What does the future hold for the Product Manager in 2024?

  • Updated: 15 March 2024
  • 8 minutes
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In the 10 years since Thiga was founded, the job of a Product Manager has evolved considerably. 2024 should be no exception, particularly with the arrival of Artificial Intelligence. But AI is not the only thing that is changing and challenging the profession. Benjamin Danel, consultant at Thiga, gives us his vision of the changes to expect in the coming year.

"Tell me ChatGPT, how do you see the Product Manager (PM) job evolving in 2024?"

The prompt I tested before writing this article. The result? Generally aligned, with a few differences of opinion. If you want to know what humans are betting on for the development of their profession in France in 2024, you've come to the right place!

✊ A forced (r)evolution of the PM role

# 1 The arrival of Artificial Intelligence

Confidence index: 5/5

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is somewhat the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about the future of our jobs. ChatGPT has only just blown out its first candle, but it's already everywhere, and the field of Product Management is no exception. 2023 was the year of discovery. 2024 will be the year of acceleration.

The day-to-day life of a PM is a never-ending battle against time, juggling delivery, discovery and strategy. This constant race and change of focus often leads to a work overload and a loss of clarity in decisions taken. This is where AI comes into its own. Knowing when and how to use it: these are the future skills that will be expected of a successful PM.

Today, without necessarily realizing it, PMs have seen their productivity improve with better end results. Miro, Productboard and Notion (to name but a few) have already incorporated AI-based functionalities. 

Perhaps you've already used ChatGPT to prioritize a backlog, summarize a user interview or write a User Story (US), for example? Perhaps you have even found the results somewhat disappointing? By 2024, this will have been perfected, both by the AI itself and by the PM, who will have mastered the art of the prompt. Using AI will no longer be a question, but a reflex.

Does this mean that the PM profession is doomed and will disappear? I don't think so. As the saying goes;  "Product Management is an art for the creative and innovative side and a science for the logical and rational side". While Artificial Intelligence clearly responds to the scientific side and generative AI can support the creative and innovative side, it seems highly unlikely to me that a machine will be able to respond to all the challenges that the PM faces.

On the other hand, breaking down an Epic into User Stories, writing a US or testing a feature, for example, are 'operational' tasks and can therefore easily be carried out by AI. Eventually, these tasks will disappear from the PM's daily routine, whether we like it or not... 

To sum up, 2024 will be the year of the 'improved' PM, but vigilance will be required in order to avoid going off track.

#2 An economic context that demands greater responsibility

Confidence index: ⅘

With the end of fund-raising galore, the economic crisis in the tech sector has sounded the death knell of a golden age when money flowed freely and allowed us to hire like crazy. I'm not even talking about the inflationary crisis and the uncertainty of the global economy linked to the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. 

These factors will see the role of the PM evolve towards one of greater responsibility and impact. Gone are the days of “feature factories”, where the budget allocated was linked to the number of features delivered. In 2024, every investment will have to be justified by calculating a ROI (return on investment). Aspects of governance and portfolio management will come into their own in organizations. Discovery and data will have an essential role to play in this new paradigm, to avoid monopolizing development teams on subjects with a low ROI... And that's where the PM will play a key role...

#3 Increasingly high environmental and social expectations

Confidence index: 3/5

The societal context has already had an impact on the role of the PM. Society is moving fast on environmental and ethical issues. As a result, consumer expectations are already on the rise in these areas, and companies are having to get in tune, at the risk of bad buzz. A case in point is X (ex-Twitter) with the arrival of Elon Musk and the loss of half its employees, including the entire moderation team. As well as technical problems, this has led to ethical concerns, with an unprecedented increase in fake accounts and scams. 

At a company level, candidates for the B-Corp label are multiplying, and this is part of the same dynamic. When it comes to digital products, these concerns are reflected in a heightened interest in accessibility, the prevention of dark patterns, the protection of data privacy, green IT and the inclusion of diversity and illiteracy, to name but a few. These issues are sometimes underestimated, but in 2024 they will become increasingly important, and it will be the PM who will be in the front line to ensure that their product complies with best practice.

They themselves are convinced by these issues, and this will create a virtuous cycle that I hope will last. The only limit will be the implementation. At the moment, we're still waiting for a framework or a 'How to' that everyone agrees on, despite the excellent book 'Responsables' by Fabrice des Mazery, which I highly recommend.

⚽️ An ever-expanding playing field

#1 The Product is gaining a foothold in major groups

Confidence index: 5/5

"Software is eating the world", in the words of the American entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, one of the first consumer web browsers. After the golden age of Agile transformations, which were often confined to IT, it has to be said that it is Product transformations that are now popular, particularly affecting the business side of companies.

In the latest LPC study (La Product Conf), Decathlon is cited as the number one company where Product people would like to work... And it's not only linked to their love of sport. The company's image and the structure of its Product organization is strong, driven by innovation which is clear in its DNA. Carrefour, which is structuring itself with the "4-in-the-box" concept and is defining OKRs, is another sign of a strong acceleration in the importance of Product and design. More discreetly, other flagships of our economy such as Accor, L'Oréal and Chanel are also undergoing transformations, recruiting profiles that used to make scale-ups very happy.

