Every industry sees trends that come and go, but sometimes there are trends that stay for the long term and eventually become the norm. While it's interesting to pay attention to short-term trends, it's more important to recognize when a lasting shift is happening in the industry. In the field of product management, there are trends that come and go. What we like to pay attention to are the shifts underway that will impact and improve the work of the product managers and their product development teams. Here are five trending shifts and how they are impacting product development.
1. Managing Increased Software and Hardware Integrations
With the growing demand for software features on a range of products, from home appliances to vehicles and heavy machinery to entertainment devices, companies must adapt to managing both software and hardware. Historically, managing software products and hardware products were separate processes, but with integrations into the same products, there is an increased need to collaborate.
Cross-functional collaboration needs to happen at every level, from discussing product features to establishing the product roadmap to mapping out the milestones and the dependencies between each stage of the development process.
How can collaboration be easier?
Collaboration requires team leads to hold timely meetings, share a central source of truth for all information on a product, and provide transparency throughout the product planning, development, and maintenance process. By nature, the hardware side of a product has a shorter timeline, requiring everything to be in place in time to launch the product to the world. The product roadmap management software side also needs to be ready for the launch date but allows for continuous improvements to happen once the product is in the hands of the consumer.
The top ways product teams can improve their systems for integrating both software and hardware components, but also the product teams involved in those parts are:
- Redesign the hardware to be more flexible for software applications
- Keep both product teams connected to manage both ideas and problems
- Use the right tools to manage the product roadmap
- Share information and meet regularly
2. Focus on Clarity and Transparency Between Teams
Communication is always key in product development. With more teams working together on a product, fostering clear communication and transparency is essential for effective collaborations. A lack of clear communication can cause many issues when trying to create successful product plans, such as missing the company's goals, missing the customer's feedback, or failing to keep up with the competition.
Product managers are responsible for facilitating open, effective communication channels and ensuring that every product team is aware of the strategy and plans you have in place. Their responsibility involves connecting stakeholders as well as informing executives and decision-making branches, such as finance.
Increasing Clarity of Product Visions
With so many different factors involved in product management, it can be easy for plans and strategies to become ambiguous or confusing. In order to make your process more efficient, you'll need to share a clear product vision for every team to see and use.
Not sure how to make your product vision more clear? Using visual roadmaps makes it easier than ever for your team to view and understand the short and long-term product strategy, target metrics, and next evolution of each product.
3. Stay Focused On the Customer
Anyone in the field of product development knows that customers aren't always clear on what it is they need. They may explain all the reasons why they love or hate a product, but then it is up to the product managers or the customer success teams to analyze exactly what it is the customer wants and needs next. Companies that don't take the time to focus on their customer are more likely to see disappointing launches of their future products. While staying focused on the customer should not be considered a trend, per se, it is an important reminder to companies that without a customer base, there is no market for a product.
Keep Your Customers Happy
Customer research teams are invaluable when it comes to creating a new product. Companies that prioritize more collaboration with these teams and invest the time and energy in gaining valuable customer insight and feedback are in a better position to make the right calls on prioritizations. Customer research teams should have a wide range of indispensable information, from data on target audiences to their motivations for using the product.
Test an MVP
Companies that take small steps toward big changes are more likely to see success in the long run than companies that focus on a radical change in secret, without testing their ideas with the market. Many companies are choosing to launch minimum viable products (MVPs) to smaller markets to get a sense if their decisions are hitting the mark. Not only does an MVP give you the opportunity to gain better feedback from users, but it can also help your company make money along the way to a more exciting end-product vision. Using the MVP also proves that your ideas are what customers want and not solely what your engineers, designers, or executives want.
4. The Rise of Product Operations Management
It's common knowledge that product managers have a lot on their plate. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day–which means that they often end up overwhelmed and short on time to complete their endless list of tasks. Due to the growing complexity of products and the number of personnel working on any given product, there is a growing trend to introduce product operations, management teams, or managers.
The Benefits of Product Ops
Product operations, or product ops, is an ideal way for product managers to delegate their tasks so that they can focus on making the best possible product. It allows product teams to optimize every step of the process, from research to trials to product release. That should lead to more efficiency and higher-quality products.
Product Operations Management
Product operations managers support the product teams and managers by completing operational tasks for them. Whether your product ops manager is an individual or a whole team of people, they'll be able to take a significant amount of work off your plate.
Some key responsibilities of a product ops manager include facilitating market research, analyzing data, developing streamlined business processes, and working closely with sales and customer research teams to increase customer satisfaction.
5. New Communication Strategies
With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), there will be opportunities for product managers to explore and introduce new ways of communicating with their teams and stakeholders. Don't worry if you haven't hopped on the bandwagon yet–but it might be time to start looking into AI-powered management processes. If you don't, you might just fall behind your competition. Even if you don't decide to utilize AI, it's always good to stay updated on its capabilities, benefits, and potential consequences.
Long-Term Product Management Success
While trends can be exciting and novel, the best decisions in product management are always based on research, consultation with partners, and having a clear vision of where you want your products to take your company in the long run. While the way products are managed and day-to-day communications are handled, the foundations of product management will remain steady.