pivot (dictionary meaning):
noun: the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
a person or thing that plays a central part in an activity or organization.
pivot (as used in product management):
refers to a shift in the strategic direction of the business. usually the decision to pivot a product is the result of competitive changes, new findings about the market, or shortcomings in the original strategy.
In everyone’s life, there comes a defining moment, a pivot if you will, that changes the course of their lives – whether personally or professionally. I know I have had a couple of those enlightening moments.
While I do realize now that I may have been doing Product Management in my earlier career as well, without even knowing about it, or maybe that term wasn’t very popular then. In fact, when I look back, I have been leading product life cycles and working with cross-functional Agile teams since 2005.
However, the pivot point for me came in May of 2015, one that really challenged and honed my Product Management skills, a field that I am now passionate about and has boosted my career path in the last 5+ years or so. In fact, this is what has made Product Management, my professional calling!
Back then, one of India’s biggest conglomerates, Tata Sons, was looking to really accelerate “Digital” in all its 100+ group companies. With that vision in mind, they wanted to innovatively showcase the Digital theme in their Annual General Leadership Conference, where senior executives from all the group companies are present.
At the time, I was leading the IT and Digital Business Strategy team in the experiential agency that was given the task for planning and executing the event with a clear mandate for digital in all aspects of the experience. One of the ideas to showcase the Digital theme was an event mobile app that would act as both an informational and engagement portal for the delegates. So while it took some time and a few meetings with the Tata executive team to finalize on the app requirements and it’s features, the responsibility for leading this product and getting it done right in just about 2 months that we had came upon me.
We didn’t have the right resources in-house for the project of this scale, so the first thing I started to look for was an external development partner that had a similar experience and could churn out the product within our tight deadlines. I was able to find one in Pune (4 hours away from Mumbai where we were based) and from there on started my journey of Product Ownership right from flushing out and prioritizing the requirements, to getting the designs and UX finalized, creating prototypes and gathering feedback, and of course working iteratively with developers and testers to keep pushing out the app features. Besides creating the front-end for the app, we also built an online content management tool to manage content changes, push out polls, quizzes and notifications in real-time as well as provide meaningful on-ground engagement metrics.
The end result was excellent to say the least. In fact the requirement for the App changed mid-course to have it created as a multi-event Tata Group Events App where all the group events would be hosted, and we were able to deliver that in the said timeframe with 3 back-to-back events in one go. Not only that, we were able to successfully sign a multi-year contract with Tata Sons and the events that were not even executed by our company came to us for the app part of it. The success of the app didn’t stop there – we took the case study to other clients and esp. the bigger IT clients hoped on and very successfully indeed.
We eventually decided to open a new entity, an EventTech start-up, to develop a no-code B2B2C SaaS platform for clients and event organizers to build their own event and community apps as well as manage the entire audience acquisition process; and with me at the helm of affairs as the Head of Product there.
So, this was the story of my pivot into the field of formal Product Management. What’s yours?