Responsibility #10: Stay Attuned to Industry Trends

By Michael Colemere and Candianne Haacke

Industry Trends Inform Decision Making
Product managers who stay attuned to industry trends stay competent and relevant in their field. Those who keep their finger on the pulse of various industries are able to recognize new opportunities from a higher level than that from which they currently operate. They also become trusted sources to help others.

Product development teams expect product managers to make a wide variety of decisions. Knowing which choice is best can sometimes be difficult because of all the factors that affect the decision. However, it is through continuously acquiring new information that product managers are able to base good decisions on a triad of research, reasoning, and intuition.

Learning about Industry Trends in a Pinch
Product managers say they should spend about half their time on strategic items and half on tactical items. In reality, 28% of their time is spent on strategic items, such as learning about emergent technologies. Still, how product managers spend their time directly affects how much they earn. For example, those who spend more time on strategic vs. tactical activities earn an additional $7,000 per year. Those who spend more time discovering new opportunities (approximately 9 hours per month) report earning an additional $11,250 per year.

The following practical tools can help product managers quickly and easily stay in tune with market trends to begin identifying new opportunities.

Communities of Practice
In his book, Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, William M. Snyder suggests that communities of practice — groups of individual formed around common interests and expertise — provide lasting competitive advantages. Such advantages include generating new business opportunities, solving problems, transferring best practices, developing professional skills, and recruiting top talent.

Communities of practice help product managers come aware of relevant topics and trends they might not otherwise learn about. Most communities meet together monthly or quarterly; some are virtual such as this Facebook group. A surprising number of community-led product management groups can be found on Meetup.com.

Subscription Services
News aggregators like Feedly help product managers compile news from nearly any website, forum, or blog. Feedly curates content so that product managers can quickly scan through headlines and read more without having to visit and navigate the long list of websites they’ve bookmarked over time. Feeds can even be shared with team members and peers. One website worth adding to Feedly is GerryMcGovern.com. His organization has developed a set of tools and methods to help large organizations identify and optimize online user experiences.

Other industry subscriptions include newsletters from organizations such as:
· Pew Research Center: a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world
· eMarketer: a trusted information source on digital marketing, media, and commerce, which offers insights essential to being effective in a digital world
· Deloitte Industry Outlooks: challenges, trends, and strategies that may shape businesses during the current year for consumer products, federal government, financial services, health care, media and entertainment, and more
· McKinsey YouTube Channel: a series of current webinars on global marketing and sales and more

Annual Technology Trend Reports
A series of reputable technology trend reports have been produced for the past several years. Product managers can fully understand the future of technology by studying the following three reports:
· Internet Trends by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (aka Mary Meeker)
· Global Media Intelligence Report by eMarketer
· ICT Facts and Figures by the International Telecommunication Union

Attending conferences, interviewing or surveying users, and rubbing elbows or having lunch with other influencers inside and outside the organization are other surefire ways to learn of emergent trends.

With the expansive amount of information published online everyday, staying alert to new opportunities and trends can seem daunting. Nonetheless, dedicating a small amount of time each week to exploring new trends and interests helps product managers identify new opportunities and improve existing products — not to mention increase take-home pay.