Product managers wear many hats in their role—from mastering timelines to technology tools to finances, these integral manufacturing team members must become a jack of all trades to be successful.
In their role, product managers focus on defining and overseeing the strategy for building a product to meet customer and market needs, while also delivering on growth targets set by higher-up executives. It’s no easy task to be at the nexus of business and consumer expectations.
To add to that, product managers are taking on even more new responsibilities in response to technological evolution and demand for greater agility in today’s manufacturing landscape. Staying on top of how trends are shifting can help these integral leaders stay at the top of their game. Here are three ways product managers’ responsibilities have shifted in the past several years, to better understand what the future of the product management role could hold.
As technology advances, product managers’ time is critical
While time is one of the most valuable commodities, for product managers the value of time is at a premium right now. Within the past several years, it has become even harder for product managers to focus their time on what is most important to achieving business goals. Prioritization is key to making progress and building products successfully.
Advancements in technology make the product development process more complex, but technology can also help simplify parts of the process. AI and automation have had a stellar last decade of development and are now central to automating aspects of many jobs. For product managers, time and human decisions can be prioritized for more essential tasks, while automated processes can handle other functions such as scheduling, strategy design and visualization, financial analysis, and more. Product managers can and should turn roadblocks into solutions by leaning on technology to their advantage over the next several years.
Supply chains require extra planning
With the holiday season around the corner, everyday consumers shopping for holiday gifts are about to experience a problem that product managers have felt since the start of the recent global health crisis: global supply chains are temperamental and currently, they’re under critical strain.
It is more difficult than ever to source goods and materials, whether they’re holiday gifts or specialized parts for a product or piece of infrastructure. The strain on global supply chains will slowly improve as the global pandemic subsides, but increased vaccinations are not a quick cure for supply chains. It will take years for this side effect of the pandemic to right itself.
Product managers must plan accordingly to compensate for backups in supply chains, and quick fixes will not suffice. To keep product timelines on schedule, product managers should augment their plans and add more time to source materials. In the next few years, new solutions may evolve to better adapt to sudden changes in supply chains.
Don’t forget the end-user
The product manager’s title can be deceptive – while these executives oversee a product’s development from start to finish, their true role goes beyond the development stage. Ultimately, their success lies in whether consumers are happy with the end result of their work. I like to think of product managers as “customer expectation managers”. So, when consumer habits and expectations change, product managers should also change their strategies and processes.
What consumers are looking for in products and services today has changed over the past few years because of new technology developments. Internet access is table-stakes, once-futuristic IoT devices are now ubiquitous and specific industries, from healthcare access to grocery shopping, have experienced major shifts both pre-and post-pandemic. Consumers are increasingly looking for products and solutions that account for the environment in response to growing climate change concerns.
Product managers increasingly are responsible for spotting and interpreting future trends in consumer behaviour, as well as extrapolating those trends throughout the entire product development process. For a product that could take years to make—from the ideation stage all the way to the end-user—trends may shift several times over. That’s why it’s so critical that product managers do not forget the end-user in every aspect of their role.
A company that turned to a more modern solution to product management is Tidel, the market leader in technology-enabled cash automation solutions that develops new products and adapts solutions to meet pending innovation. Recently, the company came across the need to modernize its internal data management and organizational processes to ensure more effective product management techniques are executed. Product managers at Tidel were stuck using standalone spreadsheets, disparate
documents and siloed data processes. The company was looking for a solution to streamline its processes in an effective and modern way.
To do this, the company shifted to agile product management techniques, incorporating cloud-based software that allowed them to save and share product data with the whole company. Not only did this remove the data siloes that were impeding on its tech infrastructure and streamline previously developed manual processes, but it also presented an updated way to research, collect data, and communicate product plans. This change has been beneficial to the company in many ways, but most notably it has permitted the alignment of business resources using a single source of product data truth and allowed the product team to become more efficient at evaluating product feature decisions while limiting one-off product requests.
Product managers of the future
Time, planning, and foresight are all intertwined—these elements of the product management process are especially important today for those who want to get ahead. Within the next ten years, technology will become even more responsive and adaptive, and further change how product managers work and succeed. The future of the product manager role will centre on accelerating innovation, using new technology to advance technology. Smart tech and internet functionality built into devices, as well as new AI-driven software platforms for product management, will all help enable this acceleration.
History also repeats itself: product managers, as you look to the future, also look to the past. Major economic speedbumps historically have led to change and industry-defining growth. It stands to reason that now has never been a better time to be a product manager. Use the tools and technology available to you to optimize your time, planning capabilities, and foresight. If a solution doesn’t exist, you have the skillset to build it and impact future generations.