At Futureheads, we like to get to know the market of our particular specialism as well as we can. We do this in several ways including, running and attending events as well as learning lunches with experienced players in the industry.

We recently ran a learning lunch with Helen Blackburn who is a board member of Tellybean and previously was Director of Product at Skype. With it being the end of my first year in recruitment, I wanted to summarise the trends that my team and I have seen in recruitment for Product Management in 2016 and things to expect in 2017.


More and more candidates are looking to step across into an increasingly busy and popular product management market.  It’s a catch 22 situation – hiring managers like product managers with product experience, and roles are becoming more and more defined and specialised so it can be hard to make the step across.

However – the market is growing, and therefore there’s more opportunity. There is no clearly defined path into Product Management, with often the best way to step across being within your current company. This means the business keeps good people within the organisation and you can develop your career within your chosen discipline.

We’ve also seen lots of businesses going through digital transformations transitioning their Business analysts and Project managers into Product owner roles, which are becoming more delivery-focused as I mention below.


Product owner roles in a post-agile landscape are looking more like project managers. We are seeing lots of roles where running the backlog, iterating and working with engineers are the scope within many product manager job specs. The role seems to be focusing less on the commercials and P&L associated with products, but I think this is an area that may change moving into 2017. The P&L and commercial success of a product seem to sit more and more with product marketing managers currently. This is another role where the boundaries between product manager and product marketing manager are becoming more blurred.


Product Management courses such as the one run by the General Assembly are generally viewed as positive and useful learning experiences to consolidate your understanding of the discipline. They give you the skills and the mindset to become a successful product manager. This course also teaches the importance of A/B testing as well as testing your assumptions before you start building.


Roles are becoming more and more specialised. Whether that’s working in specific areas of eCommerce such as payments and checkout, or search and navigation or having worked on specific search technologies such as Elastic search and SOLR.


There is still an ongoing healthy debate about what it means to be a Product Manager vs. a Product Owner. It often depends on the company. The product owner is seen as working with development team and administering the backlog. But we have worked with businesses where product owners are tackling and solving difficult problems for customers and the business and owning the commercial success of the product – a product manager, no?


Agile is still the go-to process and #1 in the product buzz word handbook. There are lots of benefits to agile including its collaborative nature. However, it must be implemented sensibly depending on the environment, the business needs and the product itself. Just as the Spotify engineering model cannot be implemented into all businesses models, the development approach must fit to suit the business needs.


Almost all businesses require experience developing products in an agile environment. I’ve also seen an increase in the need for lean start-up methods, including rapid prototyping, engaging with customers as early on as possible, rapid iterations and quickly dropping bad ideas


Data, Data, Data –  Product managers are dealing with more and more streams of ever increasingly large data sets giving them more metrics-driven data to make decisions.

Products are all about the consumer, so consumer-centric design and leveraging data to make the customer’s experience of your product the best it can be is ever more important, particularly with competitors. While data has been paramount to developing consumer products for a while now, we’ve also seen a data-driven approach being applied to building internal tools to help streamline business operations.

We’ve also seen a data-driven approach being implemented to build tools to accelerate and optimise digital marketing to offer a more personalised and consumer-centric approach to marketing campaigns.


Machine Learning: I’ve written a blog on this previously. Machine learning algorithms and AI are an area that looks set to explode within Product Management and seems to be industry agnostic. Healthcare, eCommerce, Banking, Music – any industry where algorithms can learn from customer data will be harnessing the power of this awesome technology.


Less so in larger companies, but we’ve noticed that designers are tending increasingly to report into Product Managers. The design is integral to the product’s success and can harness the most value. Having the product work smoothly is obviously important, but being recognisable and familiar to consumers with a great visual design is key.

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss any points in the blog, or you are a product manager looking for a new role in the new year – then please get in touch with me at: or give me a call on 020 3696 8664

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