Let’s say you own an air conditioner which develops a sudden issue. You are not a technical expert and can’t solve the problem on your own. But, the responsibility to get the appliance repaired is completely yours.
So, you take ownership of the situation, call the repair guys, ensure that they arrive on time, get the work done and make the payment. Job done, it’s over, and you can give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!
That’s exactly how the Product Management function works in the FinTech domain and GAIN Credit; akin to a mini CEO, Product Owners (as referred to in Agile parlance) assumes responsibility for their area, including the financial performance of the designated product/s and the strategic direction of the product roadmap, without necessarily having all the required functional subject matter expertise required in all aspects of the business .
That’s the real challenge – to align all ‘vectors’ in the same direction. And it’s quite interesting to observe how a PO manages to drive the evolutionary journey for the designated product by getting buy-in from key stakeholders.
It’s all about adopting an entrepreneurial, ownership-based mindset; aligning different stakeholders, teams and functions with the planned strategic direction for your product and ensuring that we move forward with everyone’s thoughts, plans and inputs in perfect synch.
Easier said than done, right? That’s true – donning the hat of a Product Owner (PO) isn’t really an easy task.
More than the technical and domain expertise (which is largely a transferrable asset), a truly successful PO demonstrates certain behavioral characteristics which truly set them apart as a captain of a ship that needs to be steered to its rightful destination – the challenge being to get all hands on-board to push on in the same direction, without losing sight of the bigger cause: profitability and business success!
At GAIN Credit, we truly believe that our performance is dependent on the sum of all our parts (employees) – each of whom plays a critical role in charting the success story of our organization.
Today we train the spotlight on our Product Management function; sharing our opinion on what defines the best-in-class PO, the key attributes which separate the best from the rest:
This goes without saying – truly successful POs would always display an entrepreneur’s mindset in their day-to-day operations. They realize that the ‘buck stops here’, and will ensure that there’s no lack of effort from anyone’s side to chase down the goal laid for their area.
That’s another key aspect – successful product ownership is all about listening to the voice of customers and making sure customers are treated fairly.
Be it different means of feedback, survey responses or listening to customer calls, POs need to be in tune with what customers need – so that they can ensure that the company aligns their product strategy and deliverables with what the market wants.
Expertise in aligning stakeholders
As we said, getting everyone to steer the ship in the same direction isn’t the easiest of tasks – this is where a successful PO needs to bring diverse ideas, perspectives and strategies together to ensure that they are aligned with the larger vision of achieving the financial goals for their designated area.
Explaining the objectives and deliverables clearly to different departments and functions, seeking inputs and objections (if any) and getting stakeholder buy-in on common-yet-diverse objectives are all things that a PO is expected to be an expert at.
Clear & Precise Communication
Building on the point stated above, clear and precise communication is a key facet to ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same plane with respect to objectives and goals. Therefore, POs are expected to showcase this skill in abundance while interacting across teams, functions and business units – ensuring that their messaging and communication is unambiguous, objective and simple-to-comprehend, leaving no scope for grey areas that could create pitfalls in the product roadmap.
Needless to state that great POs need to be excellent Project Managers as well. From defining the product specifications and descriptions, maintaining constant interaction with all key stakeholders, monitoring the progress of the tasks assigned and tracking performance metrics of the product vis-à-vis specified goals – a PO is expected to be on top of everything.
Data and Information Management
An interesting one.
Sample this: a chef has access to all the ingredients, recipes and condiments available. However, when he’s creating a particular dish, he needs to choose the ingredients specific to that dish and the quantity in which those ingredients are to be used – a little bit here or there could very well end up as a culinary disaster.
Much in the same way, POs are exposed to a huge data stream – a plethora of inputs and information – on a daily basis. The sense to identify what’s relevant to their objective, use the data to their advantage and share it with colleagues who can synthesize the same into actionable information is another skill which good POs are expected to possess.
Flexibility in approach, coupled with a go-getter’s attitude
In a boxing match, the man who throws the most punches doesn’t necessarily win the fight – his aggressive approach may win him a few bouts, but, ultimate victory belongs to the individual who knows when to duck the punches, take a few blows, and strike at the most opportune time.
Extrapolating this scenario to an organization, a truly exceptional PO needs to demonstrate both flexibility and aggressiveness on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the ultimate goal is achieved; if the situation calls for a little bit of a step back to seek stronger alignment with the broader organization, one should be reasonable enough to make a small compromise in favor of a larger goal. That being said, POs are also expected to challenge the status-quo and stand their ground.
Largely, ‘product ownership’ doesn’t really follow a cut-and-dried, formulaic or straitjacketed approach.
On the contrary, it’s about enjoying different challenges, reveling in a dynamic and ever-evolving scenario, and setting the pace of your organization’s progress by taking control of the wheels!
Vijay Sachidanand Ashwin Sekar
Vice President – Product Management Senior Director – Product Management
If you wish to be a part of our leading FinTech team, check out our available positions here and start a journey of self-discovery, leadership, skill development and fun with GAIN Credit!