Just about every week in 2019, we posted a debate question/poll to both our homepage and our Twitter feed, asking our readers to weigh in on various PM-related “hot topics.” Some related to the ins-and-outs of the job, others to industry trends. And a few focused on the nature of the product manager role itself.

In some cases, the results surprised us. In other instances, we nodded our heads at responses that met our predictions. But all of the poll results helped us build a more complete picture of what it means to work in product in 2019. Let’s go through some of the major themes we explored with these mini-surveys, and what our readers had to say.

Product team structure

As the product management function increases in importance, its place within the organization continues to shift. And even within the product team, roles are changing, expanding in influence, and making room for new responsibilities. Over the past year, we asked our readers quite a few questions related to product team and reporting structures — and got a few surprises in the responses.

Should product managers have direct reports?

Product managers have a lot on their plates just with their day-to-day job responsibilities. Gathering customer feedback, managing analytics data, and keeping the roadmap on track are just the tip of the iceberg. Add management duties in there and you may have a recipe for overwork. That’s why we were a bit surprised that 71% of our survey takers said that product managers should have direct reports. We wonder if this is part of a trend that gives PMs more “formal” control over their team’s tactical work (rather than informal influence).

Should product managers have budget authority?

Control of the dollars means control over prioritization and strategic initiatives. And about three-quarters of you said that yes, PMs should have budget authority. Like the response to the “direct reports” question, these results surprised — and intrigued — us.

Should product managers report to the CTO?

The reporting structure of the product team (both in theory and in the real world) varies quite a bit. In some organizations, product rolls up to marketing — in others, engineering. And more and more, we’re seeing the CPO role appearing on org charts. Eighty-nine percent of our survey respondents said that PMs should not report to the CTO. A decade or so ago, we bet these results would be very different, as product was less likely to be its own department. Now, these numbers sound about right to us.

Should every product team include a product ops person?

Recently, we’ve seen the product ops role increase in popularity. Part of this is due to the growing influence of operations role more generally, and it’s also a reflection of product’s maturity as a field. When we polled our readers, the results were pretty even. About 54% of respondents answered “yes,” every product team needs a product ops member. Whether that person would hold a formal “product operations” title or take on the duties of the role more informally wasn’t part of the question. We definitely plan on asking about that this year

Career and professional development

The product management career ladder can be a tricky one to climb. We ended up asking quite a few questions about this topic and were glad to see a high rate of engagement. Below are just a few of the interesting takeaways from our job-focused polls.

How frequently should PMs receive performance reviews?

Whether you dread or look forward to performance reviews, you can’t really deny that they impact a person’s career growth. For this poll question, the response options were: yearly, semi-annually, and quarterly. And about 63% of our survey takers selected “quarterly” as their answer. That sounds pretty frequent to us, but it makes sense given how busy the average PM is. It’s probably useful to schedule “formal” time to go over career goals, performance, and the professional “big picture.”

Should PM interviews include “homework?”

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to hire the perfect PM. In many competitive fields, it’s considered a best practice to give a potential hire “homework” to be completed shortly after the interview. So we asked our readers what they thought of this idea — and they aren’t huge fans of it. Approximately 57% of our poll respondents answered that no, PM interviews shouldn’t include homework.

Is it useful for PMs to attend industry conferences and events?

A whopping 94% of our readers said that PMs should attend industry events and conferences. We completely agree with this response — conferences can be great places to network with fellow product people and learn from some of the top minds in the field. FYI: Next week, we’ll be posting our list of product events to attend in 2020, so stay tuned.

Are product management certifications worth it?

If you’re looking to continue your PM education or add a new certification to your resume, there are plenty of options out there. However, about 36% of our survey takers said that no, product management certifications aren’t worth the time or expense. But that means a majority of our readers do consider these programs viable tools for becoming a more successful PM.

Collaboration

The grand majority of PMs need to work closely with other departments in order to build a delightful product. But what form(s) should interdepartmental collaboration take, and how frequently should it happen? We asked, and our audience answered.

How frequently should you hold formal product-engineering syncs?

The response options for this poll were: biweekly, weekly, or more than once per week. The majority of the respondents (53%) answered “weekly.” However, 26% of survey takers said these meetings should take place multiple times per week, and 31% said they should occur every other week.

Which team should product work most closely with?

We gave three potential answers: customer success, sales, or marketing. Our prediction was that marketing would take the win. We were wrong — marketing came in last, with 19% of the vote. In first place was customer success, with an impressive 59%. Now that we think about it, this response isn’t all that surprising. Many companies are embracing customer-centricity, so product managers must be customer-focused as well.

Co-located or distributed: Which is better for product development?

The majority (82%) of our respondents selected co-located as their answer. However, remote work is a trend that shows no signs of stopping. And for PMs who do work remotely, frequent collaboration and clear communication are crucial.

We’ll be sharing more insights from our 2019 poll responses in the coming weeks — stay tuned.

About the Author

Natalie Doan-Dunnum is a content coordinator for the Product Love Podcast. When she’s not reminding people to follow their deadlines, she enjoys listening to music, reading books, and traveling the world.