Skip to Content

Inside INDUSTRY Global Conference 2023: Lessons in Product Management and Beyond

The INDUSTRY Global Conference is a premier global gathering for software product professionals. Over three days, attendees are immersed in a rich blend of education, networking opportunities, and the delightful extravagance of top-notch event production.

As second-year sponsors we took all that we learned from last year’s event and traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to prepare for yet another year of hearing from industry leaders and to hear absorbing insights.  We were inspired by the variety of speakers and subjects and came away with many new ideas.

A True Product Operating Model

It was hard to decide who was “the best speaker,” or which speaker gave “the most interesting keynote.” But it was unanimous within our group that  Marty Cagan, a partner at Silicon Valley Product Group and the special guest of INDUSTRY Global was the most impressive. Marty’s expertise ranges from building successful and customer-centric products to the crucial role empowered product teams play in driving innovation (which was a topic of discussion during our conversation with him on our podcast.) His upcoming book TRANSFORMED will share ways that organizations can move towards a Product Operating Model. His keynote gave us many insights into the new book.

Marty pushed the need for this model, one that differs from product-led strategies. Product Operating Models are customer-centric – the focus is on the needs, preferences, and satisfaction of the customers throughout the entire product development and operational process. By being customer-centric, we can effectively solve the right problems in ways that delight customers. We found ourselves nodding in complete agreement as he continued to make strong points in his argument.

In his keynote, Marty explained more about Product Operating Models, including improved team alignment . He reaffirmed that Product Managers not only need to drive value and viability for their products, but also maintain close relationships with our designers and tech lead peers. The knowledge and value that developers bring to the table goes beyond the ability to code,  – a sentiment that rang true with the collective audience. “Nothing is more important than empowered engineers.” Cheers to that.

Cognitive Bias Is Here to Stay

No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape our cognitive biases. It is a problem that plagues professionals in the product and UX design spaces, and it can severely impact our product management decision-making. And it usually creeps in without realization. Upon recognition of these thoughts, we cannot help but wonder  how often we let confirmation bias drive our roadmaps and strategies? How do we make sure we get outside of our bubbles when validating problems and solutions?

Enter Avantika Gomes, a Product Leader at Figma. She explained that it is possible to  combat our cognitive bias and prevent it from controlling our decisions. She shared decision-making frameworks that can mitigate biases during critical decision-making times, and techniques we can use to help identify when we fall victim to our biases. Her keynote emphasized that cognitive bias would remain, but we were left assured that there are ways to work around it and not let it impact our work.

Quick Takes

Other fascinating conversations were held during INDUSTRY. (We honestly wished we could talk longer with our peers.) We are unable to  give the play-by-play of every minute, but we can provide some quick takes of our favorite moments.

April Dunford delivered a standout keynote, highlighting her expertise in product positioning for technology companies. She emphasized the challenges of both selling and buying software, likening it to the unenjoyable process of buying insurance (which we all know is not fun.) Loading products with numerous features, while well-intentioned, can overwhelm potential customers and potentially turn them away. April advocated for a better way to sell that focuses on creating a seamless buyer experience. We should aim to act as a guide – provide insights, explain alternatives, and align our product with the customer’s needs. We do this by fully understanding our customers and tailoring conversations accordingly.

Product software conferences today would not be complete without conversations around Artificial Intelligence. Several of the speakers offered interesting insights  on this rapidly evolving technology. Search interest for the term “AI” increased by over 300% in the past year; there are millions of conversations happening around AI and different articles advising what we should and should not do with it. Christine Itwaru suggests we cut through the noise and understand how we can use AI as a tool. As product managers we can harness  AI and make dramatic changes to how we work. That begins with knowing how we can use it, rather than throwing it at our work and assuming it will do everything for us.

As many of the speakers discussed software and product strategy, Diana Tobey talked product and…play. As a Senior Design Director in the Play Lab at IDEO, Diana argued for play in the workspace. Play opens up new possibilities for product teams to explore, experiment, and innovate. When we embrace play, she explained, we approach challenges with a fresh perspective and find novel solutions to global issues.

Get Your Ticket for INDUSTRY 2024

We’re serious. INDUSTRY is advertised as “the premier conference for software product managers” but take it from us – you don’t have to be a product person to attend.

People who are passionate in any area of product development, research, or design will gain insights that they may not have had access to otherwise. It’s large enough to feel comfortable networking, and small enough where it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The speakers are world class and share insights that leave you feeling excited to get back to work.

Get more insights from our ITX team.

Sign up to receive our Continuous Inspiration newsletter.

We’d like to highlight the invaluable contributions from Paul Gebel, Director of Innovation, Anne Pressman, Innovation Lead, Daniel Sharp, Innovation Lead, and Roberta Oare, Engagement Lead, that enriched this recap blog.

Like what you see? Let’s talk now.

Reach Out