You'll find it in almost every product owner's job description: "The product owner is responsible for maximizing value," or "for creating value". In order to grow, the real meaning of growth first has to be defined. After that, you can focus on execution and feedback loop.
Let's say you're working at a telecommunications company as a product owner, and you are responsible for the television guide. Your task is maximizing value and value is, according to management, 'more turnover'. So, what on earth do you put on the top of your to-do list?
It could be a better product, it could be a higher turnover per customer, it could be better customer experience; what growth means in the case of your product or service depends on your strategy and differs per organization. In order to realize growth, you will need a more extensive description than "we want more turnover," or "we want to save costs." If you don't, there won't be any focus, which leads to fragmentation.
Looking for growth drivers
In order to realize growth, you will have to find out what will lead to growth for your product or service: growth drivers. You can do this in workshops in which you bring management and product owners together. You break down the target, such as a higher turnover or more users, to concrete targets for every product owner. This creates a growth driver tree: a kind of organogram for growth.
It is a way of looking at your product that stems from business administration. Upper management might be used to doing this, product owners often aren't.
For the product owner of a television guide, a driver tree will look a little different. You won't have any direct influence on turnover. But the television guide does influence user experience. This will impact the way users experience the service, which in turn eventually impacts turnover.
Growth in the making
"…the most reliable form of self-marketing is to have a long history of stunningly great work, shipped.” Seth Godin
Execution is where product owners realize the growth of their product or service. With the explicit growth target in mind, they can shape the backlog based on their own creativity and knowledge. In turn, the team will know what to focus on in order to achieve that value.
Next, you have to implement a good feedback loop. You will want to know whether your initiatives have any effect in order to tweak them if necessary. Or maybe you'll have to ditch the plan entirely and rearrange your to-do list. The earlier you know, the better.
In plenty of large organizations, relevant data arrives in fat reports at management. It takes way too long before the data reaches product owners and the development team. Make sure to democratize data, so everyone knows the effect of what they are doing. This means your feedback loop will be significantly shorter and allows everyone to reply way quicker.
If you cannot express your efforts in numbers, make sure you have qualitative data. One of our customers has arranged his office as a user lab that mimics a home situation. Sometimes, clients are invited to try our client's product. I often advise product owners to head to the station and ask commuters what they think about specific features of their product. People are often happy to cooperate, which in turn provides useful information.
Make it more explicit
"The product owner is responsible for maximizing value." Perhaps your organization still uses this in its job description. That's fine, but if you manage product owners (or are one yourself), you will need more clarity in order to realize actual growth. Make growth drivers explicit so the plans that are made comply to the rest of the organization. Make sure you have feedback, from commuters if necessary.
* Xebia Product Management organizes the State of Product Management Conference for everyone involved in product management: from product owners to product leaders.
A one-day event to become inspired by some of the leading brands, craft your skills, learn to better manage your stakeholders, and learn about the best product management tools.
Check out the scheduled dates: State of Product Management Conference.