2022 is lining up to be a record-breaking year for the product management industry. In 2021, end-users across the world spent $145.5 billion on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. That number is projected to grow 18% to $171.9 billion in 2022.
Product managers (PMs) are sure to face increased competition for their products as the SaaS market becomes more saturated. By using our list of 10 product management best practices, PMs can prepare for another year of fast-paced change in 2022. And if you’re just getting started, check out our post on how to get into product management.
10 product management best practices for 2022
1. Get better at continuous discovery
Product discovery is performed ahead of product development to answer why a product should exist and who’s going to use it. These questions are often answered by customer and competitor research, which informs a product’s design and helps product teams build a product that actually solves problems for customers.
Continuous discovery keeps PMs aligned with customers and their needs and fosters a culture of ongoing innovation. Renowned product discovery consultant Teresa Torres suggests that continuous discovery should include weekly touchpoints with customers by the product team. This keeps the team focused on providing fixes, updates, and new features that are rooted in the customer problem.
2. Get comfortable with customer interviews
Continuous discovery can’t be performed without customer interviews—after all, PMs interact with more than just their internal teams. The key to building a product that customers love is to understand the problem(s) your customer is facing and how your product addresses that problem. Doing so requires PMs to speak directly and routinely with those who are, or will be using the product.
Customer interviews should be fruitful for both the PM and the customer. Here are a few tips on getting the most out of customer interviews:
- Have a method for recording and/or transcribing the interview. PMs will need notes to refer to for post-interview analysis. However, the bulk of the interview should be spent listening to the customer, not taking notes.
- Follow the 90/10 rule for speaking. The interviewer should only speak 10% of the time and the interviewee 90%. PMs should ensure the interview stays on track, but the insights come from the customer, not the one asking the questions.
- Ask the right questions. PMs undoubtedly have specific types of answers they’re seeking, but it’s important to let the customer guide the conversation. PMs should avoid leading questions and gently guide the conversation to focus on the customer’s goals, not specific features.
3. Become well-versed in product analytics
PMs can avoid analysis paralysis by leaning into product analytics. Product managers have to sift through enormous amounts of data to make strategic decisions. And 2022 brings an increase in automation, AI, and analytics tooling, resulting in even more data to consider when making decisions.
Thankfully, PMs don’t need to rely on intuition to determine product strategy. They can leverage behavioral analytics—data that reflects the motivations, desires, and patterns of their users—to build and enhance their products.
It’s important to capture granular data about what users are doing within the product, then turn that data into insights around key moments or milestones in the user journey. Zeroing in on user behaviors will result in less time spent on irrelevant data, and more time focusing on building better products and yielding satisfied customers.
4. Assemble a diverse, cross-functional team
PMs can sometimes fall prey to an “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself” mindset. They also juggle many tasks and might be responsible for any number of direct reports. Taking on too much can have the opposite effect, forcing pivotal action items to slip through the cracks. Furthermore, a “one-person team” approach stifles the creation and flow of ideas.
A PM must organize a team they can rely on. This isn’t to mean every member of a product team should agree on everything. Diverse opinions and approaches encourage new ways of thinking. Product teams exist in an atmosphere of ideation and experimentation, so any idea can be tested for validity. Ultimately, a PM needs to work alongside teammates they trust and who push each other to innovate and explore.
Additionally, a product will become more successful if it receives the full attention of myriad viewpoints, including marketers, UX designers, engineers, and copywriters. According to Mayank Yadav, Product Lead at Facebook, “If you don’t have the right skill set, it’s most likely that your product, initiative, or effort will fail. That’s why we have to set up the team for success …” In other words, teams need a variety of cross-functional skill sets to see their products succeed.
5. Democratize data throughout the organization
The NewVantage Partners executive survey reports that only 24% of respondents said their company has “created a data-driven organization.” If the majority of companies aren’t using data to guide their core strategies, you can only assume they’re relying on instinct or previous success models.
Companies can’t afford to ignore the importance of data, especially as competition reaches an all-time high. Product managers live at the intersection of business, tech, and leadership. This makes them perfectly positioned to redefine the company’s data culture by showing the value of an accessible, unified data set to those in leadership roles.
Data democratization empowers initiatives beyond the product team. For instance, a sales team with access to behavioral data could identify critical moments within the user journey that make them more likely to purchase additional features or renew a subscription. With the right analytics solution like Amplitude Analytics, the sales team could pull this information without relying on product or engineering to provide it. This self-serve agility further enables and empowers departments that are often fast-paced and require immediate results.
