Customer Success, Product Success | 8 MIN READ

Chief Product Officer (CPO): The Complete Guide to This Key Role

A Chief Product Officer (CPO) improves product experience by aligning with company objectives to effectively harness growth.

Niyathi Rao
Mar 4, 2021

Chief-Product-Officer

Chief Product Officer

The changing digital landscape has made us look at products very differently. There is a rise in products, improvement in features, and advancement in requirements from customers. Customer needs and expectations evolve with time, influence and other products. To handle this evolving requirement, it is important to build a competent profile to initiate progress in product development. This is where companies need another C-level executive to facilitate business growth via products. What makes a chief product officer (CPO) different from a CTO or a VP in the product department. The compelling need to empower customers more than ever has led to organisations build and respond with specialists. These are product professionals with advanced knowledge on improving product performance. They are customer-focused, tech-savvy, and most importantly make the right decisions about products.

What exactly does a Chief product officer do? Is it an important role in the organisation? In this post, you will understand:

  • Who is a chief product officer?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of a CPO in any organisation
  • How to become a tech-savvy successful Chief Product Officer
  • What are the skills required to be a Chief Product Officer

Who is a Chief Product Officer?

A chief product officer is the head of the product department who is responsible for the product discipline. A CPO is one who manages products and teams to engineer better outcomes for customers. For companies to scale, it is a must-have role. A chief product officer can also be known as the VP of Product, Head of Product, Product Head, and more for their product-related execution and strategy. A chief product officer looks to make sure that products are delivered in a smooth manner.

Keep in mind that Chief Product Officers (CPO) are different from Chief Technology Officers (CTO) and Chief Marketing Officers (CMO). A CPO is one who makes all the ‘product’ decisions. A CTO is one who investigates the product development aspect. A CMO is one who looks into how the product should be marketed.

What does a Chief Product Officer Do? Roles and Responsibilities of a CPO

Chief Product officers are those who look to align product features and activities with the overall objectives and goals of the company. There are a number of roles and responsibilities of a CPO. A CPO needs to also look to align the business goals with customer needs through products. To facilitate product-led growth, a CPO looks into some core tasks.

Product Vision Development

Product vision is the core idea of the product. What is the value and mission of the product? How will the product change impact customers? Some of the primary vision aspects include making sure the product is adaptive to customers. Some product vision statements include-

“to provide access to the world’s information in one click.” By Google

“to deliver winning customer outcomes at scale with intelligent customer success software.” SmartKarrot

Product Strategy

The next responsibility is to create a product strategy and a detailed roadmap to fulfil and meet various KPIs. These will measure product performance and create sustainable solutions. Factors such as features, business climate, customer needs, and competition need to be considered while creating a strategy. The goal is to connect technology with go-to-market channels and speed product performance.

Product team management

A company has multiple teams who need to coordinate to give a great output. A CPO needs to make sure cross-functional team collaboration is on point. It includes communicating company goals clearly, improving vision, outcome, and ensuring timely delivery of deliverables. A CPO is one who coordinates various departments to improve product creation.

Product Marketing

A CPO also needs to make sure that product promotion and sales are on point. The product needs to meet the right customers, appeal to them, have them convert, and even remain loyal. The Chief Product Officer needs to use product analytics data, communicate rightly, understand and work on customer feedback.

Product Analysis

The CPO is also required to understand insights on products and customer needs. This needs to be driven by customer research data. CPO needs to plan strategies that are in line with KPIs and customer metrics. Continuous customer research will help product teams plan in a better manner.

Product Skills

A CPO needs to have a product-focused skillset that will help them ace the job. A chief product officer must upskill to meet the various requirements of the team. This includes scrum development, agile framework, IT design and more.

How to become a tech-savvy successful Chief Product Officer

To become a CPO, the journey is long and requires grit. With the right knowledge, it is possible to become a product professional. A Chief Product Officer needs a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Some employers expect more educational qualifications- master’s, doctoral, information technology, marketing, or more.

