Why Product Management is Important in the Customer Era
Product Management, in a nutshell, is the art of creating a product that will delight people by solving their problems in unexpected ways. Deliberately or instinctively, every company uses Product Management – you could even argue that companies could not exist without, especially if their very purpose is to offer a product to the market.
When a company is still new and starting to get a foothold, Product Management is usually done by one of the founders that had the initial vision of the product. When the company starts to be successful and grows, the need for specialists quickly becomes apparent – the role of these specialists is to identify underserved needs of customers and build a value proposition that then targets those needs.
If the product is successfully gaining adoption and revenue, we can say that product-market fit has been achieved.
However, Product Management is not a one-off thing. It is a continuous process, and the reasons why are simple:
- Other companies are constantly influencing the market and changing customers’ needs along the way.
- Breakthroughs in technology and disruptions have the potential to shift an entire industry in a new direction.
These things happen all the time, and when they do, they require you to rethink and reinvent the product portfolio quickly and potentially pivot the company altogether.
How did Product Management become a thing at Infobip?
We saw a similar shift happen in the A2P (application-to-person) messaging ecosystem where Infobip had started as a company. In the beginning, the primary market mechanics leveraged telecom companies as enablers of SMS communication, creating a two-sided marketplace where telecom companies acted as sellers and enterprises as buyers.
This paradigm lasted for a while, but as it is with most marketplaces, technology changes and so do their users.
Two main changes happened that forced the market to evolve. The first one was the emergence of a new generation of customers and the so-called “on-demand” economy – the beginning of this can be traced to Amazon introducing same-day delivery which then triggered similar customers’ expectation from any company and for any service.
The second one was the rise of WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and other chat applications and their entry into the business messaging space. This breakthrough inspired us to reinvent our product portfolio not just for enterprises using our CPaaS platform for seamless business communication, but also for our telecom partners.
The combination of these two market forces gave rise to the new and complex communication space that exists today – one which consists of many communication channels.
What we are doing in this new communication space is removing the complexities and making it easy for businesses to communicate to their customers through our platform. They can do that by using the customer’s preferred channel, at the right moment, and enable offering their always-on services in a truly “on-demand” fashion.
Being able to order an Uber and get a ride in minutes or pay for any service through WeChat (a chat app) which is hugely popular in China, are just some of the examples of such modern-day services.
This disruption spurred a conscious effort to establish Product Management as an advocate for customers’ needs within Infobip – one that would enable future reinventions and address new market trends such as the Internet of Things, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and even more inevitably on the horizon.
The following is an outline of the process we follow to ensure our position in the communication ecosystem by providing new and engaging solutions:
1. Understand your customer’s needs
Every company handles Product Management in its own specific way. Here at Infobip, we view Product Ownership (as defined in Scrum) as a sub-role of Product Management.
Without being in direct contact with your customers, you can’t innovate your product adequately. That is why our Product Managers spend as much time as possible talking directly to customers.
In most cases, this is accomplished by following the Jobs-to-be-done framework and Bob Moesta’s reasoning behind it. It asserts that all products are “hired” to do a specific job for the customer. In the end, the customer does not buy the product because it has 13 cool features – ultimately, they care if the product will help them with their tasks and achieve progress.
2. Innovate or face disruption
It is up to the Product Manager to drive the transformation of a customer need worth being solved, into a feature – either in an existing product or as a set of features within an entirely new one. These need to be aligned with the company’s strategy and at the same time drive the outcome that the customer wants to achieve.
3. Go-to-market strategy and business model
In parallel to defining how the end result of the solution needs to look like, it is essential to plan a comprehensive launch.
The Business model is the other side of the formula – do we need a new model, or do we include it in the existing one.
This is very challenging for us due to our global presence and having clients across different industry verticals. We need to listen to feedback from all regional markets and adjust our approach for each one while at the same time maintain the global strategy of the company.
4. Sales alignment and training
One of the specifics of Product Management in a B2B company like Infobip is that sales channels need to be trained on the new capabilities and enabled to drive product growth properly. For our own salespeople this leads to incentive alignment on KPIs.
Additionally, we also need to train our partnership network and expose the capability through self-service, both of which we leverage to achieve exponential growth.
5. Providing great support creates business opportunities
An area where Infobip truly excels, and one of our competitive edges, is customer support. For our new customers, the first impression is everything, and you can’t easily transform a bad experience into a good one.
Therefore, we strive to continuously keep our customers pleased with the support they receive.
Having great support is vital in driving beneficial word of mouth marketing for our company and products.
6. Measurement and feedback
To conclude this list, I would like to mention the measurement aspect. Because, without adequate measuring, it is next to impossible to create meaningful progress.
When delivering value to customers, it is important to aim for continuous and always on feedback loop cycles where a solution can be built in a few days, rolled out and validated by getting additional feedback. This is the necessary foundation for an agile development company that depends on market needs, as it enables it to change direction quickly.
Continuous feedback loops being popularized by Sachin Rekhi are something we strive for. They consist of three components:
The first one is called the feedback river – a continuous aggregated stream of all the customer feedback.
The second one is the feedback system of record, which he explains as a “CRM for feedback” comprising of feedback transformed into records with structure.
The third component is deep synthesis, which is the process of evaluating the received feedback and determining if it should be deprioritized or accepted and eventually implemented.
The demands and rewards of being a Product Manager
Being a Product Manager is hugely demanding, it requires multidisciplinary skills, but is very rewarding at the same time – in the end, you are the one deciding the product’s direction and can see firsthand how it affects your customers.
Agile development practices demand Product Managers to master strategic thinking and translate strategies into tactical plans. To be successful, you need to maintain communication with diverse stakeholders and tend to their needs, which requires knowledge from both the technical and business domain and the ability to wear many hats.
These skills, when successfully combined, often enable Product Managers to take company leadership roles.
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