10 / Evolution of the Product Manager Role
The product manager role has been around for decades, but its contributions have been generally overlooked and misunderstood. No longer is that the case, according to the 2019 State of Product Leadership report, prepared by Pendo + Product Collective.
In this episode, hosts Sean and Joe speak with Pendo chief marketing officer Jake Sorofman about the recent reports and the continuing evolution of the product manager role. “It’s a role on the rise,” Jake says, “but also one in a state of transition. It’s only in the last 10 years that product management has really come into focus as a very strategic part of the business.”
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Jake Sorofman is CMO of Pendo, a Raleigh, NC SaaS company that provides insights, guidance, and communication for digital product teams. Before Pendo, Jake was VP and chief of research at Gartner, Inc., where he focused on CMO topics and marketing trends. Prior to that, he spent 16 years in marketing leadership roles with venture-backed software companies.
Joe: [00:00:00] OK so Sean, we’re here today with Jake Sorofman, and he’s the Chief Marketing Officer over at Pendo and that is a tool we are hearing a lot about in the product space of companies starting to use to better serve their users.
Sean: [00:00:13] Super excited to have you here, Jake. We met at the product conference awhile back. Thanks for joining us today.
Jake: [00:00:18] My pleasure Sean. Good to be here.
Joe: [00:00:20] So Jake if you could just start off, you know typically how any podcast starts off, by introducing yourself. Tell us a little bit more about Pando and what your role is.
Jake: [00:00:28] You bet. So my name is Jake Sofofman; I’m CMO of Pando. I joined Pando about 18 months ago and before that I spent five years as a Gartner analyst. I was V.P. and Chief of Research of digital marketing and CMO practice at Gartner. And that was a bit of a left turn in my career. I had spent previously about 16 years with venture-backed software companies, so I returned to my roots and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
Joe: [00:00:55] Awesome. So what we wanted to talk to you about today is, you’ve put out, Pendo and you obviously steering it, have put out this State of Product Leadership survey and really talking about, you know, product management, product leadership….
Jake: [00:01:09] Yep.
Joe: [00:01:10] Just everything having to do with it. And so we wanted to talk through what we saw on the results there. But why did you feel it was important or needed to kind of put out the survey?
Jake: [00:01:20] Yeah that’s a good question. I am a content marketer by philosophy and inclination and what I mean by that is I think it’s really important to start with what’s at stake for the audience you’re trying to reach, and I really tried to authentically deliver something of value to serve that community. And the community we serve is product management. Product managers use Pendo to better understand their users and to guide their users within their products. So we’ve made a pretty significant investment in premium content in the form of editorial content in our site, productcraft.com, and e-books, and primary research reports like this as a way to deliver something back to the community we serve. And that’s really what the spirit is behind State of Product Leadership. This is the second year we’ve run the survey and we’re sampling about 300 product managers in North America. And it’s always just very interesting. It tends to feed us all year long as we look to tell stories around sort of the data and the findings and the trends that we see in the product management community. You have to remember for Product Management as a role, while it’s been around for a long time, it’s often been really misunderstood and sort of neglected in some ways. And it’s only in the last, say 10 years, that product management has really come into focus as a very strategic part of the business. Of course this is arguable but this is my observation where companies are seeing it as a key lever of growth. And this is our way of trying to better dissect that role and help product managers themselves to more effectively grow their careers and execute the functions that they’re responsible for.
Joe: [00:02:59] Very cool. So I looked through the 2018 edition, I looked through the 2019 edition, and I have some questions for you here about some of the specific aspects of what changed over time and what was consistent, but just for you personally, what was the biggest surprise you noticed year over year?
Jake: [00:03:15] So last year I’d say that the narrative was of a role on the rise. Product Management is sort of fast becoming one of the new “it” roles. The way I like to frame it is, newly minted MBAs used to beat a path to Wall Street or hedge funds or management consulting, and now they want to be product managers at SAS companies in Silicon Valley. That feels new and different. So there’s a lot of heat and light being drawn to this discipline and a lot of demand and interest in product management. So we saw a lot of signs that this was a role that’s taking on more strategic importance, a role that is clearly in demand. That continues in the 2019 edition, but we also see a role that may be somewhat in transition as product managers sort of reconcile the fact that they’ve been given a lot of responsibility, but in many cases, they simply don’t have a ton of authority. It’s a discipline where you lead through influence not formal authority and that can lead to some degree of frustration. And we saw some of that frustration in the findings in the survey.
