Challenges and Opportunities for Product Managers in 2010

For product managers and marketers, 2010 looks like it will be another interesting year. Economic recovery, new tools and technologies, increasingly demanding and connected customers and a focus on sustainability are just some of the issues that will need to be carefully managed.

It won’t be easy. In an increasingly competitive and connected world it is likely that some organisations will succeed but many more will stagnate and some may even fail. Whilst it’s impossible to predict the future, it is possible to get a rough idea through discussion with others. Recently we talked with in a range of industries and functions and we collated some of the common themes that we heard.

We’d now like your input. What do you think will be the biggest challenges and opportunities for product managers and marketers in 2010?

Key challenges and opportunities

  • Budget pressures: Current limited budgets will be stretched and product managers will have to champion their ideas to get the cash needed to get underway. With continued scrutiny on the ROI of projects and products, there is still a risk that budgets will be cut which has a negative impact on product development. On the flip-side if the economy improves faster than expected we’ll see a shift in priorities from recession focused frugality to boom-time investment. It will be tough for organisations to manage this change quickly. Product managers and marketers must be able to identify what opportunities should be pursued and which should be killed off.
  • Active job market: There appear to be some first signs of recovery in the economy and we’ve noticed a significant increase in job openings for product managers, developers and marketers in recent weeks. This is leading to some flux as people move jobs and new employees join organisations. This means a cross-pollenisation of fresh ideas, collaborations between people of different backgrounds and new perspectives. This will lead to an increased number of organisations outsourcing more functionality in new areas, from technology to sales, product development to marketing.
  • New tools: It seems that every day we’re hearing funky new terms: crowdsourcing, augmented reality, collaborative software, social media. It’s a challenge to separate the hype from the important factors. Product managers and marketers will need to find a way to utilise the new tools available to gather input, comments, feedback, insights about market changes, customer needs, competitive threats and so on. Small business may lead this due to fewer corporate restrictions such as nervous legal departments and uppity PR teams. Open source software such as Open Office, Google Docs might change business models in software industry and moves towards “Enterprise 2.0” concepts at the top end of town will lead to changes in the way employees work with eachother.
  • Connecting with customers: The market is changing as customers are increasingly conversing and discussing brands and products with each other, online and offline. Multiple customer touch points offer valuable opportunities to build and maintain customer engagement. Product marketers will need to be focus less on “broadcast messages” and more “interactive engagement”. It will be essential that product managers ensure they remain connected with customers to continually get their input, feedback and ideas so as to develop and refine products to be most compelling.
  • Sustainability: There will be a continued increase in the expectation of consumers that companies operate in sustainable ways. This includes a focus on environment impacts of products in their design, development and management stages. Additionally, companies are facing pressures to operate in ways that support the local and global community.
  • The entrepreneurial bug will bite: We’re seeing more and more leading product managers and marketers head out to set up their own businesses. Product managers taking this path will need to step out of their comfort zone and areas of expertise and try new things, from accounting to operations, legal to sales and more.

Join the discussion

Please share your thoughts on the above points and on any other challenges and opportunities that you are preparing for in 2010.