Product Strategy

Why Product Management Is Key to Digital Transformation - An Interview With airfocus CEO Malte Scholz

Why Product Management Is Key to Digital Transformation - An Interview With airfocus CEO Malte Scholz
By Tomas Prochazka
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Digital transformation is not a new topic, and yet quite a lot of organizations are struggling to adapt to this shift.

As one of the speakers at our roundtable, Why Product Management is Key to Digital Transformation, our CEO and co-founder, Malte Scholz, shares his thoughts on what holds the businesses back from fully digitally transforming themselves, why product managers are crucial in this transformation, and how a flexible product management tool can free up time for PMs to solve the right problems.

airfocus: Hi Malte, please tell us a bit about yourself and your product management journey.

Malte: Back in university, I was always very interested in tech and eager to learn new things.

After university, I started my career as a product manager and was hired to work on product strategy at a Shopify-like ecommerce platform, and I was working on a lot of new ideas and projects. This is also when I learned about the problems that we're solving today as airfocus by experiencing them firsthand, for example the downsides of using PowerPoint and Excel, workarounds and duct-taped solutions in JIRA for product management. This gave me the motivation to build the first version of airfocus with my co-founders.

airfocus: How well do you think organizations are dealing with the accelerating pace of digital transformation?

Malte: Well, I’d say a lot of organizations are struggling, including governments. But it's inevitable to become more efficient, cost-effective, more innovative and stay ahead of the competition. This is why the trend is happening across all industries, some faster than the others. But the path is difficult and requires cultural changes which can be hard to address especially in bigger companies. That explains the slow speed and the failures everywhere. Digital transformation is not only about the technical or financial aspect, but also the structural and cultural sides of the organization.

airfocus: What role do you think product management and product management platforms play in helping the digital transformation?

Malte: Product management plays an important role in digital transformation. In this era of digitalization, a lot of traditional industries such as banking or insurance had to adapt to new requirements from customers and compete against digital disruptors. Consumers require seamless experiences at speed and companies need to adapt their offering to these new requirements. Services became digital products and companies had to adapt and shift to a product-centric mindset. This is where we’ve seen an increased trend in product management within the companies even outside the software industry for the last 5-10 years.

More recently we’re seeing another trend growing exponentially within the companies that truly want to digitally transform, starting to manage their business capabilities as products.

These internal capabilities known as internal product management were traditionally managed as projects. But we’ve noticed a shift from a project-focused mindset to a product-focused mindset. Thinking of the company and how it delivers business capabilities as products helps the company be more agile, business oriented and at the end of the day, more innovative. That's why product management is key to digital transformation. 

With that being said, a flexible product management system is really the only way that you can establish a single source of product truth at a company, which also frees up the time to be strategic and carry out high-impact tasks and have everyone go into the same direction. 

airfocus: Tell us more about this shift from project management to product management in internal facing teams.

Malte: More and more internal facing teams see the value of being outcome-focused rather than output focused. It helps these teams become more agile and allows them to be more aligned with business outcomes.

Of course it results in being more efficient but it also allows IT teams to demonstrate the real value they bring to the business, transitioning their activity from a cost-center into a profit-center with measurable ROI business outcomes. 

Unlike project management where there are defined timelines and there is less focus on the performance after the project is finished, product management puts a focus on the entire product lifecycle and it includes regular maintenance and improvement of the product. This approach is crucial in enabling internal teams to manage a stable and ever-improving internal system, which in turn drives the digital transformation of the entire organization.

You can learn more about Malte’s insights on this topic in our roundtable discussion Why Product Management is Key to Digital Transformation with Amplitude on March 24th.

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