Kent Weathers is the Chief Product Officer at Brainmates and Director at the Association of Product Professionals, the global industry body for product people. They represent the people and practices and work tirelessly to advance the profession of product management.
Before joining Brainmates, Kent founded a tech startup and scaled it as CEO before an exit. He then captained his yacht 9,337 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean, from the United States to Australia, with stops in 41 ports belonging to 9 countries.
Kent Weathers is Chief Product Officer at Brainmates and Director at the Association of Product Professionals (APP) – valuable perspectives for a conversation about the future of software product management.
In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Kent Weathers joins Paul Gebel and asks us product people to imagine for a moment a world without waste – specifically, the staggering 70% of the estimated $6.8 trillion investment that companies will make in digital transformation in 2023 (HBR). As product managers, our role must be to teach organizations not only how to build things better – but also how to build better things.
“That’s what product management does; that’s the missing component,” he adds.
Despite making tremendous progress in recent years, professional development for product managers has been slowed. Not by the scarcity of training/learning options for them, but “by organizations that unintentionally prevent them from doing good product work.” Kent’s mission (and, by association, APP’s) is to empower product people to do what they know to do by helping C-suites structure their organizations and develop their processes around product.
The key is to develop within the organization a product management practice, Kent explains. “A practice is about aligning all the necessary product functions and all the functional heads around good, sound product management and then developing a culture where people are empowered, where they’re trusted, where they know what to do.”
The end result, he adds, is an organization that can unleash the power that product management brings to the table. “Without it,” he concludes, “they’ll never actually see the true value of product.”
Catch the entire episode to learn more about Kent’s and APP’s shared approach:
- Problem. Unlike the fields of law, accounting, and education (among others), no clear standards exist that guide candidates and prospective employers where product managers are in their careers.
- Action. Through APP, Kent is working to get all the voices together to create – and codify – industry-standard best practices for the field of product management.
- Objective. Provide a genuine assessment of where product managers are in their careers, and what hiring managers should be looking for, to optimize the PMs’ fit within their organizations.
Paul [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to Product Momentum, where we hope to entertain, educate, and celebrate the amazing product people who are helping to shape our community’s way ahead. My name is Paul Gebel and I’m the Director of Product Innovation at ITX. Along with my co-host, Sean Flaherty, and our amazing production team and occasional guest host, we record and release a conversation with a product thought leader, writer, speaker, or maker who has something to share with the community every two weeks.
Paul [00:00:43] Hey everyone. We’ve got a great episode for you today. Kent Weathers has been a hero of mine for quite some time. I’ve been following him through events like Leading the Product, as well as the work he’s done as a founding board member at the Association of Product Professionals. We’re going to talk a lot about APP, and I’d encourage you to push pause now and go check that out before listening further. It’s a great organization that’s doing a lot of good work in the product community. But in the meantime, here’s our conversation with Kent.
Paul [00:01:11] Well hello everyone and welcome to the show. We are super delighted to have Kent Weathers join us today. Kent is the Chief Product Officer at Brainmates and the Director at the Association of Product Professionals, the global industry body for product people. They represent people and practices and work tirelessly to advance the profession of product management. Before joining Brainmates, Kent founded a tech startup and scaled it as CEO before an exit. He then captained his yacht 9337 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from the United States to Australia. Kent, thanks so much for joining us today. I’m so excited to have you.
Kent [00:01:44] It’s a pleasure, Paul. I always enjoy chatting with you, so looking forward to a good one.
Paul [00:01:48] Likewise. Well, you’ve been with APP now since the start. Can you kick us off here by elaborating a bit for our audience what the APP is all about in your own words, and why it should be on their radar as a product professional?
Kent [00:02:02] I might start, like all good product people do, with the problem that we’re trying to solve. I think it’s important to look at where product management as the industry that we view today is in its journey. And it’s grown up a little bit in the last 20 years. Today, it doesn’t matter what country in the world you live in, you can learn good product management. There is an immense amount of training, consulting companies, conference companies, all there to support the product individual and help them be a good product person.
