The Product Manager’s Role in Digital Transformation

Editor’s note: the following was written by guest contributor, Jolene Borys. If you would like to write a guest post for us, please contact [email protected]

Product managers (PMs) have a key role in the digital transformation of product development. Any type of product at any stage of the development cycle cannot survive without an adaptive manager who can ride the wave of rapid digitization.

As previously discussed in our feature on ‘The Skills Product Managers Need in 2021’, tomorrow’s PMs require strategic thinking supported by strong leadership, data analysis, market research, and risk assessment skills. Today, all of these skill sets are being upended by digital technologies that are taking increasingly crucial roles in the field of product management and development.

Digitally Adaptive Product Management

In order to be successful, PMs need to familiarize themselves with the relevant apps and technologies. While digital transformation is inevitable, it also makes their jobs much easier in the long run. Product roadmap software Aha! for instance can be used to streamline management and development strategies for products. And with built-in integration mechanisms for development tools like Azure DevOps and Jira, Aha! can be scaled and customized to specific project requirements, whatever those projects or products might be.

Although today’s specialized roadmap-creation software is far from perfect, platforms like Aha! and Trello are paving the way for further integration towards a more unified digital product development landscape. From the simplest home-use products to the most complex industry-specific apps, these innovative platforms are fast closing client-developer gaps and enhancing communication lines in a wide range of developmental processes.

Streamlined Big Data Management and Communication

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Outside of actual roadmap-creation software, there’s a host of other digital tools for PMs to leverage. For instance, you only need a free Google account to access Google Analytics and its keyword tool, which can provide search engine data-based insights on the niches your product wants to reach. You can even use these tools to begin running a Google Ads campaign online, alongside the development of your product, which can be useful for startups looking for investors.

Big data tools are and will continue to be essential to how PMs build stories around data, which are not only useful for strengthening internal institutional knowledge, but also for convincing clients and investors to provide the necessary funding. There’s a wide range of actionable business insights that can be gained from leveraging the unique business data that your product development cycle creates. And digital transformation is also paving the way for PMs to more easily harvest this increasingly valuable resource.

Meanwhile, remote working and messaging tools like Slack and Google Docs can allow PMs to implement tighter communication channels across the development cycle. While such apps are relatively simple compared to platforms for leveraging big data and streamlining roadmap creation, they’re just as essential for unifying everyone involved in certain products, making them the glue that holds the ongoing digital transformation together.

From improving internal communications to creating long-term, data-informed, and viable management strategies, there are tons of other digital apps that PMs can turn to. And as these virtual tools continue to be used and improved in various product management use cases, we can expect them to be increasingly integrated with one another as well.

In short, the digital transformation of product management is moving towards a much more unified ecosystem – one that will be more user-friendly for PMs, their teams, and their clients. This brings us to our next topic.

Efficient Resource Allocation

One of the main goals of a digital transformation is the efficient allocation of resources. And new digital tools will play a crucial role in how PMs can direct this key aspect of product development, particularly when it comes to establishing an online presence. Properly allocating development resources paves the way for smooth product development and allows key staff and resources to pivot according to any challenges or unexpected factors that enter the picture.

However, one negative factor of development resource outlined by Ayima, is how it “is costly and time intensive”. And rather than allocating team members to efficiently work on a company’s digital transformation, a PM could be pulling staff away from effectively using their time. A balancing factor that PMs will have to consider during a digital transformation. Yet, they can invest in tools that will help with this.

For instance, the technical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), link development, and the development of web-optimized content all require development resource. And while developers will have the core skills necessary for tackling these digital era essentials, assigning them to website creation and maintenance pulls them away from the actual development cycle of software-based products.

This is why PMs will need to look to tools which will take all the aforementioned technical aspects of website maintenance and make them a user-friendly platform that requires zero developer knowledge. This type of software allows PMs and those under them with minimal to zero technical coding knowledge to either take over website development or allocate the task to other non-programmers, freeing up key personnel to deal with their primary product-related tasks.

Check out: A Curated List of Tools and Software for Product Managers

Traditional Managerial Values Still Matter

With all that being said, PMs immersed in digital transformation should remember not to neglect traditional managerial values, tactics, and strategies. Ushering in rapid digitization in any industry or company requires a PM who can establish genuine connections with their teams as well as their clients. Without the basics of being a good manager, it’ll be much harder if not impossible for any team to efficiently adapt to the increasing reliance on digital tools.

For better or worse, the digitization of the world’s most vital industries is a rapidly moving train that won’t stop anytime soon. And if you’re a PM who wants to make a bigger difference in the world, it’s time to embrace your role in the inevitable digitization of product management and development.

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