In this episode of Product Talk, Host Nikki Ahmadi invites Hubspot Product Director Louise Bernstein to discuss the differences between being a product manager and a product owner.
Louise Bernstein is the Director of Product at Hubspot. A dynamic product leader with over 15 years experience driving product creation, her previous role was Sr. Product Manager at Altify, where she enabled their customers to systematically grow their revenue through install base selling. Prior, she held the role of Global Product Manager at Verisk 3E, where she pushed the product line’s global scope to include Europe and Asian markets and expanded its footprint further through integration with partner applications. As an avid industry speaker, her recent engagements include INDUSTRY Europe (Dublin), ProductSense (Moscow), and Product-Led World (Amsterdam).
When working in a team setting, communal recognition of the decision-making hierarchy goes a long way to achieving a successful lifecycle. However, when the roles themselves remove risk accountability, lower buy-in from team members can lower product quality itself. It’s the responsibility of product leaders to ensure that every member of the team feels product ownership.
In this week’s podcast, Hubspot Product Director Louise Bernstein elaborates on what it means to be a product owner, and how that role may shift depending on circumstance, challenge, or situation.
On starting with the customer
This is a topic that should live at the front of every product manager’s mind. If a product is being built without engagement from the user, then who is it really being built for? Louise shares her thoughts on why every conversation regarding customer experience should, in fact, start with the customer.
“When anyone starts a conversation of improving customer experience, the first thing I ensure we start with is the current state of the experience. Meaning, what’s your understanding of how people are experiencing your product today. Time and time again, I see people piece research together to gain a perspective without a meaningful, thoughtful process to get that baseline. It’s critical though, because only then can you see your product from the customer’s eyes. You have to really walk in their shoes as they’re using what you’re selling.”
“It needs to be a dedicated part of how you operate. Unless you’re a truly touchless product, a large chunk of your customers’ experience is also the people that support them. From prospect right through to contract with you. So customer experience is not just about the thought or your building. It’s the whole company experience – people and code.”
“There are various ways you can hear from your customers, such as NPS or customer journey mapping. They’re all important to keep tabs on so you have a nice idea of the macro, as well as the micro picture. For example, mapping is great for macro, while NPS is especially great for micro-interactions.”
On the nuances of product ownership
This is a concept that can be difficult to nail down within product teams. In the abstract, every member of a team should have buy-in or product ownership. Since teams encompass an astonishing array of disciplines, however, smooth execution can benefit from one person having the final say. So how do product leaders encourage motivation from all team members without creating too many chefs in the kitchen? Louise shares her method for highlighting knowledge and discipline through the concept of passing the ownership baton.
“To me, a Product Manager is the person who owns a vision, mission, and defines success. They really make sure that the company is ready to support and market your product, so very much strategic in nature. Product Owner, on the other hand, is more involved in the execution of the development lifecycle. This would be about running order of events, user story writing, and logistics.”
“Where I like to position Product Owner now, however, is that the role is not just one person. It’s owned by the full team. I feel that if one person is defined as Owner, there’s no risk engagement by the other team members. As a result, they have less feeling of accountability. This is risky because, at the end of the day, ownership really is motivation.
“When I say the role is shared, I mean that depending on what activity the team is working on, the right person should be leading the way. For example, if there’s a debate going on, the tiebreaker persona would change depending on the issue. A PM is a tiebreaker on a priority or when solving the value of something. The Product Designer, however, would really broker a discussion on user experience, or an engineer would do similar on feasibility. In other words, you can’t ask a product manager or designer to remove a technical roadblock between engineers. That should be the engineer, which makes them the product owner in that scenario.
About the speaker
Louise Bernstein is the Director of Product at Hubspot. A dynamic product leader with over 15 years experience driving product creation, her previous role was Sr. Product Manager at Altify, where she enabled their customers to systematically grow their revenue through install base selling. Prior, she held the role of Global Product Manager at Verisk 3E, where she pushed the product line's global scope to include Europe and Asian markets and expanded its footprint further through integration with partner applications. As an avid industry speaker, her recent engagements include INDUSTRY Europe (Dublin), ProductSense (Moscow), and Product-Led World (Amsterdam).
About the host
Nikki is a cloud and software product Director who works with a global team of talented engineers and architects in designing and implementing innovative solutions from product inception to production. After spending over a decade working in product engineering and management for multimillion dollar technology and start-up companies, Nikki believes what truly drives innovation is not only a commitment to technological breakthroughs but also people’s passion in improving everyday lives by building products that leave a lasting impact, disrupt the industry, and are vehicles of change, while providing the best user experience. When Nikki isn’t working on her next big product release or entrepreneurial endeavors she is spending much needed time with friends and family discussing the latest politics, or simply the meaning of life. She’s an adventurous traveler who also enjoys capturing moments through photography. Nikki also holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering , M.S. in Electrical Engineering and has a corporate innovation certificate as part of the LEAD program.