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As usual “the business of product management” was a big focus at the TSIA Interact conference in October 2020. Here are my top picks from more than 250 information-packed virtual sessions on the pertinent product, sales, and service aspects of as-a-services solutions.

Product management is a proxy for the business and the epicenter of impact in the organizations. The Product Management team spends its time tapping market trends, discovering customer needs and use cases, competitively innovating, defining new market growth categories and strategies, designing product experiences, crafting offers and pricing, and ultimately launching and growing their solutions in market. Doing all this in as-a-service businesses can present new and renewed challenges.

In no particular order, here are some TSIA Interact takeaways for product management leaders:

The Chief Product Officer (CPO) and the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) SHARE Responsibility for the Customer Experience

While 60% of attendees reported that the CCO has responsibility for customer experience (CX), just 30% reported that the CPO maintains responsibility (the remaining 10% cited either the CEO or Chief Revenue Officer).

Furthermore, just 36% of companies reported the presence of shared adoption goals between product management and customer success. The research data clearly shows the correlation between shared adoption goals and higher levels of recurring revenue.

The presenters made a strong case that CX is a mindset, where we need to break traditional silos of responsibility. They offered concrete proposals with examples of how the Customer Success teams can shift left and the Product teams can shift right for the benefit of the customer. Examples include taking a product-led growth approach to onboarding, in-product supportability, engineering adoption, and shared adoption targets between product management and customer success.

The session replay is available here.

Increasing Confidence in EOL Decisions Requires a Well-Defined Framework

71% of participating companies said they are scared of the complexity and scale associated with transformational decision-making at the portfolio level. Having one prioritized backlog of strategic initiatives is important, particularly when considering future investment emanating from mergers and acquisitions activity.

Blackbaud VP of Product Management Meredith Johnson reviewed Blackbaud’s journey to an aligned portfolio. A well-defined framework and benchmark data helped them with the use of a common language, alignment cross-organizationally, and strategic decision-making. Meredith included the top questions everyone should be able to ask in making EOL decisions, including the opportunity cost of not making the decision.

Partners Prefer Platforms: How B2B Tech is Leveraging Platforms for Accelerated Growth

When it comes to product, partner and platform strategy leaders are rethinking their platform strategy to drive partner engagement with their XaaS business models. How are companies dealing with these business challenges?

In the conversation embedded below, TSIA Vice President of XaaS Channel Optimization Research Anne McClelland and I explored the critical handshake between product management and partner ecosystem management. We also defined key platform categories, what the product team needs to get right from the beginning, the role of strategic corporate investment, and more.

XaaS Offers that are Co-Designed by Technology Product Management and Service Product Management Enjoy Superior Revenue Growth

Successful XaaS portfolios deliver a considered blend of technology, services, data, and analytics, advised by the customer journey for maximum value realization that deepens the supplier relationship over the long term.

I hosted a session at Interact with TSIA Director of Service Offer Portfolio Research Hal Stanley where we shared the latest technology industry data on the organizational structures of those in the business of creating compelling XaaS offers. Hal and I identified the structures and collaborations that are more likely to result in exceptional XaaS customer experiences and offer portfolios. The session and the pre-session overviews were complete with industry examples.

Linking Your Value Proposition to Value Pricing is not that Hard

Product Management teams love to talk about the value propositions of their solutions. But when it comes to linking price to the XaaS value proposition, most resort to the age-old industry practice of providing access to lots of features in a per-user pricing model. Why is it so difficult to identify the customer value metrics and connect them to pricing? 

During TSIA Interact, Karen Chiang, from TSIA partner Ibbaka, joined me to review value-based pricing – what it is, barriers to applying it, examples of companies who have successfully applied it, and a framework to make value-based pricing work for your XaaS business.

Migrating Your Customer Base to Your XaaS Solutions Requires a Highly Aligned and Managed Plan

TSIA research data shows that most companies that transform their business model to XaaS expect the majority of the candidates for the new XaaS offers to come from their existing customer base. That migration process is not going as well as it should for most.

