🛠️ I asked 5 CPOs what a Product is. Here‘s what they said. (Part 1)


I asked 5 CPOs what a Product is. Here‘s what they said. (Part 1)

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HERBIG.CO

PUBLISHED

May 31, 2024

READING TIME

4 min & 1 sec

​Dear Reader,​

Owning and improving product practices and effective team topologies requires a shared understanding of what you actually mean when you say the word “product.” These domains are not called Product xyz because they are done solely by Product Managers.

They are called this way because they are in service of bringing products to life. Products that solve customer problems and create business value. Now, I'm not here to teach you the one definition of what a product is because it’s a tricky one. Even on the first pages of Transformed, Marty Cagan offers a contextual “it depends” answer to the question “What is a product?” I strongly agree that every organization has to identify that on its own.

To help you start your journey, I want to share the insights I gathered from asking five CPOs what they think a product is and how to identify it.

Francesca Cortesi, CPO at Hemnet

Many of us can easily answer when it comes to physical products. A chair is what we use to sit, a book is what we choose to read. The definition comes from experience and intuition.

What do experience and intuition have in common in defining a product? They connect directly to the problem it helps us solve, the feeling it evokes, and the context in which it is useful.

In both physical and digital worlds, a product is a solution you choose to use because it delivers the experience you are looking for. It’s about value (solving a problem), feelings (preference over the competition), and context (usability and needs).

Simon Cross, CPO at Native Instruments

People think a product is a thing, a widget you can point at. A physical or digital object that a user chooses to use (or buy) to solve a particular problem.

And it is. But I prefer a broader definition.

A product is an EXPERIENCE that creates an OUTCOME.

If you’re the PM for a checkout experience or a signup flow, you’re not managing a physical widget, you’re managing an experience that enables some outcome (can successfully buy something, successfully signup to something).

That lense also helps reframe the “widget” definition.

People buy a thing because it helps them with something that creates an outcome.

Food product provides nutrition.

Clothes keep you warm

A synthesiser helps you make music

And it’s the experience you have with that thing that creates an outcome.

A product is an experience that creates an outcome.

Stay tuned for part 2, which will feature insights from CPOs who have worked at Tinder, XING, and BBC Maestro.

HOW TO PUT THIS THEORY INTO PRACTICE

  • Group your products by Outcome. At the highest level, what are the key outcomes you want to create among your audience? Name high-level product groupings to serve each one.
  • Requirements follow the experience. Your product doesn't originate from your stakeholder-driven PRD but the experience you aim to create.

Did you enjoy this one or have feedback? Do reply. It's motivating. I'm not a robot; I read and respond to every subscriber email I get (just ask around). If this newsletter isn't for you anymore, you can unsubscribe here.

Thank you for Practicing Product,

Tim

PS.: I've started a series of polls on LinkedIn to understand the state of Discovery practices. Check out the results and tell me how you do it.

New In-Person Workshop Dates Announced

I'm excited to bring my beloved in-person workshops back to Berlin in January 2025. You can choose between 1-day workshops on Product Strategy, Product OKRs, or Product Discovery OR get the full 3-day experience for you or your team.

(early bird pricing available)

Content I found Practical This Week

Frames (th)at Work

Frameworks are meant to support, not restrict. Their power comes from how easy it is to reuse in other contexts, and how effective their results are every time we adapt them to different scenarios. A framework that doesn’t adapt when we need to update it is a costly choice and can slow developments.

The 3 Essential Elements for Success as Product Leaders*

*I'm an Angel Investor in Airfocus

Applied product principles: achieving decision making at scale

In order to land on product principles on how to make decisions, we needed to make explicit what the boundaries of this decision-making were. And the way we have done it was by clearly stating guardrail metrics and prioritizing the job to be done for the shared page. The guardrail metrics were a cornerstone of this work and something that we have been starting to use ever since. A guardrail metric is defined as an indicator of the overall ”health” of the page itself and should give an overarching perspective that always needs to be kept in mind when working on a page that is meant to solve different product needs. In other words, they are the boundaries that we should monitor in order to not derail.

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Who is Tim Herbig?

As a Product Management Coach, I guide Product Teams to measure the progress of their evidence-informed decisions.

I identify and share the patterns among better practices to connect the dots of Product Strategy, Product OKRs, and Product Discovery.

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