta. In a memo outlining the rationale behind the job cuts, Mark Zuckerberg notes the covid pandemic’s impact on inflating ecommerce demand as a major reason for the decline in his companies fortunes. Workers impacted in the US will receive 16 weeks of pay plus all remaining PTO time and vesting stock. Whilst the layoffs are significant, in real terms this only takes Meta’s employee count back to levels seen in December 2021.


But we’ll try not to get too bogged down in the gloom plaguing tech workers this week. On a brighter note, one company celebrating a strong quarter is Square’s parent, Block. Revenues beat expectations with $4.52 billion versus a projected $4.49 billion with CashApp reporting $774 million in gross profit, a whopping 51% year on year increase.


Meanwhile, Zoom is continuing its efforts to diversify from video calls and eat into Microsoft and Google’s pie with the release of a bunch of new products this week. New apps announced at the company’s annual Zoomtopia include Zoom Mail and Calendar. Zoom’s head of product Joseph Chong explained that Zoom Mail and Calendar are seeking to differentiate themselves by targeting small and medium sized businesses, rather than enterprise giants. Other features announced include something called ‘Zoom Spots’ – the company’s own take on a virtual coworking space. It’s set to launch in 2023 and you can check out a clip of it in action here.


Finally, the 2022 Department of Product quick fire survey is now open to all subscribers. If you’re interested in finding out global product management salary benchmarks, which software development methodologies are most popular and how the recent round of layoffs announced is impacting the wider industry you can contribute your own experiences – completely anonymously – right here. 


Enjoy the rest of your week!


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Your product briefing


Productivity – How to structure your day as a PM using your energy levels

With product management often requiring a diverse bunch of different skill sets, it can be overwhelming to try to structure your day in a way that optimises each of the activities these skill sets are used for. What’s the best way to manage the tasks a PM might typically be required to do in a day? Glad you asked, let’s find out. (Department of Product)


Newsletters worth reading – HeyDesigner

The go-to newsletter for product people, UXers, PMs, and design engineers. (HeyDesigner)


New product launches – DALL-E launches a new API in public beta

DALL·E’s flexibility allows users to create and edit original images ranging from the artistic to the photorealistic. DALL·E excels at following natural language descriptions so users can plainly describe what they want to see. As our research evolves, we will continue to bring the state of the art into the API, including advances in image quality, latency, scalability, and usability. (DALL-E)


Interview – Figma’s CEO on why the company is selling to Adobe

Dylan Field is the co-founder and CEO of Figma, which makes a very popular design tool that allows designers and their collaborators to all work together right in a web browser. You know how multiple people can edit together in Google Docs? Figma is that for design work. (The Verge)


Product ops – The foundation of product teams

Solving for viability is about solving for the various business constraints – marketing, sales, services, finance, legal, compliance, manufacturing, subject matter experts, and more – and it’s essential that at least the product manager has direct access to the leaders across your business that are responsible for these constraints. (Marty Cagan)


New product features – Signal introduces Stories

Sometimes you just need a chill way to show your crush that you went to a very cool concert, without having to text them. Stories let you share your life with a select group of people in a way that doesn’t result in a new message notification. They give you a place to tell the kinds of jokes that work better in a sequential image or video format, and to share what you’re doing without the pressure of a conversation. (Signal product blog)


Podcast – EA Games’ product manager on strategy, AB testing and north star metrics

Mohana Cherukuri is a product manager at EA games working in the developer platform team, responsible for building tools that can be used inside EA games. Prior to EA Games, Mohana worked at and Amazon, and has a background in software engineering. (Department of Product)


Case study – How Oatly built 16 global websites in 2 months


A headless CMS like Storyblok allows you to cut time to market in half. Devs get the flexibility to choose any frontend technology they prefer, while content editors enjoy a blazingly fast visual editor. Check out why Oatly made a move to Storyblok. (Sponsored)


UX – How to avoid hostile patterns in error messages

Premature error messages, aggressively styled fields, and unnecessarily disruptive system-status messages feel bad-mannered and increase cognitive load for users during otherwise simple tasks. (NN Group)


The latest from the Twitter takeover

So… you may have heard that Twitter is introducing a new paid for verification service for $7.99. How will verification work? This is the latest from Twitter’s Head of Safety and Integrity, Yoel Roth. But, this doesn’t mean that the old school verification status will go. This, according to reports, will be replaced by a new ‘Official’ checkmark that isn’t up for sale…


And if you don’t fancy shelling out the $8 a month, there are of course, other ways to get verified:


Other product news in brief

Featured jobs

A selection of the latest jobs posted on the Department of Product job board.


Lead Product Manager, Taskrabbit (US / remote)

TaskRabbit is a platform that matches up users with help on furniture assembly, moving, and other handyman services.

Product Manager, Dropbox (US / remote)

As a Product Manager focused on Dropbox’s cloud operating system, you will play a crucial role in improving how teams across Dropbox leverage our world-class infrastructure to scale with confidence. 

Senior Product Manager, Reddit (US / remote)

Reddit is an online platform that enables users to submit links, create content, and have discussions about the topics of their interest.

All yours, all free. Enter your email to receive your briefing.

Product Briefing – November 9, 2023

GPTs for everything, Google Maps gets Immersive, Netflix’s QR codes
Plus: Slack’s CEO exits, How to use conjoint analysis, a new tool for reading API documentation

Product Briefing – November 2, 2023

Google Slides’ superpowers, a Sublime second brain, Pinterest’s PMF
Plus: Tech salary report, how to manage API integrations, Spotify, Instagram and LinkedIn MAUs in context

Product Briefing – October 26, 2023

Discord monetization strategies, Slack ditches X, Spotify growth
Plus: 50+ product analytics tools, Microsoft impresses, Google Meet gets appearance enhancers

Product Briefing – October 19, 2023

Netflix’s $8 billion quarter, Figma in limbo, Synthetic UX research. Plus: YouTube’s major release, a new way to manage your calendar, the Web Technologies Report 2023

Product Briefing – October 5, 2023

Google Docs’ new competitor, AI wars, App industry benchmarks
Plus: Airbnb’s ML patent, DoorDash’s swipe for restaurants and Uber expands to returns

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