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Reviewing the incredible product management insight at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference

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We have to be in deep with the customer and optimize for what they need versus what we want. Product managers must have a deeper relationship with customers so they can first understand what current pain points exist and determine their impact.

In September, I had the pleasure of attending INDUSTRY, the premier conference for product managers. What I enjoyed most about INDUSTRY—and conferences in general—is the opportunity to hear insightful presentations from a wide range of industry thought leaders, product managers and other attendees. I always appreciate the thoughtful discussions that emerge from this kind of event. At this show, there was no shortage of conversations about product strategy, product development, data and analytics, and customer development.

Here are the key messages product managers were discussing:

Successful product management requires a forward-looking vision

Ben Foster, the co-founder of the product management advisory company Prodify, talked about product vision and strategy in the real world. His main point was that your company’s vision shouldn’t be about you, but your customer. He said, "The vision needs to be bold, long-term and aspiring." Ben also pointed out that the most successful companies have visions that look five years out. His reasoning? Long-term thinking l leads to better decisions in the short-term.

As product managers, our vision needs to be rich; it should include a narrative and have depth, not one-liners or one paragraph. We can’t be afraid to evolve the vision as we go. We need to keep our five-year vision top of mind and extend it as we get closer. As Dwight. D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.”

Customer relationships are a critical new product development strategy

We all got together with David Cancel, the co-founder of Drift, to discuss the importance of building a product for the customer of tomorrow. His key message: Product managers have to lead in order to spark future-facing products. There is a distance between product managers and the customer, and we can't rely only on synthesized, second-hand information from other team members.

We have to be in deep with the customer and optimize for what they need versus what we want. How do we do that? Product managers must have a deeper relationship with customers so they can first understand what current pain points exist and determine their impact. From there, product managers can collate knowledge from a wide range of sources to identify what problems the customers may face down the road—even before the customers realize such challenges will emerge.

Perfecting timing and simplification are powerful ways to create an innovative culture

Tiffany Dockery, the Director of Product Management at Etsy, pointed out that many companies confuse being first to market with success. She shared a thoughtful, well-known quote from Wealthfront co-founder Andy Rachleff, “When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins. When a lousy team meets a great market, the market wins. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.”

In short, being an expert in timing is as critical as innovation prowess.

Tiffany also pointed out that growth at all costs is burning people out. Indeed, that’s something product managers, many of whom we spoke to at the event, can attest to. They are facing mounting pressure with limited power, and their reputation is on the line: win or fail. The most innovative organizations are finding ways to better develop products that are more streamlined and simplified. The same is true for new product development processes—the less complicated they are, the more likely a company will enjoy long-term innovation success.

If you’re a product manager, I recommend you get to the next INDUSTRY conference. It is a special opportunity for product managers to get together and share what works and what doesn’t. It often feels like product managers are kindred spirits in the same boat across different companies. It is somehow satisfying to know this.

Listen to this episode of the Innovation+ Talks podcast to hear my complete rundown of INDUSTRY.

Sopheon has recently announced a product specifically aimed to help product managers with the jobs they need to do. Many of the attendees at INDUSTRY saw this product firsthand and gave us good feedback. It is a product you can use on your own without involvement from, or contact with, Sopheon until you desire to engage further with us. You can try it for free here: Acclaim Products.

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