Kent [00:02:32] But many of those great product people find themselves in organizations that perhaps unintentionally prevent them from doing good product work. And that’s the problem that we see. It’s very easy for those that are insulated in Silicon Valley technology companies who are very, very versed in product and embrace it to think, “well, we know our organizations allow and empower great product management practice,” but the majority of product people work in organizations that don’t. That’s the problem that we see. We want to make the C-suite structure their organizations, develop their processes that actually empower product people to do what they know to do. And that’s the problem we’re trying to solve.
Paul [00:03:15] I think that’s a gap that we’ve seen develop subtly over time. We’ve watched the technology landscape shift from very process-, project-oriented organizations through an Agile transformation and into this product, the word that keeps coming up, practice this product practice.
Kent [00:03:33] That’s right.
Paul [00:03:33] I’m wondering if we can unpack that word for just a minute. It’s not a process. It’s not a framework. It’s a practice. What does that mean to you in the APP?
Kent [00:03:42] Yeah. And I think that practice is a good word because the practice is about the entire organization, not just the product function. And I think that’s where organizations get it wrong. They think, “well, I’m going to bring in a product person and they’re going to do these amazing product things,” but there’s no alignment across the entire organization on how they make decisions. So to me, a product is every single touchpoint that a customer experiences along the journey. It’s how they hear about the product. It’s how they purchase it, it’s how they onboard. It’s how they use it, of course, which is what we think of as a product. And then it’s how they get support later when they need help with it. A lot of different functions own those different parts of the customer experience of what I call a product.
Kent [00:04:26] And a practice is about aligning all of those functions and all of those heads around good, sound product management and then developing a culture where people are empowered, where they’re trusted, where they know what to do. And in essence, the end result is the organization can then unlock or leverage the power that product management can bring to the table. And if they don’t develop that solid practice, they’ll never actually see the true value of product. And that’s when product individuals become discouraged because they know they’re not allowed to do what they should.
Paul [00:05:03] Yeah. It’s really exciting for me because it ties a lot of things that I can know intellectually, like the processes that get a product to the proverbial shelf or the framework that aligns a team to get a roadmap done efficiently, aligned to scope, schedule, and budget. And you can talk about product marketing management where you talk about the experience touchpoints after it’s released and the journey. But what you’re really talking about is the whole. It’s not how we build it, it’s not how we sell it, it’s not how we position it, it’s really thinking about the customer and how they interact with the product and tying it all together. So I really appreciate that perspective because in my search for nuggets of knowledge, it’s easy to get fixated on, what’s the tweetable soundbite that can give you the edge? What are the tweaks? It’s almost like a golf swing, what are the angles and positions, but it’s really much more holistic and broad-based than that. Am I getting to what the APP is trying to get at in the industry?
Kent [00:06:01] Yes. It’s not about the tactics, I’ll put that word on it, that a product individual might use. It’s about what an organization believes across the entire organization and how it actually behaves even when product isn’t in the room. Right. That’s what the culture is. And I guess when we saw that problem, the reason we believed it would require an association to solve it was because we looked around the landscape and it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, you’ve got Roman Pichler consulting in the UK, you’ve got Steven Haines of Sequent Learning down in New York, you’ve got Brainmates over in Australia. You have all these amazing companies that develop these incredible frameworks and they’re training individuals, they’re consulting with organizations.
Kent [00:06:43] But the challenge is, is that while 70% of what they teach is the same, they’ve all put it into proprietary frameworks. You know, one of our councils, our Align Council, has actually documented all the different competing product frameworks in the world. There are more than you would ever believe and that Miro board is so full. Yeah? And they’re all great frameworks and 70% is the same, but they’re all different because they’re proprietary, which is just good product work. But when an organization then looks at that and they bring a consultant in and the consultant says, “You should practice product this way,” they say, “yes, but you’re bidding against someone who says we should do it a different way and the last consultant said to do it that way, and that didn’t work for us; why should we ever do it yours?”.
Kent [00:07:27] And that’s why we don’t think the current service providers, including ourselves, because the APP is made up of competitors who are service providers, yeah?
Paul [00:07:38] Yeah.
