Things are changing fast in the product management world.
As an industry, product management is experiencing unprecedented growth and there is greater demand for product managers who can lead cross-functional teams to deliver successful products.
The role of a product manager is getting more complicated, with an emerging need for different roles and hierarchies within the product team. The product owner is not the same as the product manager, and both are different from the product lead, product director, or AI product manager.
It's not just how fast things are evolving in the product management landscape, but also what's happening worldwide that is affecting the industry.
With the rise of artificial intelligence, the surrounding economic uncertainty, and the increased adoption of a growth-led mentality, market, and customer demands are changing fast, and product professionals need to keep up.
There is more competition than ever in product management, and this means that product managers need to be fast and innovative to stay ahead of the curve and ensure they are applying the latest and best practices when leading their teams.
This is where trends come in. While trends in fashion may come and go, trends in the product management industry are important to keep track of. They will provide you with insights that you can then examine to see whether, and how they can work for you, your team, and ultimately your product.
We asked 6 product experts, what they believe to be the new trends in product management in 2023, and they highlighted 6 important trends that will shape how product management is done this year.
Product-led growth is about the expansion of the decision-making circle to include more stakeholders and delivering valuable products to the users, who come front and center in the product development process.
Product-led growth Expert and Head of Product at Jua.ai Leah Tharin believes that product managers in 2023 will be more involved in marketing, and sales and understanding how the entire customer experience works.
"Knowing as a product manager in 2023 how marketing, sales, and the entire 'growth' thing works becomes a table stake: Product-led growth and SaaS will gain more traction in the coming year as the most cost-efficient distribution method to approach customers in most markets. In order to do it right you need to understand as a product manager and leader how the entire journey of the customer works. And that includes base knowledge about marketing and sales as they move closer to the product in an attempt to be responsible for the customer's success rather than just generating and handling leads."
Malte Scholz, Co-Founder, CEO, and CPO of airfocus believes that the time for talking only about sales and grand visions is behind us. Product managers will be more focused on actions that deliver value to customers.
"Less sales talk and grand visions and more getting things done to best serve customers' problems," he said.
AI-based tools can be a source of great power in the hands of product managers. Incorporating these tools into the way they work, may help save time, validate ideas, organize thoughts, and overall work more efficiently.
AI can help product managers navigate the high seas of data-driven product management.
" In 2023, PMs will be thinking about ways how to incorporate different AI models into their products to not be left behind," Malte Scholz said.
Lisa Zane, Founder of Conscious Product Development added that "There are more tools than ever before to help product managers build products. That can be empowering and also very overwhelming. Learning how to use AI tools like ChatGPT to help make you more efficient in your work as a product manager and to understand how your customers will leverage it in their day-to-day lives to position your product into their new ecosystem will be crucial. Also, using no-code tools like Webflow, Airtable, Cardd, Bubble, Adalo, and more to validate ideas earlier before investing large amounts of time and money in engineering and development work will bring more value to teams at a lower cost."
As more organizations become product-led, there is and will be a growing need for product coaching. Organizations in 2023 understand the value of product coaching, and the role it plays in the growth and development of the whole organization.
Experienced Product Coach and Lead, Inês Liberato predicts,
"I'd say there will be a greater awareness of product coaching as an option for growth and development. Ambitious product people understand that as organizations change, move, and grow, they'll need different tactics and techniques. Accreditation and templated processes are not enough and a good product coach can truly empower a whole organization to grow and develop - both from a practical and strategic perspective."
Anthony Murphy, Product Coach and Founder of Product Pathways said "I predict that we will continue to struggle with consistency of terminology, process, tooling, etc. There will be more content on product management and the noise will continue to create a problem for those new in the industry. The need for experienced PMs to mentor and help guide the next generation of PMs through the noise is pertinent.
Product Coaching I also see as a trend that is growing. Even SVPG has increased their focus here and Marty Cagan has been vocal about the need for more product coaches with more organizations seeking the support to practice product better and be more product-led."
With different shocks affecting the industry, being resilient is more important than ever. This requires resource management and structured processes. From Covid to tech layoffs and the recent cloud of economic instability, product managers have to be ready to adapt to anything.
Malte Scholz advises organizations to think wisely about their resources and how to manage them,
"Focus on effective resource usage to be shock and crisis resistant."
