How an Amazon Product Director & City Mayor Solve User Problems

Product Management can often be boiled down to this principal: solve user problems.

I describe it by the two U’s: Useful things for Users.

I recently came across two examples that illustrate this principal in action.

Amazon ships new enterprise hardware

Amazon recently announced the Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client. A hardware device optimized for accessing applications in the AWS cloud.

How did the Amazon product team land on this product idea? How did they figure out what problems customers needed solved?

The product announcement blog post provides some insights:

At Amazon, working backwards from the customer and what they need is how new products and services come to life.

Melissa Stein, director of product for End User Computing at AWS, oversaw the Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client project. Stein and her team began an in-depth journey interviewing AWS enterprise customers about their cost, security, and management concerns, especially those organizations distributing laptops, tablets, and other computing devices to employees at home and in large contact centers, customer service operations, hospitality, and other work environments.

When you talk to your customers, listen. They will reveal the problems they need solved:

“We kept hearing the same pain point from our customers,” Stein said. “’I’m tired of shipping employees expensive desktops and laptops, which can be challenging and expensive to recover if an employee leaves the company. Unless I can change the cost equation of the hardware itself and make it less expensive to buy and manage the devices, I’ll never get my IT spend under control.’”

Mayor of Carmel, Indiana

The small city of Carmel in Indiana is being ranked by some online sites as the best place to live and raise a family in the United States.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Carmel’s population in July 2022 was 101,964, more than quadruple the number of people who lived there in 1990, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Real-estate prices have also gotten a boost. So far this year, the median sale price in Carmel is $550,000, up around 30% from $420,000 in 2020, Holle said. Home sales at or above $900,000 are also up, she said, with 205 so far this year compared with just 84 in 2020.

The WSJ article also highlights the work of its current mayor, Jim Brainard. Prior to being elected in 1995, Brainard went door to door to speak with residents to understand their needs:

“What I heard when I went door to door in May 1995 for my first election was this yearn for a traditional city,” he said. At the time, zoning laws prevented the integration of residential and commercial development. 

Understanding the needs of the city residents (aka “users”, “customers”), Brainard implemented a development vision to revitalize Carmel:

Carmel has built several multimillion-dollar, mixed-use developments along its central corridor with townhomes, apartments, boutique shops and restaurants. An Arts & Design district with galleries and showrooms now sits in place of the city’s original downtown area. It connects to the City Center development, which is home to a 151,000-square-foot concert hall and the Carmel Christkindlmarkt holiday market. These developments are connected by the Monon Greenway, which can be walked or cycled and is part of the 27-mile Monon Trail that runs to downtown Indianapolis, according to Brainard. He has also implemented a network of over 150 roundabouts as an alternative to signal lights, in an attempt to move traffic more efficiently, increase walkability and minimize car accidents. 

Aesthetics were another important element to the revitalization, according to Brainard, who said the city looked “soulless” when he first became mayor. Today, Carmel’s neighborhood streets are lined with lampposts and flower pots, and there are over 700 acres of parks and gardens. In 2017, the city started hosting Christkindlmarkt, which includes an ice rink and winter pavilion. 

Brainard implemented a “go-to-market” PR strategy in order to promote the great work being done in the city:

And in 2010, Brainard hired publicist Rob DeRocker to help promote the city’s development, including its roundabouts, which were covered by national media outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post. DeRocker said that while he has spent the last 13 years marketing Carmel to the national press, the city’s frequent appearances in online rankings have occurred organically.

Whether you’re building mixed-use development properties, homes, parks, or thin client hardware devices, build useful things for users!