Speaker 1: Hey there product lovers. Welcome to the Product Love podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, co- founder and chief evangelist of Pendo and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products as Eric interviews, founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. Let's dive in now with today's Product Love podcast.
Eric Boduch: Welcome lovers of product. Today, I'm here with Anneliese Olson, who is the global leader in GM of the print category at Hewlett Packard or HP. Anneliese, can you kick this off by giving us a little overview of your background?
Anneliese olson: Sure. Thanks Eric. Let's see. So I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest. I grew up playing lots of sports, especially basketball and soccer. That gave me my love for working with people and teams and looking at competition, winning and losing and really setting goals and getting the best out of groups of people towards a common goal. That's really shaped kind of all my choices really since then. I lived abroad and studied abroad in Denmark, full immersion and it really kind of piqued my interest for language and being adaptable and the ethnography of people and looking at insights and Maslow's hierarchy of needs, so to speak, of people around the world. And then when I went to school, I was studying marketing. I have a degree in marketing, but always knew that I wanted to work at a global scale and have that interest of the world is a bigger place. I ended up as an intern coming into HP at that time and have been with HP for 26 years. Almost like the kindergarten internship program. My background there, my first couple of years, I was a market research analyst and so I conducted product marketing projects, product management projects in 25 countries in the first two years. In early career to kind of have that scale and breadth of customer insights, really gave me the trajectory to go into product management and really look at a career in that space. Conducted the first projects in China and India for the company in the mid nineties, and took roles in each different part of the business at a global level for current product management, future product management, and the development working hand in hand with the R and D teams on printers that we brought to market, but had a chance to then rotate over into the regional go to market side. Bringing all the product management together, taking that value proposition to customers and worked across consumer, public sector, enterprise, SMB, all routes to market, all channels in doing that. And after about 10 years, I wanted to change. HP was a large company and had a chance to move over to PCs. And at this time, this was my biggest say future product marketing job. I ran the portfolio for all of our desktop PCs and it was really the first time, I don't know, maybe 2008 or so, where I was doing transformation as part of my day- to- day job also. Really looking at how to change things, leverage, look at cost structure, look at new ways of doing things. Around that time was when they were like, oh, the PC is dead. We had a lot of reinvention dynamics, both in terms of external, what was going on in the market and also just strategy. Product management is one of those places that I always gravitated back to. One, because interesting customers and also that's kind of the wheelhouse where those four P's and all of that really come together. Had a chance to do that. Went to Asia. What was a two- year assignment turned into seven years. Ran many different parts of our Asia business. Virtualization, workstations, retail point of sale, vertical solutions, and then ended up running our PC business for awhile. The ebbs and flows of China, Japan. The diversity in that space was really interesting. And then because we had done a lot of amazing growth and recovery to the PC industry as a company, they asked me to come do the same then for prints. We went into run our global home printing business, few thousand engineers, product marketing, customer quality, software, firmware, all of that, and really took it as a reinvention of the category. What do customers need now? Sure printing is happening less. There's no paperless office, but really looking at the design workflow, the experience that customers go through, how do we make it easier, simpler, more secure, delivering on those value propositions. But a lot of business case work, a lot of investment challenges and prioritization. And then most recently, I run our print category globally now, which we went through a big transformation also of sorts where for 30 years, most big companies run, what is a regional model. You maybe have global business units, R and D teams and then you have your regional teams, Asia Americas, Europe. We consolidated, took two layers of management out and we run two large P& Ls centrally across 10 markets. That's very new in having one chief commercial officer and really back to the nuts and bolts of four P, product management, portfolio management and delivering the P&. Kind of came full circle back to customers and product management and product marketing, quite frankly, multiple times.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. Lots stuff I want to dig into there. Lots of threads to go down. Hopefully I remember them all, but before we get to the past, let's talk about the current in the future. What problems are you working on now at HP? What's the big problems you're trying to solve from a product perspective.
