If done right, a product manager sits at the source of the future success of their organization. They are the experts of customer needs . Focusing on customer problems is the start of identifying opportunities for growth.
A product leader is best suited to make an impact
Trying to move the needle on business impact is at the heart of a product manager’s responsibility. As a product manager, I am working full-time on becoming THE customer expert of my organization. My goal must be to become “a personified customer advocate.” I am able to advise how to turn those insights into concrete products and services. I influence the product portfolio and have tools and processes at hand that ensure a positive business impact of any feature built.
Customer centricity means those closest to customer need to influence the direction (and not those with the manager job title)
Being close to customers is by no means the privilege of a manager nor even of the CEO. As a product leader, I must insist on having direct access to my customers. Don’t let the CEO tell you: “We have done extensive customer research. Better read that instead of wasting your time with repeating that exercise. In case of doubt, I can give you my opinion.” (And I swear you, this is what I have been told by one of my past CEOs who doesn’t want to be quoted here publicly.)
Most importantly, you must not let you be pushed into thinking about solutions to early. Or – even worse- let management dictate the features you are supposed to build. You must gain the authority to say “no” it if is justified in customer insight. Product managers are in a pole position for this. They have learned how to systematically approach the challenge of customer understanding. They know all about lean UX and therefore know how to effectively come to a solution for a given customer problem.
Being close to customer needs is a constant source for innovation
Product leaders know the problem space inside out. They also know very well the technical capabilities of their organizations. Over time they develop an acumen what is feasible with a reasonable level of investment. But they also know when a customer problem is really worth tackling. Good product leaders bring “invention” and “business value” together and create “innovation.”