Product managers play a critical role when it comes to delivering better products and return on investments for organizations. As a bridge between several organizational units, such as marketing, sales, customer service, operations, finance, strategy and delivery teams, product managers must also be product visionaries with facilitation skills to align the organization towards making the product vision a reality.
In today’s digital business world, the growth trajectory depends heavily on innovation. This innovation is spearheaded by product managers, yet most companies are still at a loss when it comes to defining the role correctly, much less implementing a sustainable product management practice. Gartner addresses this need to better understand the product manager role or run a product management organization, in their recent report, Product Managers Are Key to Digital Business Success (August 2016). In this report, Gartner analysts Mike Gilpin and Nathan Wilson underscore the increasing importance of product management in digital businesses.
"Product management is becoming a core function of digital. Our clients are expecting more than just an IT project manager. They want someone who can facilitate a digital strategy, develop a strategic roadmap, and then collaborate, negotiate and deliver the first version of the minimum viable product or minimum viable experience using agile methodologies."Chuck Gahun, VP of Experience Management, Siteworx
To provide insight into the evolving role of the product manager, Chuck Gahun, VP of Experience Management at Siteworx, was interviewed in Gartner’s report. As a seasoned product and program manager, Chuck was charged with the task of establishing an experience management practice within Siteworx. As the VP of Experience Management, he is not just the epicenter of the team focused on delivering exceptional outcomes, but also responsible for making the product development journey an enriching experience for his teams and clients alike.
How would you describe an experience manager’s role?
Our experience management practice is centered around the idea of leveraging the best-in-breed of product and program management and developing a skillset that can lead and manage the evolution of innovative user experiences for our clients. This is why we refer to it as “Experience” Management. Our experience managers are responsible for working closely with our clients to establish product vision, strategy, roadmap and KPIs for their products. Simultaneously, they also serve as their agile scrum masters and project managers to ensure that the solution is delivered on time and on budget. A tall order for our recruiters!
What are the primary qualities you look for when recruiting for your practice?
When recruiting for this role we are seeking individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset. Ideally, one that is fueled by a passionate desire to impact products and markets. On a resume we look for evidence that the person can work through a lean canvas, knows how to establish a product vision that puts our clients out ahead of their competition, and brings a breadth of project management and agile expertise across a multitude of markets. These are the most reliable indicators of a successful product manager and puts candidates at the top of the queue.
What skills would be the most helpful to have when seeking a position in the Experience Management Practice?
At Siteworx, we have sought out leaders in the product management field. Some of the specific skills we seek are:
- Leadership: Most of our experience managers have strong leadership abilities. They are strong facilitators that lead our clients by developing a product strategy and vision, long term roadmap, and an initial story map. In other words, they are responsible for prioritizing the features and functions to be implemented across the project’s timeline.
- Customer-Centric & Market-Focused: In order to lead our clients and solve some of their toughest challenges, we need team members who are customer and market focused. In today’s digital age, customer expectations for products and user experiences are very high. We tend to seek individuals that are well versed in technological and market trends and how they will ultimately impact customer behavior.
- Negotiation & Collaboration: Bringing a product vision to life is not easy. Our experience managers need to be skilled in negotiating, collaborating and facilitating meetings to get past challenging organizational environments. Being able to rally large groups together, align objectives for product strategy and releases is the key to the success of this role.
- Project Management: We seek project management expertise to manage scope, budget and schedule to ensure successful delivery of the product vision and roadmap.
There has been an industry push to shift from a “project management” to a “product management” perspective. What can experience managers do to help facilitate this transition within their company?
Two things come to mind.
A clear definition of the role is critical to the success of this kind of role. Starting with competencies is always a good way to go about defining a role. It also helps ensure that the role is clearly articulated and keeps everyone from executive management to recruiters on the same page. At Siteworx we found that developing a competency model first allowed us to remove ambiguity and develop a career path that people are excited about. This has also helped us in our recruiting efforts because it pushes the envelope at each career stage, making the positions enticing to many job applicants regardless of experience level.
Additionally, we have spent a lot of time and energy focusing on consistent delivery. To ensure that our clients see the same level of delivery and quality on our projects, all Experience Managers are required to lead and manage their work with the same toolkit. This helps us deliver our work with a certain amount of rigor.
What is once piece of advice you’d like to share with experience management practitioners?
Encourage your company to start building an experience management team now. The value of having a practice that combines product and program management expertise has been immense. The sooner you do it, the further you can get ahead in the market!
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