How the Role of Product Manager Will Change in the Next Decade

The role of a product manager is increasingly critical for an organization, especially for a software development company. Thanks to the emergence of SaaS tools and the importance of product leadership for early-stage startups, the product manager has become a trending profession in the last few years.

What It's Like to Be a Product Manager Today

"Product manager" is a very versatile profile in an organization, but the primary responsibility of a product manager is to work in collaboration with design, development, and QA teams to organize and implement the process of building a product.

A PM plays a critical role in the R&D involved to develop a software or an app. They are responsible for holding scrums if the company follows an agile development methodology. Product managers also talk to customers to get their feedback on the existing product.

A PM is responsible for writing specifications about product features and client expectations. PMs are also responsible for ensuring that the product can compete with similar products. Other roles and responsibilities include meeting with cross-functional teams to discuss build progress, performing data analysis and number crunching, and managing product documentation.

Product Manager vs. Project Manager

A product manager is different from a project manager in several aspects, despite some overlaps in their responsibilities. The former designs and delivers a specific product that potential customers want from the company. The latter takes on projects of different scale and complexity and monitors their progress from ideation to completion.

A project manager aims to finish their project on or before the set deadline, ensuring that the total cost does not exceed the established budget or timeline. On the flip side, a product manager is more concerned with individual product goals and the problems solved by the product from the customer's perspective.

Specialized PM Roles

A one-size-fits-all training regimen to become a successful product manager does not exist. It is subject to your industry. A product manager of a technology company requires different knowledge and education compared to someone working as a product manager designing FMCG products.

However, the basic education requirements are pretty common in that one typically needs to have a Bachelor’s degree to become a PM. A postgraduate degree in technology could give you better opportunities in the product management space. You should also be well equipped with working knowledge of your desired industry and strategic understanding of how products work.

Some of the key technical skills a PM should have are data analysis, SQL queries, MS Excel, and programming languages like CSS, Java, HTML, etc. Other soft skills include communication skills (both written and verbal) and presentation skills. Management skills are also obviously important, as a PM's job is all about managing people and getting work done through them.

Your job prospects as a PM depend on your profile, previous work experience, industry you work in, total years of relevant experience, reputation of the college that you graduated from, technical skills, and postgrad degree. Having said that, there are always good companies that are always on the hunt for generalist product managers. Within product management, it's possible to start as an associate PM and grow to become a chief product officer, senior PM, director of product, VP of product, or other executive.

The following trends in the administrative, technology, and corporate sectors will shape the product management position in the next decade.

Policy Setting

Gone are the days when a PM’s job was to manage product backlog or design the best product for the customer. Going forward, PMs will become key decision-makers and policy-setters in their respective organizations. This transformation has started lately, and PMs are now involved in formulating product strategies in a cross-departmental capacity.

Cloud Migration

An important technology trend that will create more jobs for product managers is the fact that corporations have now started migrating their existing networks and data to cloud or SaaS-based solutions. There are specialized cloud product managers who can manage old products and services by transferring them to the cloud. These PMs will also look after the security of data and manage a team of developers and data analysts.

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Low-Code Development

Another significant change is the emergence of low-code platforms, which are still in the nascent stage but are expected to be used on a large scale going forward. These tools, such as Crowdbotics, can be used to build business applications without writing any code. Even a PM with no coding background can design products and applications using these low-code platforms.

Skill and Seniority Demands

The demand and growth for senior-level jobs in the product management space is going to outpace the growth in junior-level and mid-level roles. Entry-level and mid-level PM jobs are increasing marginal compared to senior-level, and thus one will need to have already banked the necessary skills and experience of working as a PM to leverage these opportunities.

How Product Management Will Change in 5 Years

Let's consider how the above changes might alter the role of PM in five years.

Data proficiency required

The widespread, increased dependency on data analytics will demand an analytical product manager. In five years, most PMs should be able to make sense of raw data and analytics reports.

Remote work experience

Post-pandemic, permanent work-from-home or remote working could continue, especially for IT companies. In such a scenario, an inexperienced software PM will have a tough time collaborating with different development and testing teams working remotely.

Customer-first approach

The day-to-day responsibilities of a PM will also change going forward, as PM work will be more customer-centric. A PM's key responsibilities will revolve around strategic decision-making followed by rigorous data analysis and number crunching. The use of business intelligence (BI) tools and software like Tableau, SAS, and R will become an integral part of a PM's daily activities.

Product Mentorship

As a PM, you will also be responsible for mentoring and training your subordinates on the newer aspects of product management. Today's PMs are often free to focus exclusively on product features and operational issues, but the coming boom in PM roles will create a demand for PMs who can provide guidance and training to new employees.

Some positive effects of these changes include ongoing professional growth and a defined path for PMs to climb the corporate ladder. The drawbacks include a lack of clear understanding of how to tackle these uncertainties, difficulty in collaborating with other team members, and the challenge of hiring fresh talent with an updated skillset to match these trends.

How Product Management Will Change in 10 Years

The trends mentioned above are here to stay and will be more relevant a decade from now. PMs will increasingly see their management skills put to test, even more so than their product skills. They will have to face tight deadlines and deliver in less time than what their competitors are promising. In a nutshell, their work will become more complex and unpredictable.

The day-to-day responsibilities will also change significantly, as entire product portfolio management will have to be looked at rather than a single product. UX design will be a key product differentiator, making it more relevant in the next decade than it is today. Also, the emergence and rapid adoption of low-code tools will nudge more PMs into a hybrid designer-manager-developer role.

With technology infiltrating every industry, the biggest challenge for a PM is to stay capable of working with emerging frameworks. PMs can best prepare for these changes by equipping themselves with knowledge of technologies that are still in the nascent stage but will rule the next decade. These include artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity, and robotic process automation.

How PMs Best Can Position Themselves for The Next Decade

The role of a PM is rapidly evolving, and every year or two, we get to see something new and unprecedented introduced to this profession. As a PM, you need to acquire knowledge and newer skills in the product management space. You need to unlearn antiquated approaches that will be obsolete in the next decade. It may be wise to attend vocational courses or obtain specific PM certifications. Most importantly, though, you should have an open mind toward learning new technologies and frameworks.

Crowdbotics offers both entrepreneurs and product teams the ability to hire vetted PMs and developers on demand. Our low-code development environment makes it easy for our PMs to prototype, customize, and deploy real apps written with real React Native and Django code, resulting in faster build times. If you're searching for scalable product management expertise, get in touch with us today.

Originally published:

November 16, 2020