Joe: [00:04:24] Got it. That’s interesting comment about Wall Street and kind of those types of jobs, wanting to go towards product management. You know, something I hear a lot, something that my team asks me and our company in general and I talk to a lot about with other product managers is, “do I need to be technical? Like how technical do I need to be? Do I need to know how to write code, do I need to know how the server architecture works, like where’s the line?” What did the survey show in terms of product managers needing or wanting to be technical or not.
Jake: [00:04:50] So last year… This is always a very controversial question. It’s fairly polarizing. People take very strong positions for and against this. But last year we found that the majority of product managers were coming from a non-technical background. By and large they were coming from, you know, in undergraduate or graduate program studying business, they were coming out of marketing as their most recent last job, and this year we found that more often than not product managers have a technical degree of some sort. They have studied something more technical, either computer science, engineering, or the hard sciences; and less so business, liberal arts, et cetera. But we also find that their last job was was marketing, so that held true year over year, but we are seeing a bit more respondents tell us that they have more of a technical background. Now whether a product manager needs to be technical, if you ask me, I think it really depends. I think they need to be technical enough to have credibility with an engineering team, their core constituency. If they don’t have credibility with engineering they’re going to have a really tough time doing their job effectively. But whether they need to be technical beyond that I think depends on how technical the product is and how technical the buyer is. To the extent that it’s a technical product sold to a technical buyer, I’d argue that there is a stronger case for them to be truly technical themselves. They need to understand the domain.
Sean: [00:06:17] Cool. I was super interested to see, I think it was in 2018, this changed: in 2018 only 1 percent of product managers had a design in a creative background, but in 2019, it looked like there are a bunch more coming from UX and design. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. What do you think about that? Why do you think that occurred?
Jake: [00:06:34] Yeah. Go figure. It’s an interesting one for sure. The best I can make of that, is that, and we see this at Pendo ourselves, we have a good sized and very progressive product management team, many of whom came from UX backgrounds and they’ve moved from design into sort of bonafide product management. But it makes some sense if you think about it because design is so so critical to great products these days. Innovation is moving up the stack, like every layer gets commoditized from infrastructure to platform to the functionality itself. And now the innovation is often found in how that functionality is rendered and how it’s made available to users in a way that’s simple and inviting and delightful and intuitive. I think of it as almost like the Apple Effect. It’s like great product design from companies like Apple, or frankly Uber or Lyft or Amazon or any great companies, consumer companies, that have really figured out how to deliver simple and intuitive user experiences, are sort of putting the onus on the rest of us to do that much better. Because our users are arriving to our product with different expectations and these are expectations that are shaped not by their next best alternative, which is to say, other available solutions to that problem, but by their last best experience, and often those experiences are happening in their consumer life. So that’s a very long way of saying that I think UX and design are just absolutely critical to how we think about great products today.
Sean: [00:08:06] Sure. No doubt that’s rapidly changing in the market. The expectations of consumers are definitely getting more and more demanding around good design, right.
Jake: [00:08:15] Absolutely.
Sean: [00:08:16] The other thing I saw in 2018 was that most companies don’t have a dedicated product division or Chief Product Officer.
Jake: [00:08:24] Yeah. One of the one of the interesting findings over last year was that Chief Product Officers are on the rise. Last year I believe something like 6 or 7 percent of companies reported having a CPO or equivalent to sort of the senior most product leader reporting up to the CEO within their organization. And this year it was about three times that. And it seems like, you know, traditionally marketing has been the reporting line for product management. And still it is the dominant reporting line for product management. But increasingly we see product gaining a seat at the table and represented by an executive in the C Suite, which I think makes a lot of sense and frankly we see it as sort of the marker of a mature product organization is having that seat at the table and that sort of C-level equivalency within the executive team.
Joe: [00:09:17] So to that end, with the CPO reporting directly up into the CEO, do you think that having still such a strong presence within marketing is just because of tradition of, “hey we have digital products, we have software products, they should go to marketing.” Do you think that’s what’s causing that?
