Pendo’s 2021 State of Product Leadership Report Finds Companies Expect Product Leaders to Drive Digital Transformation

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Yet broader responsibility correlates to lower job satisfaction for product teams

Pendo, a platform that accelerates successful product adoption, today released the fourth annual State of Product Leadership study, a report that explores trends impacting product management and evolution of the product manager role. Produced in partnership with Product Collective, the study is based on a survey of 600 technology product management executives and managers from software and enterprise companies across the United StatesCanadaUnited KingdomFrance, and Germany.

Unique from prior reports, the 2021 edition examines the product discipline in the context of accelerating digital transformation and a global pandemic.

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“Product managers have more responsibility than ever as digital transformation timelines compress, but they’re also feeling the weight of that responsibility,” said Tatyana Mamut, senior vice president of new products at Pendo. “Now is the time to amplify the work of product managers, to empower these teams with operational support and ensure they prioritize health and wellness as they lead their companies through transformational change.”

Key findings include:

Product leaders are in the driver’s seat of digital transformation

McKinsey recently reported that the share of digital products in the average company’s portfolio accelerated by seven years in 2020. While the report calls that speed “shocking”, it also reveals the once-in-a-generation opportunity to elevate the role of product management as companies transform. This year’s survey of product managers proves that’s already happening. Across companies of every size, product teams are setting the strategy and roadmap for digital transformation. 66 percent of respondents indicated that product and R&D teams are perceived to be most responsible for digital transformation. The survey results also show that product leaders have the technical acumen and experience working cross-functionally to drive transformation forward.

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That responsibility is adding pressure to the role.

And yet, the study also showed a strong correlation between responsibility for digital transformation and low job satisfaction. Product leaders at $1B+ companies who have the most responsibility for their company’s digital efforts are least likely to refer their career path to a friend. They reported the lowest average NPS score, an eye-catching -6, of any respondent group. The speed at which companies are moving, combined with the stress of the pandemic, has added a lot of pressure on leaders with expertise building digital experiences.

Product operations and product ownership leads to happier teams.

But there is a path to improving job satisfaction and happiness at work. Product leaders supported by product operations report the highest levels of job satisfaction. The combination of autonomy and ample support empowers leaders to do their best work.

The survey concludes with a series of recommendations that help organizations empower and support their product leaders and teams as they accelerate digital transformation in 2021 and beyond.

“The role of the product leader continues to mature and is becoming increasingly critical to growing companies,” said Mike Belsito, co-founder of Product Collective. “Our findings show that these leaders expect more support from leadership, and ultimately, want to feel empowered to do their jobs well.”

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