2013-07-16

Meet The Producer of Team Pilot: James Skidmore

This week we’re interviewing each member of the winning team from the Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator. Here the producer and project manager talks about coordinating an after-hours project and creating a product that’s compelling for clients.



The Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator challenged entrants to design and build an app that would extend the Target customer experience into new areas, leveraging mobile software—native or web-based—to produce new and pro-social effects in their community, family, school, or social network.

This week, we’re interviewing the winners: Team Pilot, which created an app called Divvy. This interview is with the team’s producer, James Skidmore.

What was your role in working on Divvy?

I worked as the producer and project manager of Divvy.

So what was your day-to-day like in that position?

I guess the weird thing about the way we work together is that we're a really flat organization throughout, meaning that even though I was the producer and project manager, I was also contributing to market research and concepting. We assembled a team based on each of our specialties and what it is we do for our day jobs in mind. Despite that, we all played a role in pretty much every stage except for the actual development, since of course not all of us can code.

What did you find challenging in your work area for Divvy?

One of the biggest challenges in being a producer on this is that we were trying to work with seven guys who are all really busy every day already. So trying to find time we could all talk in a room together was hard. And not only just in the room, but in the room and focused—so we could come up with something great.

I guess the secondary challenge was that, as a day job, all of us work in advertising and we take on projects like this quite often. But we normally have a pretty specific target we're working toward. In this case we were getting a product category that we didn't have a lot of background knowledge in. So we had to learn the industry very quickly and nail our focus down to something really specific that we could tackle.

How did you go about getting a sense of the retail landscape so that you could move forward on the project?

Well, the first thing we did was take a look at the Target app itself. Then we looked at some of the apps from the other big box retailers. We were taking stock of the features Target's app had and the competitor apps had and then tried to figure out what we thought was missing.

Where did the team get the idea for Divvy?

I think it just started from the broad category of social shopping and narrowing that down as we talked about how we all shop. Part of it is the fact that we all were in New York City, where it's not always easy to go to the store. Specifically, it's not always easy to take a trip to Target, or more specifically, to take a non-stressful trip to Target. I mean, for a person who works on a normal Monday-Friday 9-5 or 9-6 schedule, it can be difficult. We have two Targets that are accessible to the majority of us, and you can imagine what those look like on a Saturday afternoon. So just knowing that and thinking about the situation of having roommates and maybe only one person has a car or one person has time, we realized it could make life a lot easier to have a way to coordinate your shopping list. That way you can divvy up A) the responsibility of going to the story to make the trip and B) the payment. Because the secondary hassle is figuring out who owes what, with tax, et cetera.

As a producer, what do you think makes a good product that you can market and show off to potential clients?

I think that any product should be one that you can just pick up without needing much or any instruction. I think there should be a simple UI without a lot of distractions. You should be able to visually lead the user where they need to go without having to spell it out for them.

What's your work experience like outside of Team Pilot?

I work in advertising doing digital production and project management. I've been in the industry for about four years now.

How did you get into advertising?

I actually started out in college selling ads. I studied advertising in college. I don't know why I ended up selling ads instead of making them in the first place. But somehow that led me into marketing and doing event production. I started writing for blogs and building some social media apps on Facebook, back in the days when they were still called apps. That's what led me to the advertising world.

What takes up your time outside of work?

At the present moment: Wedding planning. But in a normal year I'm into fashion and music. I also love to play basketball. I used to run an indie music blog, but I took it down because of a lack of time.

[Image: Flickr user Lauri Rantala]




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