Kent [00:07:38] Solve it on our own. We looked at how other industries have solved this, and I’ll just mention two briefly. We looked at accounting, right? Accounting, when we went to hire our finance manager, we had in the ad “must have a CPA license or equivalent.” All that is is an industry association that created some best practices and standards and then tests accountants to make sure they’re current on them. But that evolved over time into university degrees, it evolved into best practices, and we never hear the CEO tell the accounting team to skip important principles in the name of delivering faster, but they do that to product people all the time. Right? There’s another one, the scuba diving industry. I don’t know, are you a diver, Paul?
Paul [00:08:16] In a different lifetime. Yes, I was.
Kent [00:08:18] In a different lifetime. I am amazed at what’s happened in that industry because there is very little government regulation in scuba diving and that shocks people because it doesn’t matter what country you go into the world, the dive operator, the retail dive operator, won’t put you on the boat and take you on the dive unless you show your certification. But that’s not mandated by law. That was two dive instructors back in the 70s that said, “we want to bring together the way that all these people teach scuba diving, create some best practices and some standards to make sure that it’s safe, we want to self-regulate.” And they were so effective in their cause that they ended up with 90% of the world’s market share and they created the standards that operators actually follow. And we believe that it’s going to take best practices, and that’s the industry. Everyone coming together to agree on some best practices before a C-suite says, “Oh, yes, that’s actually the standard and I need to let my team do that.”
Paul [00:09:16] So I want to get to these organizations that you’re targeting in just a minute. But before we get there, I want to take a bit of a left turn here and just talk about the APP itself, because you’ve talked about the councils, a few of which I’ve sat in on, and, you know, observed how the approach is very collaborative. As you mentioned, competitors sitting side by side and working through these problems together. Because it is a bit of a moonshot. We’ve seen agencies and internal product houses and consultant gurus and big-name frameworks come and go. But APP has really threaded a very sophisticated needle of getting everybody to the table and talking about the same problem at the same time with almost an implicit, “what’s in it for me?” Because everybody understands the frustration. Everybody understands the need for change. And looking to the group that you’ve assembled, the advisory board, the names, they’re impressive. Stephen Radhika, Kent, I think that these names have really garnered a cross-cutting respect in the industry. But if you could just share a bit of what catalyzed APP to get started, I know it came from a few folks at Brainmates. I believe that’s where it started. But if you could just share a bit of a history lesson for us in why this and why now?
Kent [00:10:28] Yeah. Well, I am also the Chief Product Officer at Brainmates, and Brainmates is a product management services firm in Australia. We Service Australia, New Zealand, parts of Southeast Asia. We consult for a living and we’ve done this for years and we saw this consistent problem in the organization. And we didn’t believe that we could solve that on our own. We honestly believed it would take an association and industry best practices. We want to see a university degree in product management.
Kent [00:11:00] So when we looked at that problem, we went out and did some old-fashioned customer discovery, and then we realized we were going to need to assemble that team of competitors, yeah, to create that industry body. So we immediately reached out. Ken Sandy was one of the first people we reached out to, and Anthony Murphy, who’s got his own consulting practice, and Stephen Haines. So we started to assemble this group of competitors to start to think about, how could we tackle this problem. What is the problem? How might we go about solving it? What would an association do? And we spent a year on that problem. So many interviews, people in the industry, both on the problem side, and after we thought we had maybe a solution to try to validate that concept.
Kent [00:11:40] And then we invested money into it and we brought it to market, right? And now we’re in that “building an army phase,” if you will, bringing the players from around the globe. There are members in APP from Australia, from New Zealand, from the United States, from Mexico, from the United Kingdom, from Germany, from Romania. You know, it’s truly a global endeavor and trying to get the seats at the table, because one of the principles we set in the beginning was we would not create the standards ourselves. We were going to get all the voices together that we could and then create that right vetted community environment for the community to create the standards for the best practices. And that’s kind of the genesis of how this thing started.
Paul [00:12:21] Awesome. I think the collaborative nature and sort of the coming together of people aligned for this practice, this true sense of the term practice, is really important. And I’ve been following since the beginning and I’ve been impressed. I think some of the largest Zoom calls I’ve ever been on are some of the council meetings where when you hear these things as a product professional, you just kind of want to jump out of your chair and find a whiteboard to start sketching these things out, because it’s been in the back of my mind and it’s been a real professional pleasure to watch this unfold over the past few years as it’s become real.
