Product Makers Summit 2023: Top Learnings from Top Product Management Leaders
What skills make the best product manager?
What makes Diane Green, founder and CEO of VMWare, Dylan Field, founder of Figma, or Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder of Cloudflare, the product-driven successes they are today?
What made Steve Jobs ‘Steve Jobs’?
These are the types of questions today’s product managers ask themselves on a regular basis, and the questions we aim to answer in our annual Product Makers Summit. Each year, some of the best and brightest minds in the product management community come together to share their truth, their expertise, and their winning strategies with the world. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s event.
Customer-centricity isn’t just a word
The golden thread that connected every conversation in 2023 was a deep understanding of customers. But of course, customer-centricity comes with its own common questions, such as, How do you understand customers well? And, How do you know you understand your customers well?
Start off by considering how you would describe them. Would you use demographic criteria, like SMBs from a particular industry and geolocation, or can you describe them in a more detailed way that captures their underlying needs and behaviors? Here at Productboard, we segment our ICPs into two primary categories:
- Fast-growing, B2B, digital-first, high product management maturity companies that like to follow modern trends and processes, ultimately co-creating their products with their customers.
- Large, digital transformation companies that are focused on driving internal alignment between R&D and GTM teams.
As you can see, simply saying we target product managers at SMBs or Enterprise companies in various locations doesn’t cut it. We aim to understand who these companies are underneath their demographic criteria so we can best serve them.
Collaboration in action: GTM and product alignment with Lauren Creedon, Goldcast
Lauren Creedon, Head of Product at Goldcast, loves two things: Hamilton (yes, the musical) and Product-GTM alignment.
“I try to coach my team to align the product roadmap and go-to-market strategy with the market assumptions driving the operating plan,” she said. “When we’ve done that… that’s when we’ve hit and beat the forecast, so I want to help you do the same.” Lauren’s talk goes on to cover three things in depth:
- How to recognize and diagnose an alignment problem when you see one
- A toolkit for handling the diagnoses based on how Goldcast manages its own alignment efforts
- A famous story from history that will help you keep the process top of mind in a way that’s unforgettable
Well-versed in product strategies for companies from seed to series D, Creedon also highlighted the negative results of top-down intervention, broken trust, and product abandonment. Hear her solutions for these all-too-common problems here.
You should have four roadmaps, says Anna Marie Clifton of Vowel
Anna Maria Clifton, Head of Product at Vowel, knows that recommending four product roadmaps is an eyebrow raiser for many product managers, but stands strong by her process. “I know it sounds terrifying, but trust me, you follow this process and you’ll have less headache, more success for your customers, and you’ll spend way less time on the whole thing,” she said. And we believe her– she’s realized success with her approach across a number of companies, including Yammer, Microsoft, Coinbase, and Asana.
In all of her roles leading up to formalizing this strategy, Clifton explained she saw the same roadmapping processes and resulting headaches and heartaches. She wondered, why is everyone running the same processes if they don’t work?
The problem, she explained, is in having one roadmap and one roadmapping process, even though you’re actually delivering for many different users and for many different goals. “When you start trying to serve too many different users and too many different goals with a single feature, you’re bound to give a half solution that’s pretty mediocre for everyone.”
In her talk, Clifton shares her advice on rethinking roadmapping from a goals-first perspective, the way they do at Vowel. Her process includes creating a roadmap for product, sales, leadership and marketing. Hear how this innovative roadmapping strategy works here.
Making your product strategy stick with Adam Thomas, product expert
At the end of the day, the advice you take from any event is only as valuable as you make it within your organization. Unfortunately, most of us immediately resonate with a comparison Adam Thomas, product expert, speaker, and consultant made in his talk: Google Drive vs a graveyard.
So many great strategies (as well as other documents) sit in corporate drives untouched after making their big debut at a company kickoff, summit, all hands, etc. How can you make them stick?
Thomas’s approach, which he calls strategic custody, helps teams think about how to keep strategy alive by making it open to change and operational with six guiding components to consider:
- Course correction: A sticky strategy is one that iterates
- Change: A good strategy is prepared for risks
- Value chain: A strategy must consider and engage with the entire ecosystem
- Determination: A strategy should be solid enough to comfortably make bets
- Customer needs: A strategy should evolve with customers
- Purpose: A good strategy has a clear purpose that’s repeatable
“We have to keep momentum going,” he said. “People trust us to give them the information they need to make decisions. That’s what strategy is for. It helps people make decisions.”
The product makers community
The Product Makers Community is a place where people go to learn product excellence alongside their peers– 8,800+ strong and growing, to be exact. It’s free to join, and if you’re interested in speaking at an upcoming Product Makers event, we’re always on the lookout.
Whether you are a well-known product influencer, a product leader, or a first-time speaker, we’re open to exploring how we can partner together to deliver curated events including presentation-style talks, panel discussions, interview-style conversations, or workshops. Check out our application here.