Jake: [00:09:32] Well I think marketing in many organizations owns the voice of the customer and really has a deep understanding of the markets they serve and the need states they’re solving for. So I do think that there’s some wisdom in having product management aligned to marketing if not reporting to marketing. Yeah, it makes some sense. I think it’s the more progressive variant than having product management roll up to engineering. Ultimately Product Management is an iterative and exploratory process of solving for problems over time and that requires deep insight into customer need and deep insight into markets. You don’t know the answer until you know the answer, and getting closer to that insight is what’s so critical. I think the reason that having a CPO is better still is because it gives product more influence and strategic decision-making within the company. And many companies are recognizing now that product is kind of the new battlefield. Like you can’t hide behind a false brand promise. You need to deliver an exceptional product and an exceptional product experience and without that you’re quickly discovered and stamped out. So getting it right really really matters.
Joe: [00:10:41] I mean, Sean, we talk about kind of the fourth dimension of competition. You know, you’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to have quality…
Sean: [00:10:49] When I was in business school, they taught you that there’s this thing called the trade off triangle, right. Quality, speed, and price you got to choose two, it can’t be all three.
Jake: [00:10:55] Right. Exactly.
Sean: [00:10:56] The reality is the internet and product and consumer expectations because of the Internet has changed all of that. Like if you’re not high quality everyone your customers has a bullhorn called the Internet, right.
Jake: [00:11:08] That’s exactly right.
Sean: [00:11:09] There’s nowhere to hide. So it’s like almost perfect transparency. We’ve all got these things in our pockets called smartphones and we can find solutions in a heartbeat. So those are off the table. You have to be high quality. You have to be fast. Are we all racing to zero as some would argue? You know Starbucks has changed the market and they charge five dollars for a cup of coffee. That was unheard of 10, 15 years ago, right.
Jake: [00:11:29] Right. Right.
Sean: [00:11:30] They’re not selling you a cup of coffee, they’re selling you an experience. And we all have to come to grips with that fact that we’re a product of the experience we produce. That’s it.
Jake: [00:11:38] Couldn’t agree more. Well said.
Sean: [00:11:40] How everything else adds up to that: the quality of our products and services the speed that we deliver them and the experience we provide, that’s basically how we are able to come to a fair price in the market. My opinion.
Jake: [00:11:52] Yeah. And I think it’s part of that evolution up the stack where the battlefield has shifted, sort of progressed up the stack and it’s progressed from, you know, features to the experience that you wrap around those features both in the design of the product that you’re delivering as well as the value added experience that you provide as an organization. Sometimes that’s within your application itself. That’s one of the interesting things that we found, and one of the things frankly propelling our growth as a company is that there are aspects of sales and marketing and support and training that are moving into the application because the experience itself is increasingly digitally led and self-service. It’s not wrapped around the product through other customer touch points, but it’s inside the product and that needs to be enabled in a really elegant way that’s aware of who you are as a user and where you are in the journey and what your specific need might be.
Joe: [00:12:46] Yeah I love the way you phrased that; it’s all moving into the product, because we’re seeing that as well with our clients. They’re thinking about how to move all these cross-channel experiences just into the product. Just move it all in there.
Jake: [00:12:56] Totally. Absolutely. 100 percent. So if I had to pick one part of the survey that I found to be the most interesting, it was that in 2018, the respondents mentioned that their roadmaps were being largely driven, like largely, by competitors. And this year it seemed to swing back and it’s again more about the customers. That was very good to see, from my opinion.
Jake: [00:13:16] It felt like progress.
Joe: [00:13:18] Yeah, yeah. So what do you think was, any reasoning behind that, do you think? Or what was causing that?
Jake: [00:13:23] It’s really hard to tell. Data is going to vary year over year across samples, even though we drew a very similar sample, but there’s always going to be some noise in the data. So it’s entirely hard to tell. But I think that where it belongs is where it landed and that’s that, you know, the customer is dictating of priorities. But I will caveat that, I think that that can become, you know, if you’re too beholden to explicit customer feedback, you can become somewhat whipsawed and sort of wagged by customers who aren’t necessarily thinking about the problem as deeply as you might be or may not have the objectivity to think about it as clearly as perhaps you can or perhaps a whole constellation of customers can.
Sean: [00:14:05] Or your team.
Jake: [00:14:06] Or your team, exactly.
Sean: [00:14:08] I was super excited to see, in 2018, you didn’t even ask. Like it wasn’t even one of the options to choose brainstorming or internal suggestions and requests.
Jake: [00:14:17] Right.
