What does it mean to be a product manager in 2020?

Phil Mora
4 min readDec 29, 2020

(I originally published this in my blog in January 2020)

As a new decade sets in, I would like to take a close look at three fundamental trends that are shaping product management in 2020:

  • PMs are now strategic leaders within an organization
  • Product-led growth and growth product managers
  • Teams begin to understand the importance of transparency in product management

PMs are now strategic leaders within an organization
As I have said in a previous post last year, in the past, product managers were often confused for user experience designers, senior technology leads, or even project managers. At best, teams acknowledged PMs as product owners in the agile sense, and as such their main deliverable was the product backlog. The real impact of product management was often misunderstood, and PMs did not have the software of resources to carry out their best work.

In 2020, this is no longer true. PMs play an increasingly significant role that will not only impact a company’s product, but overall strategy and growth.

In traditional organizations, PMs are needed to create digital product experiences that seamlessly align with existing products and services — a major challenge brought on by the age of digital transformation.

In the B2B world, we are seeing a “consumerization of IT,” meaning that people want the technology they use for work to look like the elegant, well-designed tools they use personally (like the iPhone and other B2C products). Thus, PMs are crucial for creating delightful B2B products that appeal to both buyers and end-users.

Finally, the convenience of modern technology has increased customer expectations. Customers want your product to solve their problems now. And if you can’t do it, someone else will.

As a result, Product Managers in 2020 largely own the product strategy and vision, and play an active role in the future of organizations. More than ever, PMs use data-driven processes and systems to support their mission-critical work and their decision-making responsibilities also mean that it’s on them to act as leaders within their organizations and rally everyone around their plan.

Product-led growth and growth product managers
As I have said last year, Product-led growth is a go-to-market strategy that relies on product usage as the primary driver of acquisition, conversion, and expansion. The model is exploding in popularity because when executed well, a product can infiltrate the market and grow on its own — no extra work required.

Growth product managers share a lot in common with traditional product managers, but instead of owning the product, the growth PM works to improve a specific set of metrics or goals.

Experimentation is core to the growth PM job description, and they often use methods like A/B testing to continuously optimize their metric of focus. Some growth PMs own part of the product like onboarding, the sign-up experience, websites, monetization strategy, and email flows.

Teams begin to understand the importance of transparency in product management
In high-functioning organizations, everyone is invested in a common product vision and works to support the product in one way or another. To be effective, they need to know what products and features are coming up, what was launched, what is in consideration, and how everything relates to the organization’s overarching goals. It is the responsibility of product organizations to make this information accessible.

Creating the opportunity for transparency to happen involves building a central repository for ideas, suggestions, requirements, and the comments associated with them — a single source of truth that everyone in the process can see. It involves providing stakeholders, both within and outside the organization, access to as much of that information as possible and the ability to collaborate on that information across every lifecycle phase of the company’s product line.

Product teams who foster this kind of transparency often use a tool or method specifically designed to openly share the product management process — a “source of truth.” This opens up the business context and user insights behind each product-related decision.

When transparency is embraced by product teams, it prevents knowledge silos that can hinder communication with customers, prospects, and other stakeholders. It helps cross-functional departments understand the rationale behind tough trade-offs on what gets built next, even if they don’t personally agree with the decision.

In short, transparency unites everyone behind a common goal, which, let’s admit, is simply good for business.

Let me know what you think!
DM me @philippemora on IG and Twitter
​My name’s phil mora and I blog about the things I love: fitness, hacking work, tech and anything holistic.

Head of Digital Product
thinker, doer, designer, coder, leader

Originally published at https://www.philmora.com.

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Phil Mora

Thinker, Doer, Designer, Coder, Leader. Head of Product @ Nutrien