Paul [00:12:52] But back to the organizations that we’ve been talking about transforming. You know, the turning of an organization does take time and it takes energy. In practical terms, if a product manager is listening, what are some things that they can start to do that reflect some of the best insights that APP has gained? Where would you suggest that a lone product manager who feels like they hear this and it resonates, how do they get started on this journey of getting this product practice on course?
Kent [00:13:19] Yeah. The organizations are difficult to change. It takes a lot of effort and time and work. And that’s why the problem, the challenge that we’ve taken on, Paul, is a massive one. We have talked to people that say it’s too big, that it can’t be solved, but we respond, “well, if we don’t try, who will?” And so I guess the first thing I would say to that product individual that you just referenced is, if you see the problem, if you have frustration, if you do nothing, it will never get better. And so you might as well try. And you can’t do it by yourself. So you need to have an army with you.
Kent [00:13:55] Now, I’ll tell you one of the strategies that we’re going to use to help turn these organizations and how that individual could reach out to get help. We need to get the principles embedded in an organization from the beginning. Where we’re spending the member’s money this year is we are working right now intensely on a product management recruitment framework. So as you know, we’ve spent a lot of time identifying the 26 skills in the product management domain, 20 technical and 6 which of course are not, they’re adaptive. We’ve grouped them into role specialization quadrants. We’ve been doing a lot of assessments and gathering a lot of data on what people’s skill sets are, what kind of specialization that they’re suited for, and then also, with the industry first, an algorithm which is actually identifying influence, or someone’s adaptive ability inside an organization to drive change. We’re starting to be able to see seniority levels.
Kent [00:14:54] Now, one of the messages that is coming to us loud and clear from these organizations is that they are very frustrated with the hiring process of product managers. Just, by the way, the same way product managers are frustrated with the organizations, right? And the reason is because every organization does product differently. There’s a different expectation of what the role will do and yet the job titles may be the same. So when an organization goes to hire, they copy-paste from someone else’s job ad, they put it out there, they interview people, and they were great in another organization and they think, “Well, they’re going to be fantastic with us,” and they fail. And that’s because this organization does it completely differently and that person doesn’t have the right skill set or they don’t have the right seniority level.
Kent [00:15:34] And so the organizations are crying out for help there. How do we identify and hire the right product people? How do we understand the capability in our team and then get a return on our investment? Because they’re saying, “we’re not getting the return on our investment.” At the same time, product people are saying, “you’re not letting me do what I’m supposed to do to drive value.” So we’re working with these organizations. We already have dozens on board where they’re paying for their teams to come into APP. They’re embedding that role specialization, the skills framework, the seniority levels, and we are developing a recruitment framework for them where they can identify, “these are the actual specializations I need for this role, this is how I identify the seniority I need, then this is how I’ll write that job description, and then this is also how I’ll interview those product people to identify whether they’re the right ones. How do I assess or say that’s a fit?”
Kent [00:16:22] Now if we can start by helping product people in organizations solve that first problem, and it’s all based around this framework, it starts to become a way of working in these organizations. We think that’s the first step to helping that individual. So what should they do? They should probably reach out to us and say, “Can you talk to my product leader, to my H.R., or my people and culture team? Can you talk to my capability team?” Depending what size of organization we’re dealing with, because that’s how we work. We work across that organization to align H.R., product, and capability. That’s what I would ask that individual to do.
Paul [00:16:59] Well, as a member and dare I say a plank owner, from what I’ve been told, we’re apparently one of the first corporate organizations to come aboard and bring our entire team with us, ITX has been a beneficiary of this research, and I can say I personally have benefited from writing and interviewing and bringing a lot of the descriptions into our organization, and it’s become part of our language. It’s been incredibly helpful as a hiring manager. I can say from that perspective alone, it has been a real safety net to be able to have this language in common and be able to describe things in ways that make sense regardless of the organization that folks are coming from as they begin to talk to us.
