If you’re in product management, your skills are needed today!

According to Glassdoor, the number of product manager job openings has increased 135% over the past five years, with up to 17,000 available job openings on the site today. Product management has appeared consistently in Glassdoor’s top 10 list of job roles since 2018, scoring high on the three criteria of number of available jobs, job satisfaction scores, and median base salary — exciting! The value of product management seems to be clearer than ever!

So Many New Digital Offerings Need Product Management

At the same time, the digital economy is rapidly growing. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates the size of the US digital economy to be $2.4 trillion in 2021 or 10.3% of GDP. The annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021 for the digital economy was 5.6%, ahead of the overall economy’s growth rate of 1.9%. That’s $130 billion worth of new digital business over a five-year period! The highest growth areas for 2021 included software (+12.1%), cloud services (+21.8%), and internet and data services (+17.5%). Much of this growth is on the back of new digital offerings, many of which must be supported by digital product management teams.

The Forrester product management research team speaks to clients daily about a range of issues, but a key undercurrent is the changing nature of work involved in developing and managing digital offerings. To help our clients, we wanted to clarify the foundational elements of a strong digital product management organization. First, we considered what is different in the digital product world.

Digital Product Management Offers New Opportunities And Challenges

  • Ease and importance of data collection. With easier access to data, product managers can learn more about customers’ needs, better understand if an offering serves those needs, and which solution approach would be ideal. Impact: Product managers must understand which data points are the most important and how to gain insights for decision-making. Additionally, to succeed here and stay competitive, teams require the tools and resources to collect the right data.
  • The ability to gain quick feedback. In the digital world, we can learn so quickly through experimentation, data, and the many digital/non-digital avenues of communication. We can and we must adjust quickly. Impact: We need to consistently hypothesize and experiment to identify the outcomes and solutions that bring the most value to our customers. At the same time, we must balance the design/learning process with the rate of delivery expected by customers in the digital world.
  • Democratized markets for buyers and sellers. In this new world, software/app development has been made much easier with no-code and low-code development. Additionally, customers have become more accessible through platform app exchanges and marketplaces. Although these changes create increased competition, they also open new ways to partner for innovation and go-to-market approaches. Impact: Product managers must be open to working with new partners and be curious enough to identify potential partnerships that will bring new value to the buyer and the company. They must also deeply understand buyers enough to meet them where they are.
  • The potential of the full product experience. Customers now expect to do everything digitally, and the full product experience — from trial to user to buyer and upgrader — is an essential part of delivering value. This new value delivery paradigm strongly impacts the success of our offerings. A great product with poor onboarding, for example, will likely struggle in the market. Impact: The product manager must be guided by practices that consider the entire product experience from the customer’s point of view and must have responsibility to work across functions to ensure that success metrics for each element of the experience are defined and delivered.

Adopt New Practices To Succeed With Digital Offerings

These changes inform our new Digital-Ready Product Management Framework. The framework identifies seven attributes of strong product managers and three key practices that must be in place for teams to flourish. The report, which clients can access here, points to the importance of learning and curiosity while also balancing the need for speed and a continued focus on company and product strategy.

We also note that empowered teams and individuals who are accountable — and take accountability — for key outcomes are critical to driving success with digital properties. Successful digital product teams are value-driven and consistently seek new ways to deliver value to both customers and the business. Finally, they also take a holistic approach and think broadly about the full product experience when considering innovation, differentiation, and how to best solve customers’ most pressing problems.

Forrester Decisions for Product Management clients can find this new framework as well as advice, tools, and templates for best-practice digital product management through our new area of focus: Build Winning Digital Products.