April 3, 2019

The Growing Importance of the Chief Product Officer Role + How to Know if You Need One – The Innovation Engine Podcast with Ben Foster

On this episode of The Innovation Engine, we talk about the growing importance of the role of the Chief Product Officer at driving innovation in many companies. Among the topics we’ll discuss are the most important functions the CPO should perform, what kinds of companies are best suited to hire CPOs, and how you’ll know if your company is ready for one.

Joining us for this episode to discuss those topics and more is Ben Foster. Ben is the Chief Product Officer at GoCanvas and an Executive Product Advisor to more than 50 product companies. His career includes 4 years in product positions at eBay, as well as VP level product positions at companies like AdChemy and Opower. Among the more than 50 product companies he has advised since his days in the Bay Area are well-known innovative software companies like Contactually, Aquicore, StoryBlocks, and many more.

Listen to the Episode

Interested in hearing more? Tune in to the full episode below.


What is the role of a Chief Product Officer?

  • Ben says that the role of product management, generally, is to make the product successful in the market.
  • Questions you need to consider include what are the success metrics in the first place? And how are you, as a company, going to define that success? How will your customers define success in using your product?
  • In terms of the market, what target market are you trying to serve? Who's your target customer? What are the personas that are out there that you're trying to design for? What are the competitor products that are out there that you need to be differentiated against? And why are they going to want to use yours versus something else? What's the nature of the solution that you're trying to create for them? And what's the pricing look like for that?
  • Those are all really important questions to ask.
  • A CPO has “to do whatever it takes, and it means that you're never done, that there are no excuses for a lack of success.”

What’s the difference between a CPO and a VP of Product?

  • The key difference is this visionary, strategic aspect involved with being a CPO. You're playing the chessboard, and you want to be three to four moves ahead of the customers, the market, and your competitors. You have to build the data assets today to help you in the future.
  • As with any executive level position, you are also now leading the company, not just leading a department. It's not a silo of the organization. Your job is to integrate and influence across the entire business.



Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on iTunes. You can also tune in via the podcast’s home on Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or SoundCloudto listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser.