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Identifying Product Market Success in the Public Sector

Dan Moyers, VP of Product, 120 Water Audit

Where does digital product fit in a market that traditionally relies on manual processes?

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Anna: We have conversations all the time with product companies and it's so interesting to learn how they sell, how they decide what innovations, features or integrations are needed and how they prepare themselves for the future.

Anna: A common thread throughout all these conversations tends to be that the customer drives all decisions or rather in developing product, you have to be customer informed. Christian, would you agree with them?

Christian: I think, overall I would. I think that the challenge is figuring out just what it means for customers to really drive your decisions. Thankfully, on this episode we'll talk with Dan Moyers who's the VP of product and solutions for 120WaterAudit, and he's going to show us how.

Christian: In this particular conversation, to your point, Anna, it dives into the very notion of building product based on customer feedback. Where does product come into play with a market that traditionally uses pen and paper? How do they know when it was time to bring a new product discipline to the company? Dan will touch on this and more.

Dan Moyers: 120 from a software product standpoint, really got started serving a single, very large customer and doing it really well. So there was other markets, so we needed to end up creating a second product and then taking that existing one product and selling it to the next five, 10, 20, 50 customers.

Anna: Their founder, Megan Glover, started with a vision that's ultimately evolved to ...

Dan Moyers: Protecting public health through clean drinking water. So if you think about the customers that we serve with our software and our water testing kits, it's public water systems, it's schools, it's state agencies, who are executing programs that protect public health by ensuring clean drinking water.

Christian: For Dan, product leadership has been instrumental in ensuring that what they build aligns not just to the market but also to what the legislature dictates.

Christian: It's an interesting discussion as we weave through both product and sales and engineering and government. Ultimately, establishing that without great product leadership, there can be no product.

Christian: When it comes to the vision of the company and the vision for the product, there can sometimes be a disconnect. For Dan, it's about leaning into an entire organization, seeking a counterbalance between his vision as head of product and Megan's vision as a CEO.

Dan Moyers: When it comes to challenging, we probably do it around the why now? Why that's important. So if she may have an idea, my polite challenge question to her is, "Yes, we could do that. Why should we and why should we now?"

Dan Moyers: On the flip side, she'll challenge back and say, "Why aren't we doing this now?" So we have some kind of fun around that aspect.

Anna: As we dive in and reflect on this conversation we have with Dan, I can't help but think that more often than not, are we over engineering, over demoing, over creating instead of just talking with end users to find out what they actually want.

Dan Moyers: Stop talking. Just get down to business and bring folks on as a customer and move forward with them. You can demo yourself into oblivion and sometimes it actually works against you.

Anna: So why would you choose to do the click through as opposed to building some big product? Why was that a better solution from your team?

Dan Moyers: Well, for us we think it scales well as we grow the sales team because we don't have to have, for everybody kind of we'll say deep demo expertise. We just aren't finding so far this market needs to have, I'm going to say the classic two, three-hour demo, with everything loaded up with their actual data in order to buy the solution.

Dan Moyers: Again, keep in mind they're executing a program, they want a solution to do that. What we're finding is that they see the capability of that and they're good with that. We also have a track record of customers who have used it and adopted it. That helps us certain.

Christian: What goes into this click through? I think I know what you mean by that-

Dan Moyers: Sure.

Christian: ... Just maybe to tell the audience, what exactly is a click through prototype?

Dan Moyers: We do, I'm just going to say mega high fidelity mockups of all of our screens before we send those to engineering for development.

Dan Moyers: So what we do is we leverage those mockups and we use ... In our case, we use the InVision tool and we just stitch those together, publish that to the web.

Dan Moyers: So our sales folks have a clickable or demo that they could use both in real time online or offline through the InVision app, let's say in their iPad or iPhone.

Christian: You mentioned they don't necessarily need to have other data loaded up in a huge demo, but if you already have a development team there, why not just have them code up some sort of throwaway code that you go out to ... Why spend time on a high fidelity mockup when you're going to build the product anyway?

