January 28

Chief Product Officer

As digital product experiences become more important to consumers, product management has become a critical function for companies. Product managers are highly in demand. It even made the top 3 best jobs in America for 2021.  But with multiple product team members in a company, someone needs to manage them. That’s where the chief product officer (CPO) comes in. They are the c-level executive in charge of all product-related activities and reports to the CEO.

What is a chief product officer?

The chief product officer, also known as the chief of product or VP of product, is the head of the entire product department. They are in charge of all product teams and the product suite. A CPO works towards ensuring that products are created and delivered smoothly while ensuring customer satisfaction. They must also take into account business goals and ensure products are growing the company.

A CPO shares similar goals with a chief technology officer (CTO), but they have different objectives. While the CPO focuses on why a product should be made and how it makes customers happy, a CTO focuses on the technical aspects of a product.

Chief product officer definition

A chief product officer is an executive-level position that is responsible for the product suite, including strategy and execution.

CPO (Chief Product Officer) career path and 4 tips on how to become one?

Chief product officers usually start their careers by becoming junior product managers. They start to move through the ranks as they gain more expertise and experience and start to work in senior product management positions. The tips below can help you stay on a path of career growth.

Gain experience

Employers expect applicants to have a proven track record of successful product development and launches. Not only do employers expect at least 5-10 years of product development experience, but they are also looking for management experience. Since chief product officers manage a team of managers and their teams, applicants must demonstrate that they can lead a group with a shared vision.

Get at least a bachelor’s degree

It’s not a surprise that an executive position like a chief product officer needs to at least have a bachelor’s degree. Some popular undergraduate degrees in this field include economics, marketing, and information technology.

However, an applicant may be more competitive if they go beyond the minimum education requirements and earn a graduate degree. 53% of CPOs have a master’s degree or an MBA. While it doesn’t have a significant impact on your earning potential, a graduate degree seems to be highly desired by employers.

Choose a niche

Industry knowledge is a critical factor in securing a position as a CPO. Many employers look for candidates that have several years of experience working in their industry. For example, a fintech company will most likely look for applicants with a high level of financial and technology literacy.

If you are aiming to become a CPO at some point in your career, it may be beneficial to pick a specialty early on in your career. This can help prove to future employers that you are an expert in your industry.

Grow your network

Building a network can help you in a multitude of ways. Connecting and learning from your peers and product leaders can help you build your skill set in a market that is constantly changing and adapting to the consumers’ needs. Subsequently, you can also establish yourself as an expert in your field, which may lead to job opportunities like a CPO position.

What does a chief product officer do?

What does a CPO do during their day-to-day work life? The primary objective of a CPO is to facilitate the product development and management process to ensure that customer needs and business objectives are satisfied. They are involved in all aspects of the product direction, including the vision, strategy, development, and marketing. While a CPO can focus on launching a new product, they can also work on altering current products.

Chief product officer job description

A chief product officer is responsible for defining the product roadmap and strategy. They will work closely with the CEO, chief marketing officer, and other c-suite executives. They may also work with product designers, marketers, sales, and engineers to ensure the product suite meets the needs of customers while also ensuring profitability.

4 chief product officer responsibilities

The chief product officer role is primarily responsible for anything related to the company’s product suite. The CPO is also involved in every step of the product development process from ideation to launch. They are in charge of ensuring that product managers and other team members are aligned with the product vision and are executing development plans. Below are 4 responsibilities of the CPO.

Product vision and strategy

A CPO is often in charge of defining and owning a company’s product vision and strategy. This is often an exciting opportunity to shape the future of work. They get to determine why a certain product or feature gets developed and when it happens.
Oftentimes, they need to convince stakeholders to support their vision. But if the CPO bases their roadmap on business objectives and customer needs, they can set themselves up for success. If anything doesn’t align with the business mission, a CPO is responsible for making necessary changes to the product vision.

Research analysis

An important part of a CPO’s responsibilities is the ability to analyze data and research to glean insights into the customer and what they need. This type of information often drives product decisions since relying on data ensures informed decisions are being made instead of being based on an assumption.

