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How Did the Pandemic Affect Product Teams in 2020?

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  • Pragmatic Institute is the transformational partner for today’s businesses, providing immediate impact through actionable and practical training for product, design and data teams. Our courses are taught by industry experts with decades of hands-on experience, and include a complete ecosystem of training, resources and community. This focus on dynamic instruction and continued learning has delivered impactful education to over 200,000 alumni worldwide over the last 30 years.

How Did the Pandemic Affect Product Teams in 2020?

The 2020-2021 Pragmatic Institute Annual Product Management and Marketing Survey is now out. And In addition to some of our favorite topics and insights, this latest issue dives into the impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on the world of product. 

So in addition to information on:

  • The average salary for product managers and product marketers
  • The impact of education on income
  • Common responsibilities for product pros
  • And all topics you care about most

We explored how product marketing and product management changed during the pandemic—as well as business at large—and which of those changes are likely to stay. 

These insights can help you communicate the experiences you and your team had during a difficult year to stakeholders in the context of the industry. 

What may have felt uniquely challenging to your company could have been an industry-wide trend, which can change the conversation from “what did we do to create this change” to “what can we do to manage this shift.”  

More importantly, this report highlights some of the changes that might stick around after the pandemic passes. 

In 2020, there were 1,100 respondents from 6 continents and 43 U.S. States. 

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Here are the 8 major insights specifically related to changes in product because of the pandemic:

1. Only 9% of Roadmaps Created in January Held Up Through 2020 

Predictability went out the window in March 2020 as the world developed strategies to address the pandemic, and as a result, nearly everyone who completed the survey said their roadmaps were affected. The good news is most (60%) said their roadmap held up moderately well. However, some teams said their road maps required a complete overhaul to be effective for the remainder of the year.

 

What could this mean for the future: While the core of product roadmaps will hold true even in the most unpredictable of times, it’s important to add flexibility into your plans so that you are able to pivot and adjust with the market. Finding the right flexibility in your roadmap could help you avoid future pitfalls and unexpected changes. 

2. Notable Changes in Marketing Strategies and Channels 

Roadmaps weren’t the only changes product teams had to manage. Marketing strategies and the most valuable channels also changed. This trend could be the result of teams pivoting to show how their products address the new problems in the market because of the pandemic or that consumers were spending time in different digital spaces. 

What could this mean for the future: From the increase in work-from-home positions to the drastic rises and falls in social media usage, exploring new marketing strategies and channels are going to continue to be essential to stay at the forefront of your industry. Regularly listening to your market through NIHITO visits will help you identify changes in marketing channels as well as new strategy ideas. 

3. Changes in the Target Market’s Demand

Most respondents (55%) saw a change in the target market’s demand, some increasing surprisingly (think the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, PPE, etc.) and others decreasing rapidly (not as many people buying professional attire since the lockdown). And 41% of respondents said they believe that change is expected to last and isn’t just a temporary disruption. 

What could this mean for the future: We agree with the 41% who believe these changes are likely to last, especially since we’re still not out of the woods. While some industries will find their way back to pre-pandemic demand, others will continue to rise as they have for the last 2 years, and some will find their products turning into collector items if they don’t plan now and pivot soon. Regularly talking to the market will help mitigate the need to close up shop. 

4. Departments Have Smaller Budgets

Speaking of budgets, across the board, departmental budgets shrank in 2020. There are a few reasons this could be the case. It could be because growth trajectories were affected. Alternatively (or additionally), expenses might have decreased for some departments as teams moved into remote work settings and hard costs decreased (utilities, rent, office maintenance, etc.). Fewer in-person activities could also mean fewer events and reduced gas mileage reimbursement expenses.

 

What could this mean for the future: Any team that has ever succeeded after having their budget cut understands how difficult it can be to get that budget back. It’s not improbable for budgets to remain small, or increase gradually over years. Anticipating smaller budgets will help teams plan for the future. 

5. 50% of Respondents Reprioritized Key Features 

Likely a result of a shift in market demands, product teams invested time in re-prioritizing key features. It might have also been a result of departmental budget cuts and having to choose which features would render the highest ROI. 

What could this mean for the future: Understanding your market and the features that are the most important to them will always help you ensure you’re releasing the right features at the right time. And with those budget cuts (which may take time to regain), and the continuing shifts in market demands, it’s going to be more important than ever to release the right features for your audience when they want them. 

6. Organizational Growth Trajectory Declines 

The growth trajectory of the organizations our respondents worked at was directly impacted by the events of 2020. Specifically, by the end of the year, 14% of the respondents who identified as high growth or medium growth instead stated their company was on low growth, flat year-over-year or negative growth trajectory. 

What could this mean for the future: While we’d all like to get back to how things were pre-pandemic as quickly as possible, there are some areas that just won’t “go back to normal”—if at all. It will take time for the business world to correct after the shifts of 2020 and 2021. We are seeing company growth trending upward, but we expect progress to be slow, though this will vary by industry. 

7. The Average Time in the Current Role Increased 

While the average years in the profession did not shift greatly year-over-year, the average time in the current role—3.23 years—did. 

That is nearly a full year longer than we have seen over the past 20 years. This is most likely indicative of the limited number of individuals who elected to voluntarily shift jobs during the unknowns of the pandemic. It’s also a sign that the product profession will likely experience high job migration rates this year, similar to those being experienced in other industries.

What could this mean for the future: During the pandemic and the “Great Resignation” that has followed, companies are seeing how important it is to ensure their employees are happy and engaged in their roles. From compensation and perks to culture shifts and ongoing education, it’s going to be essential for businesses to provide the right benefits to attract and retain top talent. We’ve already seen many businesses make these changes and improvements, and as a result, they kept their employees in their roles for longer. 

8. Companies are Hiring Again

The good news: 52% of respondents stated that there are currently openings within their department, with nearly 20% saying they have five or more current open positions (that’s over 730 open positions).

What this could mean for the future: Companies are ending hiring freezes and finally filling the gaps on their teams. We hope that this continues for the next year or two as we reach a new kind of equilibrium. If you’re looking for a new position, showing your ability to successfully pivot and shift during the pandemic will improve your chances of landing the job. And if you’re looking to fill one of those roles, take a look at our prediction and recommendation in #7 to ensure you secure great candidates. 

The annual survey is packed with more insights including salary information, product career paths, education and income, time spent on different tasks, key responsibilities and the intersection of design and product and data and product. 

 

DOWNLOAD THE ANNUAL SURVEY 

 

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  • Pragmatic Institute is the transformational partner for today’s businesses, providing immediate impact through actionable and practical training for product, design and data teams. Our courses are taught by industry experts with decades of hands-on experience, and include a complete ecosystem of training, resources and community. This focus on dynamic instruction and continued learning has delivered impactful education to over 200,000 alumni worldwide over the last 30 years.

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