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In Conversation with CPOs: Harsh Agarwal

  • October 2023

What is a good product?

A good digital product, just like a good physical product, is one that solves a problem that the customer needs solved. It is functional, but it also comes with an easy-to-use interface that provides a simplistic experience for the customer.

In addition, there are things like security and scalability. Products have to be high performant and something that you can continuously improve so that it’s not a one-time deal. But there’s a difference: In physical products, you’re stuck with the chair that you buy. In digital, you can buy a product and then get continuously updated with new features.

What was your path to product?

My personal journey was quite long. In general, what you find most is product people coming from engineering, from data, from experience design or from business. Me, personally, I originate from engineering. I went from engineering to project management, to portfolio management and then to capability management until, at Target, which was my last job, I discovered the product craft.

Why is the product function important for your organization?

Today, we live in a digital world that is disrupting many different industries. It’s really important for my organization because we have to keep pace with what’s happening to be able to stay relevant, both from a customer and a technology perspective.

It therefore becomes really important that something like a product function exists in our organization; to marry our business strategies to our customer’s needs and make sure that we iterate that through every aspect of it to stay relevant to the consumer.

What is your single most important KPI?

I would say that would be what industry-wide is known as net promoter score. In my current role, we call it happy customer score. What it does is, it measures people who are engaged with your brand and product as well as people who are disengaged. On the back of leaving out the moderates in between, it ultimately generates a score.

If you keep tab of this, it encompasses everything. This could be how they interact with your brand – even with something as transactional as checkout. It could be customer service or fulfillment, too. In the end, all of those different aspects of a customer experience get baked into the score. The customer tells you whether they’re liking what they’re seeing from you or they’re not, therefore it is the biggest metric that we have.

What is the future of the product function?

I would say the future of the product function is twofold: If you look at the product role itself, one part of its future is from a penetration standpoint. If you go back a decade, the product function was mostly found in new incubations or new startups that were creating a digital product for the end consumer. These were companies that needed to be close to the customer, making sure that they were learning quickly and being relevant to the consumer.

But over the last decade, we have seen that this model is slow but surely adapted by other industries: First, it started with retail, because retail was the first one to be disrupted, and then it went into finance and banking. Now you’re seeing it in healthcare, investments, and supply chain. So, many, many industries are now adopting product to be able to compete and stay relevant.

The second future actually depends on the evolution of technology. When you hear things like Metaverse or 10-minute delivery, all these capabilities and technologies, it becomes very important to adopt and apply the technology.

If you want to do that in a meaningful way, you have to test and iterate. And you have to fail fast so that you don’t lose out on big investments. Finally, you also want to be data-centric to understand what the customer is liking and what not.

“Product management is…”

… competitive advantage.

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