An Inside Look: New “Modern Product Management” Course

Taught by Lecturer Scott Hilton, Modern Product Management will be offered this fall, providing students an industry-oriented perspective on the product lifecycle – from conceptualization to commercialization.

Having completed its first offering this summer, “Modern Product Management” will continue to be offered this fall as part of Tufts Gordon Institute’s expanded lineup of online courses. As new findings reveal, interest in the term “product manager” has doubled in the past five years, students in the course are gaining a comprehensive understanding of how to create synergy between customer value, a strong business model, and product development. 

Product management is considered a “tweener” role within an organization – or a linking point between all the various functions and processes that go into creating a product. Product management oversees the lifecycle of taking an idea from conceptualization to commercialization. 

“This is all about customer intimacy, really understanding the customer problem and making sure that the product you build actually solves the customer problem. This creates value for the customer, but also, stickiness for the company and create the ability to derive a financial value out of the product,” said Scott Hilton, Lecturer on Product Management. 

Bridging academia and industry, the course leverages Scott’s extensive experience leading high-tech companies including Oracle, Lucent, 3Com, and Dyn.

“What I really focus on and what I bring to the table for our students is a real-world appreciation and experience in bringing dozens of products to market in the modern software-driven, cloud-driven way,” said Scott. “My career has really been around the product process, and specifically about the role the product manager plays in bringing products to market, creating business opportunities for the company, and becoming that core function that brings technology, customer and business together.”

While the exact role and scope of product management vary between companies and their respective growth stages, through Scott’s course, students gain the in-demand skills they need to tackle any challenge. Assignments include conducting simulated customer interviews, completing a customer journey analysis, and studying real companies like AirBnB, PillPack, and Starbucks.

“A lot of the emphasis is on understanding what the key drivers for the customer are. What problems are they trying to solve? What frustrations are they having with the current solution? What really drives them? And what are the different personas within a customer?” said Scott.

Guided by over a dozen learning objectives, students are also prepared to embrace emerging trends in product management. Citing examples like Slack, a popular workplace instant messaging service, Scott noted that “one big trend right now is this concept of product-led growth where more and more companies – even traditional companies – are starting to use the product to drive demand. Getting customers onto the product with simple, freemium versions or trial versions so that they are becoming the funnel into the sales process rather than having to market to somebody.”

Scott, who is now an angel investor and writer, is looking forward to continuing the course this fall after a successful summer. “Tufts Gordon Institute’s MS in Engineering Management program, and specifically, this class are really about giving folks a more rounded perspective on business and the product – how products come to market,” said Scott. “It’s really important as you move along in your career, that even if you aren’t going to become a product manager, you need to understand how products get envisioned, how the customer is integral to the development of a product, and then, how do you make something that actually has value and will create returns for the business?”

Just like a product person, Scott plans on doing iteration and taking student input to shape the future of the course. Scott shared, “In general, it has been really effective. I think people have gotten a lot out of learning new ways to think about the product process.”