Finding relevance at Web Summit 2016

Greetings from Lisbon! I’m writing this blog from Web Summit 2016 among 50,000 other delegates. The mammoth conference is enough to overwhelm most and you’ll certainly learn the art of queueing.

Among the hustle and bustle, there are 26 tracks of talks, with some excellent speakers offering their advice and experience. From my perspective as a product manager at a SaaS provider, the key takeaways from Day 1 were:

  1. Stay relevant
  2. Never stop innovating
  3. Focus on the problem

Let me expand on these a little.

Stay relevant

As Des Traynor explained in his talk, companies should never rest on their laurels. Even the most successful firms can find that in a decade or two their product is no longer relevant. Only 70 or so companies from the fortune 500 in the 70s are still in business today. Not only physical technology but also the way services are delivered is being disrupted at such a rate that nothing is a given. To survive, we must make sure that our product is relevant in the changing world.

Never stop innovating

Marina Willer from design firm Pentagram shared her sources of inspiration and urged the audience to

allow the random things to influence us. Inspiration can come from unexpected sources as long as we are not too strict and let things grow between the structures we’ve built. Although she was talking about design and a creative process, the same is true in software: we should not be so fixed in the roadmap we’ve set out for the product that we don’t see the opportunities that arise from the way users engage with it.

Focus on the problem

This point sounds a little counter intuitive. We are generally taught to focus on the solutions and come forward not with problems but with ideas for solving the problems. To quote Des Taylor again, especially SaaS products usually arise from identified user problems. The business idea is centered around providing a solution to a specific problem. Once the shape of the solution has been defined, the temptation is to polish and prune the way it is delivered but instead we should constantly question whether that solution is still relevant. Is it the best way to solve the problem? Have new technologies or user behaviours emerged that could provide a better solution? How has the world and the shape of the problem changed?

The relevance of absence management in 2016

Honeydew ethos is to continue to improve our products all the time. The talks at Web Summit have reinforced that approach and serves as a reminder that we need to continue to talk to our customers and review the landscape of absence management at a higher level as well as making our software the best it can be. It is obvious that absence management as a problem is definitely still relevant in the world of work today. We should not stop innovating new ways to tackle absence and Honeydew will continue to focus on the solutions.