The Top 5 Product Management Trends of 2024, Examined

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2023’s product management trends would have featured tech layoffs quite heavily. So far, this year doesn’t seem to have moved too far away from that, but there are early signs of consolidation around other trends which may end up redefining the state of product management for the rest of the 2020s, and possibly even beyond.

In this article, I’ll look both at the evolution of the skills most in demand for product managers and how the product management profession might be developing, and what that means both for newcomers and seasoned PMs alike. 

Table of contents

Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence: friend, foe or replacement? 

Since its initial launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has ushered in a new era of hope for AI aficionados, including some forward-looking product managers.

Countless claims have since emerged as to how this development would change everything about product management: from experimenting with fully automated companies powered by AI, to having product managers try to extend their own work capacity with the help of LLMs.

Screenshot from the AIsthetic Apparel website
Source: AISTHETIC Apparel

AISTHETIC, an apparel company, has had the generative AI tool ChatGPT4 as a CEO since its inception. AISTHETIC’s human founder has been observing and documenting the results of his building-in-public experiment and has even managed to raise capital. In parallel, tech publications have started to herald the beginning of an age where entire AI-powered companies might reach profitability.

When it comes to trying to use AI as an assistant, several types of tasks are frequently mentioned as low hanging fruit: 

1. Ideation

The product management trend to start relying on AI to generate ideas for strategy discussions or brainstorming sessions has two different reasons behind it: not all PMs have the privilege of having a product management team to rely on, and they trust the current quality of AIs input just enough. 

This doesn’t mean that product managers would be using the raw AI output: time and effort is still required to analyze AIs suggestions, but this technique does help tackle white page syndrome. 

2. Repetitive and time-consuming tasks

Anything from email writing to JIRA tickets might fit under this category: the main point being that PMs are looking to cut down the time and energy spent on admin tasks that cannot be directly linked to value generation. 

3. Summaries

In order to stay updated, PMs need to be able to process and consume a considerable amount of information on a continuous basis. AI has provided them with several tools to significantly reduce the time they need to invest in this activity, for example an easy way to request customized summaries of lengthy documents on demand.

Trend #2: Product-Led Growth (PLG)

While this isn’t a brand new trend in product management, product-led growth continues to be a hot topic of discussion in 2024. Reactions vary, from skepticism about the ability of product departments to deliver not just on features, but on customer acquisition goals as well, to evangelism: product led growth, if done right, might help companies tackle the double challenge of scaling and monetization.

In a landscape in which both traditional and venture capital has become considerably more expensive and hard to come by, product-led growth brings a promise of initial seamless user acquisition and, later, conversion into paying customers. The focus is no longer solely on building, but also on saving up on internal resources and ensuring cross-organization alignment. Everyone is on the same boat, and everyone must row in the same direction. With this trend, the growth product manager job role has started popping up in job ads.

Trend #3: Willingness to Pay (WtP)

It might not come as a surprise that in a landscape of both increased competition and diminished returns, product managers who can demonstrate an ability to practice Willingness to Pay (WtP) techniques are in high demand. 

Larger companies can successfully use such product managers to assess whether it’s worthwhile to direct or remove resources from a product line. Smaller companies can use the same processes to decide if they need to pivot or are on the right track to becoming self sustained. 

Either way, the job of a product manager is no longer to ensure user adoption or even customer acquisition: the PM needs to understand the ins and outs of putting a company’s bottom line in the green. 

full stack product managers

Trend #4: A changed professional landscape

Arguably, the biggest product management trend in the 2010s had been around skill acquisition. Product managers became more in demand the more they could demonstrate their command of both hard and soft skills

Not so in the 2020s: the keywords for product management trends in the new decade are around consolidation, profitability before growth, and doing more with less. What does this mean for product managers? 

1. The AirBnB challenge: merged roles in product management

In 2023, the product management world was rocked to its core when Brian Chesky, AirBnb’s CEO, publicly revealed that the company had decided to consolidate two previously separate functions: product management and product marketing. 

