Department of Product
Product management survey
The Department of Product’s survey was sent to our product community of over 10,000 product and tech leaders at companies including Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, IDEO and others to find out how the product community is adapting to the new ways of working and to understand what it means to be a product person today. Over 300 respondents took part and all results were reported anonymously.
Key themes explored
What can a product manager expect to earn today?
How much time are companies dedicating to tackling technical debt?
What is the most influential factor in deciding whether to hire product people?
Scrum vs. kanban and all that’s in between
How has COVID-19 impacted the working lives of product managers?
How does location impact the realities of what it means to be a product manager today?
Summary of findings
Discovery – 29% say they always have time to do research before building a new feature. Only 7.1% say they never have time.
Scrum is the methodology of choice – 55% of companies are building software using scrum with 2 week sprints. Scrumban is the second most favoured approach with 22%.
Certificates are not the most important factor when hiring – 0% of respondents stated that certificates are the factor that most influences their decision whether to hire a new product management candidate. Relevant skills with practical application of those skills remains the most important factor in hiring product management candidates.
Working from home is here to stay – almost 70% of product managers want to either work predominantly from home or work from home forever. However, a sizable 33% still want to predominantly work from the office with occasional days at home only.
Relocation out of cities is a real possibility – 40% of European based product managers are actively considering moving out of their city / current location in response to covid-19. This drops to 22% for US based product people.
Tech debt allocation is cautious but sensible – on average, product teams allocate approx. 10-20% of engineering time to tackling tech debt. Early stage startups allocate less time to tackling tech debt than established businesses.
Full survey results
1. What is your current salary?
- 31% of all US based product managers are earning in excess of $150,000 compared to just 5.1% of Europe based product managers. To a certain extent, this discrepancy is expected given the higher number of holidays for salaried employees in Europe and lower healthcare expenses. However, the gap is still significant.
- Other forms of compensation including stock options and equity are not factored in here, with many companies offering non-salary based incentives
- 55.6% of Product professionals ith over 10 years experience are earning over $150,000
- Only 8% of product managers working in early stage startups are earning over $150,000
- So what? Whilst product salaries are in a healthy state across major regions, the impacts of covid-19 and remote working on the ability of product people to continue to demand higher salaries remains unclear.
2. When hiring new product managers in your team, which of the following most influences your decision on whether you’re likely to hire the candidate?
- Certificates are least influential – 0% of respondents stated that certificates are the factor that most influences their decision whether to hire a new product management candidate. This is surprising given that a number of official certifications are available for those entering the product profession. However, we are increasingly seeing a wider trend where less emphasis is placed on formal education and certifications – even if the certificate is from prestigious universities or other institutions. It’s not clear if this trend is also applicable to non-product management roles.
- Relevant skills and projects are most influential – By far the most influencing factor was the candidates ability to display relevant skills and competencies through practical projects, rather than certificates.
- So what? Candidates looking to get hired should aim to build up a portfolio of demonstrable skills and competencies by building products that require a diverse range of skills that can be talked about and demonstrated.
3. How much engineering time (roughly) do you allocate towards tackling tech debt?
- 10-20% seems to be a sensible ratio for tech debt allocation across product teams with over 42% of respondents choosing this option.
- Early stage startups devote less time to tech debt – over 33% of product people at early stage startups said they dedicate less 5% of their time to tech debt vs. 5.7% of those in established businesses.
- Established businesses dedicate the most time to tech debt with over 5% of product managers reporting that they dedicate 40-50% of their time to tech debt.
4. What software development methodology do you use?
- Scrum with 2 week sprints is the software methodology of choice for most product teams, accounting for over 55% of all responses.
- Scrumban (a blend of scrum and kanban) is the second highest with over 22% of responses
- ‘Other’ options provided here include: shape up, scrum with 4 week sprints, scrum with 3 week sprints and blends of waterfall and scrum
- Early stage startups are also more likely to use scrum than kanban. This was surprising, given that in our experience most startups do better using kanban than scrum.
5. Do you have time to conduct user research before building a new major new feature?
- Only 7.1% of respondents said they don’t have time to conduct user research before building a major new feature. This is great news for those advocating a product discovery approach to product development.
- European product managers are more likely to say that they have time to conduct user research before building a major new feature than US based product managers (41% vs. 24%)
- No significant difference between early stage startups and more established businesses in the amount of time dedicated to user research before building features
6. Which of the following tools are you using in your day to day role today?
- To the surprise of few, Jira remains the most frequently used tool for product managers on a day to day basis
- Google Docs / GSuite edges Microsoft Office with 11.7% vs. 10.6%
- Miro is perhaps the biggest star here, with almost as many users as Google Analytics, driven largely by remote working as product teams struggle to recreate the creativity of whiteboarding sessions
- Popular tools falling into the ‘other’ category here included: Figma, Pendo, ProductPlan, AirTable, Asana and Monday.com
7. Overall, who predominantly decides what to build in your organisation?
7. Are you currently working remotely?
9. Are you considering relocating outside of your current city / location due to COVID-19?
- Over a quarter of product managers are actively considering relocating outside of their current city / location due to COVID-19
- US product managers are less likely to be considering relocating out of their current city or location due to COVID-19
- A substantial 40% of European product managers are considering relocating outside of their current city due to COVID-19
10. What is your preferred working model in the new post COVID-19 world?
- Overall, 10% of product managers want to work from home forever
- The mast majority, 57%, want to work predominantly from home with just occasional days in the office
- A substantial 33% would like to work predominantly from the office with occasional days at home
- 22% of less experienced (likely younger) product managers want to work exclusively from home forever
- 100% of product people with 10+ years experience want to work predominantly at home with occasional days in the office