"You can't drive an ocean liner at the same speed as a speedboat. Product in large companies is becoming more structured, but it requires different skills, a lot of politics and resilience" explains Stéphanie Schoenahl, a Head of Product consultant at Thiga, who has worked in a number of different Product organizations. The acceleration is clear, and greatly increases the popularity and number of Product roles in the French ecosystem.

This trend towards Product transformation is not unique to France, and I'm looking forward to reading Marty Cagan's "Transformed", who tackles the subject with his own convincing vision.

In 2024, it's certain that Product will continue to grow in these organizations, and I'm betting we'll see a good number of Product leaders who have made scale-ups/startups so successful join these major groups.

#2 A more specialized role

Confidence index: 3/5

With ever more demanding customers and an increasingly competitive market, companies are constantly being pushed towards perfection and innovation, resulting in roles becoming more technical and specialized. Such was the observation made by Julia de Funès, philosopher and best-selling author, during the opening keynote of Agile en Seine, and the Product world is no exception to the rule.

At the forefront of these specialist roles are all those closely or remotely linked to AI, with the "AI PM" (those whose scope is directly linked to the creation or configuration of an AI) and the "Data PM". "Having quality data to feed the AIs of today and tomorrow has become a priority. These kinds of profiles will be increasingly in demand", confides Rémi Favre, Product Management Director at Thiga.

Another example of these specializations is the role of the "Platform PM". Information systems are becoming increasingly structured, with huge ambitions for modularity, scalability and openness. In this context, every brick, even the technical ones, must be managed like a product, with a strategy, a budget and the management of increasingly demanding stakeholders. The "Platform PM", with its tech DNA, is cut out for this type of context.

♟️ Restructuring the role to make it more strategic 

2024 will see an upward shift in the role of PM, away from delivery and more towards strategy.

#1 The role of Product Owner will disappear 

Confidence index: 1/5

Inherited from the French Project Owner/Project Manager culture, the PO/PM pairing has been the norm for many years, especially in large companies. The majority of mature organizations have long since banished this French specificity. So why shouldn't this movement spread further into 2024?

How to manage without a Product Owner? Here are two scenarios to avoid the PM going into burn-out, crushed by an excessive workload:

  • Reduce the functional scope to be addressed. Smaller scopes for smaller but more numerous teams. In my opinion, this is a good way of giving teams more autonomy and working more efficiently, with a single point of contact on the Product side who makes decisions by combining strategic and tactical visions. Be careful, however, not to fall into the caricature of having micro-teams of 2-3 people, with the consequences of multiplying interconnections and distancing teams from meaning and value. It's all about balance.
  • Autonomous developers. With more mature and involved development teams, the PM can concentrate on a macro vision and delegate the details, such as creating US or quality assurance. This is notably the philosophy pushed by Shape Up where the PM leaves all Delivery to his Product Designer and development team. In the USA, we're already seeing many organizations like this with mature developers interested in business issues. This further highlights the importance of Tech in corporate decision-making.

AI, again, will also prove to be a real accelerator in this change, as it may be delegated tasks such as defining or writing US.

#2 The PM will be pushed more towards strategy

Confidence index: 3/5

One of the buzz stories of 2023 on the Product side was undoubtedly the talk given by Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb at the Figma Config 2023. During his talk, he gave his vision of the role of the PM, which will also be a Marketing role. Outcry from some, nods of agrement from others, my aim is not to add fuel to the fire, but rather to serve as a reflection on the positioning of the PM role in relation to Marketing, and more specifically to the role of PMM, which is booming in France.

Hortense Bouzoud, Product Marketing Management Director at Thiga, provides some background information on the subject:

  • Airbnb is a pure B2C player where the product is strongly linked to the brand, so the 'Marketing' dimension of the PMM is quite reduced.
  • The American culture and the maturity of the developers mean that the role of PO does not exist, as these responsibilities fall to the developers. This leaves room for the PM to focus on strategic issues, particularly marketing.

AirBnB's organizational context leaves little room for a PMM-PM pairing, and it's only natural that the PM stretches his scope towards marketing. As Brian Chesky himself recently reminded us, "the important thing is that tech and marketing work closely together, regardless of the title or the person." In addition to this, AirBnB has been reorganized to have fewer PMs, but people with higher seniority and level of responsibility, so more strategic, and more attention allocated to Product Marketing subjects.

From there to saying that the roles of the PM and the PMM will (re)merge, there is but one step..

#3 More experienced profiles

Confidence index: 3/5

For a long time, career paths in Product boiled down to Product Owner > Product Manager > Product Leader. Now, more and more IC (Individual Contributor) roles are emerging. "We don't value non-management career development opportunities enough, both in terms of responsibilities but also salaries" confirms Marion Darnet, Product careers officer. Beyond the role of Product Ops, which we've talked about a lot in 2023 and which will still be relevant, it's the roles of Principal PM and Staff PM that will emerge. These are very senior PM profiles - with responsibilities focused on strategy and vision, and excellent market knowledge acquired over the years - will bring real added value to an organization and relieve Product Leaders of the task of animating a community.

"Less is more". This could be the motto for Product Management in 2024. Fewer people (but more senior), fewer features (but the right ones) for greater efficiency and impact, all boosted by AI. How do you see Product Management in France at the end of 2024?

To learn more about our job: download our book Agile Product Management

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