It’s incredible to see how far the product management world has come, especially over the last couple of years. Even experienced product managers have been caught off guard by the massive developments over such a short time. But then, that’s the joy of being a product manager, right? No day is the same, and there are endless opportunities to improve yourself and your team. As we approach the halfway point of 2023, we’re thinking about the future and are very excited about what’s to come. So, what does the future of product management look like in 2023 and beyond?
We looked at the “The Future of Product Management Report” an annual report by Product School that surveys thousands of product leaders from all over the world. Here are the main insights from the report, plus some extra insights from us for the 2nd half of the year and beyond.
One of the best ways to figure out what the future of product management holds is to look at what trends we’re experiencing right now.
Over the past couple of years, product managers have breathed a collective sigh of relief as products pivot away from trying to pack in as many features as possible into one package. Now, product teams are focused on making the best possible product. That means discovering and actually addressing customer needs, not just adding features and hoping it works for the user. It’s been such a welcome change for product managers, as the work feels more impactful.
You’re getting faster results when it comes to customer feedback, and the feedback itself is more positive and more precise than it used to be — because customers don’t need to jump through hoops anymore to get what they need out of your product. The obvious benefit here is that when you’re happy with the product, your product team is happy with the product, and your customers are happy with the product, then your business will thrive.
Being able to simplify our products has brought to light a new gold standard for product management: product-led growth. Product-led growth (PLG) is a popular way to grow your SaaS business with a focus on cross-department synergy and customer-centricity. Using product-led growth helps us realize that customers are more educated than ever when it comes to purchasing decisions, and they’re looking for a frictionless experience with the products they choose.
So for companies looking to get ahead in this extremely difficult time, the key is listening to your customers and listening to the complaints of your competitors' customers. Clearly address their needs, keep value in mind at all times, avoid bloat, and remember that customers are researching you as much as you’re researching them.
As businesses focus more intently on product, the standard company hierarchy is one of the biggest changes we have seen within the product management world. The Product Manager role itself has evolved beyond a singular role, and the tasks of a traditional product manager are now spread among the product team.
Over 1/3 of Fortune 100 companies now have a Chief Product Officer — a 41% increase over the last three years, and that is only expected to increase as product-led growth is poised to take over the industry.
Product managers have become autonomous within most organizations, and with good reason. PMs have worked incredibly hard for a long time. While it may have taken a little longer than some think it should have, Product Managers have truly earned their place in C-suites at the world’s biggest and best companies.
Even the product team is far from what it was just a few years ago. Product teams heading into the second half of 2023 must break down silos throughout the company. This may not be a simple task, but it’s absolutely crucial to staying afloat in a heavily competitive industry.
We’re now seeing product teams become far more holistic, inviting other departments to dive deep into the product management process. You now see product teams include people from marketing and customer relations backgrounds, with heavy input from other customer-facing roles. This all feeds into the customer-centric attitude required to make product-led growth work.
In a world full of buzzwords and passing trends, AI feels like yet another one of those things. Yet, we all know AI isn’t going anywhere, and we know this because it’s not really that new to the product management sector. Product managers have been championing and using AI technology for a long time now. After all, who do you think is building all the AI products we’re seeing? According to a study by IBM, 21% of product managers were already using AI in 2022. It’s helped to automate the minutiae of day-to-day product management, allowing PMs and their teams to focus purely on creating value for their customers. It’s also been incredibly helpful in decision-making processes, as it provides a completely objective way of making data-driven decisions that benefit the business, the customer, and of course, the product.
Yet another sign that AI is here to stay is the reaction we’re seeing from executives about the applications of AI. A study by Gartner found that 80% of executives believe automation can be applied to any business decision. Now, if they’re right or not remains to be seen, but with that level of support from the higher-ups, it’s clear that AI will remain a key focus.
As we continue down this path, we expect to see a quick rise in AI Product Managers. This new role is similar to the traditional product manager role, but we’re finding the best candidates are emerging from different backgrounds. Product management skills are obviously still crucial to the role, but a background in statistics and data can elevate candidates for these roles.
The elephant in the room right now is job security. With such vast changes to the product management sector and the heightened focus on AI, many are worried that their current roles will become irrelevant. That couldn’t be further from the truth. AI is being adopted as a tool to eliminate small, repetitive tasks. It’s being used to bolster decision-making. It’s not being introduced to replace talent.
The best product teams already know that even with AI helping out, they’re simply not going to get the results they want without their top product talent. Aside from the business costs of replacing these people, it’s essential to have a team that has a comprehensive understanding of how your products are formed, how your team works, and what goals the business is working towards.
With all that in mind, companies need to work hard to retain their top talent and make them feel truly valued. At this turning point for the industry, companies must listen to what product managers need when it comes to benefits and their day-to-day experience.
Research shows that PMs are looking for professional development opportunities, a positive experience, and, crucially, a greater sense of purpose. Offer up these things, and you’re much more likely to keep your best product people on board.
Even with increased AI usage, the product manager is key to a business’s success in 2023 and beyond. Product-led growth is poised to be the gold standard, allowing us to maintain customer centricity and create truly great products. This new focus will require countless prioritization sessions and making tough decisions to ensure you’re building nothing but value into your products. That’s where airfocus comes in.
airfocus is the ideal partner for product managers looking to make a real difference and get ahead of the competition. Our robust modular platform offers everything you could ever need to make meaningful decisions and great products. Features like AI Assist, Portals, Insights, priority poker and many other powerful roadmapping, prioritization and decision making tools makes airfocus a real home for products and the people who build them. Try it for yourself for free to see how airfocus can help you!