Outside-In perspective gives incoming CPO much-needed foresight

The role of Chief Product Officer can cover many core functions. It can include go-to-market strategy, but it can also include project and operational management and even feature decisions, design and analysis.

Finding one person who is an expert within all of these areas is like finding the unicorn every start-up is trying to become.

Sightglass was engaged by the incoming CPO of a fast-growing start-up to help discover what they could not see. Although an expert in strategy and what design looks like when it’s effective and generating revenue, the CPO knew more nuanced expertise was required to fine-tune the department so the design team and processes were ready to support the company’s increasingly aggressive growth goals. 

It’s quite common for most C-level executives in a position as broad as CPO to immediately onboard a roster of VPs to support areas that need deep expertise. But with the #greatrestructure reducing the talent pool and driving up salaries, recruitment is a challenge – especially for a smaller, albeit established start-up that needs roles filled quickly.

Sightglass’ Outside-In perspective provided much-needed insight into the product development process. Sightglass Partner, John Jarosz has built design departments for high-growth companies and led them through mergers, investments and IPOs. Having John consult on the current state of design and identify opportunities to enhance both the internal and external experience gave the CPO the lens she needed to make key decisions quickly.

Sightglass’ Outside-In Review packages this expertise into a contextualized plan rooted in best practices for optimizing growth. It starts with a series of executive and team interviews and shadowing development in progress. 

Retrospective interviews and feedback are then completed so that the organizational and people strategies are rooted in pragmatism and incremental improvement. 

Often design leaders know how to do design, but not necessarily know how to run the business of design. Coaching the Design Director set them up to be an executive ready to build, grow and maintain an effective department.  

Throughout the process, key findings were shared with the CPO to build on ideas and ensure they were culturally and strategically appropriate – as well as practical. The report was less about envisioning an ideal world state and more about clarifying how to make the real-world function more ideally.

The resulting 90-page report was a highly contextualized investigation into the company’s current user experience and how it feeds into the business plan, as well as outlined opportunities to further generate revenue. The report mapped how the design team works across both the customer journey and the employee experience, including how the design team’s technology stack could improve the design process. Because the plan reflected the realities faced by the team, they felt a sense of ownership and were better positioned to execute the ideas. 

Too often, hiring consultants is a practice typically reserved for large companies. But what we see is that it’s the emerging, fast-growth businesses that are the ones that see the greatest impact. It provides immediate bench strength to new teams, and smaller firms can benefit from a more collaborative consultative approach that makes implementing strategic ideas faster and more far-reaching. 

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