Dan Moyers: That is how we want to do development. We really want to use the iteration of getting to high fidelity mockups to tease out the details of the future.

Dan Moyers: So, if we're going to do it as part of our development methodology, then why not leverage that into a sales enablement tool? So we did it, I would say initially in service of the approach to development we want to take and then we're sitting back. This is just fully leverageable into a sales enablement tool.

Anna: So you're saying because you have the high fidelity mockups, that you were going to utilize for your depth processes, why not put together-

Dan Moyers: Absolutely. I call it the twofer. Now, we were fortunate that we have a sales team that embraces that and feels comfortable with that versus pounding away and saying, "Well, where's my one off demo for every different scenario imaginable?"

Dan Moyers: Quite frankly, at the size we are now, 20 people are present. Again, yes we're in scale up mode but we're so busy, we don't think it's a good use of resources to be doing one off custom demos, loading data.

Anna: So you're saying that as part of your [dev 00:05:53] process, the high fidelity mockups allow your team to reverse engineer it in a way?

Dan Moyers: Yeah, it drives conversation too. We take a customer informed approach to product management. By that, we are seen as a leader in the space right now. So we have to come to the market with a point of view, but we do want that point of view to be informed by customers.

Dan Moyers: So we try to find that balance. Another way that sometimes folks will approach it is; we're customer driven, and I get that. But this customer informed, I feel like is a bit of a balance where, "Here's our point of view and then let's have a reaction to that and we're gonna use that as an input into what we're doing."

Anna: Talk a little bit more about that. What it means to be customer informed versus customer driven.

Dan Moyers: Good example, we have our newest customer, customer in Wisconsin. So as we were talking to them, they're very much a thought leader and a leader in their particular state.

Dan Moyers: So we put together a deal in which they're an R and D customer. Just the other day, we have a set of new features upcoming in the next couple of months that we have high fidelity or mega high fidelity screen mocks for. We wanted to get their feedback. In essence, we wanted to be informed by them to get their take on it.

Dan Moyers: So we would show those to them and get their feedback. But for us to expect as an R and D partner, that they would just tell us what they want, I think sounds good on paper or sounds good in theory, but the reality is different.

Christian: So in this example, you bring to the table something, some manifestation about these mega high fidelity mockups and then they give you feedback.

Christian: Is there ever a time where you go in without anything? Is it ever more appropriate where you're just in a scouting fact finding mission versus going there with a perspective?

Dan Moyers: I think what you're describing absolutely is important. I think more of that lies ahead for us. At the moment, from what we've been able to gauge from our current and prospective customers, what we've created and what we're creating right now is just bringing us up to the level, if you will come into the table stakes of what they need.

Dan Moyers: In the future, we'll be needing to operate more like that. I think a good example would be looking at in the future. As we continue to have more customers and they have data in our platform, when it comes to something, let's say it is insights or predictive analytics around their data, I'm just going to say that broadly. We wouldn't just come up with our own point of view on what those things would be. That would be more of a, "Let's sit down and say 'what are the kinds of questions predictively'"? If you can have answered for you that might be interesting to you and then we would work our way back from there

Anna: So you're saying, today, you're basically digitizing their preexisting process. That's the route that you're on in a more thought leadership oriented way, but tomorrow that's where you'll be delivering things that maybe they don't even realize.

Dan Moyers: Which I think ties back into first meeting folks where they are, so they can become a customer. You can start that relationship and then you look forward to growing together over time.

Dan Moyers: I think the broader point was we take this customer informed approach where we're not going to just kind of sit with our arms crossed and wait to hear what our customers need.

Dan Moyers: I feel like on the customer side, they expect us to give them a point of view and provide something to react to. Then as we do that, we want to be informed as to what they think about that as we make decisions. I think that's probably the nuance that I'm trying to drive at.

Anna: What do you do when you go into a customer ... let's just say focus group, [inaudible 00:09:47] and you show them this new feature and you know, this is the cat's pajamas but they don't get it. What do you do in that moment?