CPOs oversee and implement strong metrics related to the product experience to gain the most accurate data. They will need a deep understanding of product management metrics, systems, methodologies, and tools to successfully analyze data.

Product marketing

A CPO also oversees product marketing. This includes ensuring product features have market positioning and messaging that resonates with customers. This makes it easier for product marketers, customer support, and salespeople to show potential customers how a new or improved product will meet their needs. Ultimately, good product marketing will increase adoption rates. But this all begins with the CPO analyzing data and recognizing customer needs.

Team management

One of the main responsibilities of a CPO is to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration among team members. They continuously work to inspire, mentor, and scale the product team. They also motivate product managers to deliver high-quality work. It’s critical to the overall success of the company to have a CPO that can encourage product teams to take ownership of their work and can communicate effectively between different departments.

6 most important chief product officer skills

A chief product officer will need a variety of skills and knowledge to successfully create and commercialize a product. Here are 6 of the most commonly identified skills that a CPO needs.

Leadership

The CPO needs to have strong leadership skills. They are ultimately in charge of multiple teams, and they need to lead the entire project management organization. They supervise managers and ensure that they have a strong team of customer-focused employees. It’s also important for the CPO to mentor their team and give them opportunities to grow and learn.

Ambitious

Being a CPO is an ambitious role. People with this job position need to embrace creativity, innovation, and experimentation. They are often in charge of executing bold business goals, and it’s important to have a strong self-starting spirit to succeed as a CPO.

Customer-first mindset

Product teams will never succeed if they don’t intimately understand the problems, needs, and desires of their customers. The CPO should be skilled in surveying and interviewing customers to identify issues the product suite can address. They will be heavily involved in looking at the customer experience and data to find how they can give customer value. This will help create product suites that are positioned for success because the data shows that the customer wants them.

Data analysis

Objective and data-driven decision-making need to be made by the CPO. Quantitative and qualitative data are used to evaluate their product and how it meets customer demand. Some metrics and KPIs that a CPO might want to analyze include revenue, profits, user activity, and adoption rate.

Excellent communicator

A CPO must have excellent communication skills. They are often in charge of discussing product strategy with internal and external stakeholders, which means they need the ability to organize and present information in a way that makes sense to the stakeholder.

A CPO also needs to communicate clearly and efficiently with various internal stakeholders to ensure that the product roadmap is executed on time.

Collaborate well with others

The CPO talks to multiple teams and stakeholders, and collaboration is crucial for product success. This usually means that a CPO builds relationships with their employees to build trust and ensure communication takes place.

Key takeaways about CPO chief

The CPO role is necessary if a company wants to scale. It is best suited for product managers that want to take their career to the next level and take more ownership of a company’s product suite. It takes years to gain the experience to succeed as a CPO, and a person will need to acquire multiple skills to manage growth effectively.

If this is a career path that you want to pursue, you should start by gaining relevant product and management experience and building a resume that demonstrates your analytical, strategic, and communication skills.

FAQs

What is a chief product officer salary?

The median salary for chief product officers is $251,201. The bottom 10% earn $194,843 or lower while the top 10% earn $306,031 or more. It’s also important to note that CPOs often get bonuses, which boosts the median salary to $314,301 when it’s included.

Who reports to a chief product officer?

A CPO can be looked at as a manager of product managers. Depending on the company hierarchy, people that report to a CPO include the director of product management, UX director, and the head of product analytics. Smaller companies may have their CPO work directly with product developers.

How long does it take to become chief product officer?

Some companies are willing to look at applicants with as little as 5 years of experience, but most companies are looking for at least 10 years of experience. Employers are also looking for demonstrated success in product development during that period.

When should I hire a Chief Product Officer?

A CPO can bridge the gap between products and customer needs. You may be ready to hire a CPO when the CEO no longer has the time for the job responsibilities, when moving from a single product to multiple products, or when you notice gaps in product development.

saranguyen

About the author

Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance content writer for B2B SaaS, telehealth, and marketing industries.


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