Ajoy Krishnamoorthy is Chief Product Office at Cin7, a company that builds inventory management software. Before joining Cin7, Ajoy served in various executive and product leadership positions at Acumatica, a leading innovator in cloud ERP, as well as at Microsoft. Throughout his career, Ajoy has led global product, engineering, and UX teams at enterprise and startup companies.
In our conversation, Ajoy shares his experiences launching v1 products and discusses how community forums have been vital in shaping product direction. He also details the power of “strong opinions, loosely held” and the importance of validating those assumptions with data to arrive at a decision.
At Microsoft, we had this new mobile platform with Windows phones. Microsoft encouraged employees to innovate and build new apps that showcased the strength of the platform. I’d launched a few apps on my own with friends for fun, and one of the scenarios that we wanted to tackle was this notion of loyalty. The inspiration came from me taking meetings on campus at different coffee shops, restaurants, etc. and many of them had punch cards for tracking loyalty.
I had around 30 of them but didn’t know where they each were. I thought about how to bridge that need. With a couple of colleagues from within Microsoft, we built the product and got it released in literally a few weeks. Our initial goal was to launch it inside the campus so we started with the retail facilities team and a few cafes to test it out. It became the replacement for the paper-based punch card. We used NFC technology to be able to capture transactions and offer loyalty points. We rolled it out and got maybe a thousand users in a matter of weeks.
t’s not just the loyalty points that matter here; it’s more about the data. You could look at products that the customers buy and give them very context-specific offerings. It’s not about selling your data, but it’s about using the data to offer benefits to the consumer.
We had plans to expand it. The facility team was working with us to launch it on Microsoft campuses around the world. But that was it, it was never fully formalized. We had aspirations to try to take it out to a broader market, but that meant we needed iPhone and Android support. iPhone, believe it or not, did not support NFC at the time.
We focused on the scope. We weren’t trying to solve 10 million things, we were trying to solve one thing really well. We didn’t need a user to sign up for an account; we just had a QR code that took them to the link to download the app and enter their phone number.
We made it frictionless. We stayed focused on a key capability and delivered it in a way that the customers would see it better.
We recently did an offsite and pulled together what we wanted the product and product team to be known for. One of the principles that we put in there, which is an Amazon leadership principle, is being right a lot.
I’m a big believer in gut. If you wait for 100 percent of the data to be available to make a decision, you’re probably too late with the decision. You just have to have that skill developed where you look at the data, you have 80 percent of it, and you apply empirical evidence and gut to get to a decision.
The ancillary piece to that, which I practice a lot and people might find hard, is that having an opinion about a lot of things takes a lot of research. You don’t have an opinion about stuff that you have no idea about. You form an opinion because you have experience. The thing I tell product managers is you need to have a strong opinion, but loosely held. You should be willing to change. If you just say my way or highway, then you’ll end up building the wrong product and capability.
Acumatica has four different industry editions. One that we launched into the market was a construction edition. One key thing from that experience was identifying the market opportunity and key challenges and gaps. We had some established players in the market with legacy solutions but customers wanted to move into a modern solution set.
We were seeing a shift in the workforce and construction. The younger generation was coming in — a population that’s super comfortable with technology. The market was ready, but the established players weren’t investing. Acumatica had tons of capability already, so we knew we could offer a really compelling product to the market.
One critical factor was getting a few partners who are experts in the industry to be involved in product development from the beginning. We set up a forum with them. We were thoughtful about the set of critical capabilities that we needed to add into the construction edition to be a viable alternative for customers looking for a modern cloud construction ERP.
The second factor was having a rapid release cycle. Every few weeks, we put out a feature-rich release because we needed to catch up on capabilities.
The last factor was offering the right level of integration with other solutions that are super important for that industry. Customers are looking for solutions or have been using solutions for estimation, AP automation, time tracking, project management, scheduling, etc., so we had to identify those construction-specific solutions and engage with them to build integrations into Acumatica.
Absolutely, it was a combination of both of those things.
Engaging subject matter experts and customers is super critical for two reasons. The first is that you’re building and getting the voice of the experts to build the right thing. The second is that when you involve a community with both customers and partners, they provide feedback that you turn into a product capability. Now they feel like it’s their product, not just some third-party product. They feel a sense of ownership and inclusion — contribution to what the product does.
Not every piece of feedback needs to be actioned or needs the same level of attention, but letting customers know we got your feedback is super important to close the loop. That’s what drives people’s engagement even further.