Paul [00:17:38] So as people are looking at their skill sets and they might have taken the product proficiency assessment that APP offers, there’s also a lot of support. It’s not just for the hiring managers, it’s also for the job seekers and also for people just wanting to get better. Can you tell us a bit about the baseline skill sets and some of the ways that you’ve built a, almost a curriculum for people to improve on skills? What kind of things can people expect to find when they get through this entry assessment and get that baseline skill set?
Kent [00:18:08] Yeah, when we were doing the product discovery work for what would a member want if they belonged to an industry association, our very first target segment was the individual. The reason for that was we need to build the army first and get their voices in the room before we go to the next step in our mission, which is to create best practices, right. When we did the problem discovery interviews, we identified 81 potential things that we could deliver as a feature as a part of the APP membership to an individual. And then we went back out and did all of the solution concept validation interviews, right? It wasn’t even close.
Kent [00:18:43] Number one, out of all of those 81 potential things we could do for a member, was we want a genuine assessment of where I stand and what I need to work on to take the next step in my career. Which is also something that team leaders would love to know about their teams, right. And this is where we put all of that initial investment because the assessment is a software application. It’s algorithm-driven. It’s not an individual making random decisions. We put an immense amount of time and research into how to develop that. That’s why those initial members all, not only are very, very experienced product leaders, but they also have academic rigor backgrounds. And you mentioned Ken Sandy, well he was the VP of Product at Linda.com before it got purchased, and at Masterclass. I mean, he’s built amazing teams, but he also consults at the highest level. He published a book he teaches at university, actually pioneered a product management course at UC Berkeley. These are the type of caliber of individuals that then spent a year trying to develop the skill segments, the groupings, and this assessment.
Kent [00:19:46] And we do a lot of prototype testing until we really came up with something that we had proven worked. Here’s what’s different in the assessment, what an individual can expect. We don’t believe that it’s only capability that matters. And most of the people that teach product managers focus almost exclusively on capability, the technical skills you need to know to do the job. This is how you build a roadmap, for example. And when we develop that framework of do to lead, which someone can look at on our website, productprofessionals.com, it’s because we observed how people develop through their careers. There’s a lot of research that went into that.
Kent [00:20:20] When someone is brand new in their career, they just start by doing things. They have very little influence. They’re told, they do, right? But they reach a second level in their career where they start to really collaborate more with others. And I don’t just mean working in teams, but I mean they start to seek out their peers, their stakeholders, the customers to get buy-in, to get alignment. They start to develop that next level of skill and the organization starts to respond to them by engaging, right? They’re actually now looking to what this person is doing and responding back. And then they start to deliver actual outcomes. They start to drive impact and the organizations start to adopt what they do.
Kent [00:20:56] So we started to track how people go through their careers and we came up with this do and collaborate impact guide and lead. It really is a textbook study on how someone goes from an entry-level position to a leadership position. In fact, the response from H.R. teams that we’ve been talking to have said, “well, this applies to way more than just product.” And it focuses on influence. The higher you want to get in your career, the more you need to be able to influence others. So that was the genesis for, how do you create an assessment that can measurable capability and influence, which had never been done, and we were able to do it.
Kent [00:21:30] So when someone takes the assessment, they actually get a capability and influence score for all 26 skills and it will give them an idea based on where they want to go next in their career and what they need to work on. What’s most important? You can’t master 26 things at once. So that’s the first step. Take that assessment. Now you’ve got a guide to understand what to go seek out, to learn, and develop.
Paul [00:21:53] Yeah. It’s been really helpful for me because it’s sometimes a noticeable shift when you go from collaborating to guiding to leading.
Kent [00:22:01] Yeah.
Paul [00:22:02] It’s not always a title change or a moment of recognition, but being able to put words to it, even internally, as you’re looking at your career and articulating your goals, which hopefully you’re doing, you have a way to say, “I haven’t been doing that fun stuff of writing acceptance criteria and doing usability tests, but I am doing more coaching and mentoring,” and recognizing that, you know, there is an opportunity cost as we progress in our careers. We’re giving up some of the things that we enjoy that got us into the industry to begin with. But now we have an opportunity to introduce others into the role as well. And hopefully, there’s a multiplicative effect,.
