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.
We then introduced eight competencies that represent the critical skill areas for development of our product team.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Effectively Prioritize & Execute Roadmap
- Translate vision into a roadmap to execute against business objectives on time and within budget.
- 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
- 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.