Why Product Managers Are So Important

“Crossing the Chasm” author on how user-experience design has driven product management from product-focused development to fostering customer engagement

There was a time not so long ago that Silicon Valley tech companies were developing systems management computer products – financial, transaction, and customer relationship management systems, for instance, and the products “would get adopted and bought,” says famed author and tech startup guru Geoffrey Moore, who wrote the best-selling book, “Crossing the Chasm.”

His punchline: “After that, it was the customer’s problem.”

A stark reality of the times, Moore says, until companies like Facebook, Google, and other Internet-driven superstars turned the tables on product development and made it more about user experience design.

“In a digital world, maintaining your connection to customers is critical, and it’s very fragile,” he recently told Carnegie Mellon University students, who gathered from multiple programs across campus to learn about innovation and product strategy, as part of the Master of Science in Product Management program’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

And that’s where today’s product managers come in, as they’re on the front lines of engaging with customers first to create not just new products, but rather exceptional user experiences.

“It’s all about starting with the experience and ending with the product rather than starting with the product,” Moore says. “It has switched from customer support [more technical in nature] to customer success, systems of record to systems of engagement.”

Here’s what Moore had to say about this disruptive user-experience transformation and the important role of product managers in making sure customer problems are being solved, and customers are having great user experiences.