Sean: [00:14:17] And those are two options that showed up in 2019. I know in one of your articles I read you mentioned Steve Jobs’ distain for focus voice groups and customer voice as a negative thing, but I think he was onto something there, in that your customer only experiences, they have one single thread of experiences with you. and your product, right.
Jake: [00:14:35] That’s it exactly.
Sean: [00:14:37] But your people, your marketers that are out talking to lots of customers (hopefully), and your salespeople that are out talking to lots of customers (hopefully), your service people, your delivery people, your, you know… The people that are talking to lots and lots of customers every single day: they know where the skeletons are hidden and they know where your customers might find enjoy or where they might be frustrated. And if we can figure out.. We run these it’s one of things we do these one day workshops, that work through a bunch of processes that kind of suck that customer, that juice, out of their minds to come up with some ideas to really think about.. And and to create empathy for the customer right, because the more empathy you can create, the more care and concern for your customers you can create in your organization, the more powerful your organization becomes. So I was excited to see that show up in the 2019 results.
Jake: [00:15:20] I love how you put that. I am a big believer that, I think product management is as much or more about synthesis than it is analysis. And synthesis, there is a lot of art that goes into synthesis. It’s about pulling together lots of data streams and sources of feedback and inspiration and pattern matching and then adding your own subject matter expertise and your own instinct. And that’s really where great products come from. It’s not from being explicitly driven by customer feedback or explicitly driven, for that matter, by this rare visionary genius that’s represented by the Steve Jobs archetype of someone who can see around corners and better understand the customer need than they can. It’s a combination of all these things.
Sean: [00:16:07] And experimentation.
Jake: [00:16:09] For sure.
Sean: [00:16:10] Hey I got a question for you. So I went back and read a bunch of things that you’ve wrote in the past, so if I bring up something from your past articles and it embarrasses you I apologize.
Jake: [00:16:19] Oh no. No worries. All good.
Sean: [00:16:23] Just kidding. I read an article you wrote that claimed that you’re an introvert, so, funny that you’re in a CMO position and on this podcast.
Jake: [00:16:28] Yep yep. True story.
Sean: [00:16:32] And you also mentioned earlier about what makes a good product owner and a good product manager. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d like to give my community access to some of your thoughts on why you think introverts could be really good product managers because I thought there was a lot of great insight in that article.
Jake: [00:16:48] I appreciate it. So I’m trying to think back around my arguments I believe I argued in favor of introverts as the better product managers, and let me give this a shot. First of all, I’ll say that I’m sort of an extroverted introvert. I don’t think that every introvert looks alike and I think that the way I draw the distinction between introversion and extroversion is, where do you find energy? And my energy is found in quieter moments, more solitary moments. I’m happier probably on average reading and writing and thinking and at that sort of self reflection. It’s not to say that I don’t find energy otherwise, it’s just, it’s more of a continuum. But anyway, as it relates to the product management discipline, I think that those quiet moments, that ability to go deep and to focus and to reflect yields, at least in my personal experience, which is all I have, better insights because you give time and space to those thorny issues. You’re willing to give time and space to those thorny issues to sort them out and make sense of them and go deep and go into the dark places to better understand them. I’d also add, you know, you mentioned empathy. I think empathy is the cornerstone characteristic of a good product manager and without it you’re nowhere. Empathy is a willingness and ability and genuine aptitude or instinct to really recognize the pain and problem in your customer’s life, and even more than that, to want to solve for it. Great product managers are nearly obsessed with solving for a customer pain and wanting to make their life better in some small way.
Sean: [00:18:21] I love that. I’m a big, as Joe can tell you, I’m a big fan of empathy and empathy training and really understanding what empathy means. I’ve read a lot of stuff from Daniel Goleman. Social intelligence, emotional intelligence, I love that stuff. I think that there’s two key scales of empathy and there’s different types of empathy. One is this capacity for caring, and the two key attributes of a great product leader, I believe, are the capacity to care and the capacity to influence which is defined as emotional intelligence.
Jake: [00:18:49] Brilliant.
Sean: [00:18:50] When you tackle those two scales really, really well… And, the other part of great product leadership is not just having the capacity to care and having the capacity to influence but actually putting them in action and pulling your team up, getting your developers to care about your customers and the product, getting your QA people to care, getting your marketers to care. Right, to care about the people and the users of the product, not just the dollars and the revenue that it’s going to bring in.