Paul [00:22:35] I think, too, the thing that the APP has been very clear about, just to touch back on the roots for a moment, again, is that it’s not just another event company. You’re not just another conference, you’re not just another framework. This is really a look holistically at pulling all of these conferences and learning from all of these. You know, the 70% in common means that we have a lot more to share than the proprietary section. So I’m wondering if you can share a bit about the future, if you can. Elaborate on, you know, of the 81 things to focus on, you’ve knocked a couple of them out of the park already.
Kent [00:23:10] Yeah.
Paul [00:23:10] Where are we going from here?
Kent [00:23:12] Yeah. And I’ll first dive a little bit into what you just said and then I’ll circle back. Don’t worry, I’ll answer that question. It’s really important to be clear that APP will never earn money by training people, by consulting for organizations, by building products for people. That’s what the service providers in the industry do. And when we talk about a best practice, we’re talking about what, not how. That’s really important. So we want to identify whether you have a skill in a certain area and we’ll identify for an organization whether they’re doing it or not and that is a best practice they must do. But we’re not trying to dictate the how it’s done. And that’s where all of those people you mentioned, all the other conference organizations or the other writers or the teachers or the consultants or the trainers, that’s why they should contribute to this. Because it will be a mirror up that says, “you’re not doing this, you need to learn how to do it,” and those individuals should come to you to learn how to do it. That’s really important.
Kent [00:24:10] And that kind of is the roadmap as we go forward. Step one was make sure that we can build that army, that we can bring individuals in, that there’s something of value. And I will say this really directly, it’s not just about what you get from APP, but it’s also what you give to the profession, not to us, to the profession, because we’ve all come together as competitors that aren’t paid by APP to really change the craft or the future. You know, Steven Haines talks a lot about, “it’s time to leave a legacy,” and that legacy is changing the organizations. So if you care about the craft in the future, you need to contribute to it.
Kent [00:24:48] So where do we go from here? Well, we’re going to spend the next probably 18 to 24 months building that army and working on establishing these best practices. We have three current councils, as you know. We have the Empower Council, which is working on how to prove the value of product management to organizations. Because if they understand the value, they’re much more likely to empower it. We have the Align Council, which is working on the first part of that problem, how do we build that army and then how do we gather all of those different best practices and those frameworks or those ideas that are already out there and bring them together to start to see the genesis of what we have in common? Because it’ll start to become obvious what should become best practices.
Kent [00:25:31] And then we have a Members Council, which is about how we make sure the membership is also valuable for the member. When we really feel we’ve gotten to the point, we’ve got the right voices in the room and we’ve identified those best practices, then it’s time to codify them. That’s when we’ll go into the codification of the best practices and we will tirelessly promote them until they are globally accepted, not just by product individuals. APP is not here just to tell a product individual what to do. We’re here to change the organization to allow you to do what you know how to do.
Kent [00:26:05] When they’re accepted, we then plan on rolling out an industry certification program around, what level seniority am I, from do to lead. And what role specializations or skill sets do I have? The only things we see in industry today are you take a training course and then you get a piece of paper that says you’re a certified product manager. That’s all there is. We don’t know what shape, Paul, this will ultimately take because we haven’t tackled that problem yet.
Paul [00:26:34] Fair enough.
Kent [00:26:35] But it’s not going to be, take a training course, get a piece of paper. It’s going to be built around your experience, your skill set, your influence. They’ll be a combination of assessment, of tests, of practical, real-world experience. You know, you can’t start your dive master’s course until you’ve got 60 certified log dives. Well, someone’s going to have to have time as well, right, in this. So we’ll understand how it takes place and then what we want to try to do, any individual that’s out there or any organization… Let me start with organizations. Certification only matters if the hiring manager says to the talent acquisition specialist, “do not put someone in my interview unless they’re are a level two, be it market strategy quadrant specialization applicant. That’s what we did with the CPA and the finance manager role. That’s when it’s valuable. So we’re also going to be collaborating with organizations and hiring managers as well as with the product individual. If we can make a certification, that will be the next step. Product recruitment framework, product managers in organizations expecting the same thing, being happy when they’re hired or hiring, and knowing that the right people are in the right seats in the organizations doing good work. That’s kind of been what the next 3 to 5 years looks like.
