Homescreen feature – an Interview with Curtis Stanier08 July 2020
In this interview, we speak with Curtis Stanier, a Senior Product Manager of our Pandora platform powering the foodpanda, foodora, netpincer and DameJidlo brands at Delivery Hero. Curtis has been at DH for almost one year and shares some insights into the new Homescreen feature developed for our consumer-facing apps.
Tell us a bit about yourself: what are you doing at DH and what did you do before?
I’m a Senior Product Manager with our Pandora Platform and I’ve been at DH for almost a year, where I’m lucky enough to work with a few different teams:
- Homescreen Squad – responsible for navigation, the startup experience, and the first screen of our app.
- MobileInfra Squad – responsible for our app stability & performance, the release process, and developer tooling.
- Design Engineering – Implementing a design system into our apps to make sure that the components we have designed in a standard way are also coded in a standard way. To improve consistency and productivity for our teams.
- Driver/KPI Trees – connecting top-level business metrics all the way through the day-to-day squad operational work.
Previously, I worked at HelloFresh in Product focused on retention and working to increase the ROI of our customer groups.
Prior to HelloFresh, I was in Service Management (essentially enterprise IT). The way I describe it is you take all the fun things out of product management and you’re left with being a service manager but I still really enjoyed it.
I love the roles where I sit between the business and technology to understand how tech can help the business win. I guess that’s why I enjoy product management so much!
How do you think that your technical background shapes your work as a Product Manager?
I think my technical understanding has always helped me in my roles. I agree that product managers don’t need to be technical but they do need to have a technical understanding. A product manager should be able to have a meaningful conversation with the development team where they can effectively challenge and understand the tech stack. This allows them to engage and offer a different perspective and ask the “stupid” questions.
The other aspect of this is being able to take the technical complexity and using your understanding to translate the technical complexity into concrete explanations for stakeholders about the limits of what’s possible and practical. Product managers play an important role in being the connective tissue between lots of different specialties so it’s important you can relate to them.
What was the main challenge with the Homescreen project? What was your greatest learning in the process?
Homescreen in our context is the first interactive screen that the customer can use when they open the app.
If you think back, our model was originally very straightforward – we only offered restaurant delivery. Customers would come to the app, see a list of restaurants, pick a restaurant, find the menu, pick the items, and place the order. Over the last several years our service lines in quick commerce have grown. The listing page has the restaurant list but also all our newer offerings – restaurants and pick-up, groceries, and any campaigns. The first page also includes a side menu with all your account info, vouchers, and subscriptions. That’s a lot!
You add all these things together and in the end, you have quite an overwhelming experience for our customers. Does that page still scale and support our business growth? Maybe, but not as effective as we would like. It doesn’t give us a lot of flexibility and carries quite a lot of legacy. That’s what Homescreen aims to address.
We see Homescreen as a key part of navigation. Our squad owns the screen and high-level navigation. Our focus is on helping our customers navigate around the app and find and use the services that they want to use. The Homescreen had already been introduced by our colleagues in different brands. They all had a headstart but that meant we were able to apply some of their learnings which was pretty great from a product perspective.
Our Homescreen is backend-powered allowing it to be dynamic. We didn’t want to have a static Homescreen – there is no way that a single view can work for all our customers. We knew we wanted a high degree of personalization and flexibility and for us to be able to use it to learn what works best for our customers. The service is responsible for the “what,” “where,” and “when” of the content we show to our customers.
The biggest challenge was the fact that there was already a start page in the app, so we needed to replace it and make sure we didn’t break anything in the process. Homescreen was seen as a new screen so communicating the legacy technology we had to work through was probably the hardest thing we had to deal with. Fortunately, a few visual slide decks and constant messaging built that understanding in the organization.
How does the Homescreen Guild work? How has it been useful to you?
First, for those that haven’t heard of the term, a Guild is simply a community of interest around a certain topic.
Honestly, it was a bit of a false-start I’d say. I simply set up a Slack channel last year. The reason behind it is that when I started, Johannes (our CPO) sent me over a few slide decks for the start screens being worked on by colleagues from other brands in different parts of the world. Knowing I had peers essentially working on the same thing in a different market who were already ahead of us and had some learnings was great! Think about the competitor benchmarking that you may do – I essentially had the opportunity to do that from the inside with all the juicy details!
As Homescreen started to take shape, we started to share information and have monthly calls where we share and discuss what we’re working on and the challenges we face and how we could solve them. Ultimately, it is about building our knowledge across Product, Design, Analytics, and Engineering from our teams across the world.
Is looking at competition important for you as a Product Manager?
Yes, it is important. It does depend on how you do it though – if you look at competitor analysis and simply say ‘let’s do that because that’s what competitors have done’, you’re going to lose. You’ll always be weeks or months behind what the competitors are doing. You should try to understand why a competitor is doing what they’re doing as one of the inputs to build your knowledge.
It’s important to remember, it’s only one input into your discovery track of work and doesn’t replace the full spectrum. There is a range of tools available to a product manager to understand what is the right thing to build. It’s important to talk to customers to understand why through whatever methods you have – customer support, surveys, usability testing, and generative research.
What was the last thing you learned as a Product Manager?
There are a couple of things. Recently I’ve been reading about coaching and development, one of the things I enjoy doing. I’ve been learning more about the coaching habit (there’s a book on it) and it’s about what it is to be an effective coach.
The main thing the book says is to stop giving advice, actively listen, and encourage the other person to work through the problem, and only then offer advice when needed. That’s something I struggle with given that I like to be helpful when someone comes to me with a problem, but the idea is to give people the chance to develop the tools they’ll need to help themselves in the future.
The other thing I’m interested in now is scaling product in the organization. Similar to what I experienced in Hello Fresh, where the tech and product team grew to several hundred people, Pandora is also going through rapid growth in terms of orders, revenue, and team size. How do you support a rapidly growing organization? How do you support the teams themselves? How to make sure you keep communication open?
Humans are really bad at communicating in groups of over 100 people. That’s the point where our communication structures normally break down. And that’s why I think people see smaller start-ups as more agile and nimble, simply because there are fewer people you have to align across. How do you maintain alignment across multiple time zones, 14 markets, and several different departments at this size?
Thank you, Curtis! This is just one of the many ways in which we aim to improve and reinvent our customer’s ordering experience.
Stay tuned for more posts by Curtis and have a look at some of his previous work: “Driver Trees – How and Why to use them to Improve your Business” and “Optimizing your first 30 days at a new job.”