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The 6 challenges of the modern product manager

Mar 22, 2021 by Nikita Verkhoshintcev

We challenge you to find an industry where maintaining a high level of product development and innovation is not an obstacle. And while on certain teams (like football) it may be useful to have many teammates working towards a common goal, it is often the involvement of multiple leaders that can undermine these challenges by causing organizations to lose sight of the original product and business goals.

Ever heard the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen”? It very much applies to product development, too.

Having studied product development and product management for years, we have identified six areas where modern product managers usually run into speed bumps.

Read on for more information on the six challenges product managers are facing (and some suggestions on what to do about them).

In today's marketplace, product managers have an especially challenging job because of the following:

  1. Unrealistic time constraints
  2. Choosing a reactive instead of proactive approach
  3. Poor level of control
  4. Misaligned objectives
  5. Product roadmap inconsistencies
  6. An ever-changing market landscape

We will go into greater detail on each challenge faced by today’s product managers over the course of

Unrealistic time constraints

The first thing many new product managers notice is how many things are happening at once, never letting up. It can be overwhelming. Management and your team expect you to become an expert in your product and market within a relatively short time. After all, it is expected that you will become the definitive expert in your area within a short period of time.

Advice to product managers facing unrealistic time constraints:

Be sure to remain on your course despite numerous outside influences. Your job will be easier if you learn from a very early age how to balance needs and expectations, identify market opportunities, and create a strong vision for your product's future.

Choosing a reactive instead of proactive approach

Since you’re surrounded by different team members, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of running from one problem to the next and quelling emergencies as they appear. You need to keep track of your overarching goals and objectives if you want to be an effective product manager, for these things will make a profound impact on who you are and what you can accomplish.

Advice to product managers who feel stuck using a reactive approach:

According to the 80-20 rule, you should devote 80 percent of your time to the 20 percent activities that have the greatest material impact on your product's success and the success of your organization.

Poor level of control

Profit and loss responsibilities can maximize your effectiveness as a product manager. Yet, many companies do not give their product managers this vital tool. It is still necessary for you to work with others to accomplish your goals, even if your organization gives you responsibility for profit and loss.

Advice to product managers with a poor level of control:

You’ll need to establish good relationships, build consensus, and gain support from others in order to push the product in the direction you believe best contributes to the organization’s goals.

Misaligned objectives

Top-performing product managers have both a long-term strategy for their products and a short-term tactical plan to address concerns that arise immediately.

Keep in mind that short-term tactical projects — those with shorter deadlines and a stronger sense of urgency — can take valuable time away from the long-term objectives and bigger vision that your organization needs to aggressively pursue.

Advice to product managers facing tension between short and long-term product goals:

A good product manager needs to learn to balance his or her time and obligations; strong collaboration skills and conflict resolution skills serve him or her best when pressure is high and deadlines loom.

Employing a strong team that you can delegate urgent tasks to as they arise is also crucial to your success in this occupation.

Product roadmap inconsistencies

All employees are going to have their own ideas about how to develop your product and get it into the market. Employees are going to feel passionately about their approach, and they will defend it with an almost vicious intensity.

As a product manager, you need to make sure that the team and your decisions are always centered on facts. Facts must always take precedence over opinions in decision-making.

Advice to product managers dealing with different opinions regarding the product’s direction:

That's where P&L insights can help you tremendously. Use the data and statistics to back up your idea on the product's direction. Make sure to deal gracefully with opposing opinions and personalities, and to guide the team back towards the facts that ultimately determine your direction.

An ever-changing market landscape

In product management and in life, the only constant is change. New competitors emerge and products are advanced from new sources every single day. Your company’s success will be influenced by your customers and their needs.

You will be able to protect your organization when you make efforts to understand the market and its trends and identify potential risks and opportunities. Always be alert so you can react quickly if the unexpected happens.

In Summary

Dealing with these six challenges faced in product development and consequently, product management, will enable your effectiveness as a leader within your organization. Your team will appreciate your proactivity and you will be able to build a product roadmap for a successful execution.

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