Anneliese olson: I think one of course is that in the world of outcome- based services and subscriptions, shifting from products and ownership and purchasing to, pay as you go or pay per use or pay per seats, kind of models. It substantially changes the business model, particularly a company like ours. It's been around for 80 years and reinventing multiple times. How do people want to consume technology and what that looks like? What do people want to pay to use, versus pay to own? Different demographics are looking at things differently, but quite frankly, COVID has really accelerated many of these things. So as a service, everything in the cloud, what does that mean for our product and service design and what we offer to customers and then also around sustainability as well. As we look at it's one thing across sustainability and supply chain, ecosystem, workforces, the use of plastics, recyclable material, all of that, but also how do we help our customers make that journey as well? Because when people are trying to figure out, they've had to either go to digital faster or their own hybrid work environment has changed and will change even in this next normal that we'll all be doing. Those needs really have increased and so how do we take that and factor what we're doing next towards delivering really more and more digital solutions and really having more personalization and customization at the customer level as well.
Eric Boduch: What was your step in getting involved on the product side. Making that jump all the way from an intern, doing more work on the marketing side and then owning product. What was that step like for you and how well received was product management at HP at that point?
Anneliese olson: Yeah. It's a great question, actually. I probably had a little chip on my shoulder about it in the beginning because it used to be a very, at least in our company and some others that I know in tech, it was like, well, to be the best product manager, you have to come from engineering actually. And it was the best product managers current or especially future product marketing is kind of the mecca where people wanted to go and both influence strategy and design products. It was, well, you have to be an engineer to do that. Or at a minimum, you have to have an MBA to do that. I have neither of those. For me, the biggest springboard and step was very much around always looking at the outside in view. Paying attention to those customer insights and forming a point of view, probably the most pivotal moment for me having done all that research in so many countries was I could come in with a strong view that said, it's not one size fits all. Yes, we're a global company that sells 130 countries around the world, but I helped instigate the first splits of starting to look at developed and developing economies differently. What are customers doing in their companies and businesses and being able to use that customer insight as the springboard in, and then as I contributed to those teams and things over time, stepped in then directly more with the product management side to start crafting solutions, partnerships, and then ultimately owning products on the vintage chart and helping define that over time. And then had a chance to rotate around and do it in different parts of the company too. But it was really always on that breakthrough kind of on the customer insight because I wasn't coming in with some new technical skill or I wasn't coming in with maybe the latest new business model that I had studied with the MBA folks. I'm not knocking MBAs by the way, I would love to actually go back and do that myself. But there was almost a formula approach. Now, 4Ps have stood the test of time of course and the way that those kinds of things work. But yeah, I think for me, it was paying attention to the world around us, listening to customers. And then that became the natural step in for me.
Eric Boduch: Interesting. Now, kind of digging back to your history, 26 years at HP, an amazing amount of time at one company especially in today's day and age, and HP has changed a lot. The organization changed a lot and you've been involved or overseeing a good chunk of that. Talk to me about some of the biggest milestones you've overseen and have been part of in HP's history.
Anneliese olson: Yeah. Gosh, there's a number of different things. I think one of the biggest ones or the change let's say in the printing space in particular was the model before, if you go back to the nineties and even through some of the two thousands, the model was very much customers printing and then distributing information. Printed documents, printed reports, consultants coming in and having 20 copies to hand out to everybody at a meeting and flying around the world with FedEx and things like that. It was really that shift of print and distribute to distribute and print and this kind of analogue to digital shift that started, although quite frankly, there's a lot of that still left to do. And being at the center of what we were doing in our marketing framework, looking at developed and developing economies there, and also our first managed print services in terms of what did that do for the business model and what did that change? Because when people are looking at revenue, market share units, all of a sudden you're looking at share of wallet and revenue and profit growth in a different way. That was one that was quite substantial for us in the Laser Jet business specifically, but then I also had the chance to run our graphics business in North America. So like large format printers, B size, C size, posters, signage, UV