Product management in digital transformation: What's different?

By Isaac Sacolick Oct 12th 2017

Digital transformation programs require product managers to have skills and experience across several key disciplines. Your first step: recognizing the strategic importance of the product management function.

Many organizations view the product management role as a tactical role aiming to listen to customers and stakeholders and manage the product with the goal of growing revenue and the number of customers. But product management disciplines go well beyond managing everyone’s wish list. Product managers drive changes in sales process, marketing, tiering, bundling, pricing, discounting, partnerships, and enhancements to achieve their goals. The product management function is usually broken down into several key disciplines:

Product strategy involves identifying and quantifying target markets, market needs and opportunities, market sizing, competitive considerations, industry transformation considerations, economic, legal, or geopolitical factors that help businesses determine the primary opportunities for growth.

  • Product ownership is the role in agile practices and is responsible for setting priorities for developing or enhancing products, measuring customer satisfaction, and engaging internal stakeholders.
  • Product management disciplines oversee the P/L of either a customer segment, product family, or single product and drive priorities on revenue, growth, profitability, quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Product marketing is the skill to define, execute, measure, and modify go-to-market strategies along the lifecycle of the product.

It is often very difficult to find product managers that have skills and experiences across all these disciplines, but the revenue-generation elements of digital transformation programs do require them at different stages in the transformation. This means organizations must consider how to apply internal resources and bring outside help in weak areas. You might bring someone from the outside to help quantify target markets and to review competitive offerings. Perhaps the organization has ill-defined or outdated pricing and some research is required to determine price elasticity and value propositions. You might have a defined product strategy but need outside help to develop talent to assume product ownership roles. You may have developed a product but lack the data or marketing knowledge to market it optimally.

More importantly, it requires organizations to recognize the strategic importance of the product management function. The executive team needs to give product managers the charter and backing to review the end-to-end business and to propose blue-sky options that might include options that disrupt existing products and services. They need to blaze paths to get them access to data, ensure that business leaders are accessible, and require that sales leaders provide introductions to clients and prospects.

Excerpted with permission from the book Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology by Isaac Sacolick © 2017 Isaac Sacolick All rights reserved. Published by AMACOM Books a Division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

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