Best Practices

New Year’s Resolutions for Product Managers

PMs, take a deep breath: We made it to the end of 2020. This year was likely full of changing priorities, sudden roadmap pivots, new personas and use cases, and—let’s be honest—some straight up chaos. While these things aren’t just going to go away come January, a new year is always a good time to reflect on the last 12 months and plan for the year ahead.

As we head into 2021, here are six New Year’s resolutions to consider—and tips for making sure you keep them.

Build roadmaps that are adaptable

You should think of your product roadmap as a living document, and this proved even more paramount in 2020. Many, if not all, companies had to rewrite their roadmaps due to COVID-19, and we shouldn’t rule out the potential for more of these types of shifts in the new year. Although you can’t predict the future, you can build your product roadmap with this in mind, structuring it to be more flexible, open-to-feedback, and change-friendly. This will also require a bit of change management to ensure stakeholders understand that the roadmap is subject to change, especially given the current state of the world.

Utilize data for (more) decision making

Ah, data. Every product manager agrees that data is crucial to their job, but using it to make better decisions is easier said than done. If one of your goals is to be more data-driven, make it a priority to include product data (or more product data) in your decision making process. This means analyzing quantitative and qualitative data throughout the entire product development lifecycle. If that feels too daunting to do at once, pick a few different areas to focus on this year. There are plenty of ways to get more out of your product data, and committing to specific tactics is a key first step.

Sharpen your communication skills

Communication is always a critical skill for product pros, but the nature of remote work and distributed teams makes it both more challenging and more important. It’s easy to say you’re going to work on being a better communicator, but it’s also easy to let it fall down the list of priorities as roadmaps fill out and urgent items pile up. Even though you’ve been limited to written communication and video calls for a while now, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to improve. Think about how you collaborate with stakeholders across the company, and identify where the connection could be stronger. Then, come up with specific action items to tackle on an ongoing basis.

Spend more time with customers

Just because you might not be able to meet with customers in person next year doesn’t mean you should talk to them less. In fact, being able to hop on a phone call or Zoom makes it easier to meet with more customers, compared to if you had to travel to other offices or cities. There are many benefits of customer interviews, but in the end it all comes down to relationship building. Ideally, you’re able to see the world through your customers’ eyes and serve them better, faster, smarter, and more proactively. Determine what’s realistic in terms of the target number of customers to connect with, and then hold yourself accountable. One way to do this is to partner with other PMs and create a system for planning, logging, and sharing insights from customer interviews.

Remove unused features from the product

Product managers celebrate when we launch new features, but removing unused features from the product is equally as important and deserves some celebration, too. Turn to your product data to determine which (if any) features are rarely or never used—and if they are used, by whom. If your inner hoarder is already freaking out, consider adopting a framework, for example one that involves phases for assessment, reflection, and decision, to help structure this process. You could set a goal to remove a certain number of unused features throughout the year, or to assess the need for removing features every month or quarter.

Write the description of your dream job

While it’s always important to think about your career aspirations, make a point to get it down in writing this year. This act of physically writing (or typing) out your goals and ideal growth path will help you better navigate the year ahead, since you’ll have a clear sense of what you’re working toward. It might be a matter of pursuing a new product title, taking on more responsibility in your current work, or shifting to a different product area. Regardless, it’s worth spending time focusing on yourself and where you’d like to be at the end of 2021.