Jake: [00:19:14] I love that.
Sean: [00:19:14] Just putting the right metrics in place around that is amazing.
Jake: [00:19:18] Yeah. I think to the extent that you can transfer that empathy across the organization that’s what leads to great companies. I really, really like that.
Joe: [00:19:27] All right, watch this transition. So speaking of that, the survey actually showed that product managers are becoming more and more tactically focused.
Jake: [00:19:36] Yeah.
Joe: [00:19:36] Being more in the weeds doing day to day things and they’re not really focusing on the vision much. But if you’re going to be able to communicate to your team and get them to understand the customer and how to empathize with them, you’ve got to help them with the vision. You know, “who are these users? What does success look like? What are we trying to get done here in the world?” So isn’t it a huge risk for our role in product management that product managers are spending less and less time on the vision and more on the tactical side?
Jake: [00:19:59] I don’t think so. First of all, I think product management requires a blend of both. Like most things, there isn’t an either/or. It’s and/and. But I think that division comes from the hard work of the doing and there is a lot of doing in product management. It can be a bit of a grind. There’s a lot of detail that needs to be managed. I think that the better product managers that I’ve worked with are willing to live in that detail and willing to suffer the pain of that detail, and in doing so, they create better products, they create more predictable product delivery, they create more sort of functional relationships with their engineering counterparts and the vision comes from the knowing. Like, when you’ve been able to live in that detail, because Product Management is a discipline of synthesis, it’s about pattern matching, there are insights that are revealed and the vision is sort of the sum of the parts of all that detail. I think the mistake is that when product managers look at this as something that is more like the jobs in archetype where you just show up and you sort of can see around corners and have this rare instinct without having to dig into that detail, that’s what leads to foolish decisions because you’re too far removed from the actual doing of the job itself. So I think it’s this weird combination of both where the vision comes from actually being in the in the weeds.
Joe: [00:21:20] Yeah. I think that’s going to help a lot of people to hear that. It’s a grind some days, like it really, just getting in there and being in the weeds for a while to get get it done. Get the job done.
Jake: [00:21:28] Totally.
Joe: [00:21:29] And you know, you talked about alignment a little bit there. Internally here, we’ve been talking a ton about, with our teams, what are the big trends, what are the bigger issues that we’re seeing in our jobs here? And more and more that our product team is working on is just aligning so many different stakeholders nowadays and making sure that they’re all on the same page, you know, one team, one dream here, trying to the product delivered. And we saw that a little bit in the survey too.
Jake: [00:21:53] Yeah absolutely. And one of the surprising findings perhaps is that product managers saw that sales, marketing, UX, design, have more important points of alignment than engineering. On the surface that might feel a little alarming, but as you dig into it, it’s also revealed that they feel pretty well aligned with engineering. I think they feel like there’s more work to be done in some of those other functions. Customer success came up as an area where there might be a bit of a gap. I think that’s a really interesting one. In a sense, product management and customer success are becoming kind of like the sales and marketing alignment. Like you need to get that right for the business to function. And that’s because, in a SAS-based world, you need to continue to renew loyalty. You need to continue to deliver value and delight. It isn’t one and done. And customer success is so close to the customer, so close to the renewal, and the feedback that they get and the early signals that they’re able to detect are so important to be brought back into the product management process to ensure that the product is getting better and better in conjunction with that sort of signal as it’s being revealed.
Sean: [00:23:06] Yeah. So the key measures that we have for our product success are what we call “trust, loyalty, and advocacy,” and we’ve actually come up with a way to define specifically, what does that mean? What does that customer journey look like? And when your customers are behaving as advocates, they do things for you, like they volunteer to be a beta tester or they will give you constructive feedback on how to make the product better.
Jake: [00:23:24] You bet.
Sean: [00:23:24] They’ll basically invest in your future and that is like the holy grail, when you have an ecosystem that’s helping you build a better product at the end of the day.
Jake: [00:23:31] Yes.
Sean: [00:23:32] You wrote an article, another one from the past, on, in support of really, of NPS. I’m more in the Jared Spool camp now.
Jake: [00:23:41] Oh boy, haha.
Sean: [00:23:43] I think NPS has a place for certain types of products and services where you have such a large population of people and you don’t have a better way to get access to customer behaviors. But in our world, we’re developing software products. So we can collect actual human behaviors and measure those. So why would we interrupt somebody with a survey that really doesn’t mean anything except their sentiment at a point time? It’s not a measurement of how they would actually behave. So anyway, I’d love for you to talk about that a little bit.