Dan Moyers: My general approach is to embrace all feedback, and just kinda absorb it. In essence, don't react but thoughtfully respond because sometimes going back to timing, it's a great idea whose time just hasn't come yet.

Dan Moyers: So you try not to be from a product leader, product management, defensive about it because everybody has their point of view. I think something I've found over the years works well too, is how you receive feedback as a product leader very much drives how that relationship with that customer or prospect will evolve. How you handle that. It can be a bonding experience.

Dan Moyers: If somebody says, let's say, cat pajamas that you think is a feature, and they're like, "I don't like it or I don't need that now," how you handle that, the 'challenges make you stronger' type of thing. So I've tried to keep that in mind over the years.

Christian: How do you handle that thing? 'Cause surely that must happen internally, but to Anna's point, this wrong or just not right or they're not getting it, how do you specifically handle it?

Dan Moyers: My first reaction ... reaction is the wrong word. Response ... actually walked right into that one, is to really then scratch why. So why do they feel that way? What's driving that perspective?

Dan Moyers: Sometimes, you might be asking that why question two or three times in a row. But I guess for me personally, it's having spent time in consulting a good bit over the years. Doing that in a very relaxed way is key 'cause it disarms folks and it allows you to have more of a conversation about it versus, "We're on the puppet," more like where you're getting like this and getting defensive about it. Just unpack it and you take your time to do that.

Christian: Is the approach you're describing extended out to the sales team or are you typically having these conversations with customers? What's that division of work like?

Dan Moyers: A lot of what we focus right now from a roadmap is not necessarily sitting in a room, if you will, with blank white boards and coming up with new things. It's taking a collection of two years maybe worth of known things that we want to do and then sensing the market to determine timing on those things.

Dan Moyers: One comment as I'm saying that ... I wanted to add to it is, well, as a company we feel like we're in scale up mode versus let's say startup stage. In some respects, you feel like it might be easier at that stage, but I actually feel like it's harder because there can be a temptation if you're maturing as a company to get a bit too hard coded into master plan with your roadmap and then you lose some of that nimbleness because the market is still unfolding.

Dan Moyers: So I try to balance a set of things that are six to 12 months out with nimbleness over the next one to two quarters. This has just been hitting us here in the last couple of months as we've been trying to take things to the next level.

Christian: What does it mean to be a scale-up versus a startup, at least for one 120WaterAudit?

Dan Moyers: For us, it was feeling that we had product market fit and that we were ready to grow the team.

Christian: When was the moment where you woke and said, "I think we've got product market fit."

Dan Moyers: Well, first of all, having more than just a couple of customers and more than just customers that might be friends and family, if you will.

Dan Moyers: Then enough of track record of those customers using our product and renewing with us that they would be disappointed if our product didn't exist.

Dan Moyers: Then another indicator is when people are finding us and saying, "You have just what I've been looking for."

Christian: When you're scaling up, what is scaling up? Is it taking the product that's been working and bringing it to more of the same? Is it taking the product and finding new different types of prospects? What does that mean for 120?

Dan Moyers: I mean, scaling the team to sell more of that product and then deliver what's been sold.

Dan Moyers: So it's those two fronts. On the product front, I would say we are further hardening and maturing both of our products so that they're further ready for scale. Then over time, then you have a chance, you have your hope as you're growing, you have more resources to let's say grow the team to go more expediently after new features and things like that.

Dan Moyers: But for us right now, it's get to market and as we get to market, make sure we've got the team that can deliver on the product that we have and then through product and engineering to keep delivering the right ... let's say somewhat incremental features at the right time, that makes sure that platform is rock solid and ready to have, maybe we've got 2000 or 3000 users right now, but a year from now, we could have 100,000 users or 50,000 users making sure that we're rock solid for that.

Anna: You mentioned as you're scaling up, you're still trying to be nimble while still planning. So what is the legislative effect on your roadmap?

