Horizon scanning for product managers

I’m increasingly convinced that the success of a product is less to do with what goes on inside an organisation and more about how what’s going on outside affects the entire system that the product is part of, including the organisation, the users, suppliers, competitors, etc., etc.

If I’m right, then product managers that focus on internal tactical improvements, things like what format the roadmap should take or how to write the perfect user story, aren’t going to have the impact they should. Product managers that know what’s going on around their product and how to respond to it and the ones that will make their product successful.

So, I’m trying to figure out how product managers might do this kind of horizon scanning and sensing how to respond. One idea for the scanning part is looking at trends.

Macro trends

Macro trends are “major shifts in consumer behaviour that will direct the business landscape in the long term. They have a cross-industry impact and evolve over time.”

A product manager might look at:

  • Technology trends, especially emerging tech.
  • Social trends
  • Government policy changes
  • Economy

A good place to start is looking at macro trend reports:

These trend reports are often sales and marketing for the company providing them, and lack any information about where a trend came from or where it’s going. Instead they tend to just be a snapshot of ideas so should be considered critically but having some idea of what things look interesting and impactful

Micro trends

Micro trends are “business and economic trends that are associated with specific market sectors.”

Every market sector has trends; fashion, food, transport, etc., etc.. Some sectors change more often and more quickly than others but understanding the micro trends for the sectors that affect the users of a product,

A product manager might look at:

  • Employment within a sector
  • Influencers, new entrants and organisations with history
  • Media, especially advertising
  • News coverage

Understanding trends

Trends don’t exist in isolation. Understanding the difference between micro and macro trends and how they affect each other is also an interesting consideration for product managers. Not easy for anyone to ever understand fully, but definitely worth exploring.

What next?

I’m going try to create a systems map with a product in the middle and the micro and macro trends that affect the product through it’s users.