Jake: [00:24:12] Yeah I feel like I continue to offer hedge answers that are essentially that it’s all of the above, but I truly feel that NPS is a really important metric. But it in and of itself is insufficient. It’s a good measure, it’s a solid measure, of advocacy, of willingness to advocate on behalf of a brand. That reveals a level of satisfaction. It’s imperfect, but it’s widely adopted. It’s very very simple. It’s one number, one question rather, and people get it, you know, they’re familiar with it. So I think the fact that it is simple and standardized counts for something, but it alone doesn’t tell you all that much. In the absence of behavioral data, you only know the what, not the why, and that’s why… So for example, within Pendo, we do allow our customers to deliver NPS surveys in product, but we also give them deep insight into how users are engaging with that product. And when you combine both of those things, the qualitative and the quantitative, you can start to really derive pretty actionable insights and answer questions like, not only, “how does my user base feel about my product?” but, “why do they feel that way? Which features are driving delight and frustration?” So it’s really the intersection of both the behavioral analytics for understanding the root cause as well as more qualitative measures of sentiment. And the final thing I’d say on that is that NPS is one of a constellation of qualitative measures that you should look at. One that I particularly like is customer effort score, which is a measure of friction within a product. And it essentially asks, “to what extent was..,” and this is maybe not the most elegantly written question as I’m phrasing it, but, “to what extent does the product solve the problem that I was seeking to solve?” And ultimately I think that that’s a really really good measure of whether it’s been a satisfying experience because it speaks directly to the need and whether the product met that need. So NPS, customer effort score, CSAT, all of the above matter, and then most importantly, pairing that with behavioral analytics to understand the root cause behind the feeling.
Sean: [00:26:20] Cool, I love it. I got one last question for you and then I think Joe has a question and then we’ll wrap up here. But one of the things that Jared Spool talks about, independent NPS, didn’t want to scare you there, is about the big bag of money that some customers come along with, right. So you’ve got a product, you got a customer that comes along with a big bag of green money and they’ll take you off vision to build this feature set for this one customer. And you guys recently, just this month or early last month, put out a report called the feature adoption report that I love. You’ve quantified, you’ve figured out how to quantify, the cost of bloat.
Jake: [00:26:53] Yep.
Sean: [00:26:53] It’s cool. So I just want to give you a chance to talk about that and what you guys found in that report.
Jake: [00:26:58] Yeah absolutely. So what you’re saying is right on. A lot of the features, most of the features we’ve found that companies deliver are just never adopted by end users or they’re never adopted or rarely used. And, you know, when you think about it from the perspective of the value of engineering resources, you know, the scarcest talent resource in the planet, and they’re spending their time building features that end users just ignore. That doesn’t feel so good. So we decided we’d try to quantify that and because we’re measuring feature adoption and measuring product usage we were able to aggregate and anonymize a lot of data to get to a statistically valid and representative sample to understand, on average, what percentage of features are adopted. We normalized it too to sort of adjust it for the impact that Pendo has on driving feature adoption and what we derived from this analysis is that 80 percent of features are rarely or never used. And when you look at that through the lens of the economic impact of those features, estimating the R&D spend for an average SAS company of being somewhere in the neighborhood of, I believe 18 or 21 percent, you can extrapolate the economic impact of those features that are never adopted or rarely used. And it’s a very big number. It’s twenty nine point five billion dollars for SAS companies worldwide.
Sean: [00:28:21] That’s crazy. I’m going to use that statistic everywhere, by the way.
Joe: [00:28:25] Very useful.
Jake: [00:28:27] Awesome. Yeah, it’s gotten a lot of attention. It’s kind of an eye-popping number and I think kind of an interesting way to put a sharp point on that idea.
Joe: [00:28:37] It’s crazy how much waste there is in software, we try to throw people in the right direction…
Jake: [00:28:41] Absolutely.
Joe: [00:28:42] All right, so last question about the survey here. So if you’re gonna put your hand to your head and turn on your psychic abilities, what do you think the 2020 version of the survey is going to show?