Dan Moyers: It informs what programs that were focused on within the roadmap, if you will. Right now, we have our plate full and there is tons of opportunity with the five programs that we support.

Dan Moyers: So we feel at the moment that several of those programs are going to continue to get more legislative attention, which is good for us. Lead in schools is a good example.

Anna: What does it mean to get more legislative attention?

Dan Moyers: More states will say it is a law to test for lead in schools versus it being an optional program. We are supporting this programs today and in 2019 or 2020, are there any new program? Wholly new programs we have to get ready to support?

Dan Moyers: Then underneath that is 10, 20, 50 features to support that. So legislative tracker would inform what new programs we might need to be ready for and when or if there's any existing programs that may be being sunsetted, let's say.

Anna: What are the challenges of ... like you said, hardening your product but being flexible in your roadmap, open to change. What are the challenges you face with that?

Dan Moyers: I think it's first of all getting okay with being flexible. Just the notion of that. So waking up in the morning and saying that, "Well, we have a plan right now for Q1. If that plan where to change based on conditions the next couple of weeks, that is okay."

Dan Moyers: So part of it is just getting in that right mindset or mentality. I would say the other part of it is trying to find the balance, but you can't live literally sprint to sprint or week to week. That probably is back in the days of the startup.

Anna: Why can't you do that anymore?

Dan Moyers: Well, 'cause there's so many people involved, right? Just from a planning and a design and the engineering, that's efficient, and effective engineering is an assembly line and it's got a lot of different moving pieces.

Dan Moyers: An area that we are improving on and we still have ways to go just candidly is getting further out ahead of the curve so that we are designing now "as example" two and three and four sprints out. We'll say from a UX UI standpoint.

Dan Moyers: We're closing that gap. We're turning that corner. But we're still doing a fair bit of real time design. That makes me [inaudible 00:17:12] heartburn, certain days or certain weeks but we're getting there.

Christian: What is the competition like today, typically, when you're trying to sell 120

Dan Moyers: Competition today, and this is real competition is status quo. My Excel is good enough, my homegrown database is good enough. I'm good. So that's first and foremost.

Dan Moyers: We know that at present, we've created a software solution for a set of programs, which hasn't had much software attention over the years and there are a host of companies that are what I would think of was more general purpose horizontal compliance management, enterprise software.

Christian: So not specific to water programs but just any type of compliance?

Dan Moyers: There are some that are specific to water. They tend to focus what we say more ... I know it's a cliché; more upstream within the infrastructure, let's say the public water system and the sampling and testing that goes on there. The programs we're talking about are downstream at the point of views, the drinking.

Dan Moyers: Okay. But I think in general there's a set of folks that have been in the game for a while, that will at some point probably wake up and go, "Wait, what's going on over here?" Then we'll see where things go.

Christian: I think a lot of times people start up, they don't always think of status quo as a competitor. They think of a competitor as the big bad guy that's the monolithic corporation or whatever.

Christian: But in your case, it sounds like that viable competitor is doing it the same way they always have or doing nothing. So when you face that competition with 120Water product, how do you win against that?

Dan Moyers: I think we would continue to try to win by embracing being industry specific, program aligned, if you will. Because I think one of the challenges a horizontal solution has in coming in, is how do you ... you can't always configure your way to something that feels like it was made just for a customer.

Dan Moyers: So I think you would continue to see us double down and embracing being an industry specific solution versus I'll say a general horizontal platform that way.

Anna: What's the relationship between the status quo and market time?

Dan Moyers: I think they're pretty interlinked. I guess you are right. I think there are more things around market timing that can up-end the status quo. So, for instance, if legislative, "You must do this," is a market timing, that can actually move somebody past the status quo because then they have to do it.

Dan Moyers: So, that's a great question. That's probably just in the moment here. The way I would think about it, one is more of a business side to it and the other's more like personal. I mean, a lot of folks just don't like change.

Anna: Why does product leadership matter?