6. Level up your writing skills
The ability to pen clear, focused communications has always been an important skill for product managers. Further, good writing has become more vital than ever with remote work becoming the norm. An estimated 45% of employees in the U.S. now work from home, meaning many communications that were once face-to-face are now being delivered via email, Slack, or Teams.
Face-to-face conversations are more forgiving because participants can correct themselves, answer questions, or pivot in real-time. Written communication isn’t nearly as adaptable, which means getting an email or memo right the first time is critical for maximizing efficiency and minimizing errors. Messaging apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow teams to react faster to new information, but PMs are already often juggling multiple tasks at once. This makes the ability to write concise, readable, and accurate content an invaluable asset.
Luckily, PMs don’t need to look far to find methods for improving their professional writing skills. Resources for writing improvement include:
- Books such as the “HBR Guide to Better Business Writing”
- LinkedIn Learning writing classes
- Online writing courses through colleges and universities
7. Prepare for the unexpected
Product managers are often at the tip of the spear when it comes to tech innovation. Recent offerings have fundamentally changed how companies do business in a very short time. Facebook rebranded to Meta as the company set its sights on dominating the new metaverse. NFTs and crypto technologies are being heralded as societal gamechangers. Augmented and virtual realities that were once a niche in the gaming community are now being introduced into workplaces and homes. PMs must constantly assess whether or not their products are useful and relevant as the market adopts new technologies and ways of doing business.
The ability to think big and wide will become more integral to the role of a PM as the unexpected surfaces in 2022. Matt Resman, Senior Product Manager at Meta, offers a few words of advice to PMs interested in landing a career at the company formerly known as Facebook. “Creativity, innovation, and ability to think outside the box are always key … always be thinking about the broader picture …”
8. Seek out real-world advice
Sometimes the best way for PMs to improve is to learn best practices from the best. The brightest minds in all things product are often only a follow away on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. Product management experts like John Cutler or Josh Elman can provide fresh perspectives for PMs 280 characters at a time. Former Stripe, Google, and Yahoo PM Shreyas Doshi offers exclusive insights to Twitter followers who “super follow” his Twitter account.
It’s 2022. Product management isn’t a niche concept anymore. This makes it easier for PMs to follow or join online communities of likeminded individuals wanting to share their product triumphs and challenges. For example, subscribers to Lenny’s Newsletter get valuable product management articles delivered directly to their inboxes on a weekly basis. The Product Stack is an online community dedicated to discussing SaaS product management best practices.
9. Learn a new skill in 2022
Upskilling is a task that can easily be overlooked by busy PMs. Managing a team, investigating data, creating long-term strategies, and testing new features take up a large portion of a PM’s time. PMs are increasingly becoming invaluable to companies as time goes on. Their ability to demonstrate mastery across a growing number of disciplines will continue to push them further up the chain of command in 2022.
PMs must strive to learn as much as possible, especially for newcomers to the role. Diego Granados, Product Manager at Microsoft, offers some wise words: “… you have to focus on building at least one core skill while delivering results and creating amazing products that solve your customer problems.”
Several vital product management skills to learn or improve upon include:
- UX and design expertise
- Market research practices
- Time management
- Interpersonal communication
10. Know your worth
There were 10.93 million job openings in the US at the start of 2022, which means there’s never been a better time to shop the job market. Companies are racing against each other to offer better salaries and benefits to attract the best candidates. Whether interested in finding a new position or not, new and seasoned PMs alike should put their CVs out into the world to get a sense of the available opportunities. For newcomers to the field, check out our post on How to Get into Product Management in 2022.
Fielding periodic job interviews helps PMs keep their skills sharp. For one, more interviews are taking place remotely than ever before. There’s a different tone and cadence that comes with a remote interview, and practicing getting comfortable in front of a webcam can pay dividends for future job opportunities.
Additionally, the last two years of remote working, pivoting, and grinding throughout the pandemic have had negative impacts on many job-seekers. It’s hard enough to work effectively when exhausted, but burnout also adversely affects the quality of an interview. Routinely seeking out or taking interviews allows a PM to audit any issues so they can perform at their highest level once the right job opportunity comes along.
The Top 10 Technology and Business Trends of 2022 (Dec. 2021) Inc.
Big Data and AI Executive Survey 2021 NewVantage Partners
Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure (Dec. 2005) Harvard Business Review
Privacy by design: exceeding customer expectations (2021) Google/Ipsos
Security and Product Management UserVoice
Remote Work Persisting and Trending Permanent. (2021) Gallup.
Job Openings and Labor Turnover—December 2021. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Ready to learn how to upskill as a PM in six clicks or less? Check out our 6 Clicks video series.