CPOs are not new. But the explosion of SaaS combined with the evolution of product management as a discipline has resulted in the rise of the Chief Product Officer into prominence. As product teams come out of the shadows of marketing and engineering, executive recruiters are seeing increased demand for C-level product roles. But plenty of companies are still not eager to jump on the bandwagon — in fact, in our poll this week 66% of you responded that a CPO is not a must for companies.
Surprisingly, our debaters were not unanimous on the question, despite their VP and C-level product titles. But if there’s no CPO, what is the place of product within an organization, and how do you give it the proper weight and respect?
Why wouldn’t they? If product represents the primary customer experience and your core value proposition, it would make sense that holistic product strategy and delivery should come together organizationally. Most other functions in organizations come together organizationally to create clarity of strategy and efficient execution, e.g., VP, Sales, CMO, CFO, etc., why should Product be splintered across organizations? Yes, every company that cares about product should have a CPO.
CPO is just a title; but I believe the underlying question is whether product should have a seat at the C-suite table. To that I say 'not necessarily' - for product-first companies, this role can be played by the CEO. For larger companies, the COO (or even CMO) can play this role effectively. And for other companies that aren't product-first, it's just not necessary to have a CPO at all.
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk
Just a title
CPO is but a title, people tend to place too much importance on those- the question is the essence. In essence, CPO or VP product is the person responsible for the strategy, direction and quality of the product and PMs. In startups, it makes lots of sense that the CEO is this guy. As the company grows - the question is whether the CEO is willing to delegate this responsibility, otherwise, it's just a title. If s/he is willing, it makes sense to have CPO or VP product.
VP Product, Wix