Dan Moyers: Every thing in the world is or will become something through leadership. I mean, somebody or somebodies, a person or persons needs to get together and lead and decide, "Hey, this is where we're going. This is why we're doing it," and plan as a flag on the hill.

Dan Moyers: So if you don't have that ... it's odd to say, but if you don't have leadership, there's nothing to manage. I mean, you got to go move things forward. I just think it's a decent way to maybe think at a high level of the difference between product management and then product leadership.

Dan Moyers: Oftentimes, they are, and they should be intertwined, but in my opinion, they're just different things. There's actually depending on the time, different times call for different things.

Dan Moyers: Sometimes, if it's a new product and a new market opportunity, that might call for a stronger product leadership. But if it's maybe something that's mature, and you're humming along, maybe the emphasis there is more on product management.

Anna: What does better product mean to you?

Dan Moyers: What is better product? Something that makes people's lives better.

Christian: That was Dan Moyers, head of product and solutions for one 120WaterAudit. The best place to connect with Dan or anyone else on the 120WaterAudit team is 120wateraudit.com.

Anna: Why is product market fit so important? Why are people talking about it so much?

Dan Moyers: I think product market fit for startups is the evidence that you have something that the market wants because you can have a great product, and you see it ... A lot of time, you hear about things that are before their time.

Dan Moyers: I think a lot of times we don't hear about things that are before their time because they never got any bride adoption. So I think we talk about product market fit for startups because that's really the thing that's going to tell them that if they have something that's working in the market and that they should scale.

Anna: Yeah, well, the first thing he said, again, going back to it being really obvious, but he said that first of all, they have customers and again, very obvious-

Christian: No to our audience dash. If you have customers, that's a good sign.

Anna: ... You might be on your way to product market fit-

Christian: But its not enough.

Anna: Well, he defined the type of customers. He said it's not just friends and family and that's something we see a lot too. A lot of really early startups, they have customers and then we go to talk with them. We learn that ... and I think a lot, and we see a lot in this community too.

Anna: A lot of local startups use each other. I think there's a really good ... they want to help each other, and support each other, but a lot of times they're not using their product, and they said because they actually have the pain.

Anna: This next metric he talked about, I really like, and that's the idea that people would be disappointed if your product doesn't exist. That's a really, really interesting way to think about it.

Christian: Why do you think that is so important to determine product market fit?

Anna: Yeah. I think it's because when you can integrate yourself into people's workflows and when you can become a tool that they depend and count on, that means they're really finding the value in what you do. So if you were to take that tool away, they would lose that value.

Christian: It's like if I give iPads to my kids, they're customers, they're happy, they love it.

Christian: Then the next morning they come and use it again, they're renewing. That's all good. But if you've ever tried to take an iPad away from a kid while they're using it, that's when you know you've got a great product.

Christian: All right, so he had one more ... I don't know if he intended to do this, but then the way that we're talking about it too, I feel like it's like it's almost layering product market fit.

Christian: So it's not have customers. Not just, are they renewing? It's not just, would they be disappointed if your product exists? He also talked about our inbound people asking for it.

Christian: So I think that's like a balance because you can have a good product, and some people don't know how it fits. But if they start to see that, that means it's positioned right and their messaging it to you right.

Christian: It's designed well, and it hits all those ... So I think that's that fourth level where now all of a sudden, people that are out there in the world, that are coming inbound, think that you could solve their problems.

Christian: I think that's really key for 120 because they're in a space where it's not common. They're not doing HR software or-

Anna: HR, a lot competitors out there. Yeah.

Christian: Yeah. So it is a new thing. It's like if a new competitor slack comes out, we're all going to understand that. But in the 120's case, it's totally not new to that field. So for them to then see that something I'd never seen before is the thing I need, that is the biggest evidence of fit.

Anna: That the problem exists, the solution solves the problem and people find value in it.

Christian: So I think the other thing that I think related to the product market fit, that I know you were really interested in, is the idea of being customer informed rather than just being customer led.

