With a new year comes our one legitimate chance as product managers to plan waaaaay ahead into the future with our usual level of accuracy, but in behemoth batches, and without all those pesky KPIs to which we’re held accountable.
Given this liberty, I offer for your edification and entertainment 6 product management predictions for 2017. All are based on observations I’ve made over the past year. None are guaranteed to provide any value other than perhaps a snort and chortle at my expense.
1. Data Science Madness
Don’t be surprised if you see an increasing number of product owner position postings on LinkedIn chock-full-of acronyms and terms such as NLG, Machine Learning … and of course AI.
As companies continue to automate and ‘robotize’ a wide range of process-based products and services, successful enterprises will hire product owners capable of carrying on conversations with data scientists with the same technical depth as they do DBAs and DevOps engineers.
(This, in contrast, to failures-in-waiting. That is, those organizations who think they can save a buck or three hiring one person to serve both the masters of product management and deep learning simultaneously. Avoid such disasters.)
My suggestion is auditing offerings such as those provided by Coursera in this arena, and learn how to do some basic regressions, trend lines, and projections using tools such as R, TensorFlow, and/or yes, even Excel.
The idea here is to learn just enough to paint consumable pictures of “what” so your developers and QA team members can accurately plan, estimate, and deliver the “how.”
2. Measure Twice, Cut Once
As successful software organizations continue to deliver value through adoption of Lean principles, their demand for accurate measurements of success or failure will grow.
As a result, we’ve seen over the past couple years the rise of products for product managers such as Aha!, Asana, Pendo. While tools such as these offer awesome visualizations of road maps, feature overlays, and so on, their real value is their expansion of analytics-based feature sets.
Just as a dive into deep learning wouldn’t hurt emerging product managers, so too will an expanded understanding of retention and adoption analytics help differentiate you from the ‘merely good’ product managers.
3. Pursuit of Appiness
It wasn’t too many years ago too many of us were assailed by various voices within our respective places of employment with the urgent insistence “we need a mobile app!”
Well if you thought 2016 would have finally killed-off said notion like an aging celebrity you may be in for a rude awakening in 2017. Put another way, you’ll know this applies to you when confronted with the mutant variant strain “when can we deliver a progressive web app?”
The recent and rapid assimilation of web content by the folks who brought us Accelerated Mobile Pages will most likely bring about a similar push towards Progressive Web Apps.
My advice? Learn enough about the mistakes made during the rush into responsive web design and mobile to push back on PWAs in the ‘short term’; or at least limit its implementation as a learning tool.
The ‘short term’ being however long it takes for Apple to quit jerking us around with adopting this standard for the Safari Browser. Given how long it took for Apple to stop their insidious crippling of webkit-powered webviews, we may be revisiting this very topic this time next year.
Framworks such as the Ionic may help mitigate the risks involved in the waiting game, while hedging your bets in terms of technical debt and improving your ability to pivot to/from PWA to/from Hybrid apps.
4. Insecurity of Things
This past year we saw the rise of gargantuan DDoS attacks that leveraged the Internet of Things.
Similarly, we witnessed how $75 billion spent on information security was simply circumvented with the spear phishing pawnage of a major political party’s email server.
Yeah, I know, adding such prophylactic plumbing into our backlog is a PITA, but those who fail to ‘bake-in’ security into their stories may find themselves doomed to repeat recent history that has collectively cost us $300 billion.
5. Certification Inflation
Remember just a few years ago when any and every individual seeking employment as a project manager needed PMP on their resume just to get a phone screen?
And remember just a few years ago arguments we’d have with newly minted PMPs over why a task added to a WBS several months ago was no longer the right thing to build?
With the adoption of agile by organizations still stuck in waterfall thinking, so too will we continue to see our new job hopes dashed by well-intended but misguided hiring managers. Their error being the avoidance of preliminary phone conversations with qualified product management candidates not bearing similar alphabet soup certifications in their title.
One of my own New Year’s resolutions is to go ahead and add one of these trophies to my shelf as such learning never hurts, and to keep some doors open …
… even if I personally believe much of the burgeoning commercialization of product management certification industry will likely yield are candidates whose sole differentiator on paper is their ability to memorize finite processes and pass static tests.
6. Auditions vs. Interviews
This last item is my long-shot, wishful thinking prediction based on frustrations I’ve heard from more than one director of product here near Raleigh. That is, ‘how do I interview and hire the right product manager/owner for the job?’
Personally, as a recovering opera singer, I would rather be judged in the context of an audition than an interview. I mean honestly, how much can a hiring manger tell about an individual’s ability to deliver the right feature at the last responsible moment with HR provided questions such as “Can you tell me what your greatest weakness is?”
Instead, hold hack-a-thons, BarCamps, and/or GitHub hosted backlog challenges. If you like, these events could be geared to produce a community -oriented app, or perhaps contribute to an existing open source project.
Even if you can’t hire all the awesome talent that might come out for such a cattle call, you can at least learn new things, and create a backlog/network of qualified future candidates.
Your mileage may vary
I’ve got more to say on all these topics, but I think we have enough to inspire responses with your own predictions, or at least humorously delicious derision of mine.
Meanwhile, I’ve got work to do on my next post as I’m hoping I can deliver two management posts per month for 2017. That and I’ve got a few ideas for some hilarious PM parody videos.
Wish me luck, and a happy New Year y’all!