Fall 2020

PDMA Pittsburgh Fall 2020 Newsletter cover

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Pittsburgh PDMA Community,

As a tumultuous 2020 approaches the final stretch, it’s hard to believe most of us have been working in this new paradigm for most of the year. It has brought many challenges, especially for a discipline such as product development and even moreso for product management where connection to the user is such a vital (although many times not given the attention it deserves) component. Those of us used to conducting in-person research, whether through one-on-one interviews, observational research, or other techniques, have found that those approaches are no longer feasible.

Overcoming this new paradigm should not only be possible, but we, as innovators, should be in a better position than most to adapt. Working under constraints should not only be familiar to us, but should be seen as a tool to drive innovation and improvement. It may seem that working with unlimited resources provides the most opportunity for new possibilities, but that is not always the case. Research shows that a reasonable amount of constraints benefits individuals, teams, and organizations. Without constraints, the sheer number of possibilities becomes unwieldy, and opposite of conventional wisdom, the initial and easiest path is often followed. Finding new ways to engage with customers and users of our products opens the door to possibilities even when normalcy returns. Remote research can be an additional tool to deploy to complement traditional approaches, allowing better utilization of resources and more robust data to inform your decisions.

This past year, PDMA Pittsburgh hosted the Utilizing Virtual Usability Testing to Gather Insights for Top-Tier Product Innovation webinar to address this very topic. More recently, we completed another Body of Knowledge training class, entirely remote. PDMA Pittsburgh was again an in-kind sponsor for this year’s Pittsburgh ProductCamp. In October, Steve Leonard presented Design for Sustainability: Practical Strategies for Value-Driven Product Development. Coming up in November, we will again be sponsoring the annual Student Pitch Competition for students from Pitt, CMU, and Duquesne. In December, Dr. Victoria Mattingly will join us to talk about How Inclusiveness Drives High-Performance Product Teams, and next spring we will be offering the Body of Knowledge training.

All of us at PDMA Pittsburgh look forward to seeing you at future events.


John M. Rovnan
President, PDMA Pittsburgh Chapter

Designing for the Internet of ThingsDesigning for the Internet of Things

May Event Recap

CMU Professor Daragh Byrne, Ph.D. was our featured speaker during our May 4th virtual Innovation Forum. Daragh leveraged his CMU teaching experience in the School of Architecture and Integrated Institute to discuss the ever-evolving field of consumer Internet of Things (IoT) and important design considerations for product developers.

Daragh’s informative and interactive presentation kept all attendees engaged throughout the event. He set the stage by explaining that IoT is driving computing (sensing controls and other functionality) in spaces where computing may not have previously had an impact. Intelligence is everywhere and companies are applying that intelligence to objects. But are these companies applying the intelligence in a way that is beneficial to consumers? Is it meaningful?

Daragh explained that everyone wants to have ‘skin in the game’ associated with consumer IoT. There are many IoT-focused products on the market that do not meet consumer needs. He proved this point with several examples, including intelligence that tells you when your toast is ready, the egg minder that tells you how many eggs are in the refrigerator, a smart basketball, and an over-engineered juicer.

Rushing to get a product out the door is not a good strategy. There needs to be thoughtful consideration. Product developers need to ask important questions, including:

  • Who is the product being designed for?
  • Does the product have meaning?
  • Does the product make someone’s life better, or will it end up in the junk drawer?
  • What will happen to the product at the end of its useful life?

Daragh expressed the importance of making products that empower people and solve ‘real world’ problems. The products should allow people to make smarter decisions, and the products should create tremendous value.

Thank you to Daragh for sharing his expertise, providing valuable examples of both successful and unsuccessful IoT-focused products, and explaining the important points that product developers must consider when designing for IoT.

Gathering User Insights for Top-Tier InnovationGathering User Insights for Top-Tier Innovation

July Event Recap

Gathering user insights within the constraints of our new virtual global environment can be extremely challenging. Since you are not able to bring customers into your facility for testing, what are key considerations for virtual testing? And how do you ensure that you are collecting valuable information that you can use for successful product development?

