eoStar VP of Product Management, Bryant Smith, discusses how customer focus along with an agile team environment helps eoStar deliver targeted products in today’s challenging environment.
Hello, I’m Bryant Smith, VP, Product Management at eoStar.
I joined eoStar in February 2022. I was looking for an ideal employer and an ideal company to work with. I was impressed not only by the people I met but also eoStar’s unique position in the industry with its robust products and features.
In my role as VP, Product Management, I am responsible for the strategic vision, roadmap, and direction for our product portfolio –along with the planning, execution, and deployment of it.
This involves lots of collaboration with industry analysts, stakeholders, customers, and partners to gather information to set the vision and direction for the product portfolio. We need to understand current and future needs of customers, market and industry trends and then work with engineering and development to build out those capabilities based on customer needs and market demands.
Our customers are the end-users and give us a unique perspective on how we should solve problems not how we could solve them. So by marrying our capabilities with what the customer needs, we’re able to deliver well-rounded solutions.
Sometimes we get requests from customers who have something they want, but it’s not necessarily something they need. We have those difficult conversations with them, open and honest. We provide recommendations and best practices of how other customers have solved similar problems. It’s open, honest, and transparent communication for everyone to be successful.
Creating an agile methodology
In a few short months since I started, we’ve implemented process changes that have helped us be more efficient and communicative across the entire company. These changes led to improved velocity and quality in delivery, across all departments.
I moved the team to an agile planning and development methodology, which enables us to plan and execute within two-week sprint cycles. This allows us to flex with the customer and market needs and swing or pivot more frequently than a traditional waterfall style allows, which plans months in advance. So every two weeks, our engineering teams review and prioritize work to do in a two-week sprint. Our product management team works one to two weeks ahead of engineering gathering requirements. When engineering finishes a particular sprint cycle, they move into the next list of prioritized features or defects that need to be built. This allows us to be extremely flexible in how we plan, execute, and deploy technology. Our customers benefit because they get new products quicker as we stay up with the latest trends and changes in the market.
Living a team approach
There is a genuine care between team members that we want each other to be successful. And we’ll do whatever it takes to help each other out. The team has really latched on to CEO Chris Timmer’s philosophy “my goal is your success” that he brought into the organization. It really resonated with them. It is a lifestyle and a work style not just a motto. We aren’t working in silos but very much the opposite. We believe a problem shared is a problem solved as we work in a team environment.
People within product management want to be part of a good company culture. But they also want to be part of a product that is going to be innovative, growing, and helps our customers with day-to-day problems. Our product management team enjoys not only who they work with but also what they are working on.
The bottom line is we’re getting more done, as a result. Once I’ve completed my work, I’ll look over the cubicle and ask my co-worker if there is anything I could help with – versus being an individual contributor and going home. We’re growing at a faster pace, and our customers benefit by us growing and getting more done.
Focusing on customer needs
My interest in product management is tied to providing valuable software to help solve industry problems. And it’s why I always go back to understanding the problems our customers are facing – and how our software and technology can help solve those problems. We strive to incorporate the best user experience and best user interface in all of our product designs and solutions.
We want our customers’ lives to be easier and more efficient while using our products – saving them time and money – but also balance that with being intuitive, user-friendly, sleek, and modern so people enjoy using our products on a daily basis.
Our customers in the food and beverage distribution industry are experiencing challenges like any industry, and we are working on how we can help them.
- The big one, of course, is e-commerce. With the pandemic, a lot of the ordering processes have moved to online ordering and less face-to-face. As a result, we are building out our capabilities to adapt to that market trend. eoMarket is the ecommerce space within our retail portal. We want to give a better experience to our customers’ customer, when they are placing orders, to help with right order sizing, distribution, and planning, so our customers can help their customers be more efficient.
- We need to help customers keep costs at bay. Not only are we providing insights to some of their costs (from a planning, execution, distribution, and transportation perspective), we’re giving them reporting so that we’re surfacing that data. We’re strong believers that if you can’t measure, you can’t manage. We’re helping our customers manage costs by giving them insights into where their pain points are.
- A lot of companies are experiencing labor shortages. Customers are leaning on our technology to do the work in place of humans. They can’t hire enough people to keep up with demand. As a result, we are helping customers save time through optimization and features, because they don’t have enough people to spread the tasks and workload.
Our goal in the next three years is to take advantage of cloud and hosting solutions where customers don’t need to deploy our technology on premise but rather lean on us to host the technology or access it through a cloud offering. We are moving our product capabilities in that direction so customers can essentially log in and have information at their fingertips in real time.
I’m also excited about several emerging technologies that will help customers.
- Connectivity: We’re building a robust library of APIs that allow us to connect and share data outside the eoStar ecosystem, to enable customers to use other partners and technologies in combination with our products. This also involves decoupling some of our technology to enable customers to use partners outside of eoStar to do what they need to do.
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence: We have a lot of data we can glean from our customer data and give those insights back to customers to help them drive their business processes. These might be forecasting and suggested order quantities to help alleviate out-of-stock issues but also out-of-date or expiration issues.
- Augmented reality: This is advancing rapidly. We see a space for us to offer a solution for customers in the sales cycle with merchandising and pre-sales to use augmented reality to help sell their products in the retail space.
I look forward to our User Forum in August and having the opportunity to meet and engage with customers. Historically, customers have influenced our product solutions, so we always appreciate our time with them.
Be sure and follow eoStar VP of Product Management Bryant Smith on LinkedIn!