Jake: [00:28:53] Oh wow. So one thing I should mention about 2019 is that we saw a pretty low NPS score. It had fallen fairly significantly year over year and this was the NPS score where we asked respondents whether they would recommend their profession to a friend. By and large, they said no. That wasn’t so great to hear. But I think that it’s probably, some of that dissatisfaction is wrapped up in frustrations of misalignment, the fact that they have a lot of responsibility and don’t always feel empowered, the grind that we’ve been talking about… I think that, you know, I’m hopeful that next year we’re going to see a better NPS score, more satisfaction with the profession. I think that we’re gonna see more product management teams reporting into CPOs. I think that, whereas this last year marketing was still the dominant reporting line, I think that it’s going to tip in favor of CPOs as the dominant reporting line. And I think with that, we’ll see more strategic involvement and driving growth for the business, I think we’ll see more acknowledgement for contribution, I think we’ll see more influence in business decisions, and accordingly, I think we’ll see happier PM’s. That’s my prediction.
Sean: [00:30:02] Cool and I hope we see more and more of the product feature set being driven by behavioral metrics.
Joe: [00:30:09] Oh yeah.
Sean: [00:30:10] Right. And more insights to come from the team.
Jake: [00:30:11] Let me add one more. This is the other prediction that I’m hoping comes true next year. One of the findings that we didn’t talk about is that product managers, more than any other metric, measure success on the basis of feature delivery, of shipping features. I believe that’s the wrong metric, and this ties into the conversation that we’re having about features that go unadopted. It needs to shift downstream to KPI’s associated with adoption, KPI’s associated with retention and associated with renewal. So the metrics that matter to the business are the metrics that matter to the PM. And today that’s a little out of alignment.
Sean: [00:30:48] Agreed. Alright, last question. What book would you recommend to our audience? What’s the number one book that you recommend?
Jake: [00:30:57] Oh man. So I should betray my cynicism about business books. I don’t love them. There are a few that I’ve read over the years that have changed my life and most that have bored me to tears. The ones that have changed my life; I’d say The Tipping Point, Crossing the Chasm, A Hundred Years Ago, The Innovator’s Dilemma. These are really important books. If you haven’t read them, you should. Now fast forward to today, I read a lot, but I read outside of my domain mostly. I look to other forms of narrative to find inspiration because I think that, frankly, creativity is, or one form of creativity is, taking known ideas from one context and applying them to another.
Sean: [00:31:37] Call that idea sex.
Jake: [00:31:39] Yeah I love that. That’s great. That’s fantastic. But coming back to business books, the one that I’ve read in the last I’d say year or so that I did love was Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. If for nothing else because, A) he’s a great writer and a really thoughtful person, but also because he put so much passion into building a brand and building a great company and I don’t think it fundamentally changed him as a person.
Joe: [00:32:02] That’s a good one. We haven’t had that one yet. Very cool.
Sean: [00:32:04] I did have somebody recommend that to me recently so that’ll be the next on my list.
Jake: [00:32:08] It’s really good, really good.
Sean: [00:32:10] All right. Is there anything you want to plug for Pendo or anything you’ve got coming up in the near future?
Jake: [00:32:15] I have a couple things. So Pando has an editorial site, we publish daily content, so we have a weekly community poll, we have a point-counterpoint debate that we run weekly, and we publish articles, point-of-view articles, best practice, at productcraft.com. We also have a conference coming up in San Francisco on May 9th. It’s called ProductCraft: The Conference. So we’re trying to break the model a bit and create different, sort of interesting, spaces, more different ways to deliver insight and learning that isn’t quite as sort of dry and tired as the traditional conference experience. If you go to the ProductCraft site you’ll see a way to learn more about that conference. It’s May 9th in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts.
Joe: [00:32:58] And where can people get the survey as well if they want to look through it more?
Jake: [00:33:01] ProductCraft or Pendo.io.
Joe: [00:33:03] Sounds good. Well I thought this survey was a great idea. I went through it line-by-line, both years, just seeing what I disagreed with, what I agreed with, and I’m really pumped that you guys are putting it out and I hope to see the next version next year.
Jake: [00:33:16] Really appreciate it. Nice talking to you both.
Sean: [00:33:20] It’s really valuable work. It’s improving the practice and the craft of product development and it’s certainly been useful for our business. Thank you for your hard work on that stuff.
Jake: [00:33:28] Absolutely, our pleasure. I think we’re passionate about the same things so I’m glad we could make at least a small contribution.