We asked Maddy Ross, Design Research Manager at Bresslergroup, to be our featured speaker during our July Innovation Forum to share her expertise with the PDMA Pittsburgh community. Maddy’s talk focused on using virtual usability testing to gather insights for top-tier innovation. She explained that there are several important points to consider before implementing virtual research studies, including:

  • Since participants are not traveling to a testing site, research environments are inconsistent. It is critical to keep them engaged and focused.
  • Remote research has a higher level of fatigue (maximum 1 hour), so consider holding more sessions to get increased participation.
  • Virtual research limits your ability to capture visual data from your audience, so tailor your research to accommodate the limitations.
  • Assume that participants are not tech savvy. Be sure to hold pre-session, pilot test calls to explain how to use the remote tools (web camera, microphone, etc.).
  • Hold pilot tests for your different audiences – moderator, internal workers, participants, etc. to ensure everyone is prepared for the study.
  • Plan for technical issues – they are inevitable.

Maddy also provided insight on specific research strategies that can be extremely effective, including:

  1. Study Kits. Send participants study kits that include the product being evaluated, AV equipment with detailed instructions, a return box and label with specific return instructions. This allows participants to set up the study in their own remote location.
  2. Bite-Sized Research. To decrease participant fatigue, focus on one or two high priorities and consider using a quick survey and/or remote interviews to get answers to your questions. It is important to consider the complexity of the product, and how quickly you need the feedback. This type of research generally takes longer to complete.
  3. Unmoderated Quantitative Research. Use videos or product visuals if there are aspects of the product that could be answered without the product in hand or if there are questions that could benefit from a larger audience. Unmoderated quantitative research allows you to reach a larger number of people in a shorter amount of time.

We’d like to thank Maddy for presenting such valuable information during her presentation. The feedback from attendees was extremely positive and many attendees walked away with strategies that they will be implementing in the future.

Designing for SustainabilityDesigning for Sustainability

October Event Recap

When designing for sustainability, many product designers, developers, and innovators are just scratching the surface when it comes to incorporating sustainability into their products. It is much more than selecting eco-friendly materials. The entire product life-cycle, as it relates to the principles of social, economic, and environmental sustainability, needs to be considered.

We asked Steve Leonard, a leading expert in sustainable product design, to be our featured speaker during our October virtual Innovation Forum – Designing for Sustainability. He is an experienced product designer, thought leader, strategist and innovator, and current Manager of Operations at Nextovation at Penn State University and Adjunct Professor at CMU’s Integrated Innovation Institute.

Steve opened the presentation by discussing the Tragedy of the Commons video, a simplistic view of why sustainability has to be directed, since under our own self-interest, we would not do what is good for all. When designing for sustainability, it is important to think of the whole system and everyone involved. We need to consider both integrated innovation and triple bottom line (people, profit, and planet) principles. The products and services that we create not only have to be desirable and viable, but also good for people, profits, and the planet.

Although there are many different approaches and terms associated with designing for sustainability, Steve focused on Product Life Cycle Assessments, Cradle to Cradle, and EcoDesign. He explained that it is important to run product life cycle assessments and review the impact that each stage has on the environment, economy, and social progress. We have to move beyond Cradle-to-Grave and progress to Cradle-to-Cradle design or a Circular Economy, including re-use, repurpose, recycle, refill, recombine, and reduce. We also should consider EcoDesign by incorporating environmental considerations early in the design process and use the environment as an additional design requirement.

At the end of the presentation, Steve reiterated the importance of looking at the people, profit, and planet. You cannot just focus on one. It’s critical to bring in all aspects of the business to effectively design for sustainability.

We would like to thank Steve for discussing the different approaches associated with sustainable product design and providing practical strategies and best practices that attendees could begin to implement right away.

Upcoming PDMA Pittsburgh Programs and Events

PDMA Student Pitch CompetitionNovember 10
PDMA Student Pitch Competition
Event Format: Virtual Event

Graduate and undergraduate students from Pitt, CMU, and Duquesne will pitch their innovative ideas to compete for cash prizes. The winners will also gain access to a variety of resources that have been generously donated from local company sponsors. Join us to support Pittsburgh’s future innovators and entrepreneurs.

Register Today

If you are interested in becoming an “in kind” sponsor, please contact Andreas Maihoefer at amaihoefer@pdma.org.

How Inclusion Drives High-Performance Product TeamsDecember 9
How Inclusion Drives High-Performance Product Teams
Event Format: Zoom Meeting

Organizational psychologist, Dr. Victoria Mattingly, will discuss the importance of inclusion and how it can positively impact product teams. She will share best practices that you can immediately put to use. During this event, you will learn how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can benefit your career and work. You'll feel empowered to use inclusive behaviors with your colleagues. You'll also be able to share examples of inclusive design with those who are curious how DEI results in better products.

