Welcome to the fourth in a five-part series introducing the categories for the Products That Count 2022 Product Awards. These episodes feature the five members making up the product-forward powerhouse team that is the 2022 Awards Advisory Board.

Last time, we heard from Indeed.com Senior International Product Lead, Iryna Krutenko, on Level Up Scale and Complexity. In this talk, fmr Transformco Product Director Maheep Bhalla introduces the Responsive Product Accountability category for the 2022 Product Awards.

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On data and evolution of the PM role

The role of product manager has been quickly evolving over the last decade. Gone are the days (for the most part) when PMs are confused with project managers, and also gone are the days when PMs were expected to simply execute a product plan handed down from elsewhere within the organization. Now the role of PM is both strategic as well as tactical. And while PMs have always been data oriented, now metrics and KPIs are even more in focus, and are seen as a clear value add within companies.

“In regard to the category of Responsive Product Accountability, with the focus on the Chief Product Officer role as both a strategic and tactical partner, what are the tools that help the CPO do their job that much better? What are the tools that help them inform the next set of product iterations? What are the tools that help them execute against the KPIs? And then what are the tools that are consistently measuring in the background and suggesting improvements based on the data that was gathered? And then of course, there are tools that go above and beyond and simply delight their users.”

On Responsive Product Accountability superpowers at the 2022 Product Awards

Often, PMs have so many choices about what to do next, the key question becomes which of those things will truly matter? The beauty of the Responsive Product Accountability category for the 2022 Product Awards is that it rewards products that help PMs choose those next steps by informing product iterations, executing on KPIs, suggesting improvements based on data, as well as going above and beyond by providing some of these features “out of the box.”

“First and foremost, I daresay we should be building something that truly solves business problems, where we are not just building products for the sake of building, but we are building something that solves the customer’s problems, the user’s problems. This is the first superpower in this category. What are the tools that help you identify gaps? What are the tools that help you truly focus on the user’s problems? What are the problems that you prioritize above any of the others for solving? These are the tools that help you do that. This could be qualitative data that you’re gathering from surveys, or this could be quantitative data. This could be your own data, where you are getting this from your customer success team. What is it that we should be building? What is it that we should be improving in the product to make it better?

“Once we have identified what customer problems to solve, we define KPIs which will tell us whether we have solved the customer problem. So when we propose a solution, we always have an idea in mind that will tell us whether that execution has been successful. However, the data to help determine success hasn’t always been easy to come by. We’ve needed to jump through hoops and collate data from various teams. But some new tools do it really well. Especially in the last couple of years, there have been sets of tools which provide product metrics and product KPIs out of the box. These can be custom, relying on data sources from within your organization, or these can be directly built into the product. 

“Then, suggesting product iterations based on data is more tactical. Once we have started capturing the user product interaction, we truly have an opportunity in identifying the gaps. How are users interacting with our solution? How are they able to solve the problems? Are they able to get through to the tools in time? And when they are able to get through to the tools, are they actually interacting with those? Is the solution we built for them actually moving the needle? Which products can tell us how far have we moved the needle? Or what do we need to change? That’s the superpower for this iteration of the Product Awards. Once you have built the first iteration, or the second iteration, how do you continue to improve your solution?

“The fourth superpower, ‘delight users by going above and beyond,’ rewards products that provide those reports out of the box in a way that it’s not just passive reporting: the insights are built in. And that’s why this is about delight. This is truly about that ‘aha’ moment where I realize, as a product manager, I can save time by using these tools. So it simply delights me, and I daresay that’s why it’s my favorite superpower for next year’s Product Awards.”

On what makes a great product and PM

“What makes a great product? Number one, the product should solve a user’s problem. There is a reason why that product was being built. There was a problem or there was a need, and the product solved that problem or the product catered to that need. Number two, and this has been a recent addition to my thought, is that it should build a sustainable enterprise by solving that problem. We all have seen examples where there has been the model where let’s just throw money at the problem. And eventually it will be a sustainable enterprise. That doesn’t work for the majority. So the second piece around it is, when the product solves the user’s or the customer’s problem, does it build a sustainable business around it? 

“What makes a great product manager is a mix of professional and vocational skills. Professional skills are the hard sciences behind the role of a product manager, using data to make decisions. And then using data to be able to make your point when you’re working with the other stakeholders, when you’re convincing the other teams. It’s the ability to be based in fact, instead of just opinions, when you are making product decisions. 

“The vocational skills are like an art; they get better with practice. And those vocational skills are the non scientific aspects, the soft skills of being a product manager. How do you lead without authority? How do you convince other stakeholders to see the product solutions from your perspective? How do you convince other stakeholders when there are competing priorities?

“So both of these skills together, the professional aspect of it and the vocational aspect of it, come together into making a great product manager.”

About the speaker
Maheep Bhalla AT&T, Product Management Lead Contributor

Maheep is a customer-focused Product Leader. He believes that a Product Manager wears multiple hats but should always champion the voice of the customer.

About the host
Patrick Blute Transfix, Director of Brand and Sustainability

I am the Director of Brand & Sustainability for Transfix, a leading transportation solutions provider, combining tech and a best-in-class carrier network to reshape the future of freight. I am also a host for Product Talk helping bring product leaders together to answer the question: "What makes a great product?"

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