Product management in country improvements

Product management can be a difficult role to define. Most companies have a slightly different view of what a product manager should do, and so the definition (and even job title) of a product manager will often vary between organisations. It is also the case that within the same organisation different areas of the business can evolve their product management positions in different ways, as is the way at JUST EAT. And this is fine, as product managers are typically people who are willing and able to adapt themselves to the needs of the team(s) they work with and the products they manage.
Technology at JUST EAT is split into eight core areas, one of which is International Product Development (IPD), which I work in. Each area has their own focus and each have evolved independently in terms of their requirements of product management. However, we’re all working towards a common goal – to build a JUST EAT experience for consumers and restaurant partners that delivers against our mission to “Empower consumers to love their takeaway experience” and supports our restaurants to become as successful as possible.
So what’s working as a product manager in JUST EAT like? As product manager of the International Advanced Market (IAM) team it’s my responsibility to ensure the team is supporting the group of advanced market countries (Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands), together with my team’s technology manager. The support my team provides is underpinned by our mission statement:
All this sounds very nice, but what does it mean in practical terms? On a day-to-day basis my job as a product manager can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Supporting the team
  • Partnering with the countries
  • Looking to the future
  • Personal development

Supporting the team

This is what I would call fundamental product management. It’s the core task of requirement definition (in whatever form it takes) and prioritisation. In the IAM team we use the Scrum framework for development and this covers user story creation, backlog grooming, sprint planning and representing the user. It’s a privileged position, working between my colleagues in Tech (engineering, UX, QA), Business Intelligence and the teams in the countries, bringing together lots of different skills to create an awesome product.
With such a fast-paced environment at JUST EAT this aspect of the job is very demanding, but with such highly skilled people across all of Tech this is also extremely rewarding, and continually delivering tangible improvements gives me the drive to keep on pushing the bar even higher.

Partnering with the countries

Each of our businesses around the world are run independently, managed by local teams who understand their market and drive success. With all product development resource based in the UK and Kiev it’s critical that we stay closely aligned to their businesses and understand what’s happening in their local markets. We have regular calls with the country teams and collaborate on requirements and prioritisation (see my previous blog post – Tools for International Communication to Manage Technical Change), share market research and data analysis as well as experimenting with changes to the site/apps to see what works for users in different countries.
The remit of the team I work for requires additional responsibility of understanding and representing the countries I support. With so many teams across Tech delivering changes at breakneck speeds, I get called upon to ensure country specific requirements and nuances are not lost in the continual improvement happening across the platform. It’s an immensely satisfying part my job and comes with added benefits of regular travel to visit the country teams.

Looking to the future

It’s easy to fall into a trap of only focusing on what you have in front of you, fire-fighting today’s issues while forgetting you need to be planning what comes next. There are times when this might be the correct move but you need to be conscious of it and take action.  JUST EAT plan on a quarterly basis using the OKR methodology (we’ve even built our own tool for managing them – Managing OKRs at JUST EAT tech with our own web app) and so it is paramount that the product managers maintain that roadmap and vision for what comes next – not just the following quarter but for the next year or more. Of course your plans change, that’s the great thing about working in such an agile company, but having that draft plan to start with is key to figuring out what’s changing in the marketplace and how you should react.
We’ve adopted some of the templates created by Roman Pichler and adapted them for our own requirements – for anyone looking to instill some structure into their planning for agile teams this is a great place to start. We’re continually developing our templates and have established a great framework within IPD for planning and communicating our vision for the future.

Personal development

Personal development is a big deal at JUST EAT, and all employees are supported to create and maintain a personal development plan to achieve their career aspirations. The document leads with the question “Where do you want to get to?” and helps you create a plan to get there. This is backed up with personal OKRs and a training budget of £1,000 each year to spend on the resources you need to support your development plan. It’s great to work somewhere that values people development so highly, and backs that up by empowering you to take true control of it.

In summary

JUST EAT is a fantastic place for product managers – there is so much energy and enthusiasm, a ton of exciting work happening across the company, and it’s immensely satisfying to be working for a company that truly understands what product management is all about.