The product management landscape is constantly in flux. And today, it’s evolving faster than ever before. Agile principles have infiltrated old processes. New communication platforms have taken hold. And while some are quick to embrace this change, others might be curious how they stack up to industry frontrunners.

We care deeply about helping product managers stay ahead of the curve in terms of adopting modern product management best practices. So, for the fourth year in a row, we reached out to product managers far and wide to create our annual Product Planning Report. This year’s report features our most robust data-set to date, as we surveyed more than 1,300 product managers on topics like strategic planning, prioritization, and communication.

Our findings reveal some of the secrets behind high-performing modern product managers.

To discuss them all in one post would be near impossible. For the full experience, we encourage you to download a free copy of the report.

For now, let’s review a few takeaways from the cohort of respondents who reported the highest levels of satisfaction with their processes. These are the trailblazing product managers leading the way in modern product management.

3 Key Habits of the Modern Product Manager

1. The modern product manager starts with metrics.

We’ve written before about the importance of product and business metrics. Whether you’re launching new products or searching for ways to improve existing ones, there really is no better place to start than with the metrics that matter most.

As our report shows, teams lacking metrics to guide product decisions are the least satisfied with their planning and prioritization processes. Without predefined metrics to keep the team rallied around unified goals, these teams report a lack of focus and guidance. On the other hand, teams with clearly defined product or business metrics to help guide strategic planning reported the highest satisfaction levels.

Fortunately, for teams that fall in the less-than-satisfied camp, defining key metrics is not rocket science. Consider adopting a top-down approach, where one singular “North Star” metric is selected for the product or business. This metric should balance the interests of executives, stakeholders, and organization-wide objectives. From there, decisions can be made in support of the North Star.

2. The modern product manager updates the roadmap frequently.

How often should you update your roadmap? Well, if satisfaction with your process is important to you, updating weekly is the sweet spot. Teams that update their roadmaps weekly report a satisfaction score of 3.2 out of 5, compared to those that update annually (2.3 out of 5).

Over the past few years, we’ve watched roadmap timeframes trend shorter and shorter. In fact, 58% of teams plan their roadmaps between 4-12 months, reflecting the reality that long-term planning (more than a year out) has become growingly difficult.

Now, updating the roadmap and setting time-frames are two different things. But with 69% of product teams updating their roadmaps weekly or monthly, we can see that the modern product manager rarely works with the roadmap on an annual basis. Rather, the roadmap consistently receives attention.

If your organization frequently pursues new ideas and initiatives, the roadmap should reflect this. After all, an outdated roadmap defeats the purpose of roadmapping in the first place. Organizational alignment and product direction often fall by the wayside without a single source of updated truth.

3. The modern product manager uses the right tool for the job.

As with our previous studies, this year’s report includes insight from product managers using a handful of different tools. We heard from product managers who visualize their plans with dedicated roadmap software, project management software, presentation software, spreadsheets, and more. Again, we asked about satisfaction levels in relation to these different solutions.

Product managers using dedicated roadmap software report the most satisfaction with their planning and prioritization process compared to those using other tools. And tool usage over time suggests people are catching on, as just 14% of respondents were using a dedicated solution in 2016, compared to this year’s 35%.

Why does dedicated roadmap software increase happiness in regards to planning and prioritizing? Based on conversations with our own customers, we have a few guesses. Roadmap software makes it easy to…

  1. Quickly update the roadmap on the fly as new initiatives emerge
  2. Visually display the plan to better communicate milestones and responsibilities
  3. Share customized views of the plan depending on the audience
  4. Integrate with other tools used throughout the company, like Jira and Slack

To experience these advantages for yourself, sign up for a free 30-day trial of ProductPlan today. And to discover dozens more findings on the modern product manager, get your free copy of our 2019 Product Planning Report. Enjoy!