Kate Drenckhahn is Centage’s Senior Product Manager focused on the strategic planning and execution of new and existing Planning Maestro functionality. Kate brings a strong background in the application development lifecycle with over 20 years of professional experience in Fintech and SaaS delivery to the Centage product team. This includes a variety of leadership and consulting roles in the buy-side investment and compliance industries such as Thomson Reuters, SS&C, and Citisoft Inc, working with clients including State Street, Invesco, and Bank of America. Most recently Kate wore many hats at CABEM Technologies, where she managed a competency and compliance management system.
In her spare time, Kate enjoys watersports and likes to surf (longboard), SUP, sail, kayak, and catch blue crabs. In the winter she loves to ski, hike, volunteer at local non-profits and at her 9-year-old son’s school as the 4th grade room mom. Also, she loves the Nintendo Switch and beating her son at Mario Kart and any indie game she can!
In this continuing series, we bring you our interview with Kate so that you can Meet the Maestros.
How is product management at Centage different from other product management teams that you’ve been a part of?
Centage product teams are structured as cross-functional teams, composed of Product Management, Software Engineering, Architecture and Site Reliability Engineering. Each team is focused on a particular product goal, yet are highly collaborative. For example, our sustainability team is dedicated to supporting existing customers and enhancing existing functionality while another team is dedicated to rolling out exciting new features. This facilitates prioritizing customer requests along with product advancements which in my past experience, has always been a bit of a chess match. Depending on the problem we are trying to solve, these teams may overlap. The autonomous team structure ensures we keep the customer at the center of everything we build. We align these product teams to our key business goals. Ultimately, this structure is optimized for nimble execution to achieve specific outcomes for the company and our customers. It’s important that each team has a seat at the table when it comes to shaping the future of the Planning Maestro experience.
How do you determine what customers want and need in the product?
With a backlog of product ideas and customer feature requests, it’s important to always do a deeper dive to understand the “why” behind these requests. It’s essential to put yourself in the customer’s shoes to get to the root problem they are trying to solve. Here at Centage, there are several teams who have touchpoints with customers in various ways. It’s important that they have the chance to weigh in because each provides their own unique perspective. I also have access to data analytic tools that provide insight into the user journey. Once the “why” of a customer request has been fully explored and understood, we can move on to the “what” we are going to build and “how” we are going to build it. Understanding the customer’s motivations gives me confidence that our product teams are implementing the right solution in the best possible way.
How do you develop the Planning Maestro product roadmap?
The product roadmap is tremendously powerful because it contains our “North Star” goals and clear vision for where we want to go long term with the product. While all the typical methods of defining a roadmap apply and must be accounted for, such as customer and stakeholder feedback, market research, etc, our approach currently is to determine OKR’s tied to big development initiatives that will attract new customers and provide our existing customers with value added, new, and improved experiences. Once we’re able to define and get buy in on those major OKRs that are driving innovation, we are able to add an additional stream of ongoing, smaller efforts in parallel to support them. This stream is dedicated to the quick maintenance tasks and enhancements of the existing product which is facilitated by the autonomous structure of our teams as I mentioned earlier.
How does Centage approach innovation?
Outcome Driven Innovation or (ODI) is the name of the game. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of the development process by conceptualizing winning enhancements before development begins. We look at a job that needs to be done or a problem that a segment of customers or the market at large is trying to solve for. We identify the desired outcome(s) and customer needs which can then tease out hidden market segments of opportunity for growth where synergistic outcomes are uncovered. From there we formulate and deploy a winning strategy with the product teams and execute. With this process we’re effectively revealing all of our customers’ unmet needs before the actual product concepts are defined. Our aim in front loading the innovation process, is to set up our engineering and product teams for success, requiring less pivoting and iteration on their part to achieve our end goals for the customers.
What is the most important thing your team does when rolling out new features?
Adoption is key when rolling out anything new. In order to maximize utilization, prior to the rollout, we’ll work with sales, marketing, support, consultants and others at Centage with customer-facing roles in determining how to best communicate and frame those new features to ensure customer operational readiness. We want customers to know what’s new, to get them excited about the new benefits the functionality provides, and most of all to make sure they understand how to use them. As far as post rollout, we are making sure that new features have clear metrics tied to them so that we have data to tell us how we are doing after implementation and how the new functionality is being received and used by customers. Metrics are the key to making quick decisions and can call out where and when we quickly need to pivot or adapt to meet our customer’s needs.
Centage Corporation’s Planning Maestro is a cloud planning & analytics platform that delivers year-round financial intelligence. With Planning Maestro, Centage offers the sophisticated features needed by small and mid-market organizations to integrate budgeting, forecasting, and deep data analysis within one easy-to-use, scalable SaaS solution. For more information on how to modernize your office of finance with intelligent planning, view our product demonstration video, or call 800-366-5111.