How These Local Product Teams Are Staying Ahead of the Curve

Every product manager is constantly juggling the needs of the business, the tech and the user experience. For great project managers, the exercise extends far beyond the simple three-ball cascade.

As best practices are refined across the industry and methodologies and tools become more sophisticated, a product manager’s role might be better compared to juggling torches while riding a unicycle. A mastery of the skill set involves pushing one’s team forward while adapting to trends and advances in their fields.

According to both Brian Brower, chief product officer at Tovala, and Shafiq Shariff, SVP of product and innovation at Pangea, using rich data sources and deep analytical tools are a cornerstone of the evolving product manager role. For both product teams, this data focus has helped move away from an iteration-first approach to development and toward more meaningful and focused product tests.

At Attain, Nick Wieczorek, head of product for growth, this data-centric approach is focused on understanding the business’ profit and loss reporting. But new tools mean that understanding the profit and loss report goes far beyond monthly projections, and instead offer deeper insights across tech, finance and product teams.

“The days of end-of-month lifetime value calculations are long gone – now we can get real-time metrics to help us move faster,” Wieczorek said.

Built In Chicago heard from Brower, Wieczorek and Shariff about how their product managers are continuing to demonstrate excellence — and what they’re looking for as their teams grow. 

Nick Wieczorek


In your experience, how has the practice of product management evolved over the last few years?

Within Attain’s product organization, we strive to engender the startup mentality, even as we grow. Product managers must be extremely familiar with both the company profit and loss report and their specific product profit and loss report in order to be successful, as our features run through a rigorous financial projection process. As companies tighten their belts and move from optimizing for revenue growth to optimizing for profit growth, these skills for PMs have become more important than ever.

What kinds of technological or operational developments have driven or enabled those changes, and how has your team adopted them in your own work?

Making backend data more operational generally leads to more business-driven decisions from a product organization. There have been advancements in third-party technologies like Looker, that allow for product teams to easily manipulate data in order to run analyses. These new technologies also allow tech, finance and product to operate off of the same data set in real-time. 

Autonomy allows all teams to explore new technologies and frameworks that work best for their team’s needs.”

How does your team empower and encourage product professionals to explore new technologies and practices?

Ultimately, Attain believes in giving product professionals complete autonomy over their section of the product. Autonomy allows all teams to explore new technologies and frameworks that work best for their team’s needs. As a full department, we collaborate on what’s working best and advise on how to adopt the tool to make it efficient and effective. Team retrospectives allow us to assess tools like Miro, FigJam and EasyRetro. Our PMs are encouraged to use what they are most comfortable with, but brainstorming together allows us to determine what will help us reach our goals in the best possible way.

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