What does it take to achieve a positive transition experience for those existing customers while minimizing churn in the process? Spoiler alert: it requires cross-functional alignment on the target timeframes, KPIs, and migration segmentation strategies.

Product Roadmap Influence in XaaS Improves with a LAER-Focused Value Assessment Framework

When every team across the company has dependencies on the product roadmap to effectively execute their job, the inbound requests to the product management team come fast and continuously. The data shows that just 15% of inbound feature requests to product management come with an objective LAER value assessment and just 20% consider the go-to-market support that will be required to make the capability successful in the market. These feature requests often dump a large body of work on product management to assess the objective business value of these requests ahead of simply including them in the roadmap.

During TSIA Interact, we saw a great case example of a value assessment framework for high impact roadmap decisions that reduce emotions, align across stakeholders, focus on the most impactful ideas, and get to those decisions faster.

Business Model Resilience Involves Reorganizing for Deep Customer Centricity Across Every Function and Every Activity

In a fireside chat keynote, Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, and TSIA Vice President of Subscription Sales Research Martin Dove addressed what it takes to develop the resilience promised by recurring revenue business models. With great insights and industry examples, Tien advised how to focus on the company’s investment community, how hardware companies can navigate the XaaS journey in phases, the role of deep customer discovery, and what not to do. 

Tien expertly fielded hard questions from the audience, including the role of channel partners in building the digital relationship with the customers, how increased category competition impacts retention, trends toward value and outcome-based pricing, customer-centered revenue models, and more.

Vertical Design is Essential to Achieving Business Outcomes

We all aspire to deliver outcomes to our customers that are meaningful to their business. Understanding the business processes of customers is a key element to delivering value and outcomes. Once the solution is designed to impact the business metrics of the vertical segments, aligning the organization to sell and engage with these verticals further impacts growth.

During Interact, TSIA CEO J.B Wood chatted with Microsoft Corporate Vice President Deb Cupp about how Microsoft has successfully pivoted to vertical industries and outcomes. Essential components of this pivot were Microsoft’s decisions to build “product truth” for verticals and to apply technology to help operationalize for scale with AI-infused motions.

Technology Led Experiences for Customers AND Employees Fuels 2X Stronger Growth

In the video below, TSIA Executive Director and Executive Vice President Thomas Lah and Salesforce Executive Vice President of Customer Support Jim Roth discussed the essential elements of designing for an awesome customer experience, and why designing awesome and productive experiences for the employees who service the customers is essential to growth.

This research-backed session made the case for product-led growth, and its impact on effective pilots and faster go-live time. With the data showing that 88% of product teams are not effectively leveraging the input of services teams when designing the product experiences, Jim and Thomas discussed what’s at stake for the customer experience and the company financials.

Accounting Rule ASC606 Changes How You Communicate Product Roadmaps

Growing a strong, predictable, and smooth deferred revenue schedule is the goal of all recurring revenue businesses. The world of XaaS has challenges that are not always on product management’s radar – like how revenue and delivery expenses are aligned, delivering “performance obligations” of value, how discounts are attributed, and how judgements are applied when recognizing value.

In this informative and interactive session, Jeff Stark and Emma Castanedo, auditors from Silicon Valley based accounting firm Sensiba San Filippo LLP, provided a great set of actionable takeaways on revenue recognition factors to consider when designing products, crafting offers content, pricing, and sharing product roadmaps.

If you would like to learn more about the TSIA XaaS Product Management research practice, send us a note here.

If your company is already a member of this vibrant community, speaking at a TSIA conference is a great opportunity to make yourself known to top-league technology and services industry stakeholders. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, receive professional recognition, and have some fun helping your industry peers learn about your successes. As icing on the cake, speakers receive a complimentary registration to TSIA Interact, making it an economical way to attend this premier event. Submit your speaking proposal here.

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Laura Fay

About Author Laura Fay

Laura Fay is the vice president and managing director of offers research and advisory for TSIA. She also serves as TSIA’s vice president of XaaS product management research. Laura is a technology industry veteran with over 30 years' experience driving business growth in the enterprise technology industry via leadership roles in product management, general management, product development, and customer success.