How will AI affect product management?

ChatGPT has been burning the world for the last couple of months, and it’s there to stay. OpenAI’s models seem to be developing super fast, and of course, it raises a lot of concerns for people with regard to the future of their jobs. All big shifts led to big changes in jobs, but this doesn’t specifically mean that these jobs won’t exist anymore; it’s rather that these jobs will evolve.

Wasn’t that the case in digital products since the very beginning? We’ve had significant shifts in the last couple of years, and I believe they all helped make PMs more critical by providing new hard skills they can learn.

  • We’ve had the SaaS shift, where many things product teams can develop internally became highly accessible. This made PMs learn how to use those new products to work on developing on top of them. Think about Stripe; beforehand, teams developed payment systems by integrating lower-level systems. Now, teams can integrate easily through Stripe and focus on other stuff, such as optimizing payment authorization rates for different markets or improving the checkout success rates. This enabled PMs to be more skilled in their domains.
  • Research also evolved with the SaaS shift; before, we were working with user researchers even to conduct quantitative analyses. Yet, it also became one of the things PMs can do on their own now. Panels help recruit/schedule calls with the target audience, survey tools help launch surveys in almost no time, and monitoring tools help understand how users use the products.
  • We’ve had the democratization of data, which made a lot of things accessible for PMs w/o a technical background. This allowed PMs to spend more time on data analysis, hence building better hypotheses around their products and focusing on achieving a goal rather than being a feature factory, supporting the “gut feeling” of business stakeholders. This enabled PMs to be more skilled in data.
  • We’ve had the accessibility shift on the integrations through Zapier, Stitch, etc. This led to a significant change (at least in my life) where PMs w/o programming backgrounds could build prototypes/MVPs independently to accelerate their feature validation process, and they became more independent when developing/testing new features.

These all helped PMs skip focusing on things directly related to the development and helped concentrate more on the product, business impact, and the other relevant things with their product verticals. AI is probably the next significant shift. IMO, it’ll have two implications on product management:

  • It’ll force PMs to learn how to use it daily and make them more critical through new independency it’ll introduce in product development. It’s easy to see that the PM and engineering roles will evolve, where PMs will use new AI tools more and more to get more things done that weren’t possible before w/o software development. Engineers would use new AI tools (such as GitHub Copilot) to focus more on complex problems rather than implementing repeatable and low-value code.
  • AI requires a shepherd to direct it in the right direction. This requires someone between the business and customer side of things that truly understand and build a concise strategy. PMs have been doing this for a long time, so it’ll be just a matter of a shift in how they do it and how much of it they can do on their own.

The shift was, is, and will be inevitable. I firmly believe that it’ll make PMs more important, more result-focused, and more involved with product development – it might depend based on the organization, though, considering that the PM role changes from org to org.



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