What is the hardest part of being a product leader? Here is episode 18 of the CPO Rising Series, featuring ChargePoint CPO Bill Loewenthal. Bill sits down with Products That Count CPO Renée Niemi to talk about the hardest part of being a product leader. A main thread in the conversation is that building great products includes building the systems around the product. All of that needs to work. In order to architect those systems, a product leader needs good prioritization systems in place. And that is a great clue to answer the question at the top of this blog.

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On architecting the systems around products

“What is as difficult as defining and creating the product is everything that goes around the product. I’m in a business of which we’re providing a solution that lives in the ground for a decade, with really high network effects, and is essential in people’s daily lives. And so the effective channel distribution, deployment and installation. The depth of the ability to monitor, diagnose and fix things. Those are all in the product sphere, about how we architect our system. But also how we architect the systems around the products. And increasingly now we’re in a very, very early market. How to think about the 360 view of the product experience? What the product is being hired to do is one aspect of this. But the other aspect is, who are the constituencies that you are serving or interacting with? And who are the constituencies that you are relying on to deliver?

“Think about electric vehicle charging. If you haven’t driven an electric vehicle yet, you will. You just don’t know it. And it’s quite an exhilarating drive from a driver perspective. From an organization serving charging, it’s becoming essential for their employees, for their tenants, for their fleets to make their daily ability to deliver people or packages. So all the things that go around that are very complicated, and essential, and very integrated.”

On the hardest aspect of being a product leader

What is the hardest aspect of being a product leader? Prioritization.

“It’s probably the hardest aspect for product leaders, because we’re a bit of the referee. So we have to hold true, what we know we need to deliver, to scale the business, and to serve and activate the market. So there is what drives the core products, that benefits all. And that’s kind of one of the first sorts that we do. 

“Another sort is, what are the critical business enhancements that make the business run faster to scale? The digital journey, the automation of things, so that less people are in a transactional process that ultimately delivers a better customer experience. That’s another dimension to this. In our business, there’s a lot of compliance attributes to what we do. We combined MOSCOW and RICE. And we’re continuing to perfect how we do it. You want to do it quantitatively. But you can’t rely on that wholly. 

“Oftentimes, in every business, you’re gonna get specific customers that are asking for things. And that’s wonderful. And I do believe that you want to be pulled by your customer, especially in early markets. But you want to really listen carefully. And make sure the customer is asking for something that’s unique to what they need. Or does it signify something that your other customers need too? And so that’s another aspect. Because if it’s something that, of course we should be doing this, or it was already planned in the roadmap, but someone’s requested it earlier. Those are other things that would affect our prioritization.”

On what makes a great product

So what makes a great product?

Bill says, “It does what was hired to do. The product designer knew what it was being hired to do. So I think that’s incumbent on the designer. I think the experience grows with time. And so how do you take and serve both a basic user and an advanced user, and help guide the user to get more value and utility over time? Another reason I like businesses that have a connected device experience is you can grow that experience. That creates a really unique experience between the company and the user or the consumer. Then I think what also goes with a great product is that everything that goes around the product is there. And that’s really hard.”

About the speaker
Bill Loewenthal ChargePoint, SVP Product Member
About the host
Renee Niemi Products That Count, Reisdent CPO
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