things, et cetera, and distribute and print became such a natural place for us to go and also created opportunities for channel players because they were print service providers. And so the likes of a Kinko's or somebody who could have been a copy shop, or one of those print a bunch of copies and then send them out to everyone, they pivoted to that distribute and print and had those kinds of services that we would partner on so that they could offer some of those to their customers and people could go to a destination, travel around the world, pick up what they needed. The graphics business is one that is very specific use cases because who wants to take rolled up poster containers and things like that. It got quite complex for realtors or consultants or things like that. That was probably one of the really big ones. The other one is, we're kind of in it still right now, although it's been the last couple of years was really reinventing what printing looks like and kind of this new world is shifting to experience- based investments. When I was running PCs, we started doing, instead of checkpoints, just traditional POR checkpoints, that a lot of product teams and R and D teams go for, we built in experience checkpoints. This was even back in 2006, 2007. Not just because it's the coolest thing now. What does that experience look like end to end for the journey that a customer goes on, figuring out their needs and when they're coming into the journey, but also going through how they would select, how they'd get service and support, how they would recycle all of that. That's been a big change for us because it allowed us to also start looking at customers more from use cases. I haven't talked about speeds and feeds for a few years now. It's more, what does that speed or feed allow them to do? One of the great examples I think that has been a fun journey on recently has been the evolution of instant ink subscriptions. We have smart printers when I was leading the home team. We introduced the first smart printer. We introduced the first printer with voice enabled on all three major voice platforms. Printers that can order their own supplies. And so a customer has no hassle. One of the biggest pain points people have for printers is, oh my gosh, I ran out of a cartridge. I'm in the middle of a project. My kids just printed out halfway through and they don't have the rest of the last three pages and it's 10:00 PM on a Sunday night. The creation of those smart printers and ecosystem shifting to a platform now where all those printers are subscription enabled. There's no hassle printing, you never run out and it's at half the cost. The value proposition for customers, it was growing well before COVID, and now since COVID, it's accelerated because it hit a sweet spot of course of you get your cartridges at your house before you know you need them and they're there to meet that customer pain point for sure. That's another one that's been pretty interesting.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I imagine that part of the business has just blown up with this idea that I don't have to worry about ink. That's a big transition from, I don't want to say a one- time purchase, but an ad hoc purchase kind of business now to a reoccurring revenue stream where they're paying for ink on a monthly basis. It just shows up for them. I imagine that was transformative from a revenue perspective, because as a product guy, I think a lot about ARR and I'm usually thinking of software companies, but now you're talking about reoccurring revenue in the form of ink.
Anneliese olson: Yeah. Well, and even for customers, we do it more in frame of pages because customers don't have to be experts on how much am I using and whatever. But it's more like, some customers know some don't and we can flex up or down. They get their own data, their own reports. Everything is personalized and privatized to them. It is definitely a difference. As we look at active users, our NPS scores are 15 points higher for customers that are using instant ink than traditional printers. That's a huge opportunity for us as we think about serving their needs and what that means to your point. You look at ARR, you look at the monthly and weekly active users. It's a difference for our company as we look at new metrics. Churn and different things.
Eric Boduch: That's a good point. How have the metrics you track changed through this process?
Anneliese olson: Yeah. Obviously we have a very large global business across multiple segments. We have over 9 million subscribers now on the instant ink program in 18 countries and continue to expand. But it is a different scorecard that we had both the internal team kind of making sure they understood new metrics too, because it's very natural for a category manager in a country to think, okay, I'm used to revenue and market share and these kinds of things, which by the way, in some of our businesses still are quite big parts of our business and our metrics, but kind of bringing the whole organization along to thinking about what those metrics are, understanding customer acquisition costs. All of it is very comfortable and maybe normal for a software company who grew up there, but for us as we're shifting and changing these new business models, that starts to change things as well. So we'll be doing more and more of that as we continue to go forward.
Eric Boduch: Now you need the same thing for paper too. Just tell them when you're running out of paper and we'll ship it out automatically. Some sensors for paper. So you know, when you're running out of the pallet or pack or package.
