By: Women In Product
Although the job expectations of any role may differ by company size, culture, and industry, there are commonalities within a Chief Product Officer role that remain true.
In our Path to CPO series, we interviewed a variety of experienced CPOs on their key responsibilities:
- Overall product vision and strategic alignment with organizational goals
- Close collaboration with C-Suite leaders and others
- Influencing business strategy through impactful communication and storytelling
- Thinking, projecting, and executing in a long-term lens
- Creating a seamless organizational design and structure
Overall product vision and strategic alignment with organizational goals
Embracing the CPO role means confidently driving the future aspiration of your product into reality with purpose (mission) and direction (strategy). A cookie-cutter approach won’t work here; you’re “not just taking an existing strategy but actually creating a company strategy and product vision with input from leaders across the company, understanding the business and the company financials really, really deeply so that you can create revenue projections off of your roadmaps and really understand the ROI of your investments, then having to deeply understand how to get from roadmap to revenue and how to analyze those things and put them into perspective.” – Alex Hardiman
Close collaboration with C-Suite leaders and others
There’s no room for isolation, “as a chief product officer, the people that you’re working with across the company are your chief revenue officer, the chief financial officer, maybe a COO, a chief marketing officer, the CEO, obviously.” – Anneka Gupta
And outside of the C-Suite, Alex Hardiman described her peer set to be quite different. “I am joined at the hip with our Chief Growth Officer, who oversees our day-to-day subscription numbers. At other companies, this might be the CFO.
I am also a very close partner to a lot of other executives across the company: our CTO, our Chief Data Officer, our Executive Editor, and other top editors because we’re at a news organization.”
Influencing business strategy through impactful communication and storytelling
As a CPO, your voice has the power to influence and excite, “It’s your job to tell the story of the how and the what and the why your product vision is what it is, and to bring the company along on that journey with you. And so how you story-tell becomes a really critical part of that success.” – Heather Gordon.
And on the occasion that you don’t agree with where the company is going, you have to raise questions. “Who are our customers? What’s the next step for us? How do we structure our data strategy, what we’re going to license, what we’re not going to license, what we share and don’t share? All of that. I think A CPO needs to sort of identify that there’s a question there that we need to answer and then help answer it.” – Amory Wakefield
Another thing to consider in how you deliver your message is the presentation. Ketaki Rao describes herself as an introvert by nature but prepared to rise to the occasion. “I really never knew what that was like, what is this executive presence? But that was very critical, to learn how to be able to take command of a room, to learn how to be able to get people to listen to you but also engage with you because today is not the day of me giving a one log. No one will listen to me for 30 minutes. It’s really about getting them engaged so we are doing it together.”
Thinking, planning, and executing with a long-term lens
Ambitious ideas and projections aren’t sought to be completed in a day. “As a Chief Product Officer, my role is to set the three-year vision, along with the rest of the leaders at the company, and then chart the path for how we’re going to get there.” – Anneka Gupta
Often, the product vision is planned out in three to five-year spans, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond day-to-day tasks. Nupur Srivastava says, “just ensuring that your thinking isn’t just in the short term optimization of product metrics, but you’re raising your head to ensure that what you’re getting the product to work on is actually best aligned with where you want the business to go.”
Creating a seamless organizational design and structure
With so many moving parts and expectations to be met, a CPO will spend a lot of time trying to understand how everything fits with each other. Yuying Chen Wynn says “Every org structure has its own strengths and weaknesses. But a big part of that is also looking at how does the rest of the org work and how do we structure ourselves. We work well within the larger.”
The Chief Product Officer plays a critical role in shaping the future of a company through product leadership. Many of the CPOs we’ve interviewed above believe that their role is directly responsible for the success of the product and business. It requires thinking big, influencing broadly, asking the right questions, and executing flawlessly. The CPO must see the big picture and connect the dots across teams to drive a unified product vision. They must take a long-term view yet be nimble to respond to market changes.
Want to hear more about the CPO experience? Head over to our Path to CPO podcast series, where we interview several women CPOs on their journey to executive leadership.