By SMU Digital Marketing Team
In today’s digital economy, products are constantly evolving and need to be updated quickly in response to customer feedback and changing market conditions. This requires a lot of agility and flexibility, which are skills that product management professionals need to thrive in an increasingly digitized world.
After all, a product mindset is key to energizing an organization because it focuses on what customers want and need, rather than what business decision makers think they need. This customer focus ultimately leads to optimized product development, manufacturing and business success. Today, optimal product management involves being able to adapt to change and pivot plans as needed to ensure products remain relevant and in demand.
We speak with Academic Director of SMU Executive Development, Dr. Markus Karner, who teaches an online module on Product Management, to learn more about generating innovative ideas and solutions. Meanwhile, program graduate Yasmin Yunus Tamboli reveals the challenges product managers face and how the course has helped her stay competitive and relevant during digital disruption.
Essential Skills for Product Management in a Digital Economy
Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that takes the user’s point of view into account when creating new products or improving existing ones. It is often used in product management to create intuitive, easy-to-use designs that meet customer needs.
“Design thinking and agile methods can help immensely in coping with constant change.”
As companies move more and more towards a digital economy, product management becomes — as a result — more and more complex. Design thinking can help simplify this process by applying creativity and empathy to product design and development.
“The soft skills required for product management are not much different from other strategic requirements: listening to the pulse of the times, failing quickly and cheaply, and testing and iterating often – because the digital economy is changing rapidly and that there are no clear cut or permanent answers exist,” says Dr. Karner.
“Design thinking and agile methods can help immensely in coping with constant change.”
In recent years, the wave of digital disruption had led to unprecedented discontinuity experienced by organizations due to technological changes. One need only look at the current Covid-19 pandemic to see how digitalization has radically changed the way we live and work overnight. Businesses have had to quickly adapt their operations to survive, and many have turned to digital technologies to stay afloat.
“We see how the world is changing at an exhilarating pace and how important it is to have an open mindset to observe and adapt to change,” observes Yasmin, senior manager at EFS Facilities Services.
“You need to accommodate these changes in your business to make your product stand out in this competitive world. With digital transformation, new technologies are being created faster and faster, generating more business opportunities, which in turn generates new market insights. »
For example, Dr. Karner reveals that the digital world has spawned whole new product categories such as peer-to-peer platforms and digitization – the process of transitioning from a physical to a digital format. The ability to directly access experiences, without necessarily buying products, has changed the face of consumption, he explains. Product management had to evolve to accommodate entirely new business models, such as platform ecosystems, network forms, the disappearance of old sources of competitive advantage and the emergence of new ones.
The Changing World of Product Management
With the advent of the digital economy, the consumer landscape has changed dramatically. In the past, changing trends and tastes could take years to trickle down to the level of individual consumers. Today, however, these changes can happen almost overnight.
“The biggest challenge is that product development takes time and some technologies move quickly,” notes Dr. Karner.
“The second biggest challenge, especially in networked economies, is that the value of a product is often defined by the value of the ecosystem. As a result, the product is no longer really “designed” by a single firm, but by the vagaries of the entire ecosystem.
Yasmin manages the development of computer-aided facility management (CAFM) products called “FMPRO”, which help customize facility management services that monitor, schedule and manage its client’s work based on business priorities. . An umbrella term for the application of computer technology to the field of facilities management, CAFM systems support, automate or enhance tasks such as facility planning, space utilization analysis, real-time monitoring of maintenance work and asset management.
“While working on this initiative, I was curious to know how product management actually worked, so I enrolled in SMU’s product management course to understand all the other aspects of product management in the industry” , she says.
“The course helped me understand these steps in detail – from product portfolio strategy to launching and managing products in the market. It was well designed with insightful lectures on one module each week.”
Responsible for deliverables in her current role, Yasmin relied on the methods she had gleaned from the Product Management Method: Lean & Agile module to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for her company’s product development cycle. company. The SOP has proven to be vital for knowledge transfer and for aligning each member of his team with his vision.
The future is now
“Analytics has several huge benefits that partially offset the challenges of the digital economy,”
In the world of products, data is king. Whether it’s tracking user engagement to make better decisions about which features to build next, or using analytics to understand how customers are using a given product, data is critical to making informed decisions. But as any good product manager knows, collecting and understanding data is only half the battle – you also need to be able to effectively leverage that data to drive a product. What does this mean for today’s product managers?
“Analytics has several huge benefits that partially offset the challenges of the digital economy,” says Dr. Karner.
“When prospect data is better known, their wants and needs can be better addressed. Depending on the type of product, they also allow for better personalization. This allows us to address the “long tails” – the large number of relatively rare niche products that people want but don’t necessarily (yet) exist.
A long-tail product is one that sells low individual volumes of hard-to-find items – unlike blockbuster products that are primary cash cows and sell in high volumes. Long-tail products, on the whole, can still generate greater overall revenue.
Today, adds Dr. Karner, trends in product management are moving toward even shorter product life cycles. Companies that can read the signs of the times to produce entirely new product categories, not just products, are now thriving on their peers.
How to Navigate a Product Management Career of Tomorrow
A career in product management can be both rewarding and challenging. But how can you make sure you’re on the right path to a prosperous future in this career field? As Dr. Karner recounts, the course he leads provides the essentials of product management in the context of today’s world. It includes Design Thinking and Agile Methods, but also classic product management tools such as product lifecycle planning.
“It talks about classic products, but also touches on the economics of networks and ecosystems,” adds Dr. Karner.
“It’s a solid introduction to the subject and takes it deep into the most up-to-date approaches and questions.”
Although product development is a complex and nuanced process, Yasmin credits the course with imparting some key principles that increase the chances of success.
One of the most important is having a product mindset, while another is identifying opportunity gaps; in other words, being able to see potential areas of innovation that others might have missed. This requires being able to define the problem statement and the size of the opportunity, then designing a customer-centric and competitive product.
“I try to apply what I’ve learned, such as customer-centric product design and identifying product opportunity gaps, into my current product, to understand our customers’ pains and wins and users and keep improving our product,” shares Yasmin.
“This is just the beginning given my current roles and responsibilities, but I will continue to apply my learnings in due course.”
Find out how you can lead the entire product management process to deliver value to your customers with the SMU Executive Development Product Management program.