Anneliese olson: Exactly. Yeah. It's been fun. In a way, we've had some unlocked learnings even before COVID where, when we again, focus back on the customer experience and this digitization journey for customers, we talked a lot about the concept of one life. One life, when someone has a computer, they're in the car, they're traveling, they're back at the office. How do you make that experience consistent? We did the same then for print to say, okay, how can you be in an office and get what you need? If you're in a taxi or you're in your car, you want to print something, but you want to print it so that it's out of your mind and done, but you don't want something maybe secure or confidential sitting on a printer somewhere. We introduced a lot of HP roam and different tools and services where, for small businesses, for example, and how to securely print from any device from anywhere, that was again, growing before COVID now accelerating. The smart app. We have a smart app that has a consistent 4. 8 rating on iOS and Google and everywhere else. We have over a hundred million downloads. It's this software thing that has emerged as a super useful tool. We have 50 million active monthly users who are taking something, you're a company, dealing with your expense management and your receipts and different things. Used to take a small business 17 steps. We studied the journey of the customer and now with some simple scanning, machine learning, basically that's helping deal with some of the scanning technology and things, eliminate that down to two or three steps. With our apps, you build things right into Google drive, one drive, et cetera. We're making it easier to move from paper to digital and back to paper as people need. That's an interesting one for us now too. As we think about software, we think about monetization opportunities. It's been a interesting journey to move from what is maybe traditionally a hardware device ownership to, the use cases that we have to enable for people.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. There's a lot there. You often think of HPs, you think of printers. But all the reoccurring business that is associated with HP is really interesting. I don't want to forget to jump back now to your international experience because being at HP, you had a lot more international experience than probably a lot of product leaders at companies out there have had. Do you have advice for them as they're looking at opening up other markets, international markets. You've had a ton of that across a number of different product lines. Tell me a little bit about international, the challenges of moving international and you had a mix of doing it both from software and hardware perspective.
Anneliese olson: Yeah. That's a lot to unpack too. Obviously, I think just like you would, in terms of studying a market or understanding customer segments and things like that, moving to another country and culture is on multiple fronts, really an amazing learning experience. It's always kind of the antenna are up and how much immersion can I do how fast? Obviously HP is a global company and so there's similar culture in the way we do work. But outside of that, everything was quite different. I was living in Singapore, but on the road easily 50% of the time. I've taken 40 trips to India and lots of different things. I think, again, coming back to a product leader in such a diverse set of markets or segments, you're always really looking for what's common and what's different because you know that you can't do something unique for everyone around the world, but you have to be really clear on what is our value proposition in this market or this segment? I think what being in Asia taught me was really the diversity of what is think globally, act locally mean? And where do you get that leverage point in terms of your own capital investments and your own technology investments so that, of course everyone in an enterprise around the world now has network security or has a network that they need to get connected to. If you go back 20 years, in India, I was visiting small businesses and different things and they had more like a chair net or sneaker net where the printer itself got moved around and plugged into different machines. They were thinking of very different things at that time in terms of cost management and how do you deal with humidity and other things that when you can kind of get in and dig into that at a foundation level, you can also design your processes the right way over time. Testing for quality in China versus India versus the US starts to look very different. If the quality in R& D labs test the product a certain way to certain specs and then it doesn't end up working in another environment the way you expect, that can be a problem. And so how do you kind of set testing parameters and use cases in such a way that you can deliver on that value proposition? Innovation also can happen everywhere. People get wrapped around the axle sometimes on the product itself, but innovation really can happen end to end. Where my biggest learning was moving safe from the R& D headquarters out into the market and looking at offerings and things, products and pieces that we could put together, was really around also the go to market. In 2010, not emergence in China of what was going on with omni channel, the JD. com, the t- malls. And if those are new names for those who are listening, you can imagine Amazon, but already operating at a level they've caught up and they're equally moving at the rate of Amazon and others. What does that mean in terms of how you can reach customers and segments? Well, gaming was a great example. We took a global gaming brand, Omen and went into China, made it working, renamed it, redesigned it, put the graphics card and the CPU together because that's what people in China wanted. They were using PCs, both for work and for gaming and gave it a Chinese name and tested it inside the Chinese ecosystem and had R& D done there. Interestingly enough, that was developed China for China and then it's evolved now into a portfolio and product that the rest of the world could use. It's, again, so much anchored back into the insights, but in looking at all the customer touch points, not just the product itself, but how does that show up in front of the customer, in the environment they're using it, in the way they would buy or consume it and be willing then to make some of those bets on where you would invest to get the value out of the differentiation.
Eric Boduch: You mentioned China and India a few times as you were talking about your international experience. And both as a software person, but also peers of mine who are hardware people, we tend not to go after those markets as US entrepreneurs, as startup people. I don't know if it's a perception. I don't know if it's difficulty in some ways. Is that something we should be doing earlier? Tell me your thoughts. And when we eventually do do it, how do we do a better job of breaking into those markets where it feels like traditionally they've done a lot better job with homegrown enterprises, as opposed to bringing companies and products from outside of India and China in?
