The Chief Product Officer Summit was ablaze with helpful insights, actionable advice, and all-around great discussion, and over 1,000 C-suite execs, VPs, and Heads of Product tuned into the agenda of inspiring keynotes and fiery panel discussions.

Content was curated specifically for those in leadership roles and took a deep dive into subjects such as building awesome product teams, scaling, metrics & OKRs, and prioritization.

Miss the event? Or just wanna relive it? We’ve narrowed down to our top 10 takeaways. Enjoy!

1. A product-led strategy must run throughout the organization

“My top takeaway is instilling a product-led mindset throughout the entire org, not just having a product team.” - Justin Berkovi, CPO, Healthily.

A PLG strategy must incorporate each team into the decision-making process to ensure the voice of the customer is heard, and the product is the champion.

The need for a cohesive product-led structure within an organization has been cemented during the pandemic.

With budgets tightened and cost-cutting a priority for many, a product that clearly demonstrates its value to an end-user has the power to sell itself.

And how does this happen? Well…

2. More ‘product people’ are getting a seat at the C-suite table

CPO is a super important role for product-led startups and larger legacy organizations. Businesses now recognize the value of product as a key growth driver. It’s all-important!

It’s also crucial to remember product can’t exist in isolation. Maybe you already have the ‘perfect’ offering, but you should remember this tip—product sits within a wider organization.

And if that organization isn’t aligned around what you sell, you’re not going to have a good time.

If you’re not talking to sales or commercial you may not fully understand the B2B marketplace and ecosystem.

Or if you’re not talking to customer support, you might not understand where friction points are.

3. CPOs and CTOs need to be simpatico (but not necessarily the same person)

After the summit, the vibe is that a CPO is responsible for the ‘what’, while a CTO takes over the ‘how’.

The roles need to be empathetic to each other and collaborate for a business to thrive (and a product excel).

Delivering user-facing marketable features VS achieving long-term architectural goals was cited as a source of debate between the two roles. Along with build VS buy decisions and team ownership.

Some panelists got stuck into the discussions and wore both hats! They argued the case for combining the roles—so long as it suited the structure of an organization.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the full findings of the two debates in a future blog post. Keep your eyes peeled for it!

4. Use two-way doors whenever you can

A common error when building a customer-driven, product-led organization is perceiving action as forward motion and progress.

What’s going on for real? Well, that outlook can mask a suboptimal decision or poor trade-off.

Sometimes trying to cut a corner or find an easy side route can, at best, be a short-lived victory. At worst, it could lead to a missed opportunity.

There’s no silver bullet solution for scenarios where you feel ‘damned if you do or damned if you don’t’. But by using ‘two-way door’ decisions, you can reduce risk while allowing more time to deliberate on critical one-way door decisions. Some of which may prove damaging.

Being able to differentiate between two and one-way door decisions is a crucial skill for product teams and successful product-led organizations. So, 2021 is the time to master it!

5. Choose your metrics wisely

Many product-led organizations pride themselves on an outcome-driven approach. To master this, you have to effectively measure your outcomes.

Don’t know how to do that? You could get stuck in a mass of data, so it’s important to establish your metrics early on.

When creating new metrics it of course depends on your organization. But in his keynote, Navin Nair, CPO at JustPark, shared his methodology:

  • Start with words. Build a picture of what success looks like before assigning numbers.
  • Be tight with a definition. Try to make it specific, including time period, data collection, reporting, refreshing, and reviewing.
  • Ensure ownership!

Remember, while data is king, it’s only truly useful if it’s embedded into the process of your team.

6. Remember—we’re all human!

It's easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of working life. But, we’re all human. Not just boxes on a screen during another Zoom meeting.

Burnout is a big problem, whether it’s from Zoom fatigue, overworking, unmanageable workloads, or not switching off at hometime.

The audience asked many questions to our product leaders about:

  • Motivation techniques.
  • Communication tactics.
  • Engagement strategies for remote teams.

Following on from those points, here are some handy tips:

  • Regular non-work-related check-ins.
  • Inclusive activities. For example, company-sponsored take-outs or drinks.
  • Organize lunches with colleagues over Zoom to check in on a personal level.
  • Be creative! Consider interactive games and activities that don’t require knowledge of world flags (did somebody say bingo?).
  • Be kind and mindful of others.

Remember, without great people you don’t have a great product.

Treat employees well. Understand and be empathetic of what they’re dealing with and you’ll reap the benefits of a strong company culture.

7. Remote onboarding goes beyond a few catch up calls

Remote onboarding provides a unique set of challenges for product leaders. It all must be done without meeting new staff from a normal office environment.

Aside from the basics (like ensuring they have the right tech stack and have intro calls with the team members), make sure new hires are fully immersed in the product strategy and vision.

This means carefully communicating North Star Metrics, how these align with overall company goals, and how success is measured.

8. Letting go is harder than ever, but also more important

Sometimes, you just need to let people figure it out for themselves. It’s always hard to let go of your baby, but breathing down the nanny’s neck is only wasting your time and money.

Now that remote working is the norm, you need to trust your team.

Let them handle the ‘here and now’ of product and feature development so you can focus on the bigger picture.

Learning from mistakes, accountability, and taking ownership are key building blocks for creating future leaders.

So, it’s important to give your team the freedom they need to grow. Whether they are sitting two feet or 200 miles away from you.

Here are some memorable quotes from panel speakers:

  • Learn to shut up.
  • Celebrate failure.
  • Let people figure s**t out on their own.
  • Create clear pathways for progression.
  • Unlearn what you think you know and let them teach you.
  • Hire people who are better than you and don’t feel threatened by that.
  • Empower your team, give them resources, and trust them.

9. Build rituals, frameworks, and processes that work for you

One of the most common phrases used over the course of the summit was “it depends.

The reason for this is because every single organization, product, and team is unique.

From the type of product, to the industry you’re in, to the very people who make up your team (or squad), every question asked has to be answered in the context of the situation you find yourself in.

While popular frameworks and methodologies are great starting points, the product processes in a scaling startup will be wildly different from those used within a large corporation or legacy business.

That’s why finding what works for you is vital. Build frameworks that suit your team, and be sure to involve everyone in decisions that are going to affect the way they need to work.

Just as your product is tailored to your customers’ needs, your internal processes need to be tailored to your product, your team, and you!

10. Create a simple but strong vision for your product team

Microsoft’s original mission statement was to put a computer running Windows on every desk and in every house. That vision drove Microsoft for over two decades.

Why? Because everyone understood it! While we aren’t all destined to mirror Microsoft's success, we can still nail a clear mission statement and make sure our product teams live and breathe it.

However, it’s important to be flexible.

If there’s a cataclysmic shift in the market, say, I don’t know, a global pandemic, your organization may be forced to pivot, and your original product vision will need to move with it.

Wrapping things up

The CPO summit was the first event to focus purely on product leadership and a key takeaway for many was how diverse the CPO landscape is.

Product by definition is diverse. And while there are common themes and challenges uniting CPOs, everything is relative to context.

It was amazing to host such an exciting lineup of CPOs and leaders. All of them are shaping the future of this exciting discipline. Can’t wait for the next one? Well, it’s coming May 2021… 👀

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