Register Today

Body of Knowledge Professional Development TrainingSpring 2021
Body of Knowledge Professional Development Training
Event Format: TBD

This eight-week professional development training program covers the fundamentals in product management and innovation. Expert product development practitioners and talented educators teach seven key areas of study, including Strategy; Portfolio Management; New Product Development Process; Culture, Organization and Teams; Tools and Metrics; Market Research; and Life Cycle Management. Training will be held via Zoom if in person training is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions. We are limiting registration to eight participants.

Register Today

We will communicate event details and updates via the PDMA Pittsburgh website, email, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

PDMA Pittsburgh Sponsors Third Annual ProductCampPDMA Pittsburgh Sponsors Third Annual ProductCamp

PDMA Pittsburgh was a proud sponsor of ProductCamp Pittsburgh for the third year in a row. This year’s event was completely virtual and had nearly 500 attendees from 17 countries participate throughout the day.

There were five learning tracks that included 15 different speakers, and all sessions were recorded. ProductCamp Pittsburgh registrants can log back into the virtual event through the end of October to view any of the sessions. Registrants can also visit the Sponsor Booths to view content and download literature. At the end of October, the sessions will be posted on the Pittsburgh ProductCamp YouTube channel.

Thank you to everyone who visited the PDMA Pittsburgh virtual booth. This year, we held a drawing where booth visitors could win a one-year PDMA Professional Membership. Anyone who completed our “join our mailing list” form was entered into the drawing. Congratulations to a UX Designer from Dick’s Sporting Goods, who was randomly selected as the winner. As a PDMA Member, the winner receives access to the Member Center and Knowledge Hub (kHUB) on PDMA's website, discounts on events sponsored or co-sponsored by PDMA, the opportunity to participate in the PDMA member community and local PDMA chapters, an electronic subscription to the Journal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM), and many other member benefits. PDMA recently announced that there are new membership options available that enable you participate as a member at a level that meets your needs (see the article in this newsletter for details).

Greg Coticchia, PDMA Pittsburgh Board Member and President of Sopheon, brings this event to Pittsburgh each year. The fourth annual event will be held on September 18, 2021, so be sure to mark your calendar.

Body of Knowledge Professional Development TrainingFall 2020 BoK Participants Provide Valuable Program Feedback

We wrapped up the Fall 2020 PDMA Body of Knowledge (BoK) Training on October 6th. The entire course was completed online which did not at all hamper enthusiastic participation and lively exchanges of knowledge and experiences between a diverse group of participants and instructors.

The participants represented industries as varied as precision instrumentation manufacturing, healthcare and energy software solutions, consulting, and sporting goods. All of them successfully completed the eight-week professional development program in product development and management.

We would like to thank the participants and instructors for making this training an enriching learning experience. Here are some of the sentiments why they would recommend the training to others:

“I liked the experts that were teaching and the specialized examples they brought in from their own experiences.”

“I appreciated the breadth of content. The language was broad and open, and it was not tailored to only product development.”

“It [The program] opened my eyes to new concepts and content.”

“The instructors did a good job and made it easy to follow along and contribute.”

“It [The training] opened my mind to other ways of thinking.”

“The diversity of the participants – different backgrounds and industries – added value to the training.”

The Spring 2021 training will be held every Tuesday, February 2nd through March 23rd. We will determine the class format (in-person, virtual, or a mix of the two) in mid-January (based on state and federal Coronavirus recommendations). Space is limited for this session. We will only be accepting eight participants. Be sure to register early to reserve your spot.

Learn more and register today!

PDMA Announces New Membership OptionsPDMA Announces New Membership Options

PDMA is excited to announce new membership options that are designed to meet the different needs of our product development community. There are now three membership levels for individuals – basic, premium, and professional. There are also academic, corporate team, and student memberships available.

These changes are a result of internal membership data analysis and in-depth Voice of Customer (VoC) research. PDMA learned that members and prospects were happy with membership features and benefits, but they wanted some different options that would allow them to participate as members at a lower cost. Detailed information about the new membership categories and rates are available on pdma.org.

The primary goal for this change is to grow the PDMA community worldwide. If you are a current member, the new, lower rate will be reflected on your renewal statement. If you are not a member, now is a great time to join PDMA. Be sure to share the new membership information with your colleagues and friends.

Join or renew today!