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The adoption of product-led growth models is product management’s greatest challenge

Product managers in the UK and US believe that the adoption of product-led growth models and the requirement for product teams to become more outcome-focused are the greatest challenges their industry is facing, according to new research from modular product management platform provider, airfocus.

The report – Product First: A New Era Of Product Management – looks at the changing nature of the industry post-pandemic and whether organisations are equipped to meet growing demands for innovative products, whether in tech, FMCG, apparel, or other industries.

The importance of customer feedback was also highlighted. Three in 10 product managers said that understanding exactly what their customers wanted was the biggest challenge in their role. Defining a strong and well-communicated product strategy was the biggest challenge mentioned.

“Product-centric growth models that align product development to the strategic and commercial aims of a business are becoming the norm,” said Malte Scholz, CEO, airfocus. “This puts greater pressure on product managers, many of which lack the right tools to do the job effectively – Excel is simply not designed for this. Ineffective product management leads to poor products, which impacts business performance. Why would a product-based business not take product management seriously?”

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the industry. Almost half of respondents said it is harder to collaborate with other stakeholders when working primarily from home, while 45% cited an ever-changing market, meaning they needed to react quicker. 44% said they felt more pressure to launch new features quicker.

Under-pressure product managers often have to do their job without a dedicated product management platform. The technologies used most by product managers are Slack, Excel, and PowerPoint, with almost as many people using post-it notes on the wall (30%) as do dedicated product management technology (31%.)

This leads to product managers spending too much time on important, but functional tasks. The research revealed that many product managers spend most of their time collecting and centralising customer feedback and day-to-day liaison with internal stakeholders. Just 28% of respondents said that formulating product strategy was the task they spent the most time on.
When thinking about dedicated product management platforms, almost half of respondents said the principal failing was a platform not tailored to their unique team needs and the way they work. The main benefit to the business of a dedicated product management platform was making it easier for the company to be more innovative.

“The pandemic has greatly accelerated trends to be more product-focused, and this has highlighted the stark need for new ways to structure and collaborate, “continued Malte Scholz. “No two products are the same, and no two companies have the same requirements from product management. That’s why product managers need a platform to be flexible and modular, so teams can build the platform that suits their specific needs. This is key to adapting to product-led growth models.”

The full report can be downloaded here.