🛠️ I asked 5 CPOs what a Product is. Here‘s what they said. (Part 2)

I asked 5 CPOs what a Product is. Here‘s what they said. (Part 2)




Jun 7, 2024


4 min & 45 sec

​Dear Reader,​

This is the sequel to last week’s newsletter. You can catch-up by re-reading it here.

What is a Product?

Arne Kittler, Product Org Consultant & Fractional Leader, ex-CPO at Facelift

It can make sense to differentiate the external from the internal perspective even though they ideally lead to the same result. Let me explain:

Externally, a product is a digital solution and/or service that is understood by the user to do one more jobs for them and help them achieve a certain outcome. A product can be marketed as such.

Internally, larger organizations often refer to a more granular set of user-facing capabilities as products to reflect separate areas of responsibility that various cross-functional product teams may have.

This internal perspective can be problematic if the different internal "products" don't correspond with what users perceive as the product: There's an increased risk of disfunctional silos, suboptimal solutions for the users and limitations in accountability the product teams with regards to go-to-market. This is why applying a meaningful org topology is important when deciding on how to cut the scope of teams in a multi-team setup.

Lily Smith, CPO at BBC Maestro, The Product Experience Podcast Co-Host

We have a simple product at BBC Maestro and our Product Managers own high level business goals of part the experience, rather than the end to end product. One PM is responsible for acquisition and the second is responsible for engagement and retention. Then we have a PM who owns the experience for our business customers which is end to end - from acquisition through to offboarding. The Product itself is essentially ‘the business of BBC Maestro’, and each PM owns a key objective of the business. So each PM creates a strategy, owns discovery and the roadmap for their business objective.

Ravi Mehta, ex-CPO at Tinder, Product at Facebook

A product is something that creates value for users — but we need to draw an important distinction about how a product creates value.

A product creates value by delivering utility and entertainment:

  • Utility delivers a measurable return on investment for users.
  • Entertainment delivers a desire for users to spend time with the product.

Consider two different cars: a family SUV and a luxury sports car. The SUV is a utility-focused product, and the luxury sports car is an entertainment-focused product. Product builders often assume that utility is more important than entertainment. But, not so in this case and many others. The SUV delivers more utility, yet the sports car is more valuable.

This distinction between utility value and entertainment value can inform work across the product lifecycle. For example, we can rethink the idea of a minimum viable product. An MVP must be both "minimally functional" and "minimally desirable". It must deliver just enough return on investment to warrant the costs and be just compelling enough to win the user's attention. Viability depends on the purpose of the product and the alternatives users have available.

A product is something that delivers utility value and entertainment value to the user — a good product is both functional and desirable.


  • Separate Product Scope from Org Chart Scope. Your users don't care about your org chart. Identify distinct experiences that create Outcomes and form and enable the needed teams to deliver on them.
  • Everything can be a product. Don't limit yourself to externally facing products. Consider internal products or services as well.
  • Products and Teams can have a 1:1 or 1:n relationship. Teams can be responsible for an aspect of a product, as long as you create tight alignment with the other teams. Don't minimize what a product is just to fit it within one team.

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,


PS: Part 2 of my "State of Discovery"-Poll is live on LinkedIn. This time, it's about the lead time to insights.

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


Teams with a quarterly goal often wrap things up in the final week or two of the quarter with no time to iterate. It is a mad rush. They finish if they're lucky—sometimes things keep slipping (work expands to fill the available space, and then some). Teams waste a lot of time prepping for the next quarter, but they do so in ways that aren't inclusive and don't get everyone on the same page. Two weeks in and they are “back to square one”.

The product guru complex

I believe that this is in no small part due to the attempted application of the puristic doctrines pushed by product gurus. It’s this, rather than the pragmatic advice that the community actually needs and craves, that is preventing the Product discipline from maturing into the well oiled machine and craft it should be, central to the success of delivering to business strategies and ensuring growth and success.

Applying Product Thinking to Slack’s Internal Compute Platform

In order to establish the Customer Advisory Board we asked different teams to nominate a representative to attend the monthly meetings, to act as the voice of that team and to share back the information that was shared in that meeting. And we dedicated a few spots to people from particular groups: Someone very new to the platform; Someone who has shared concerns, or is not very amiable to your platform; Someone in our senior technical leadership group (principals or architects depending on the naming used in your company), and Our executive sponsors/stakeholders (our SVP of engineering and Senior Director of Product)

What did you think of this week's newsletter?







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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