Digital vs Physical Product Management with former Nike Product Leader

This week, Product School hosted E Michael Rosales, former Product Leader at Nike, for a special #AskMeAnything session. E Michael talks us through the difference between digital vs physical products, how to gain the respect of your engineering team, and his favorite prioritization technique.

Meet E Michael

E Michael Rosales, former Product Leader at Nike

E Michael Rosales is a creative Product Leader who has been inspiring Product teams to innovate for the customer for over a decade. He recently worked on the customer experience at Nike. His team collaborated on the Global Architecture and Platform as a Service domain to take product design and strategy to the next level. He has also worked on Product Management teams across various fields at companies such as City National Bank, Ingram Micro, Beautycounter, and TOMS.

How is the application of Product Management principles different in digital vs conventional products?

The main difference I would say is in the Complete Product Experience (CPE). Specifically, the approach to designing digital products versus physical products is different due to the digital journey that is designed for users/customers to embark on from the point of realizing that they need a product or service, to purchasing the offering and beyond.

What is the extent of overlap of skills between digital and physical Product Management?

a macbook, ipad, and iphone side by side on a wooden table

There is significant overlap, but I would say that the top 3 skills would be:

  1. Ability to effectively frame a problem
  2. Communicating effectively with stakeholders to align on what the expected outcomes are
  3. Patience and diligence to be willing to test and learn from hypothesis that may be incorrect or don’t hit the mark

How do I earn the respect of the tech team when I as a Product Manager do not have any tech experience?

It will vary by the team and culture that you are coming into, but the best advice that I offer in this scenario is to amplify your strengths early on, get some quick wins, display your business and Product acumen, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you need to.

Read next: Leading Good Product Teams

Do you mind sharing some of your favorite projects?

My favorite projects are working on revenue-generating application or features! There are so many cool metrics and performance criteria to track, manage and adjust from. It allows you as a PM to be creative and flex your product, financial and business muscles as you will actively seek to make improvements to the products and experiences that you design.

Besides RICE and Moscow, how do you prioritize feature requests, bug fixes, etc.

Kano Model is one that I like to use. It is more customer-driven and allows team to place the user’s needs in the center to better determine what matters the most to invest in.

How do you go about assessing the performance of a developer/developer team or the engineering manager? Especially if they are an off-shore team?

view from behind of a person on a zoom call with three other people

That success criteria is rooted and based on metrics that best match the ways of working of a given Product Team or organization. A few criterion that I have used in the past with teams is the fluctuation in velocity sprint by sprint, meeting sprint goals (code released and story points committed to) as well as hitting feature releases based on prioritization. And of course the quality of the release which would involve your QA team and ScrumMaster to come up with the criteria to assess performance.

I’ve noticed that some companies have hired Directors of PM who have little to no experience in PM. But they do have industry experience, consulting exp, sales exp or something else that is valued by the company. Is this common?

It is but becoming less so. As the PM discipline evolves and is less and less just a matter of meeting profitability targets, and with the injection of Product-Led mindset where the product is the business, orgs are recognizing the need to have true digitally experienced people in those roles to orchestrate their product ops and manage Product portfolios.

Any final advice?

Thank you for having me and for providing the space for these great interactions! The one last piece of advice that I would offer is to think of yourself as a product and your evolution, growth and lifecycle as a PM as the features that will best position you to be an impactful and successful Product Leader! Let’s make the world a better place….one sprint at a time:100:

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