We have our product telemetry in addition to analytics tools. We are getting better at understanding data and making decisions based on data. We look at things like the most frequently used workflow or reports and try to prioritize our investment in those areas.
It’s like the classic 80/20 rule: 80 percent of customers use 20 percent of the product, so how do you make sure that 20 percent is rock-solid? That experience is really delightful for our customers and that’s the key. Sometimes it’s just optimization, sometimes it’s completely rewiring a certain process, and so on. You get quantitative data with in-product surveys, usage data, and support insights and great qualitative feedback from customer visits and sessions with customer advisory council. This has been a great forum to gather tons of input to help prioritize investments in product.
One of the things we understood and figured out is that a lot of our customers don’t have a full marketing team or a copywriting team on staff. They typically source products from around the globe, so we were looking into how we could make sure they have compelling product descriptions that they can share in the channel that they’re selling this.
We explored the idea of leveraging ChatGPT using Azure Open AI. Now, you can go to a Cin7 product page and then use “Generate with AI” to write product descriptions. Even without anything in the prompt, it’ll know the product attributes that we pass on, or it can take in a prompt to write a fun product description, formal description, etc.
To learn more about this feature, we offered a preview and recruited customers with in-product notification. About 50 customers signed up in a day and now they are using it and sharing feedback about that feature. We used our analytics platform to monitor what they’re using, what they’re not using, and then make tweaks accordingly. Our goal is to launch this to general availability very soon.
When I was at Acumatica, a portion of our annual user conference’s keynote was about how we are leveraging emerging technologies. We’d done everything from blockchain to IoT to drones to robotics to machine learning. The point was to explore how technology can solve critical business problems or improve a business process.
Sometimes, you can’t get an understanding of these topics without getting your hands dirty. Not all of these will show up in our product, but all of these offer a good perspective and learnings on these emerging tech. For instance, the experiments we did with Alexa, bots, and image recognition eventually led to releasing features like AP automation, expense recognition, and business card recognition.
With ERP as a whole and an IMS/OMS platform like ours at Cin7, there are so many mundane processes. I think a lot of the newer developments with machine learning and AI will fundamentally change how the applications and workflows are designed and intelligently automate a lot of these processes.
We are seeing a transition in the commerce space from digital commerce to intelligent commerce. With intelligent commerce, businesses can get real-time insights into their inventory levels, sales trends, and customer demand. Business owners can optimize their demand forecasting, leveraging historical sales data and other variables, including seasonal trends, customer behavior, and even the impact of marketing campaigns by leveraging advanced tools within their existing systems.
This enhanced forecasting reduces the risk of stock-outs and ensures that customers can purchase the products they want, regardless of the channel they choose. We all have dashboards, reports, and so on — every application does, but that’s not enough. It’s going to be about how to bring the right context at the time of action. I think, fundamentally, that will change the behavior of the application and how users interact. Applications will become easier to use for first time users and more productive for power users.
At the fundamental level, it has come down to two things: being proactive and having good communication. A lot of people talk about organizational structure and who reports to whom While those things are important as you become a larger organization, it’s more about getting the teams to connect, engage, and communicate effectively in making those decisions.
At Cin7, the user experience team, product designers, and content team are in the product organization, along with the product managers and business analysts. They all are engaged in our sprint planning, and I think that collaboration is super important.
And strong engagement with the developers is essential. We have seen great value in engaging with other customer facing functions including sales, support, onboarding, customer success, etc. We think about how to bring them into the fold so we can get them excited and educated on things that are happening in the product and also capture their feedback into the product planning process.
We started a process where we host a monthly company learning session where we have product managers and business analysts run through what’s released in the last month. The support team, the onboarding team, the CS team, the sales engineers, etc. all have visibility into it. They are excited about what we are doing in the product and they can represent that excitement in their interactions with customers, partners, and future customers.
LogRocket identifies friction points in the user experience so you can make informed decisions about product and design changes that must happen to hit your goals.
With LogRocket, you can understand the scope of the issues affecting your product and prioritize the changes that need to be made. LogRocket simplifies workflows by allowing Engineering, Product, UX, and Design teams to work from the same data as you, eliminating any confusion about what needs to be done.
Get your teams on the same page — try LogRocket today.
The endowment effect is a psychological quirk where people place higher value on things simply because they own them.
Kevin Morris talks about the importance of not overly focusing on the inward-facing components of product management.
While running a sprint planning ceremony is pretty straightforward, a lot of work goes into the planning both before and during the ceremony.
Sam Schulte, Vice President, Product Engineering at Inspirato, talks about the delicate balance between innovation and scale.