The product manager oversees a product’s development from start to finish. The chaos brought on by Covid has made this stability more appealing than ever.
The product manager position is getting more challenging. Not only does a product manager need to juggle multiple teams and responsibilities, the standard for quality is also rising ever higher. Remote work familiarity, specialization in technology-based industries, and strong soft skills are now becoming the new norm.
Below we’ll look at the top product manager trends for 2021 and how they will likely trickle into the next several years.
Increased Specialization For a Competitive Edge
Specialization in a product manager is essential. While they can certainly be flexible enough to address a variety of industries, more profound knowledge of a product’s market will provide your business with impressive insight.
Industries that are in exceptionally high demand in 2021 include:
- Artificial intelligence
- Virtual reality
Manjeet Singh from The Product Manager In The Artificial Intelligence World stresses the importance of product managers understanding modern technology. Everything from machine learning to rapid prototyping is becoming synonymous with the modern product manager role.
“AI is also starting to shape how healthcare works in a way that protects patients and caregivers. Remote care is a huge part of patient care during COVID-19, and AI is supporting at-home and telehealth support for patients that cannot, or should not, interact in public space.”
Embracing Diversity To Boost Performance
Diversity of staff creates a diversity of approach. Product managers need to be observant and adaptable, which is more easily gained when you reach out of a limited talent pool.
Today’s hiring processes are flawed because businesses focus too much on why they hire people and not why they aren’t hiring people, states Christine M. Glastonbury from Hiring Through the Lens of Diversity: Strategies to Create Diverse Departments. This creates an uneven perspective that fails to address the root of the problem.
McKinsey’s ongoing research into the financial benefits of diversity include above-average profitability for gender-diverse teams compared to the current standard. Project managers that don’t fit the mold aren’t automatically a bad fit for your organization: they might be your next ace-in-the-hole.
Leaning Toward Remote Work Options
Product managers that are comfortable with remote work options will have a leg up over those that don’t. Despite the wishful thinking cluttering up the news, remote work is very much here to stay.
Remote workspaces are different from traditional workspaces in more ways than one. This includes:
- Working across a variety of timezones
- Encouraging more proactive communication across team members
- A focus on results over presence
Product managers are a bastion of powerful communication skills, able to soothe arguments and pinpoint small problems before they blow up. Expanding this to the digital space is more than possible when you hire qualified people.
Digital Products Will Lead The Charge
Many product managers today, particularly those with several years’ of experience, aren’t as familiar with digital products than physical. With digital products today becoming more common and accessible, flexibility is key.
Digital products are tracked differently than physical. While shipping addresses are still needed for processing credit card information, digital products save money by not requiring manufacturing or shipping.
Popular digital products include:
- Freeware music
“Paper files are slowly being converted over to digital records, and for a good reason. Also, sometimes just referred to as EHRs. These digital records reside in cloud storage and can be easily accessed by patients and healthcare professionals. This way of storing files offers remote access and easy transmission of the data between professionals.”
Customer Communication Will Make or Break a Business
No product can become successful without the ongoing feedback of customers. Product managers have to double down on the art of communication to get the information they need to succeed.
This means asking the right questions at the right time. This also means separating the vital information from the unnecessary details. Beta testing is a double-edged sword, states Robert J. Dolan from Maximizing The Utility Of Customer Product Testing: Beta Test Design And Management. It’s essential for ensuring the validity of a product, but can also open the door for inaccurate data collection and negative attention.
“Regular surveys are proving to be a gamechanger for healthcare facilities, allowing them to gather information on a rolling basis and update their services accordingly.”
The top product manager trends in 2021 are going to have a trickle effect into the next few years. Consumer behavior doesn’t change on a dime, especially not with the stressful impact of the pandemic.
Product managers have to do more than have strong communication skills and several years of experience under their belt. They must become comfortable with remote work options and the increase in convenience-focused consumers. Those that are familiar with technology-focused industries like artificial intelligence, SaaS, and virtual reality will have an edge.