Anna: Dan had a really interesting perspective on this. Because he works in a regulated environment, potentially government organizations, he mentioned that they don't just build to their customers, they're more thought leaders.

Anna: So they're very customer informed, not customer driven or led, which is a little different from what we've heard from other people and what we hear differently throughout the-

Christian: What are the differences, at least in the way you interpret being informed versus led?

Anna: I think when your customer led, maybe it's when you're further along on your path, the company's more mature, the product's more mature., You're much more designing to what customers need and want from your product.

Anna: But when your customer ... just customer informed, like what Dan said, you are leading customers down, you are being thought leaders. You're telling them, "This is the best way to go about it."

Anna: They know that the problem exists, and they can articulate the problem, but they have no idea what the solution is to be. So you're more of saying, "I understand your problem and here's the solution that you need."

Anna: You have to be customer informed because you can't just shove a product down these roads and hope it fits. You have to get feedback from them.

Christian: If I reflect back on even your career and mine in UX and research, I feel like a lot of the software in the early 2000s customer driven. The idea of waterfall in these large scale, these long contracts you would get with companies, you're almost as building effectively what they want.

Anna: Exactly.

Christian: And they'll pay the bills, but then you can't scale that. Now, we fast forward it to today where we're in the SAS model, and you need to build something that many people can use.

Christian: But to your point, I feel, at least the way I interpreted that customer led, the customers are just leading you. You're just doing what they want. But in his case, he balances that too because he does mention that you have to stay ahead, but they also give them what they want.

Christian: What was your reaction to some of the things he said there where managing that balance between leading customers but not so far ahead that you start to lose the connection with them?

Anna: He was really thoughtful about it because he's working in an industry where they don't ... Again, there's not a lot of competitors are not a lot of people in this space.

Anna: So I think he is ... it sounds like he's leading people along the way with, and they're doing lots and lots of demos. He's in a lot of contact with this customers so it sounds like he's leading them, but he's bringing them too.

Christian: He also seemed to talk about specifically, I think it was a customer in Wisconsin, R and D. It almost seemed like he had the cutting edge customer where it's like they get the new features first.

Anna: Because they're, they're open minded to it. They want to try them out.

Christian: I think too when you do that with the people that are totally open to change with those types of customers, I think Dan is also talking to them because they help. They're almost like a translator for the ones that are maybe further on the other edge of not being ready.

Christian: It's like, Dan and Megan Glover, the CEO, really know their customers well. But I think if you can go to those more cutting edge, open customers first, they can help hone. Maybe it's not just the product, but it help hone it so that when you then go to somebody else, they've at least given you a little bit of better way to package the product, or some things you may miss the design-

Anna: How you talk about the product, how you message the product. He's pushing his customers beyond what they have today, but he's also doing the most advanced and most acceptable. It's still fits in their world. They can still understand it.

Christian: It is advanced. Yeah. I think that's important. Like it's not just acceptable. It's not just designing [crosstalk 00:27:50] customer driven. They're just giving them what they want, and it's not so advanced.

Christian: We kind of joked about the iPad earlier, but I think what Apple's always done well is created products that really are just like whether you guys are going to do what we do.

Christian: But 120 doesn't have the marketing budget, and the brand that Apple that can truly push an entire consumer base in a direction. So for the rest of us, and I think a lot of our listeners, you're not going to have the luxury of just being able to put something out there and everybody's going to get on board for the rest of ...

Christian: We hope, a lot of people hope they can get there, but I think when you're on that road you do, like you said that most advanced yet acceptable framework I think is really good., I think you hit it right on the head that that 120 does that really well.

Anna: Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe, rate and review this podcast. Until then, visit innovatemap.com/podcast and subscribe to learn how you can take your product to the next level.

Anna: As always, we're curious, what does better product mean to you? It's up on twitter at @innovatemap or shoot us an email at podcast@innovatemap.com.

Christian: I'm Christian.

Anna: And I'm Anna and you've been listening to better product.

Christian: Better product.

Anna: Drop mic.

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