What are the major product management trends heading into 2017?

by Nis Frome
January 1, 2017

We recently surveyed more than 150 US-based digital product managers for our 2017 Product Management Insights report. It’s our third annual report, which is essentially a lifetime in product management years. When we produced our first report in 2015, product management was an ill-defined role not yet embraced across industries and company sizes.

Beyond re-evaluating what product managers do on a daily basis, we’ve now explored their perceptions of different stakeholders, internal capabilities, challenges, and opportunities. Throughout the report, you will find data that contradicts widely believed assumptions about the discipline, as well as a number of compelling insights that can help your organization build better products. Below, I’ll outline three key trends.

Is communication the key to product management? It depends who’s listening.

We asked respondents a series of questions to better understand where their time is most valued and efficiently allocated (on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is ‘not nearly enough time’, 5 is the ‘perfect amount of time’, and 9 is ‘way too much time’).

There’s little doubt that communication and diplomacy are integral parts of product management. But during a day and age when speed is a competitive advantage in of itself, product managers are heavily time-constrained. Consider that, on average, product managers, believe they spend too much time navigating internal politics:


That’s not to say that aligning and rallying stakeholders isn’t important, or that doing so should be easy (there are many sensible reasons why it isn’t or shouldn’t be). It merely has to be weighed against time spent talking to customers, which product managers widely feel they don’t do nearly enough of:


In fact, as you’ll read in the report, time-constraints stifle product managers’ ability to focus on many valuable activities, such as running product experiments and keeping up with best practices.

What’s the solution? Just throw money at the problem.

Despite the fact that product managers believe they spend too much time navigating internal politics, bureaucracy doesn’t top their list of perceived problems, nor does alleviating it top their list of wishes. Rather, product managers believe that a lack of resources is their biggest challenge.


I guess it then makes sense that ‘more resources’ is their biggest wish for 2017. It remains to be seen though whether additional resources will really help product teams or whether it’ll be another case of ‘more money, more problems.’


Want to stay informed? Change the channel.

A single reason may explain why product managers feel they aren’t spending enough time keeping up with best practices: there’s no longer just one channel to tune into.

In the past, product managers could subscribe to the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company, and that would be enough to stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques. While all three are still helpful, the proliferation of product management content simply hasn’t come from traditional media sources.

Today, 43% of product managers rely on independent company and industry blogs, while 39% consult Medium. Just 34% refer to Harvard Business Review and 22% check Wired, down from 40% and 41% in our 2016 report.


The full report contains even more insights into the discipline, from common career paths to most widely adopted tools and techniques.

Nis Frome

Nis Frome is the co-founder of Alpha, the platform that enables management teams to make data-driven decisions about users, products, and new markets.