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A Complete Guide: What is a Chief Product Officer?

A product manager oversees the lifelong value of a product or product line. If working for a technology device company, a product manager might be in charge of managing cell phones or headsets. From marketing to understanding user needs, a product manager must ensure the success of the product they manage. If product managers oversee products, what is a chief product officer (CPO)? Furthermore, what does a CPO do?

What is a Chief Product Officer?

You can look for solutions to problems—or you can design them. A chief product manager should understand how to plan and execute solutions to problems. This strategy comes in handy when overseeing the success of products.

In the case of CPOs, designing high-impact solutions means incorporating an adaptable framework to problems. Problem framing can be used to tackle complex problems before, during, and after an issue so that solutions are applied in all stages, at multiple angles. Implementing high impact solutions improves decision-making and prioritization when ensuring the lifelong value of products as a CPO.

Taking CPO Role a Step Further: Designing Product Families

Having an eye for detail greatly contributes to the success of a CPO, which is needed when creating product families. Designing product families means taking market research and user interest, then applying keen visualization to create a successful product similar to one that already exists—and selling it well.

Imagine being a parent to a preteen who wants a new cell phone. They notice that you have had the same brand of cell phone for as far back as they can remember. They know the brand well. They know how to use it, and they want the same phone as you. The phone is too pricey for a child, however. They need a phone with fewer functions so that they can communicate with family members and connect with friends.

Thankfully, the brand of phone you have makes a similar, cheaper model but smaller and with fewer features. Further, the cheaper model comes in assorted colors specifically attractive to preteens.

It certainly is not a sheer coincidence that a similar model exists. The people behind designing products at companies strategize related products to target various audiences. It is all part of strategically designed product families.

How do you Become a Successful Chief Product Officer?

Achieving C-level executive status as a CPO will certainly be a challenging journey. While everyone will share differences in how they got there, here are some essential steps that could help you achieve your goal of becoming a chief product officer:

1. Manage products

Experience in product management could be the most important prerequisite for becoming a CPO. Learning how to solve problems, think critically, strategize, and work in a marketing team is crucial as a foundation to becoming a CPO. As a product manager, you will obtain the necessary skills that could lead to overseeing products at a company. Managing multiple, distinct products will be beneficial in gaining experience.

2. Continue your education

There is always something new to learn in marketing, communications, and leadership that will help you grow as an individual and professionally. Lifelong learning is an important aspect of professional growth that many C-level executives admit to pursuing. In fact, it has become increasingly easier to obtain professional education today than ever before. Consider continuing your education to advance in your career.

3. Learn to lead

Being a great leader is arguably a combination of natural abilities and experience. Some leaders admit needing to learn new skills to lead, while others say it comes naturally. Whatever the case, experience leading a team gives you first-hand situations of having to produce solutions to conflicts and other problems. Having experience in a management or director position is of immense help to becoming a CPO.

4. Nurture professional relationships

Keeping a network of professionals handy helps when wanting to climb the corporate ladder. Beyond performance and experience, building professional relationships is a fantastic way to make it to C-level positions. Online and in person, be sure to nurture professional relationships to achieve success in your career.

Chief Product Officer Certificate Program at MIT Professional Education

MIT Professional Education offers an all-encompassing Blended Professional Certificate in Chief Product Officer program to boost your career. You will learn to develop the necessary leadership skills with the vision needed to address the innovation processes of organizations. Meanwhile, you will also develop a kit for innovating, incorporating the strategies and tools needed to transform hunches into real-world impact. You will also learn about the main methods and tools used in the design of product families and identify and prioritize solutions for complex problems.

In this 12-month certificate program, you will explore five courses that will equip you with the tools and frameworks to drive product strategy and help your organization gain a competitive advantage:

  • Leadership and Innovation
  • Designing Product Families: From Strategy to Implementation
  • Designing High Impact Solutions with MITdesignX
  • Digital Platforms: Designing Two-Sided Markets from APIs to Feature Roadmaps
  • Elective course modules. You can choose from the following:
    • Data Leadership
    • Cloud & DevOps: Continuous Transformation
    • Life Cycle Assessment

Strategically choosing your final elective course allows you to hone the necessary skills to apply in your industry.

To find out more about MIT Professional Education’s certificate programs or other courses, see all programs.

Clara Piloto
Director of Global Programs, Director of Digital Plus Programs
MIT Professional Education
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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