After an initial panic, the tech community at large and the product management community in particular finally realized that Chesky’s statement didn’t spell the end of PM. It did, however, signal an important shift in the labor market: specialization was no longer the only way of getting ahead and staying relevant.

In the 2010s, one of the strongest product management trends had been specialist roles, and how those compared to generalist roles. During the previous decade, specialists had, on average, been able to command higher salaries than generalists. But what had been true in a landscape of economic plenty does not hold during a time of expensive capital, layoffs and hiring freezes. Now, the best positioned product managers are those able to demonstrate the ability to work across expanded and merged roles, like in the AirBnb case. 

For newly minted PMs, this evolution in the job market means that any previous experience in adjacent functions (such as design, software development, customer success, marketing, sales) should be leveraged to their advantage. And as we’ll see with the following product management trends, the PM profession has continued to evolve in less than expected ways. 

2. Full-stack product managers

Not all PMs have the privilege of relying on a team of their peers, but the latest developments in the hiring market also mean that more product managers are likely to find themselves in a situation in which they need to single-handedly function as an autonomous team, at least during a part of the product development cycle.

What does this product management trend look like in practice?  It might mean PMs need to take the initiative to do Discovery work single-handedly, without the expertise of a dedicated UX designer. PMs might be expected to leverage any design or tech resources only during the implementation stage, ie, when high fidelity prototypes need to be produced and handed over to the development team.

In addition to being expected to master a larger number of hard skills and tools, flatter or compressed organizational structures also represent an opportunity for product managers to incorporate more strategic elements into their current roles (a kind of chance to “step-up”, so to speak). This new type of product manager can be described as a full-stack PM.

3. Fractional PMs

Continuing on the trend of tightening budgets, one recent evolution in the labor market has been the rise of the Fractional PM, which in some instances has even translated into a Fractional CPO

Who makes up this new kind of PM? Typically, these product managers have already been working in product for years and can either demonstrate a background in high tech or have such a wide range of experience across industries that they can be trusted to work independently on a company’s most pressing pain point. They may act as advisors or have a more hands-on approach, but they are not considered permanent nor full-time employees.

Why is it worth noticing this trend? Just a few years ago, the idea of anything less than full-time employment in product management was not a possibility that many would even contemplate. But in 2024, looser forms of project-based, part-time or temporary employment are becoming progressively attractive.

Product management students should keep this trend in mind, since it can provide them with a gateway to the industry, even if they might not have anticipated it. Other flavors of this trend can include freelance PMs and consultant PMs. 

Trend #5: Emerging industries

Despite the perception that the hiring market in tech has been weak for the past 2-3 years, the reality is that not all industries were hit by the end of ZIRP (zero interest rate policies) in the same way. As has already been mentioned, AI companies have both proliferated and been strong hirers in recent years, but they aren’t the only ones.

Other beacons of hope of particular interest to product managers include companies that double as hardware manufacturers (they can include micro-mobility companies, IoT companies, among others) and are in need of hybrid product managers (PMs who understand the complexities of working on the intersection between hardware and software). One last, but rather wide industry that has not shown signs of slowing down is Green Tech.

Far from a passing product management trend, Green Tech encompasses anything and everything that can be regarded as sustainable:

  • Clean tech
  • Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG)
  • Legal tech
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Regulatory and compliance SaaS companies
  • Climate tech
  • many more

As you can see, the list is very long indeed. This trend has been particularly strong in Europe, supported by a considerable flow of institutional investment.

Final thoughts

Trends in product management in 2024 show a profession and a labor market moving to a new phase, hopefully one that will be more sustainable and mature. While the dust hasn’t entirely settled yet, we’re starting to see trends consolidating around new ways to work, new ways of looking at product management and new skills being more in demand than ever.

So what can aspiring product managers do to stand out from the crowd? Look for a course that’s up-to-date and reflects the global product management landscape in 2024, whether that’s with training with AI tools, or with baked-in mentorship. The CareerFoundry Product Management Program offers just that, as well as being contained in an online, remote learning set-up. If you’re interested, have a chat with one of our program advisors to discuss whether it’s right for you.

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