Anneliese olson: Right. Well, I definitely look at them as two different markets with two different personalities, for sure. I think China's an interesting one because of course with the rest of, let's say what's going on in the world, China's emerged now differently than when we were, let's say, as HP or as we were starting out 20 years ago. There is a lot of focus on China for China. There's always a blend of how to start something and is the time right or not. What do you have that's differentiated. While I am not an expert on all things software, I know software is a bit more challenging, depending on IP protection and what does it mean? Who's going to share code with whom? Do you develop something locally in China for China versus you have something else and can you break in from the outside? There are some dynamics even with Google and Microsoft and some of the ecosystems that are there. The challenge with not looking at China or India is really ultimately all about scale. As we think about the next billion customers, where they're going to come from it's throughout Asia in terms of the world. If someone's starting out, you don't want to discourage them of course, because the whole way that startups work now and app development and evolution is very much in this agile way. You fail fast, you test, you learn you scale. You kind of figure that out, but you do have to think about if being global in this world where the world is flat, so to speak, there's mass globalization, everywhere. What are the barriers to entry based on the industry that you're participating in and how big then is the opportunity. If you look at something like China. There is a lot of technology that either is designed to work outside of China or designed to work inside of China. Where is web hosting done, for example? Well, there's regulations about what has to happen to serve Chinese customers. Can you go in with a separate payment solution in China? Not very easily, no, because if you don't work inside of we- chat and you don't have that form of banking, you won't be able to break through because some of that is very established. It really I think depends on the segment and the opportunity. Government is very hard to break into in my point of view. And so again, it tends to be more if there's footholds in the consumer or SMB space, where people could add value. India is an interesting one because I know there's questions often about size, scale, pace of change because someone like China since the Olympics, infrastructure, aerospace space, engineering, transportation, all of that has just exploded. As well as their own entrepreneurship, small business growth, things of that nature. But India has been kind of interesting because you still have a lot of digitization that needs to occur. You have the largest group of WhatsApp users in the world in India, Facebook, LinkedIn. The comfort level of the first device someone has is a phone, not a PC. So what does that mean in terms of how people interact with technology and what kinds of offerings that can bring for people. And a lot of experimentation when things are mobile first, I think in terms of looking at the types of business models and things that can emerge there. And then there's some really interesting things I think that the irrespective of someone's individual product focus or segment or vertical, looking at the focus on education and what that means in terms of the amount of people's income that they dedicate to education. Lots of opportunities around there, healthcare, the fact that now everyone has a national ID, they've gotten through some of those things quite fast. And so electronic banking and things like that. It's a more open market for sure than say China, but they themselves are also standing up now with multiple manufacturing initiatives, technology initiatives, healthcare initiatives, and things as well. I think it becomes a question of scale and market fit ultimately that of a business person or product marketer could come back to for how quickly they would scale in those markets. But India would be easier than China I would make as a general statement, depending what industry someone was in.
Eric Boduch: Okay. Thanks. Now, this has been great and we've, we've covered a few things and we have a lot more to talk about. We are going to bring Anneliese back for a second podcast episode where we'll talk about COVID, we'll talk about hybrid work model for companies these days. We'll talk about sustainability and digital transformation. I'm excited for part two too, but let's wrap up part one here by learning a little bit more about you. What's your favorite product?
Anneliese olson: Oh my gosh. It's hard to pick just one.
Eric Boduch: You can pick a couple if you want. I'm not a stickler for rules.
