4 trends shaping the role of product manager in 2022

Words by Nick Lioudis and Liz Steelman and Stephanie Darling and Lori Alcala  •  Apr 12, 2022
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In 2021, as a new reality of hybrid and remote work materialized, some big questions for product managers emerged.

  • Should we return to traditional office environments?
  • Can our team stay effective while working remotely?
  • How can we maintain solid communication across teams and stakeholders with a distributed workforce? 

The answers, it turns out, were not cut and dry. While many pushed for the permanent adoption of work-from-home and hybrid schedules, others opted to head back to their offices. Flexible work — namely the desire to choose where and how to work — is the future. However, what remains to be seen is its impact on productivity, work-life balance, and innovation. 

For InVision’s 2022 trend report, we aimed to paint a picture of this new hybrid world, poring over our most read, discussed, and shared ideas, and asking not only experts from monday.com, Teladoc Health, Uber and Unveil.Social, but also 1,483 survey respondents in more than 12 different job roles, across 20+ industries.

More from the report, plus how each trend will affect product managers, below.

(Not a product manager? Get the full, free report for a more in-depth look to see how these trends affect you!)

1. Out with adapting to workplaces – in with workplaces that adapt

The gist

After two years of an all-remote workplace, many organizations are dealing with a fluid workforce. As the pandemic becomes endemic, and with more workers wanting the flexibility to work in a way that suits them best, organizations will spend 2022 building digital and in-person workspaces that fulfill the needs of both employer and employee.

“Companies are figuring out what they need to do culturally to make remote work happier for folks as opposed to more stressful.”

– Dave Malouf, Director, Design Ops, Teledoc Health

What it means for product managers

Expect product managers to adopt a “less is more” mentality after nearly two years of adapting to increased communication needs as they create new hybrid best practices that allow everyone to stay equally focused and efficient in flexible work routines. Product managers are excellent connectors, receiving feedback from numerous fractious, siloed groups and conveying it to others in the form of roadmaps and milestones. Needless to say — the job necessitates a lot of meetings. 

The transition to hybrid and/or remote work means even fewer “shoulder tap” collaboration moments, as well as increased prepared stakeholder communication. According to an OpinionX poll, 77 percent of project managers believe their “attention is being pulled in too many directions,” and 80 percent agree that “coordinating efforts across teams and organizations consumes so much time and energy.”  

Rather than spending another year manually bridging communication gaps between teams and departments, PMs will find ways to systematize their team’s work. 

2. Out with making do — in with breaking through

The gist

After shouldering the burdens that came from integrating work and life, employees will continue to pressure their employers to adjust culture, policies, and processes. If not, employees will leave for greener pastures. Those who stay will continue to advocate for work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing, flexible workplaces, and more purposeful, meaningful work.

In the“Great Resignation” people transitioning jobs increased by 54% year over year globally, according to LinkedIn, with Gen Z increasing by 80%

What it means for product managers

After a year of product delays due to team member attrition, product managers will focus attention on empowering their teams to do innovative work in 2022. One way they’ll accomplish this is by developing roadmaps in more adaptable tools that provide a centralized, accessible space for new collaborators to easily jump in, get up to speed on the project, and provide feedback without slowdowns.

By adopting digital collaboration platforms, product managers can create accurate and adaptable visual product roadmaps and alleviate pressure on understaffed teams.

3. Out with the duct tape–in with the Swiss Army Knife

The gist

After nearly two years haphazardly adjusting to remote work, the most successful businesses will adopt “universatile” tools in 2022, or those that streamline cross-functional work across different work types: synchronous and asynchronous, or remote, hybrid, or co-located.

85% of respondents said they experimented with new tools or technologies in the workspace, and nearly three- fourths of them said these were in hopes of better communicating with other teams.

What it means for product managers

Product managers agreed that one of their top ten workplace concerns was “disjointed organizational knowledge (customer success, marketing, data science) and a need to share knowledge cross-functionally.” While PMs are used to working across multiple tools because they tend to adapt to whatever their collaborators are using, they feel like they are constantly translating and shifting back and forth across so many different tools that it takes time away from actual strategic work.

In 2022, rather than serving as an information conduit for product teams, PMs will establish processes that allow their cross-functional partners to centralize data and streamline feedback throughout the product delivery lifecycle.

Asynchronous tools can help bring teams seamless communication. For instance, teams can try recording a Loom video to save time and instantly connect with distributed teams.

4. Out with the indifference — in with making a difference

The gist

The events of 2020 and 2021 prompted employees to reevaluate how their work could positively affect larger movements. In 2022, employees will expect employers to not only take a stand, but orient their internal and external work to make a meaningful impact in the world.

53% of InVision survey respondents felt like their company had renewed interest in accessibility and inclusivity throughout the year.

What it means for product managers

Understanding the unique issues among a diverse set of customers is a critical component of product management success. When the makeup of a team does not reflect the audience, the research becomes much more difficult. Bridging the pain point gap between company and customer will therefore come down to a product manager’s ability to interview, analyze, and synthesize diverse user information for internal and external audiences. This necessitates a high level of alignment and collaborative technology — where cross-functional teams reliant on product teams to approach go-to-market strategies with user problems and solutions in mind may have to play a larger role than in previous years. 

All meeting participants have an equal opportunity to provide valuable input and feedback through digital collaboration platforms such as Freehand, which will help PMs make better decisions and build better products.

Illustrations by Christina Pedos.