Recruiters also expect a minimum of ten years’ experience in the product domain. It can be product analytics, product management, product marketing, user experience, product communications, etc. A chief of product is someone who ensures that product team members reach their peak performance with strategy, marketing, development, and management.

What Skills are required for a Chief Product Officer?

To be a chief product officer, one needs to have certain skills. This includes-

  • Communication skills
    A CPO needs to have good communication skills. Since there is a lot of collaboration involved in the product management sphere, it is important to have excellent communication.
  • Leadership skills
    A CPO needs to be a leader. Since they need to handle various departments, they need to control the narrative in a positive manner.
  • Product analytical skills
    CPO must understand the product and its uses. The features, benefits, and more must be clearly  known for better product advocation.
  • Ability to persuade
    CPO must be able to persuade teams and users to acheive their needs with the product. They must be able to convince the tech team to make stuff simpler for users.
  • Customer engagement skills
    CPO needs to engage customers as a priority. This skill involves listening to them, understanding them, and improving customer experience.
  • Decision making skills
    Another important skill is decision making. This means making the right decisions at the right time for product realted information.
  • Data-driven reporting skills
    The CPO needs to have data skills- including analytics, measurement, analysis, tracking and more.
  • Keen eye for detail
    A CPO needs to have an inclination to catch small details and improve upon them. This is what will help customers in the long run via products.

In all, the role requires someone who will perfect the digital experience for customers by creating cutting-edge products. The CPO needs to be able to differentiate a USP and be obsessed with service deliver. The person also needs to translate technology and have the commercial acumen to understand pricing, investment, and complex environments.

Chief Product Officer vs. Chief Technology Officer

The CPO and CTO have the same goal to deliver the best outcomes for customers. The CPO deals with the ‘why’ of the product- this aligns the company vision with the product direction. You can build along with product features, understand requirements, create a roadmap, fix the phases and tasks. A CTO is related with the ‘how’ of the product. This means creating a product with the cost-benefit analysis and other values. A CTO needs to determine which technology will make the products and services better.

CPOCTO
Responsible for why the market needs the productResponsible for how to create the product aligned with company vision
CPO looks at metrics from a product experience pointCTO looks at metrics from how a product performs
CPO honors the product vision strategy that looks to build a better experience.CTO works with technology solutions to ensure better results
Needs to understand the customer better to make a product they will love.Needs to apply the technical know-how to please customers.

What are the Differences Between Chief Product Officers and Other Product Leaders?

A chief product officer is the head of the organisational structure around products. All other product related officers report to him. From the director of product management to head of product analytics, all product strategy related positions report to the CPO.

How Much Do Chief Product Officers Earn?

As per Payscale, CPOs on an average earn $183,724 per year. With twenty years’ experience, you can earn as much as $291,000. According to Glassdoor, a CPO can earn $193,636 annually on an average. Additionally, they earn via bonuses anywhere between $1000 to $143,000 annually. In a report by Indeed, a chief product officer earns nearly $215,647 per year.

Salary SourceSalary per annum
Payscale$183,724- $291,000
Glassdoor$ 193,636 – $ 263,000
Indeed$ 215,647

Bottom Line

A Chief Product Officer is one who improves the product experience in this changing world. The Chief Product Officer makes sure products are aligned to various stakeholders. The candidate needs to be technically literate to ensure the product fits in. to become a Chief Product Officer, a candidate needs to focus on gaining relevant experience and diversify skillset. The C-level person is required to ensure business objectives are met in harmony with the product division in alignment. The role is ever-growing and essential for scaling and growth.

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Originally Published March 4th, 2021, Updated June 1st, 2021

Niyathi Rao

Niyathi is an experienced content marketer with a love for SaaS tech products. She reads a lot (mostly fiction) and is a huge news junkie. Niyathi loves exploring different forms of inbound marketing and taking on challenges.

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