The C-suite’s guide to digital product management

by | Aug 12, 2021

As a C-suite executive, you know sitting still is never an option — particularly when it comes to product and service innovation. You also know products are being impacted by digital technology AND digital thinking needs to be baked into every product development strategy.

But what is something that’s less obvious and even more critical?

Being truly “digital” today means not only building digital features into your products and services, but also thinking digitally in the way you manage them.

This article looks at the concept of digital product management and its implication for your business.

The evolution of product management

As a discipline, the product management role has evolved greatly over the years.

Born out of the Great Depression in 1931, the term “brand man” was introduced by Proctor & Gamble’s Neil McElroy, defining an individual who manages a specific product and its associated branding.

The product manager, the modern equivalent of brand manager, is still with us today. However, the role has expanded and now covers the entire product lifecycle, including:

  • Concept and development
  • Market testing and refinements
  • Competitive positioning and pricing
  • Sunsetting and renewal
  • New innovations

Each phase is managed with a keen eye on maximizing business growth, meeting current and anticipated customer needs, and maximizing brand affinity through positive customer experiences.

Product management today

Executing product management effectively and consistently through the entire product lifecycle is a considerable challenge.

For those of you who have begun to master product management, congratulations!

However, if you’re among those who still learning, there’s a lot of opportunity to get it right. As seen in the two statistics from the 280 Group’s Challenges in Product Management survey results – highlighting the importance of developing strong competencies within the product management function – many of your peers are in a similar boat.

  • 49% of companies do not use a consistent product management process
  • 21% of products fail to meet customers’ needs

Source: 280group.com

Failing to use consistent processes not only slows innovation and development, but increases time-to-market. This issue is only compounded by the high likelihood of an organization failing to meet customer needs.

In the end, what this translates to is: products that are likely to fail…and fail fast.

Redefining digital product management

These risks are seemingly amplified in our current digital economy. Brands must stay ahead of the digitally savvy competition, ward-off new disruptors, and execute quickly in shorter and shorter windows of opportunity.

The solution?

An organizational commitment from the top down to improve product management capability using a “digital lens.” This leads to longer, more innovative, and more profitable product lifecycles. However, the increasing number of digital initiatives are often incredibly complex and deserve a full, comprehensive strategy from beginning to end.

That strategy begins in the C-suite.

Executives must leverage the expertise of cross-functional teams to develop a concrete framework that drives a holistic view of the product:

  • Where it serves explicit customer needs
  • Where it fits in with your organizational priorities
  • How it will ultimately develop a successful and competitive position in the market

Luckily, there’s a new common denominator in the success of a company’s cross-functional digital effort: the digital product manager.

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The importance of the digital product manager (DPM) role

That same research from the 280 Group indicates that a fully optimized digital product manager can increase company profits by as much as 34.2%.

We believe that as the DPM role matures, it has the potential to generate even higher organizational profits.

DPMs work at the intersection of senior leadership, engineering, marketing, sales, information technology and support teams. They effectively leverage market data to drive key decisions.

In partnership with the C-suite and product leadership teams, they create and develop a product roadmap and strategy while fostering continuous improvement, ensuring their projects do not veer off course. Ultimately, the role is responsible for managing the rapid development and deployment of new, and often intricate, products in order to stay competitive.

In this manner, DPMs are key to your organization’s dexterity in product innovation.

The digital product manager job profile requires several critical skillsets, including:

  • Team motivation and management
  • Maintenance of an externally facing market orientation
  • Management of executive relationships
  • Strong process management that supports cycles of continuous improvement

DPMs must also master a set of distinct soft skills to be able to understand and assess customer pain points, help developers overcome barriers to their work, and empathize with the many challenges that come with complex projects and deadlines.

“In a larger organization, DPMs might report to the Chief Product Officer. In medium or smaller organizations, the Chief Product Officer may carry many of the same functions as the DPM.

In all cases the DPMs will be frequently engaged with senior management and must possess the skills to communicate and align on C-suite business strategy.”

Where DPM’s fit in a modern organization

As the digital economy continues to grow, the DPM and the digital product management skills they possess will be increasingly important to the C-suite, and ultimately organizational success.

Honing “digital DNA” should be at the heart of every organization. A team of DPM “wizards” – connecting the cross-functional dots in your enterprise – are an essential ingredient to the transition to a digital-first mentality.

Here are a few of the ways DPMs deliver measurable value to your organization:

  • Lead the development of a product or a suite of products, including the delivery and overall project timeline
  • Build the overall product strategy roadmap in both a strategic and tactical way
  • Collect features and requirements from cross-functional teams and determine their level of prioritization
  • Partner with the C-suite and product leadership team for alignment
  • Stay close to the customer; document user personas and needs through interviews, and use consumer usage data to develop data-driven GTM strategies
  • Connect all teams involved, ensuring that expectations are met, and each team is tracking toward the same goals
  • Analyze the market to ensure a product maintains competitive advantage

These are just a few of the high-level benefits of the DPM. Future posts will dive deeper into the value a digital product management strategy will deliver, and its relevance to successful outcomes important to each member of the C-Suite.

Getting started

Regardless of where you are in your journey, now is the time to implement a digital product management strategy in your organization.

dPrism has propelled success in organizations with the creation of a robust digital product management strategy, plan, and implementation models. Connect with our experienced executives to discuss how dPrism can help your organization today.

Jennifer Cardella

Jennifer Cardella
Chief Product & Delivery Officer

Jennifer is responsible for leading and facilitating the creation and delivery of products and services. She has nearly 20 years of experience and is passionate about customer-centric product management and technology, integration challenges, process improvement, and digital engagement strategies that build brands and transform customer experience.

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