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| 3 minutes read

Driving Sustainable Business Growth through Product (aka Problem) Management

Understanding the full impact of this title will require a bit of latitude as I work my way through a few concepts and learnings over the next several weeks. After spending the better part of the past decade heads down building businesses or consulting for them, I have decided to get back to publicly sharing my observations and learnings from working with clients.

Nearly five years ago I made the decision to join AlixPartners to deliberately focus on clients with larger opportunities and problems that require more complex solutions. This is an area I would occasionally encounter at Microsoft and in some of my other positions, but this was diving into a full set of high-impact situations with the very highest of stakeholders. All the M&A transactions, transformations, and optimization efforts I have supported in these scenarios have had a common thread: the company’s investment in technology was critical to driving growth.

I am a technologist by background and everything I view, assess, and diagnose in the business world is through that lens. However, I am not writing this article for other technologists, but for leaders of organizations that also believe their investment in technology is critical to their growth. I promise to not resort to any technical jargon or acronyms as I share with you what I am seeing clients struggle with and how they are addressing them.

In appreciation for your reading this far, I’ll try to help you determine whether this is something of interest by explaining this title and just what I’ll be sharing in the weeks ahead:

  • The business growth component is self-explanatory but should not be taken lightly. Every business says they want to grow but growth is not easy or free, so it is important to acknowledge that what I’m going to be talking about will be disruptive. I have found that sustained growth rarely comes from just doing better. You might have some spurts of growth that come from incremental changes, but the goal should be to drive sustainable growth. Unfortunately, growth often requires letting go and going in a different direction. Some people that you may not suspect will fear and/or resist it. You may find yourself in some very politically charged situations and I will talk about why that is and how you can overcome that, potentially even getting those people to be your strongest allies.

  • The second part of this title, Product (aka Problem) Management, is less straightforward and hopefully a more thought-provoking. There is a tremendous amount of momentum behind product management and product-centricity, and for good reason. We have come to realize that the technology initiatives driving customer value cannot be effectively managed the same way we manage IT projects. However, there is more to becoming product-centric than building orgs and executing processes in support of this thing you call a product. I have seen clients jump right into a product transformation without setting sufficient expectations or boundaries for what they are willing to invest in or what they expect to achieve.  Anyone who has been down this path knows that planning only part of the journey can be very detrimental to an organization. I will share some perspectives and lessons on how to avoid that and what to do if you catch yourself following that path.

If these are relatable topics that might be holding your organization back from driving sustainable growth, I’m writing this article for you. I won’t claim to have all the answers and I’m not positioning this as the definitive instruction manual or how-to guide. These are my perspectives and learnings but they weren’t developed on my own sitting in front of a computer. I have been very fortunate to work alongside some great colleagues with a wide variety of clients across several industries and scenarios. I have seen a lot of challenges and approaches that have and have not worked. While we as an industry too often reference a handful of gold standards out there (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft), there are many organizations of all shapes and sizes driving sustainable growth through digital products and experiences. 

Every organization has made mistakes and every organization has improvement opportunities, so it really comes down to how satisfied and confident you are with the growth your organization is realizing today. If you have the vision, I will attempt to provide some lessons and tools that could help you get there in the weeks ahead. 

Next up:  Are you a Product-centric company? Should you be?

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