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Customer Research & Mobile Excellence: An Interview With Jon Hoover Of Procore

February 9, 2017

As a product manager at Procore Technologies, Jon Hoover is responsible for the discovery and delivery of two world class mobile applications built for the construction professional. Procore for iOS and Procore for Android are both natively built for each platform by a dedicated team of in-house developers. He works with them to research, design, and develop  apps that meet very specific customer needs. He meets with customers in their native environments, solicits feedback from internal marketing-facing teams, partners with executive and strategy teams, and works closely every day with designers and developers. He owns the product vision for Procore’s mobile applications, and works closely with other Product Managers to ensure changes made to Procore's mobile platform are done in concert with all other platforms.

[Yeti] In the past year, Procore has doubled in value (huge congrats!) from $500 million to $1 billion — what challenges & opportunities has that presented to the mobile apps team?

[JH] Thanks! It’s been quite a ride. As our company scales to meet the needs of having more customers, our mobile apps teams have to grow as well. We’ve doubled the iOS and Android teams this year. As with most teams, communication becomes more important and more complex as we grow. When we could all fit at one table we all knew what each other was working on and why. Now, from my perspective as the Product Manager, it’s essential to communicate what problems we’re trying to solve and why.

[Yeti] What does the product development process look like at Procore? What about the process is unique?

[JH] The product development process is unique to each team at Procore. Our R&D (product/design/development) department at Procore was inspired by Spotify’s Squad model. We have teams organized to focus on a specific function of our product. That means we have a team that focuses on our Drawings and Specs tools, another that focuses on our Quality and Safety tools, and so on. Our mobile teams are organized by platform, iOS and Android.

What makes our development process unique is our customer centric development. I don’t think that’s unique to tech companies, Amazon does a good job of that, but it is certainly unique to construction software companies.

Each of our squads is responsible for their product for its entire lifecycle. That means they own the whole discovery of the problem, designing and building the solution, measuring its impact, and learning from customers how well it solves their problem.

[Yeti] How often are you in the field interacting with target users on construction sites? What form(s) does that interaction take?

[JH] My goal is at least once a month, usually I accomplish that. Since I focus on our mobile tools I’m on their job site, with our customers, shadowing them as they work. I observe what they’re trying to make progress on and how our app helps them or not. Because we make a business productivity app it has to help our customers do their job. If it makes it harder for them to do their jobs they won’t use it. They’ll complete the task another way. Usually that means going back to paper documents and Excel workflows. I want to observe when that happens so that I can decide what problems need solving. I’ll ask them what they were trying to do, why they need to do that, and why Procore did or didn’t help.

[Yeti] What are some keys you’ve learned to successfully conducting user research and user interviews?

[JH] Observe, but ask a lot of questions. The questions should almost always be open ended so that you don’t “lead the witness”. It’s anthropology. We must observe our customer’s behavior in their native environment. It’s really that simple. Everything else is implementation and prioritization.

[Yeti] What advice would you give to product developers who are seeking to digitally transform more traditional industries, similar to how Procore has transformed construction?

[JH] Get to know the "why" behind the processes they have. There’s a lot of “we’ve always done it this way” thinking in these traditional vertical industries. Often, the reason why they have always done it that way is because at some point that was the best workflow they could do. Come up with a better way to accomplish the job, don’t just digitize their paper processes.

[Yeti] Thanks Jon!

[JH] Thank you! (to the readers) You can contact me on Twitter @jonathanhoover or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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