When it comes to product design, delivering products that are actually good, appeal to the customers heart and head, are profitable, means ensuring the users needs are consistently addressed along the way.
We had a chance to chat with Tomer Ben-Sira and learn how he’s delivered successful products while always remembering the needs of the user. As Senior Product Manager at McKesson he managed a portfolio of products generating $50M-$60M in annual revenues. Now he’s driving Orpheus Medicals product strategy and having a clear impact on the way things are designed.
In the session we covered:
- Balancing multiple stakeholder needs
- How to address user experience in new and mature products
- Ways to instil UX design more effectively throughout the design process
Check out the full recording of the session:
Here is a selection of questions that were discussed during the session.
Usability Matters: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Tomer: My name is Tomer Ben‐Sira, I am the VP Product Marketing and Business Development at Orpheus‐Medical, an Israeli startup company that develops solutions for clinical video documentation and collaboration workflow. Prior to that I served 10 years in product management roles in McKesson’s medical imaging group, responsible for the cardiology PACS and CVIS product portfolio.
Usability Matters: As product managers, what problems are you typically trying to solve, specifically, ones that relate to user issues.
Tomer: Working in the healthcare space with its impact on patient care, we focused on solving problems that relate to inefficiencies in workflow while maintaining a high level of clinical quality and accuracy of work. Also, counterintuitively in several aspects you need to think how users spend less time using your product in order to free them to focus on patient care delivery, whether realtime during a procedure or “offline”.
Usability Matters: How have you inserted User Experience thinking within your teams? Have you had push back from any team members? If so, how did you handle it?
Tomer: It was an iterative process that we also learned from each version. The first versions and design of the product were done by engineers and a clinician with an engineering background. It was more to meet immediate needs and expand the product offering.
As the product management group started to form and gain credibility within the organization, we were in a leadership position to drive product design and decisions. It starts with instilling the team members with a sense of duty – to represent and be the voice of the customer and immerse themselves in clinical workflow shadowing as much as possible.
Also, we recruited graduates of biomedical engineering which we believed was a winning combination. These graduates understand the clinical world, can talk to a physician or nurse and understand what they are doing and what patient safety means. Also, the engineering background gives the top candidates an analytic approach and desire to solve problems. So you take a workflow problem,deconstruct it and then synthesize a solution.
Initially, the push back came from engineering but as our product designs matured and achieved success this was reduced. To summarize – be professional and show early results to build confidence within the cross‐functional team.
Usability Matters: Do you see a major difference between managing a product that has relative market maturity vs. a new product? Can you share some examples that relate back to UX?
Tomer: Yes, there is a difference. When working on a new product, you have more freedom and ability to bring your experience and accumulate knowledge on UX and realize it from day one. On an existing product, you are sometimes limited in the scope of changes you can introduce.
This is especially true in the healthcare environment, where a lot of our end users, physicians, are used to existing concepts of UX design and find it hard to handle the change. Also, since our company was a late entrant into the market in regards to several of its products, we had to adhere to pre‐existing usability concepts so as to be able to replace a system that was designed in the 90’s and has not changed.
Physicians were so used to it, it was hard to change a lot. That said, when we worked on a mobile application, which was an extension of an existing desktop‐based module – we had more freedom to do so, especially since the target users were already accustomed to UX aspects inherent in mobile – swipe, pinch zoom, automation, etc.
Usability Matters: To what extent do you listen to users? And how?
Tomer: We try to listen to users as much as possible and this is done in several ways. First, keep in mind that our users are almost always very busy: seeing patients, performing diagnosis or medical intervention as well as administrative tasks – and it is hard to get them to sit down with you face to face or over conference and Webex to provide feedback.
To overcome this we aim to interact face to face as much as possible in their working environment. They appreciate the fact that you came over to their little neck of the woods to see them use the products or voice their desires.
One time, a product analyst/designer in our team met this physician and she told her she was very busy and can only spare 5 minutes. The session lasted for 90 minutes with excellent feedback.
Other venues include trade-shows and focused customer user group meetings. Another important source is our sales team provide a lot of feedback based on customer facing sales demos and periodic encounters and of course our services and support organization that funnel product requests to the team.
Usability Matters: Over the years you’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work in building a new product. Can you share some insights on how you’ve gained buy in for designs that at the outset maybe weren’t that popular?
Tomer: Using other industries and product design concepts as reference or benchmark helps. When working with engineering who want to be on the edge of technology, I made it a priority to try to be a step ahead of them, pushing the envelope.
When mobile smartphones and tablets came out, I was one of the first in the company to buy a tablet and download a lot of medical apps as well as wellness and others, to see what’s the latest in product usability design. That way you gain the confidence of decision makers as well as developers that what you bring forward as a design, is good and relevant.
Usability Matters: Do you think your approach to design has given your products a competitive advantage? If so, why?
Tomer: Yes. We were able to add small features that were technically possible when we designed them, but were not available previously, and use that as a competitive edge. For example, in the early 2000’s everyone was using predefined sentences and you could configure them per site or per user. But the user interface was always a separate dialog box and a lot of tree‐hierarchy structure to organize it.
In 2007, when we started to design a competitive module, we assumed everyone would be familiar with Google’s auto‐complete mechanism when you type in words for searches, right? So we incorporated that and users loved it because it saved them many mouse clicks and brought online/on screen the sentence they were looking for to include in their interpretation of the study. I mean, this specific feature might not be the deal breaker, but it helped get physician buy–in as well as position the product and our approach as user focused.
Of course, we have learned from many of our own mistakes in early designs which caused a lot of frustration to our users and we were positioned at a disadvantage against our competitors.
Usability Matters: When I picture design thinking, I sometimes think about rapid prototyping and testing. Is that part of what you do as well?
Tomer: Yes, so a couple of years ago we changed how our product development works and moved to an agile methodology. In many web‐based and mobile industries this is the norm and you may think, “oh, what’s so special about it”. But in fact, it is rather rare in healthcare, especially since you have long cycles and regulatory aspects of quality and risk management systems. But the change to a 2 week iteration and 3 month release cycle, even if it does not go to the field, it enables you get quick feedback without committing a lot of resources for 12‐18 months.
What we then do, is have a workable minimal viable product or set of features that our product designers/analysts can then take to the field or demonstrate to get immediate feedback.
Due to the regulatory aspects, it is sometimes hard to actually field test it, until the end product or version is cleared from quality/risk aspects. That said, I tried to instil the concept of Minimal Viable Product so we can field test early and then add features or modify design relatively quickly and not have to wait almost a year before any meaningful feedback is received.