Guest post by Tom Fountain, CTO Pneuron
With accelerating product cycles, dynamic markets, non-traditional (and well-funded) competitors, and sky high ROI expectation, CTO’s must supercharge their “intelligence network” to raise their probability of success when designing Product strategy. There is simply no room for guesswork in this environment and a robust linkage to and from Marketing to Product Management is essential. Four critical areas are described below, each identifying where a well-targeted Marketing effort will pay major dividends in the speed, cost, and confidence in the execution of one’s Product strategy.
Through various techniques including good old Market Research, CTOs and Heads of Product Management are empowered with a keen understanding of today’s markets, customers, customer segments, use cases and value propositions. These items are some of the most fundamental inputs to developing not only a successful product strategy, but contributing to the design, build, and run of the firm itself. Take a real life example of a software company who wrestles with the fundamental decision between focusing on providing a platform versus extending its reach into the client and ultimately delivering a full solution. That decision carries tremendous consequences for the resulting product and firm strategy around product, pricing, staffing, etc. It is crucial that all available marketing disciplines are tapped to provide those necessary inputs to ensure Product strategy is aligned with the most promising opportunities.
Once one or more market opportunities are identified the next crucial step for the CTO to frame a Product Strategy that can not only be executed but also effectively communicated. Amid the clutter or new companies, overlapping areas of specialization, and various claims meant to inspire, a firm looking to establish a real foothold in that marketplace simply must stake out a position that reinforces its messages, identity, and ability to execute. In the “all connected” world first impressions are made long before any face to face meetings. Done right, positioning can create an atmosphere where prospects are “conditioned” and receptive to actually hearing what you are saying about your product. Being pigeonholed (inaccurately) by someone else can be a fatal blow to establishing your true identity and value proposition. It crates false competitors, but most critically it disrupts the thought processes an emerging firm needs on the part of prospects who are already weighed down with conventional thinking. An inspiring position statement, properly supported by targeted messages can accelerate the opportunity one has to breakthrough.
Effective two-way engagement with a firm’s target market/customer base is ever more critical in the age of always-on and ever-connected. The good and bad of universal editor status (anyone with a browser) means that an avalanche of good or bad press could be just a few keystrokes away. When a firm is engaged with its target market and user base one has a chance to promote or defend in accordance with the “news” flow being generated. Firms who are not aware of, and engaged with, the community or proponents, detractors, and everyone in between runs the risk of never catching up or counteracting the inevitable bad news or mis-quote. Done right, nurturing small seeds of opportunity could prove to provide a high yield event (and often for free).
Finally, internal competition is rampant among those with ideas competing for funding. With the advent of advanced analytics and broad data availability, it has become a norm that rich measurements and analysis of Product effectiveness are a cost of being competitive and will be used to allocate scarce resources. Such measurements and analytics serve to not only defend ones funding but may well create new unforeseen opportunities. Product Strategy decisions made in advance, with a higher degree of certainty, almost always yield superior returns. CTOs must cooperatively discuss and support a robust measurement system that delivers true insight into Product opportunities, positioning, and engagement and support focused decisions designed to deliver specific value.
The requirement for strong linkage between Marketing and Product Management is clear. Firms looking to be successful in today’s and future markets simply must engage in directed efforts to define, optimize, and measure the effectiveness of how it captures, processes, and acts on signals from the environment. Great Product Strategy must be outward-facing yet critically aligned with all components of the firm’s strategy. CTO’s/Product Managers must set the tone of their expectation and willingness to work the issue of harmonizing across these multiple business functions.
Tom Fountain is the Chief Technology Officer of Pneuron Corporation. In this role, Fountain provides leadership of marketing, pre-sales and product management with focus on product strategy and positioning in the Enterprise market and working closely with customers to develop innovative solutions to their most pressing and complex business needs. Fountain joined Pneuron in late 2012 as the company was accelerating its entry into the Enterprise market, and brings over 20 years of experience in large multi-national companies, industries, and roles. Tom combines over 10 years in senior CIO leadership roles with proven expertise at improving business through programs which integrate information technology, organizational development, and process improvement techniques.