The rise of the CPO: Why this role is more important than ever

Renee Niemi explains how CPOs will shape the future of business


The rise of the CPO: Why this role is more important than ever
Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
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Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives. Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives.

As businesses navigate the increasing demands of digital transformation and product-led growth, the role of the CPO — as a facilitator of this transition — is more important than ever.

Speaking at TNW Conference 2022, Renee Niemi, CPO at non-profit organization Products that Count, provided valuable insights on how CPOs are shaping the future of business.

During her talk, Niemi shared two key findings from the latest research conducted by the organization. The study surveyed over 300 CPO participants from a variety of industries and company sizes.

1. How do CPOs think about their role and what’s their function?

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This depends on the type of company they’re working for.

CPOs who come from digital native companies — such as fintech and SaaS — tend to be zeroed-in on product growth. They already have a solid, established culture and products that are built for digital.

CPOs in traditional industries — such as legacy banking, media, and manufacturing — are leading their companies’ digital transformation. For them, it’s less about the product, and much more about cultural transformation, Niemi explained.

As she elaborated:

When you look at the skills required, in the case of a digital native CPO, they’re all about growth and people. And when it comes to digital transformation, it’s really all about being able to transform a company with a very, very strong vision.

2. What makes a CPO successful?

In terms of product metrics, the focus is on the customer journey. This means, success is measured in user engagement, customer happiness, and product adoption.

When it comes to business metrics, CPOs are thinking about revenue, time to revenue, and upsell rate.

“However, what distinguishes a successful CPO is really in the soft skills,” Niemi noted.

“And the most successful CPOs have a seat at the c-suite table, they have a very strong vision, and they’re very good at communicating that vision. They know what to build, and they build it right.”

Based on the study’s results, Niemi not only highlights the current emerging number of CPOs, but also those that’ll soon become an integral part of every company.

Right now about 15% of Fortune 5,000 companies currently have a CPO as part of their C-suite.

The best businesses tend to be 2.3 times more likely to involve product in their large vision decisions.

Our prediction is that in five years 70% of the Fortune 5,000 will be product-led. And that’s because you have to go digital or you will become irrelevant.

You can find the full study here.

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