Product Management at ZX Ventures

Last week we kicked off the ZX Product Leadership Development Program (PLDP), an ongoing training initiative to strengthen the product management skillset within ZX. Twenty-two attendees from businesses in seven countries attended a three-day Product Summit in NYC.

We began the session by discussing the role of Product @ ZX and why Product is important within our company.

  • Customer focus – Product starts with the customer and the market context in everything we do and we develop business cases from the outside in.
  • In-house product & development – In the digital businesses we’re building at ZX, product & technology is a core competency and a main source of our competitive advantage. By having top tech talent in-house, we believe we get to better solutions through deeper knowledge of the customer, retain that knowledge, and build an important skillset for the company. 
  • Agile approach – We set a big dream, but start small and lean to learn and deliver value quickly.
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We then introduced eight competencies that represent the critical skill areas for development of our product team.

  1. Know the User
    • Our role as Product Managers (PMs) is to understand the consumer’s needs, pain points, and motivations. To understand them better than they know themselves.
  2. Understand the Opportunity
    • Understand the market, who the direct & indirect competitors are, and how to price and position a product based on the current market. An excellent PM looks into the future and creates a mental model of where the market is going, and builds their product with the future in mind.
  3. Define a User- and Market-Driven Vision
    • Demonstrate that the user problem, market opportunity, solution, and benefits to our business are aligned and significant, thereby unlocking additional resources / support for the project.
  4. Clearly Communicate Goals and Progress
    • Proactively keep each stakeholder informed on project vision, progress vs roadmap, current performance, and plans to close gaps; adapting messaging, communication method, and cadence to each audience.
  5. Contribute to Product Organization Development
    • Actively seek ways to elevate the role of product within the organization and be seen as thought leaders across multiple competencies.
  6. Define a Compelling User Experience
    • Go beyond benchmarking and literal translation of user feedback. Redefine standard for addressing user needs by rethinking user steps to complete and applying innovative user interaction approach and/or technology application to solve.
  7. Effectively Prioritize & Execute Roadmap
    • Translate vision into a roadmap to execute against business objectives on time and within budget.
  8. Establish & Utilize Feedback Loops Effectively
    • Build feedback loops into the product (e.g. capture demand information, validate/refine algorithms, personalize experience based on user input, etc.).

We hosted a series of external and internal speakers to cover topics aligned to the eight competencies above. Two key themes emerged from our conversations at the Summit:

  • Problem validation
    • Challenge all assumptions about the customer and their needs
    • Problem definition and validation are just as important as solution definition and validation
  • Experimentation
    • Fail fast -- test to learn, not just for lift
    • Test feature changes in individual tests to isolate & understand impact (and share learnings with the broader team!)

As a team, we found a lot of value in discussing our shared business challenges. To continue the conversation after the Summit, we will offer an ongoing speaker series.