What is the significance of the product manager in a digitally driven economy

Product management is becoming a highly sought-after position n today’s job market. It is challenging, rapidly expanding, lucrative, and crucial to the functioning of any company.

The digitization of every industry has changed the roles and job requirements of many people, including product managers. They must now equip themselves to drive progress and innovation in a digitally-driven economy. Read on to find out what the significance of a product manager is in such a scenario.

Product Manager (PM): Job description

First, ask yourself, “What is a product manager?” to remind yourself of the traditional roles and responsibilities of a PM. Although most people label a PM as the “CEO of a product,” the role demands much more. A product manager works with the engineering team, the design group, the marketing team, and various other organizations within a firm to make the idea of a product a reality.

A PM must oversee the planning stage, schedule releases, and analyze market data and customer feedback to make a product successful. So, how does technology influence the role of a PM?

Product managers for the digital world

1. Knowing the customer thoroughly

A PM needs to be a visionary; he/she needs to be able to see ten years into the future and justify why a product build today will be successful. While their imagination is required, a PM benefits significantly by knowing what a customer actually wants.

Digital tools have made this task easier but place a bigger responsibility for PMs. Interviewing users or conducting surveys, understanding their needs, articulating value propositions, and working with user experience specialists help PMs to ideate their product better.

The goal is to retain existing customers and rope in as many new ones as possible, and this will depend a lot on customer experience. Since the PM is one who knows best about the products, handling customer relations is also becoming an integral part of a PM’s role today.

2. Data is the new gold

Data has become a powerful business asset in today’s industries, with several terabytes and exabytes of data floating around. A product manager is often the one closest to the data, be it customer feedback or other metrics like customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC). With better tools to analyze the data, PMs have more control over how the product should be designed.

PMs will no longer require a designated analytics team, but they should be able to run basic scripts and ML algorithms independently. For example, KPIs (Key Performance Indices)- a term you will hear quite a lot as a PM – are used to set targets for the performance of the product, like the number of registered users and dollar value of checkouts. PMs can collect and process this data to draw insights on user preference, demographics, product and service ratings, etc.

3. Product ecosystems are becoming complex

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products are becoming simpler for customers, but they are becoming increasingly complex for product managers. Agile development necessitates modular features rather than a single monolithic release of a product. Customers are increasingly demanding quick, incremental updates on the products that they buy rather than a massive update months later.

A PM now has more aspects of managing, like overseeing the creation of an API, developer ecosystem, and so on.  For example, if the development teams are writing code only for Android for a product and you come across a software that can convert Android code to iOS, you should be in a position to gauge whether it is worth trying this out for your product.

Customers expect any digital product to have frequent updates after release based on the latest technology and needs. If a product doesn’t have updates, it is taken over by a competitor.

4. Encouraging innovation with technology and agile

Product managers are often the pioneers of innovations in a company. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are two of the best examples of PMs whose innovative ideas changed the world. Technology and agile development have necessitated and simplified innovation in the industry.

Agile management involves dividing tasks into short phases of work with continuous development and adaptation of plans. So, by the very nature of the agile process, you have to come up with innovative additions or features in a short time interval (a couple of weeks, say). Digital tools enable you to analyze data faster, run simulations, and make predictions and encourage innovation because you can afford to make mistakes without spending much money.

5. Leadership

Innovation comes with experimentation, so as a PM, you should give the design and engineering teams the freedom to try new things. You should be an influencer and a mentor and not an instructor.

The best PMs also research the latest software technology and market trends. They know enough about what every team is doing to have meaningful discussions, and they have the entrepreneurial skills to pitch their product to customers.

What is a PM expected to know in today’s world?

When companies recruit PMs, the interview questions for product managers¬†primarily test the candidates’ analytical thinking, behavioral aspects, and work experience. However, in today’s digital economy, aspiring PM candidates should also be tech-savvy, well-versed with industrial practices like agile methodologies, and must have a passion for innovation.

A product manager is an all-rounder since he/she interacts with many people inside and outside the firm. His/her role will become even more challenging as companies shift towards remote working since you might have to interact with most people virtually. Your ability to demonstrate leadership and communication skills even in such conditions will make you stand apart as a PM in this decade’s digital economy.

Conclusion

Businesses and startups are always on the lookout for smart product managers, and you should be able to appreciate why a PM is so critical. You have an important responsibility on your shoulders for the success of products, so even if you are not a software whizz or an engineering expert, you need to know how to work with other teams in a digitized economy. Product management is emerging as the new training ground for future tech CEOs.