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“As more companies … set out to build software capabilities for success in the digital era, it’s critical that they get the product-management role right.”

Over the past several years, I’ve had many posts focusing on digital transformation, API-first approaches, the need for a bi-modal mentality and the like.  The discussions point to the rapid evolution of business models, and more importantly why Product Management leaders need to understand the implications of these changes.

This morning I reread an article I came across last week from McKinsey titled Product Managers for the Digital World, and it not only echoes these sentiments around digital transformation, but also the analogy of the Product Manager to the mini-CEO.


… product-management rotational programs are the new leadership-development programs for many technology companies …

… before becoming the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and Marissa Mayer were product managers … 

This is a really good read, with so many salient points within the article itself, as well as topic-branches exploring several other important conversations.  I highly recommend digging into the content yourself, but here are some of my thoughts around just a few of the topics that captured my attention this morning.

The Expanding Role of the Product Manager

With many of the articles and books I have been reading, 3 things consistently seem to get called out when contemplating how Product Managers need to interpret what is happening in the market around them.

  1. A customer-centric (and/or consumer-centric) approach is critically important.  Case in point is this comment made in the article – As seamless, user-friendly consumer software permeates our lives, business users increasingly expect a better experience for enterprise software.  It supports the premise I’ve been championing in my own organization around ever evolving consumer expectations: it has to be real-time (immediate gratification), it has to be seamless across channels/devices, and it has to be friction-less (easy).
  2. The increasing importance of the data-centric mentality.  Data warehouse and analytics discussions are not new … but the context of the discussion has changed over the past several years with the advent of the platform mentality. I love the context one of the branched articles makes about ‘Purpose-driven’ data.  Two important thoughts related to this area that can’t be emphasized enough.

    From the article – Product success can also be clearly measured across a broader set of metrics (engagement, retention, conversion, and so on) at a more granular level, and product managers can be given widespread influence to affect those metrics.

    From the book Platform Revolutiondata analytics can significantly augment the capabilities of both the platform and its ecosystem partners, making the platform more successful and greatly increasing its ability to generate value … it enables you to track  who else is creating, controlling, and siphoning value on or off of the platform and studying the nature of their activities

  3. An appreciation for technology-centric impacts as a business enabler.  Again, two important thoughts related to this area

    From the articleNew responsibilities for product managers include overseeing the application programming interface (API) as a product, identifying and owning key partnerships, managing the developer ecosystem, and more.

    From the book Platform Revolutioncompanies no longer controls 100% of the value creation, value is created in the ecosystem. Platforms turn businesses inside out, moving managerial influence from inside to outside the firms boundaries. Thus, a firm no longer needs to seize every new opportunity on its own; instead, it can pursue only the best opportunities while helping ecosystem partners seize others, with all partners sharing in the value.

For more context on the Platform Revolution book I mentioned, see my post A Product Leader’s Reading List.

Product Management Maturity in 6 Areas

I’ve had a few posts where the topic explored what to look for in a good Product Manager.  I thought this portion of the article provide another good perspective on what to look for. In particular, Seeking Product Managers – What Criteria? did a good job of pointing out the breadth of expectations we should have in looking for a Product Manager (domain, technology, and business acumen; analytic and creative; strategic and tactical), and yet tempering these expectations with the reality no one can fill 100% of those needs.

The article supports this with its comment companies typically focus on being best in class in one to three areas and meeting the bar across the board.  Here are the 6 items they highlight:

  1. Customer-experience grounding – Ability to design customer-centric experiences throughout the customer decision journey.
  2. Market orientation – Ability to deeply understand market trends, partner ecosystems, and competitive strategies
  3. Business acumen – Comfort with business strategy, portfolio prioritization, go-to-market, pricing, and tracking key performance indicators and financial metrics
  4. Technical skills – Ability to go deep on technology trends, architectural questions, stack control points, roadmaps, and managing development life cycles
  5. Soft skills – Ability to lead teams, communicate with diverse groups, and influence change through the organization
  6. Enablers – Enable innovation through talented individuals, enriching career paths, test-and-learn culture, innovation-oriented practices, and organization