Product leadership refers to roles in organizations that are chiefly responsible for driving the success of products. It is part of a strategy that aims at ensuring that winning products are shipped time and again. A product leader is influential in determining what products should be developed and why.
There’s some confusion about what this term means and who can be called a ‘product leader’. The titles of people playing the role, therefore, often vary from one company to another. Typical product leadership titles in organizations with a separated product department include Director of Product, VP of Product, Head of Product, and Chief Product Officers. These are the roles that are looking at product strategy and pointing the product in the right direction.
What it Means to Lead Products
Pohan Rajiv succinctly describes product leadership as “the time spent on deciding which products to build to add value to customers.” It focuses on doing the correct things.
Product leadership must go through the process of customer discovery to make sure a product has a place in the market. The leader works to match what is to be developed to a real need of users. Product direction is in its purview and it has a duty of making this known to everyone.
Among the responsibilities of a product leader are:
- Communicating business objectives and product vision to promote alignment and the chances of developing successful products
- Building product teams and mentoring team members
- Putting together plans and projections relating to product development
- Making plans available to the management and investors to secure the necessary funding
While product leadership concerns itself with the product-market fit, product management focuses on making the development process run efficiently and uses product management software that covers idea management, roadmap planning and prioritization, product brief and requirements definition, and things along those lines.
Well-Developed Product Strategy Document Vital
Product managers depend greatly on the roadmap for their work, especially as regards the management aspect. The product strategy document is the main tool needed for leadership functions, however.
This key product leadership document is crucial for ensuring there is alignment and feeds into the roadmap. Therefore, you need to do everything possible to create a good one.
Important components of a strategy document include:
- Vision – You should describe what you aim to achieve with the product. Define the problem or pain point of customers and point out how you aim to provide relief.
- Strategy – Define what your product needs to achieve and how as well as ways it supports your organization. State your hypothesis.
- Roadmap for vision – Describe what you need to do in the coming months, quarters, or years that can contribute toward solving the problem.
A document that is carefully created can make the work of aligning everyone easier as time goes on.
Product Leadership Best Practices
Put customers first
Successful product leadership demands placing an emphasis on the customer as the focus of everything. It is important to encourage a culture of doing things with this fact in mind. Product leaders as well as other persons and teams must do things while considering the customers first. This is at the core of promoting product-market fit.
Assemble the right people
Product leaders can’t do everything on their own. They need the right people around to help them succeed. Product leadership, therefore, has the responsibility of building a capable product team.
Product leaders must choose those that work with them wisely. They must hire new members considering the culture of the company and teams while also training and developing them as necessary.
Establish key processes
Make sure to create and promote processes that support the product direction and the building of effective teams. Among the important processes are goal-setting, strategic planning, and career development. Other key processes include those that have to do with the product development lifecycle, such as discovery, design, and development.
Encourage effective collaboration
Wonders happen when there is good teamwork. Cross-functional team collaboration should be encouraged. Product leaders should facilitate group effort across teams in the organization to improve effectiveness.
In summary, product leadership not only has point the direction for a product but also see to the building of effective teams and the development of necessary processes to do the right thing.