Everybody Should Have a Voice—How We Prioritize Ideas at YCharts
Excerpts from an interview with Caleb Eplett, CPO of YCharts
YCharts is a financial software company providing investment research tools, including stock charts, stock ratings, and economic indicators. It builds an ever-expanding financial and economic data set—as well as the tools to access and interpret that data—to help investors and business people make better decisions. YCharts and YCharts Pro provide institutional-quality data and analytics for investors and business professionals.
Caleb Eplett joined YCharts in 2012 and has been instrumental in building our Account Management team as well as contributing to Product and Business Development. Before joining YCharts, Caleb spent three years as a fixed-income trader focused on US Treasuries and derivatives. He also worked as a financial advisor for several years with BMO Investor Services and Ameriprise Financial. Caleb graduated with honors from Northwood University in Michigan with a BBA in Economics and Business Management.
In this article, we discussed the issue of transparency and communication within the team that allows researching ideas, finding new ways to tackle challenges, and completing complex tasks such as implementing a new feature development or integrating with partners. We believe the topic is very relevant to the current situation.
Feedback is essential
People management is one of the biggest growth zones for every technology leader, especially when it comes to remote work. Fortunately, the pillars of success are the same as when communicating offline. According to Caleb, one thing that really helps here is to give everybody a voice to give feedback
One thing that we’ve rolled out internally is an internal product committee that is made up of people who aren’t just on our product team. We’ve got a representative from our sales team, marketing team, account management team, and engineering team. We get together at least every couple of months off-site and just start to talk: “Hey, not only are there some cool things that we’re working on, but let’s give you guys all a voice in the current and the future road map, and let’s talk about big ideas.”
After such meetings, Caleb’s team takes ideas, researches them individually, and then shares that research across the team. It’s just a great way for everybody to have a voice as well as to hear some really great ideas that they might not get exposure to if they only thought about the product within the product. That’s something that’s been a lot of fun and gets everybody involved.
As far as just day-to-day meetings, Caleb strives to provide transparency to people the status of projects. They sync up every week to talk about where things are at from a technology standpoint and how they are progressing on things that may need input from product or design. These syncs help to establish trust within the team, which affects productivity and team spirit greatly.
Ecosystems are trending
Among the major trends forming the wealthtech landscape today, Caleb mentioned the shift toward the use of model portfolios, whether that’s subscribing to managed models that asset managers are putting out there for a fee or integrating with other market players.
Everybody is excited about the ecosystems that are popping up. Then you look more recently in the market, some of the consolidation that’s happening. This consolidation gives advisors access to great tools all in one place, but in other ways, you could say that the number of choices is shrinking as these few players get bigger and bigger.
Caleb thinks that we all live outside of that trend right now on the analytics side of things, but it’s something that is worth paying really close attention to.
Prioritization—the main CPO challenge
The classics of product management challenges is balancing the resources with what you can get done. There’s never a shortage of ideas, but then taking those ideas, prioritizing them, and assigning as much R&D as we can to each of those ideas, as well as picking the winners, is always the biggest challenge, Caleb says. To combat the issue, he has a specific scoring system:
To gauge how impactful a new feature we build might be, we generally conduct a survey of people who work with our clients. We can either get them to ask those questions when they talk to our clients or actually send our clients some of those questions so we can get feedback on how meaningful it would be.
The same procedure is used with people on the sales team who are working on prospects. Maybe there was a feature or two that they didn’t have, which is why those clients didn’t end up becoming clients.
The next step is documenting the scores gathered at the previous stage and weighing those based on how much effort would go into any one of the products proposed to come up with a quantitative score to rank things by.
I still like to look at that after everything’s been quantified and ranked and say, “Hey, a little executive move here to bump this up here and this down a little bit.” Then on top of that, just the cost that might be involved with any new data or things like that is always important.