Anthony Murphy suggests that products managers focus on learning opportunities to face uncertainty,
"I predict that in 2023 Product Management will continue to grow as it has previously - despite economic downturn and current redundancies. I believe that the layoffs at the larger tech companies presents an opportunity for amazing talent to be spread among smaller startups and lesser-known companies. This will only position them better to succeed and grow into the next success story. For those already in these companies, this presents the opportunity for skills, experience, and knowledge to be more readily shared. It's a fantastic opportunity right now as a PM to learn and grow!"
Lisa Zane predicts that the different crises will make product managers think differently, and make more conscious decisions about their career moves.
"Working in big tech used to be the holy grail for a product manager. Now that we've seen almost 300,000 layoffs since the beginning of 2022, we have learned how fragile a 'stable company' can actually be. I think we'll see product managers investing more in their long-term North Star career trajectories to help them make career decisions going forward - what industries they feel they can have the most positive impact in, what types of companies have values they align with and the specific areas in which they want to grow. Essentially, investing in themselves first vs. a big tech company first. I think this will also come from a lot of outside of work learning via online courses and coaching programs since employers generally aren't investing as much in employees over the long-term with the unstable economy."
The product management industry is ever-transforming. Whether that be digital transformation, AI, sustainability, social, ethical, or other forms of transformation. Product organizations and professionals need to take a step back and ask themselves with empathy why they do what they do and how they want to do it.
Inês Liberato sees this trend as follows,
"On a more inspirational side, I truly believe the best product people will start turning their attention to the great transformational events of our time: digital transformation, decarbonization transformation, and ethical & social transformation.”
Head of Product Marketing at Mindstone, and product writer and advisor Andrea Saez, believes that empathy is key,
“Over the last few years, it has become more and more obvious that we need a higher degree of empathy and considering for value when building products. I think 2023 will be the year when we finally take the time to ask ourselves, are we building to build, and do we truly understand what value means? Most importantly, how do we measure that value? A higher degree of empathy in the product field is what truly will lead us to build businesses and companies, not just products.”
The role of a product manager is not the same as it was a decade ago. New responsibilities, technologies, and needs are emerging in the industry, calling for more specializations. It is also no longer a role that is limited to the tech industry, but a growing role that we will see expand into sectors we may not expect.
Lisa Zane predicts that the "generalist PM" role will become extinct, as more specialized roles, across different industries, come to life.
"Generalist PMs are a dwindling population - we've had so many branches of products splinter off since product management became a thing that you now need unique skillsets to build and launch products in different industries, that cater to different types of customers, and that come with their own distinct context and constraints. Because of this, I think we'll continue to see upticks in specializations like AI Product Managers, Data Product Managers, Growth Product Managers, Machine Learning Product Managers, Hardware Product Managers, AR/VR Product Managers, and more.
I also don't necessarily view tech as an industry in itself anymore - more so a tool that can be used to amplify capabilities and impact across many industries. I think we'll see more product management roles open up in climate, education, decentralization, health, and social justice and impact types of roles in both the profit and not-for-profit sectors."
Anthony Murphy sees product management becoming a strategic role, as more organizations understand the need for product managers and their impact on the business.
"Product management will continue to shift more towards a strategic function. We will see more seats at the table. More CPOs. And more PMs being empowered to drive meaningful impact in their organization" he said.
Product management is an industry that is growing rapidly, and this growth trend will continue. Product managers need to be up to date with new trends, to be able to leverage them for their (and their product's) benefit.
The increasing adoption of AI, economic instabilities, and the shift towards a more growth-led mentality are shaping the industry and will continue to do so in 2023.
Product experts believe that product managers will be more focused on growth, more involved in cross-functional teams, and take more actions toward delivering products of value to their customers.
The role of product managers will expand horizontally to become part of more sectors and include many specializations, as well as vertically as product roles get more seats at the table and more power in their organizations.
New tools like AI-based tools will continue to affect how products are developed and how product teams work. Leveraging these tools, along with embracing more product coaching is the way for these teams to grow, and PMs and organizations to become more resilient in the face of crises.
airfocus knows this, and that's why we built a modular platform, that can be adapted to different teams and different situations. We unlocked the power of AI for product managers by introducing AI Assist, an AI tool built into airfocus to help you draft ideas, analyze sentiment, write briefs, and more. You don't need to use multiple platforms, you can benefit from airfocus's features and multiple integrations to have a home for your product.
Using tools built for modern product management like airfocus can help you reach your product goals and adapt to trends that serve your product and your customers.