A product manager walks into a bar. Only one stool, one bottle b/c owner built minimum lovable product.
Product managers like Oracle Utilities Opower’s very own Matt Gerhardt are responsible for leading the creation of our demand-side management (DSM) products. Matt works in parallel with several teams to develop the go-to-market strategy for his products. And, take it from me, a lot goes into planning for this. He joined Opower a year ago, just about the time when I started here. It turns out that we’ve both spent the past year getting to know more about our DSM customers' needs, how our products deliver against important DSM objectives, and much more. Matt launched a few new product features recently, so I was curious to find out more about his experience doing so. Here’s a Q&A between Matt and I about what he’s been up to in his new product management role this past year.
Meet Matt Gerhardt, Sr. Product Manager, Opower:
Why personalized savings tips?
Juan: Matt, I learned that your role has evolved since you first started last January. How would you describe your role now?
Matt: My role at Opower is to deliver the best possible energy savings recommendations to the customer in the most relevant medium at the best possible time.
Juan: That’s a great way to put it, and considering that you just released a new set of relevant features including Opower’s and . Tell me more about why you’ve invested the time to enhance these tips features specifically?
Matt: I’ve just wrapped up a project to improve tip savings, and to improve the context around these tips. It’s important that customers know why we’re showing them these energy saving tips; we’re doing it because we know that it’s going to be useful for them, using what we know about them or based on what they’ve told us by completing an Opower . The Product Management team is looking to help utilities unlock a broader set of Opower platform energy savings and energy engagement capabilities. In my new role, I’m going to be focused on continuing to improve the quality of Opower’s and outbound communications.
Juan: It’s definitely a great investment, and it’s important that we continue to improve our personalized tip savings generally, but energy savings tips may be considered “table stakes” these days, so tell me what sets these new Opower tips apart?
Matt: We’re leveraging massive amounts of data, including customer usage and disaggregation data, to provide utility customers with more accurate tip savings. We then only surface the most relevant savings details available based on a customer’s usage patterns. These savings estimates are made available wherever tip savings are displayed in Opower products including paper and email (HER), and the web. And these new tip savings estimates will be an integral feature in the next-gen HER experience my peer Alejandra Springer is creating along with a
Juan: Can you tell me about the need to provide more context to the customer? What’s driving that?
Matt: We know that the DSM industry is evolving, and so are utility customer expectations, but something’s not going to change: Utility customers want personalized, actionable, recommendations, that result in tangible savings. They also want to know why they’re getting these details. While our tips are already personalized to the customer, customers now have a better understanding on why they’re receiving these tips, and that’s noteworthy.
Juan: This sounds very promising for utilities too. Enabling utility customers to learn about why these energy saving tips are being surfaced to them may also help improve customer satisfaction. I’m curious, does this also mean that certain sub-segments, like an apartment resident for instance, will not receive irrelevant tips – such as one about a measure that’s suited for a residential home owner?
Matt: Exactly. If you don’t have a pool, you shouldn’t receive a pool pump tip. The insights you get have got to be relevant. During the summer and winter, the tip delivered by the Opower platform will change depending on the customer’s heating or cooling usage, and the type of fuel source they use.
Juan: You shared that our personalized tip savings features were rolled out as part of being a Software as a service (SaaS) platform? What’s a key takeaway you’ve learned working on our SaaS (#SaaS4U)?
Matt: We’re continually building on our SaaS platform, and rolling out new Opower features to our utility clients seamlessly. Our clients are already benefiting from receiving regular updates provided by the Opower cloud offering; Personalized Tip Savings were able to be rolled out all at once. Our teams are actively engaging with utility IT teams about this so that they can extract more value from this rollout.
What excites you about your work at Opower?
Juan: What excites you about your work at Opower? Also, can you tell me about your journey as a Product Manager and what you’re looking forward to this new year?
Matt: Did I mention that I’m really excited about the promise for Personalized Tip Savings? But there’s so much more I’m excited about, namely, I’m looking forward to continuing to build out our Peak Management solutions, including and . These are two very important levers that utilities can use for peak demand reduction, because it’s really hard to find savings during peak times, and I know for a fact from speaking with our clients that utilities can struggle with finding savings during peak times. Delivering peak savings at scale during winter seasons is a challenge that I’m also really interested in addressing. And, that’s why I spent the greater part of last year working on so that we could provide modules and tips focused on the winter season. Providing utility customers with seasonal context and incentives, in addition the comms we deliver during the summer months, is sure to keep peak savings top of mind.
Juan: It’s clear to me that you’ve gathered a great deal of insight about your utility client's challenges, and that this helps inform your product development strategy. How does Product Management engage with clients?
Matt: The Product Management team at Opower is really hands on. We enjoy learning about how our utility customers are evolving, about their problems and how they’re trying to solve them. We also rely on our client success team for insights. I’m currently engaging with a few clients to inform the design of a new set of highly tailored comms we’ll deliver at new moments that matter, and to augment new journeys – like an EV customer journey for instance.
Juan: In planning for this year’s in March, I’ve learned about and the personalized customer journeys we’re creating across moments that matter. What would you say about why its important utilities consider joining us at Customer Edge this March?
Matt: The Customer Edge conference presents a lot of opportunities for customers to engage directly with Product Management. They’ll get to meet and talk with the people that are working on building out the solutions to solve their problems, and discuss what makes the most sense for them while at Edge. They’ll connect with innovative teams, and other clients too. They’ll see our latest product demos and learn about our roadmap.
Juan: As a Product Manager, you work with some innovative and creative folks including our . Tell me more about these engagements?
Matt: That’s true, I’ve recently connected with our UX team because they recommended that we apply new user-centered design techniques to enhance our comms … and so I’m now undertaking a project to make our comms simpler and more relevant too. It’s really great that they’re employing the latest quant/qual research techniques. I’m also going to be partnering with our Analytics team to learn more about how our comms can be strengthened through our Randomized Control Trials. I admire Opower’s relentless focus on delivering verifiable savings, and that we invest heavily in our research and development. My peers in Analytics will be sharing details on the track sessions at Customer Edge.
Juan: Thanks for this deep dive, and I’m looking forward to learning more about your journey here when we meet again, but why don’t you give me the gist?
Matt: Juan, it all started with a college thesis on the viability of low wind turbines, an engagement with an inventor, and a really bad sales pitch. I’m glad to be with Opower now, a measurably effective energy engagement provider.
Opower is fueled by the world’s largest residential energy data analytics platform with over 1.9 trillion meter reads from more than 60 million households and businesses, and has been deployed across more than 100 utilities. Come learn more about what you can accomplish with Opower from our Product Management team at the .
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