Anneliese olson: I talked about HPN Sinek. I love that service because since I see customers love it and then I'm a user, I may be a not typical user, I have four printers in my house. But okay, that's because I'm testing and doing stuff with them all the time. But one product that I really like if you haven't heard about it is HP Sprocket. We were noticing that when young people are mobile first, especially with phones, they're consuming lots of digital content. They sometimes engage with print at school or different things. We were like, well, they're doing lots with photos. A trillion photos a day are moving around on Instagram and social media and things like that. We created Sprocket, which was the first mobile printer that could work with a Bluetooth phone and I keep doing this because it's about the size of a deck of cards. What was great about that is it was the first product designed basically for girls aged 12 to 22, a very new segment for HP to kind of center on first and foremost and working prototype in 90 days. Sue Richards was our R& D leader on that. It really was a tiger team effort, partnership, internal, external. And then also some of the learnings I mentioned from smart app to have fully plumbed software solution where you could use your curated photos on Instagram or on Google photos or Facebook and with the click of a button, basically print out. They were little photos and things with stickers and we started to grow that category like crazy. The relevance of a photo making it real is different than if someone texts you one. You have tons of photos on your phone you've never looked at again, I'm sure. But if someone prints something and gives it to you, it's on your fridge or it might be on your notebook or things like that. So Sprocket is one. I'm a huge part of the Peloton cult. I ordered one at the beginning of COVID and shut down my gym membership and went all in there to exercise, but then kind of fell in love with the product and the experience with that and the fact that they bring new features and content and ways to keep us engaged. I'm pretty fascinated in watching the business model too, but it easily got me sucked in and it's probably better during COVID. I may not be able to get out my door if I wasn't doing that. That product has played a big role in my life the last year.
Eric Boduch: No. I can understand that. It's been nice having a Peloton here. I am kind of spoiled that way too. A big fan, just something about the whole experience and how it all ties together is very compelling.
Anneliese olson: And having ecosystem that works end to end, even with HP. I've thought about it the same way. It's like, okay, you're piece of hardware connected to your software, your data, your content, and things has been some interesting parallels too. It's been fun.
Eric Boduch: The other thing you mentioned, you were talking about pictures, photos. It just triggered a thought. I was like, whatever happened to digital picture frames? They were so hot for a while. They were everywhere. And then all of a sudden it was like, boom gone. What happened to that marketplace?
Anneliese olson: It's interesting because I still see them show up sometimes from time to time. The difference I think, we've done lots of research about photography and there was that pivot I think to like, okay, let's just go all digital. But there's also a lack of permanence and the maturation that went along with it because people are like, oh, well, if they did the frame that had the thumb drive, it's like, well, then I got to go load new photos next year because the grandkids are now bigger or whatever. Versus, the permanence that people like, let's say the gift of photos or looking through photo albums. When people can touch it, we talked to lots of customers about that. Interesting, even before COVID, there's been a resurgence of photographers even before COVID because the art of photography itself is still very interesting to lots of people. A lot of the camera companies were selling, I mean, now there's a blend of course with SLR and different things, but people were setting up their own photo studios again and learning how to develop photos and the more photos people take, they're still then printing some of those photos. I think it's maybe a pendulum shift where things go and everyone gets excited about the new shiny thing. And then maybe some adjustment back where we're living at the intersection of both digital and physical, quite frankly.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. It's interesting. I don't know. I feel like now I want a digital photo stream like Bluetooth and it's tied to like my recent pictures and we'll just throw some up there. Because there is this thing of like, I take a lot of photos, so probably not as many as I should have certain things like family. They often just don't leave my phone or they don't leave iCloud
Anneliese olson: You have to unlock the digital prison.
Eric Boduch: Exactly. Maybe there should just be like a frame on the wall that every time I walked by there's a different picture floating through there. It'd be kind of cool. I don't know. If it feels like that was like a business that for Christmas one year everyone got a digital picture frame. Everyone got one and then I don't see them anymore anywhere. I don't think I have one in my house.
Anneliese olson: It is interesting because the physicality of it, you look at a company like Chatbooks, who we've partnered with before, they came in and recognized the need where young busy moms were feeling guilty because they weren't making photo albums for all the stages of life of their kids. They said, we're going to plug into Facebook. We'll be able to in five minutes, make you a photo book and you can subscribe monthly or once it fills up with 60 photos, we send it to you. And there are these beautiful books, relatively low costs and they go crazy for them because then they feel like they've got a permanent record. They've done their job, but it was such an easy way to go from digital back to physical. You can choose the colors and the books and whatever. Chatbooks is one of those startups out of Utah that's been growing like crazy.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. Pre- COVID we did a trip to France and we took a lot of pictures of churches and we did a photo book of churches from France, which is really cool, but yeah, it's printed. It got printed and it's sitting there as a coffee table book, which is a fun thing to have as a conversation. Well, thanks Anneliese. This was great. We'll have you back for part two where we can dig into a bunch of subjects. I'm excited.
Anneliese olson: Look forward to it. Thanks.