Paul [00:27:51] Sure. I love it. I’m excited for the future. I’ve been along for the ride since nearly the beginning, trying to help out as much as I can, but really just excited to have learned from some of the best and been a benefactor of some of the resources and really just enjoyed watching this transformation unfold. A lot of late nights from Australia time dialing in, but always worth it.
Paul [00:28:12] Before I let you go, I do want to emphasize one of the ways that you let off, different event, but the Leading the Product conference that you started, just to put in reality what is at stake. And you referenced a stat about the number of dollars that go into technical products and the percentage that fail. I’m not sure if you remember the stats off the top of your head. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, but it is a staggering amount of capital that’s invested and an even more, dare I say tragic, number that fail. So this isn’t just a nice-to-have or a neat box to put this in. These are real stakes with real problems that are big and can change lives one way or the other. So I’m wondering if you could just reflect on, you know, what this means to you, maybe philosophically, you know, why is this such an urgent need? Do those numbers play into it, or is there something else that means something special to you in this effort?
Kent [00:29:07] Yeah, they do. And I do know those stats intensely and deeply because they really drive my personal mission, which is why I’m contributing to APP. We know that 30,000 new products are launched every year. That’s a global number. We know that 40% of them fail. Now, that was an empirical study done by Steven Markham, and it’s documented. That number varies by industry. The best industry, by the way, is about 37%. The worst is about 62% if you can imagine that. And that’s a staggering cost. Now, that cost has been measured at just over a trillion dollars US annually for those failed product launches. Now, if you just did the math division, which isn’t technically correct, but that’s still over $5.3 million for every product that failed that’s wasted. So the organization is wasting, if you think about product development, all of the cost is before you get to market. It’s all of that discovery work, the building, all of that investment, and then you get to market and find out it’s going to fail and you’re just trying to recoup your investment.
Kent [00:30:10] Now, organizations have responded to that in multiple ways. You mentioned the waves that we’ve seen the world go through. Right. The first wave was Agile transformation: “well, we need to build things better; we need to build things faster.” And so that was put into place and then that wasn’t enough. And so the wave that we are seeing ourselves in right now is digital transformation, right? “Well, we’ve got to go digital, we’ve got to change how we work.” The amount of money being spent on digital transformations is staggering. In 2021, it was $1.78 trillion, and that number’s forecasted to hit over $7 trillion in 2023.
Kent [00:30:44] Now, HBR, Harvard Business Review, did a study on digital transformations, and they said that 70% of that money is wasted. It goes to no value and drives no outcome. And we know why because the companies doing digital transformations teach those organizations how to build things better, but they don’t teach them how to build better things. That’s what product management does, that’s the missing component. And so we also know how organizations that we term as product-led leap in value, because there’s been a study on that as well. We know that organizations that we define as product-led see a 2x enterprise value, a 1.8 times growth rate and a 1.5 revenue multiple. There is a financial reason to put product management at the heart and center of how you work and become what we call a product-led organization.
Kent [00:31:39] Now, when you talk about the impact or why am I doing this, why is APP doing this? Because we’re imagining a world without that waste. We’re imagining and envisioning a world without 30,000 products failing every year. Why are they failing? We know why they’re failing because an exec team made a strategy and a CEO wants to build something. Their product teams are just order-takers, they’re feature factories. They just get an idea and they build it. They don’t validate it with the customer. They don’t solve an actual need. If it solved a true customer need, it wouldn’t fail. We think we can be the organization that changes the world forever by reducing that waste.
Paul [00:32:19] Incredible. I can’t think of a better way to end a conversation like this, a better note to finish on. So I’m not going to ask any more questions, even though I’ve had a blast talking to you, Kent. I look forward to talking to you next time and looking to see where APP goes. I’m excited to be a part of the journey and I’m honored that you took the time to spend with us today to share what this is all about and where you’re going. It’s been a true pleasure.
Kent [00:32:41] Yeah, likewise, Paul, and I really appreciate the role that you play, the role that this podcast plays, the role that ITX plays. You’re really making a positive difference in the industry. Thank you, and please keep doing that because it will take all of us to change.
Paul [00:33:00] Cheers.
Paul [00:33:02] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get, so please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world, just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.