2022 Budgets: Where to Put Your Resources

Budgeting season is upon us. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are peering into the murky future. With many trying to decide where to invest in the year to come. That includes product teams, who must determine how to maximize their return on their 2022 budgets.

To get the most bang for your budgeted bucks, we can look at some of the trends revealed in our latest State of Product Management Report. Based on this survey of thousands of product management professionals, some common themes emerge.

Product teams are spending on things that make them work better, smarter, and faster. They’re also investing in activities that help them better understand their market and customers. Plus, they’re spending on hiring staff and keeping them engaged and educated.

Here are some areas to consider when making your 2022 requests:

Product Stack Tools for 2022 Budgets

Investing in tools for the product team commanded the most significant share of product team budgets in our 2021 survey. There remains no indication that will change any time soon. Accelerated by the shift to distributed teams and remote working, these tools have become invaluable resources.

Tools in the product stack increase productivity and efficiency. Moreover, they strengthen work relationships and facilitate alignment. Whether it’s staying on the same page as the development team during a sprint or creating buy-in on the product strategy and roadmap, these solutions streamline communication, minimize confusion, and provide centralized repositories for crucial information.

Teams also realize their product stacks need a variety of tools for different functions. We’ve identified 12 types of tools to include in your product stack, ranging from asynchronous communication tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams to user tracking and analysis tools including Pendo and Amplitude.

Of course, we’d be remiss, not to mention the value of having a purpose-built roadmapping tool in your product stack. Nothing else enables stakeholders to get a real-time, customized view of the product roadmap in an easy-to-understand visual format.

So whether it’s more seats for your current tools or augmenting your stack with some new ones, this area typically tops the list for product team 2022 budgets.

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2022 Budgets Include Hiring

The “Great Resignation” significantly increased the degree of difficulty in finding, hiring, and retaining staff. Product management is no exception. With thousands of unfilled positions listed on job boards, companies compete for scarce and selective talent.

But investing in hiring means more than just accounting for the (increasingly larger) salaries you’ll need to offer candidates to win them over. Teams also must invest in the hiring process itself to bring on employees capable of making an impact.

Hiring includes the usual things, such as placement on job boards and tapping recruiters. But hiring in 2022 requires a little more creativity and flexibility. The talent pool may be shallower than before. However, it got a whole lot broader as companies realize that thanks to remote work, they can hire talent across the country or the entire world. In the past, they had to instead rely on the local labor market.

But to succeed when you’re competing against companies around the world for talent, companies must invest in getting appealing messages and stories about their work environment in front of both active and passive job hunters. Workers don’t just want a paycheck. They’re seeking a host of other perks and workplace attributes.

From culture fits and flexible hours to more tangible benefits, candidates also demand a compelling vision for the future, opportunities for advancement, commitments to social justice, diversity, inclusion, equity, and pay transparency. While these may not “cost” anything per se, they still require resources to execute, manage, and communicate.

And don’t forget that your current staff sees what’s happening on the job market as well. Devoting resources to retention is crucial since backfilling them will take even more time and money.

Making Room for Education in the 2022 Budget

Most product teams pride themselves on continually learning from their customer base and turning those findings into action. But product team members themselves can also benefit from ongoing educational opportunities.

Investments don’t always pay off instantly. However, exposure to other product management practitioners’ best practices and experiences reaps benefits for employees and the business.

One excellent way to burnish product management skills while also providing excellent professional networking opportunities is to attend conferences dedicated to the trade. Getting these into the budget benefits staff and allows them to sharpen their toolset. With many of these forums offering virtual learning and networking opportunities, there are more to choose from than ever. Here are some of our favorites.

For teams seeking more formal educational opportunities, consider product management certification programs or advocate for a tuition reimbursement benefit to pursue an MBA.

Even if you can’t afford to pay for all these things, budgeting the time for team members to explore their interests and learn new things can also pay off. There’s no shortage of inexpensive or free learning opportunities that staff merely need the time, permission, and encouragement to take on.

Knowing the business is willing to invest time and money in these educational opportunities shows the company cares and can increase retention, loyalty, and a positive atmosphere.

Customer Surveys

While customer interviews are great for gathering qualitative data and feedback, nothing gets you a meaningful N-value like a good survey. These exercises give teams many insights into what customers care about and their pain points, with enough quantitative data to validate assumptions and win over stakeholders.

But designing an excellent survey, soliciting an adequate number of responses, and crunching the numbers to make sense of the findings isn’t free. It may be beneficial to use professional survey tools or outsource significant parts of the process. Additionally, you might need to offer incentives to recruit participants, which is also part of the budget.

Another place to dedicate budget dollars is accessing market research from industry analyst firms such as Gartner or Forrester. Those often lofty fees typically necessitate inclusion in the budget. All these market research and customer research activities have the potential to pay dividends, both in steering the product strategy toward higher ROI initiatives and in convincing colleagues to pursue a particular path.

Don’t Forget About Fun

Particularly now that businesses embrace working from home, they must also recognize the need for team building. Product teams aren’t always that great at investing in areas that don’t have a direct payoff. But neglecting employees’ mental health or the need for camaraderie is a mistake. Outing, parties, guest speakers, and other activities may seem trivial. However, they are often the glue that holds everything together. Creating opportunities for colleagues to socialize and have a little fun at work creates energy and enthusiasm. It also creates stronger bonds and trust between coworkers that don’t happen organically.

Locking in dollars for these events in the budget both ensures funding exists to hold them, plus it also incentivizes an otherwise overworked team to plan them. A line item for fun means a commitment to fun, which shouldn’t get overlooked.

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