Pursuing Modern Digital Product Management — and Why It Matters to Your Organization’s Digital Acceleration

Tom Cramer, Managing Director Customer & Digital Transformation Strategy

The big picture: The role of product management in a digital context has significantly matured, giving rise to an exciting and complex discipline known as digital product management. We have identified 12 key elements that differentiate the modern approach and discipline from traditional digital product development.

Why it matters: Businesses can enhance their customer-centricity, agility, and competitiveness by embracing modern digital product management techniques.

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Technology continues to transform the way we conduct business. As part of that transformation, the role of product management in a digital context has significantly matured. This shift has given rise to an exciting and complex discipline known as digital product management. But what defines this evolution, and what sets it apart from traditional patterns? And how does the shift impact value in today’s hypercompetitive and digitally driven landscape?

We have identified 12 key elements that differentiate the modern approach and discipline to digital product development from its historical, more linear origins. This is certainly not a comprehensive list of categories but more of a helpful pocket guide.

These first five shifts in approach represent an essential core set of methodological upgrades:

Customer-centricity: Placing the customer at the heart of the product development process is the most significant — and perhaps essential — reorientation in a modern approach. While customer-centricity in product management isn’t a new concept, many companies delegate this task to certain departments or functions instead of embedding it in the culture. When it comes to digital product development, there is a need to elevate customer-centric approaches to a whole new level. It requires a shift in mindset to focus on understanding user needs, preferences and pain points. Product teams must embrace continuous user research, feedback collection and testing to ensure that the digital product delivers value and meets customer expectations.

Agile methodologies: Modern digital methods started as a reaction to the inefficiency of the waterfall approach to software development in favor of new agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban. These frameworks prioritize flexibility, iterative development and continuous improvement, allowing teams to respond more effectively to changing requirements and market conditions.

Data-driven decision-making: Digital product management relies on data to inform decisions and optimize product performance. Product managers leverage tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, LogRocket and FullStory to track user behavior, engagement and conversion metrics and make data-driven decisions to improve the product.

Cross-functional collaboration: Product development is a team sport, and high-impact products are a result of collaboration across departments and roles, such as developers, designers, marketers and customer support. This approach fosters a culture of shared ownership and responsibility for the product’s success.

Emphasis on innovation: A commitment to creativity and experimentation fuels the focus on innovation that keeps a firm ahead and differentiated from the competition. Product managers need to be aware of emerging technologies and trends, and they must continuously explore new ways to improve their products and deliver value to users.

This second tier of seven shifts augments and expands the impact and value of the principal set with a strong tactical notion to the new ways of working:

User experience (UX) and design: Activating customer insights and serving unmet needs is manifested through strong emphasis on user experience and design. Product managers work closely with UX designers to create honest, usable and memorable products.

Rapid prototyping and MVP: If a demo is worth a thousand meetings, then embracing the concepts of minimum viable product (MVP) and rapid prototyping are equivalent to generation of launches. This approach allows teams to validate ideas quickly, gather user feedback and iterate on the product to reduce the risk of failure and improve the chances of success.

Continuous delivery and deployment: Consistent with agile ways of working, organizing for continuous value release is an effective way to drive value and mitigate risk while delivering new features, improvements and bug fixing. This fluid delivery approach enables teams to respond quickly to user feedback, market changes and technological advancements.

Scalability and performance: Digital products have low to no marginal unit costs of production, resulting in scalability being the golden key to revenue growth. This requires a focus on building products that can scale to accommodate growing user bases, increased traffic and evolving user needs. Product managers need to consider performance optimization, infrastructure planning and technology choices to ensure that their products remain stable and responsive as they grow.

Security and privacy: We live in dangerous times, with bad actors on the prowl for opportunities to disrupt confidence and illegally harvest data. Simply put, product managers must prioritize security and user privacy. This involves ensuring that products follow industry best practices, comply with relevant regulations and protect user data from potential threats.

Integration with other digital tools and platforms: Digital products are no longer independent point solutions. Almost every internet-connected product and platform uses services, which involves integrating products with other tools, platforms and APIs to enhance functionality, streamline workflows and create seamless user experiences. Product managers need to consider these integrations during product planning and development to ensure compatibility and interoperability.

Metrics and success measurement: If you’re not measuring, you’re guessing, but remember: In God we trust — all others must bring data. One can choose their favorite quip, but modern product management requires defining and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantifiably measure product success. Product managers need to set clear objectives, identify the right metrics and monitor progress regularly to ensure that their products are meeting their intended goals.

As we navigate through digital transformation to digital acceleration, the adoption of modern digital product management techniques becomes increasingly vital. Businesses can enhance their customer-centricity, agility and competitiveness in the market by embracing these ways of working. The voyage to modern product practices is a challenging yet rewarding journey, leading to more effective and responsive product development, improved customer satisfaction and, ultimately, better business outcomes.

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