Q&A with Product Manager, Vince DePersio

Aug 9, 2023 2:00:00 PM

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, products are more than just pieces of technology; they are solutions, catalysts for change, and gateways to enhancing our daily lives. Behind every groundbreaking product lies a passionate team, working tirelessly to shape ideas into reality. Among them, the Product Manager stands tall as the visionary orchestrator, the mastermind driving the product's success.

Today, we had to opportunity to sit down with the ingenious Product Manager of our Prepare capability for exercises, Vince DePersio, to unravel the captivating journey of conception, development, and launch. With Vince's guidance, we will explore the pivotal decisions, lessons learned, and milestones that shaped this remarkable product into what it is today.

Q: What is the main purpose of the product, and what problem does it aim to solve?

A: The "Prepare" capability of our Pratus platform provides a centralized and collaborative workspace for DoD exercise planners and staff, which in-turn produces quantitative and qualitative analytics regarding the effectiveness and value of their exercises for decision makers and leadership.

Q: Can you explain the key features and functionalities of the product?

A: The process begins with capturing the foundation and focus of the exercise environment, such as "why are we doing this", the Joint Exercise Life Cycle (JELC) events, budget, and strategic objectives. Next, identifying participants and their training objectives, creating scenario-based events with master Scenario Events List (MSEL) injects that align to participant objectives, managing MSEL injects with an interactive timeline, capturing assessment and/or self-assessment of objective performance to visual the real-time analytics of the exercise. Other features include a file repository, and the flexibility to manage data libraries, a detailed and dynamic media replication module, and a map module to create a Common Operational Picture (COP) for situational awareness relating to management and performance of the exercise. 

Q: How did you prioritize the features and decide which ones to include in the product?

A: Since this capability existed in a legacy format, we started with just covering the basic requirements, our PLAN application, which is the nerve center of the platform, a SETTINGS application for managing the data libraries in PLAN, and a NOTEBOOK application for the file repository. Although these are the minimum needed to conduct planning and execution phases, our MEDIA and MAP applications are on schedule for our hard release in Sep, and other features are on our technology roadmap.

Q: What market research or user feedback influenced the product?

A: The product was a design I created while working as an exercise planner. I experienced what all exercises go through, which is stove-piped planning, version control of documents, lack of a collaborative workspace that centralized all aspects the planning and execution, and no definitive and accurate data to justify the value and effectiveness of the exercise to decision makers. During the development, we met with many individuals with current and previous experience planning and conducting exercises. Their feedback along with my own experience, helped shape the product and our technology roadmap. 

Q: How does the product differentiate itself from competitors in the market?

A: Our product provides a more comprehensive approach and our goal is to incorporate the “connective tissue” for ALL of the planning and execution process (I.e., Operations, Intelligence, Logistics, Communication, Cyber, etc.). By including all planning disciplines and connecting the data points, the end result is an in depth performance effectiveness, and cost analysis. 

Q: How do you plan to measure the success and impact of the product?

A: By forming a close relationship with our customers to ensure their time, effort, and costs are reduced compared to current means, and interviewing decision makers to understand how much value the data analytics provided to them. 

Q: What challenges did you face during the product development process, and how did you overcome them?

A: Developing software requires a lot of time and money. Understanding the velocity within the team was a crucial first step. After that, developing requirements and prioritizing them based off deployment for potential clients was the key. You can’t build every capability that will benefit every customer at the same time, so understanding what requirements and priorities of our customers allows us the opportunity to manage expectations. Another challenge was integrating with other platform capabilities. We minimized risk and maximized potential by having product owners who understand the conditions mentioned above, the limits of the development team, and keeping the communication lines wide-open. 

Q: How do you handle user feedback and incorporate it into future iterations of the product?

A: Integrating our CRM and digital experience tools for knowledge base, customer support, customer feedback, and analytics provides us comprehensive data for us to understand how our product is being used or not used, and how we can improve it.

Q: How does the product address security and privacy concerns?

A: Our DevSecOps engineers are ensuring we are compliant according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We also have a strong partnership with Microsoft and their Azure cloud team experienced in handling government data. Our platform is slated to be certified for IL-5 by the end of August and will be ready for IL-6 with an Authority to Operate. 

Q: How do you plan to keep the product updated and relevant in a rapidly evolving market?

A: We are heavily engaged in keeping up on new and emerging technologies and incorporating them into our platform after careful analysis. The days of proprietary software are gone customers now demand more open-source alternatives. Our focus is providing the flexibility to adapt and change with the balance between customer needs and available technology. 

Q: Are there any plans to expand the product's features or target new markets in the future?

A: Absolutely! Our technology roadmap is paved and will continue according to customer requirements, time, effort, cost available to deliver a full product. New features will be developed as revenue is generated and from direct funding for specific feature requirements. 

Q: How does the product support scalability and handle increased demand over time?

A: Product design and our partnership with Microsoft, particularly with hosting on Azure cloud, are just some of the ways to ensure responsible growth and scalability. 

From the initial spark of inspiration to the relentless pursuit of perfection, every decision, every pivot, and every milestone has been a testament to the Vince's dedication to excellence. We learned that behind every successful product lies a symphony of perseverance, adaptability, and a genuine passion to make a difference in the lives of users.

Beyond the realm of technology, this blog revealed the human side of product development. It showcased that behind every line of code and every feature lies a team of brilliant minds driven by a shared vision. Their collaboration, creativity, and resilience breathed life into Prepare, making it more than just a product - it became a testament to the power of teamwork and innovation.

If you're interested in learning more about our Prepare capability, visit www.disastertech.com/connect-with-us.

If you're interested in reading Vince's full bio, visit www.disastertech.com/about-us.

About Disaster Tech

Disaster Tech, a veteran-owned public benefit company, offers data science and decision science technologies for situational awareness, operational coordination, and risk management before, during, and after disasters. Disaster Tech's goal is to save lives, protect the environment, and build resilient communities by providing the most sophisticated, advanced analytics and distributed high-performance computing platform on the planet. find more at www.disastertech.com.

Disaster Tech Media Contact

Jaclyn Silvestri


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