Lessons for product managers from Google's transformation into AlphabetThis week, Google took the news by storm when Larry Page, co-founder of the search giant, announced the creation of a new holding company. What was known as Google until this Monday, will now be called Alphabet. Alphabet is, in Page’s own words, “a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google.”

We believe that there are several lessons that product managers can learn from by examining this corporate move.


The importance of product managers in today’s tech industry

Larry Page will step down from Google to run Alphabet as its CEO. In his blog post, he announces that Sundar Pichai will take over of the new Google. What’s interesting is the position that Pichai had been holding: Vice President of Product Management. Some of the products that Pichai was in charge of are Google Chrome, Chrome OS, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Maps and Android.

Why is a product manager the new Google’s CEO? As Maarten Hooft, a former Google employee, commented to Business Insider: “I think it’s Sundar that’s the guy that can just get it done. He can assemble the team, he can appoint the right people, and he’s the one that makes it happen.” If that sounds similar to the product manager’s manifesto we published a few weeks back, it is no coincidence.


Always have your customers in mind

It is important to analyze the medium that Larry Page used to tell the world about Alphabet. By publishing a blog post, he remained true to Google’s culture and used the natural channel through which the company’s customers would expect to receive such news.

Page even included an “easter egg” in his post that no doubt got the geekiest readers excited and showed an incredible sense of humour on his part. We won’t tell you what it is but invite you to see for yourself, just follow these steps:

  1. Go to Alphabet’s website.
  2. Click on the period right after the phrase “drone delivery effort.”
  3. Be amazed.
  4. Come back to finish reading this post.


Quick lesson on lean products

It is mentioned by Page that the new version of Google will be “a bit slimmed down.” Meaning that initiatives such as the self-driving car, glucose-sensing contact lenses, and drone delivery, will no longer be a part of Google, but will be managed by independent CEOs who will report to Alphabet.

What is the lesson for product managers here? Think of the old Google as a product that was getting overly complicated, with features that did not go in line with its core. Page was able to see the value of each feature and realized that the best way to deliver value to their customers was by allowing each of them to be developed and grow on their own.


Only time will tell if the decision to create Alphabet was right or not. However, there are details in these type of moves that are often overlooked that can lead to great lessons. In this case, the appointment of a product manager as the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world, is yet another signal that this role will continue to grow in relevance in the tech world and that we, at Product School, are playing in the right field.