What does it take to be a successful product manager? What exactly do product managers do on a daily basis? What are the latest trends and best practices throughout the product lifecycle?
To get answers to these questions and to many others, we sourced and surveyed over 100 product managers at SMBs to Fortune 500 companies across various industries. We thought ‘what better way to learn about the latest trends in product management than by asking product managers directly?’
Our goal was to capture and illustrate the roles, trends, challenges, and best practices in modern product management. In addition, a lot of product managers face common problems, particularly in working within their organizations to test and launch new products. Below are are some of the key insights we gained.
What does it take to be successful in product management?
Despite how common the product management role has become across numerous industries, there has been a lot of debate and discussion about what a product management role entails and how to do the job effectively. It doesn’t help that the responsibilities often vary from company to company, and even within a particular team.
While we recognize there is likely no such thing as a ‘typical’ product manager, we did our best to engineer a common persona. We learned that product managers are a highly educated bunch. Over 90% of respondents graduated from college, and over half hold a graduate degree.
While product managers major in a variety of areas, the most common by far was business at 35%. The business degree comes in handy because product management requires the ability to think strategically, in addition to technical and communications skills. We go into the further detail about the skillsets product managers use on the job in the report.
What exactly do product managers do on a daily basis?
An article in The Next Web captured the essence of product management so well that it left one commenter exclaiming, “Finally I can point people to an article when they ask me what exactly I do!” I know how that reader feels. Product managers have evolved to the point where they are truly the lifeblood of modern organizations.
When we asked open ended questions about our participants’ primary roles and responsibilities, we got responses ranging from design to interacting with customers to organizational management and strategy. Here are a few examples of the diverse responses we received:
“I am an external-facing product manager. I interact with our customer base as well as own a few products. I also collaborate with marketing and provide content…”
“I lead the product strategy through to development and deployment, working with leaders in business from sales, marketing, operations, and development…”
“I write and prioritize requirements and manage and facilitate the product development lifecycle, from inception to release to review.”
In terms of day-to-day tasks, here’s a look at what activities product managers report participating in on a daily basis:
Unsurprisingly, meetings were the most common daily activity for product managers, reflecting again how critical communication is to their jobs. To learn about the strategies and tactics product managers use to do their job, check out the full report.
What are the latest trends and best practices throughout the product lifecycle?
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a corporation that doesn’t hold UX at the core of their business strategy. Harvard Business Review has called UX “the new black in business culture” and innovation labs seem to be the hip new thing across the Fortune 1,000. Some organizations have gone so far as to outright buy entire design agencies.
Despite the rising popularity of books like Lean Startup and Four Steps to the Epiphany though, there has been debate about the value of solicited user feedback (although proper techniques exist to resolve this problem). Nevertheless, we found almost all of our respondents utilize user feedback to inform product decisions.
To learn about about the strategies and tactics product managers are using to gain user insights, check out the report, here.
Key takeaways and next steps
As every product manager reading this well knows, the role of product management changes rapidly, keeping pace with innovation and responding to the evolving consumer mindset. Our 2015 Product Management Insights report provided clarity on the common challenges product managers face, and the latest trends in strategy and execution of new products within the enterprise.