Product School

AI Product Managers: Looking Ahead at a Brave New World

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Carlos González De Villaumbrosia

June 20, 2024 - 16 min read

Updated: June 21, 2024 - 16 min read

Let's dive into the role of the much-talked-about AI Product Manager. If you’ve ever wondered about product management for AI or how to become an AI product manager, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, I’ll unpack what “AI PM” really means, the skills required to manage AI products, and what AI product managers do day-to-day. I’ll also share some tips for how to nail an interview and transition into the AI/ML product manager role including free resources and course recommendations. Keep reading to future-proof your career!

AI PRD Template

Plan, strategize, and align stakeholders around the key requirements unique to AI products.

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AI PRD Illustration

Are AI Product Managers Really a Thing? 

Actually, no. I know that may come as a surprise, given that AI Product Manager is right in the title of this article! You’ve probably seen the role mentioned in other places as well. Like everything that has to do with AI, there’s a lot of buzz. So, let’s cut through the noise.

AI PMs are no more real than Mobile PMs or Cloud PMs. As with other technological advancements, Product Managers need to understand them, and even more importantly, understand how to leverage them. All Product Managers are—or will soon be—AI Product Managers.

In fact, if Mobile or Cloud technology were waves, then Artificial Intelligence is a tsunami. Because of its potential to affect every aspect of our lives, its place within Product, and Product Management, cannot be overstated. 

PMs who are adopting AI now will replace PMs who don’t. Why? Because Product Managers who use AI are able to do more, do it faster, and do it better than PMs who don’t. Keep reading to find out how.

Why Product Managers Need to Understand AI and ML

Product managers must appreciate the potential, and potential pitfalls, of AI and machine learning to drive innovation and competitive advantage. Understanding these technologies empowers PMs to create adaptable, high-performance products that meet dynamic market demands and provide exceptional user experiences. 

What Sets AI/ML Products Apart?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) broadly aims to mimic human thought, while Machine Learning (ML), a subset of AI, focuses on learning from data. ML products can be central to their function, like Google's search or GPT models, or enhance experiences, such as Amazon’s recommendations.

Features that Define ML Products:

Machine learning (ML) products, a subset of AI products, are unique because they evolve with the data they process, unlike traditional software, which is deterministic and based on set algorithms. This dynamic nature makes the development process for ML products continually adaptive.

Blog image 1: Become a ML PM
  1. High-Performance (the “wow” factor): ML products deliver exceptional user experiences, providing capabilities that traditional methods cannot achieve.

  2. Adaptability: These products adjust to changes in user behavior and conditions, maintaining their effectiveness over time.

  3. Scalability: ML products can expand to serve broader audiences without losing performance.

  4. Competitive Advantage: Mastering ML can give a business a sustainable edge in the market.

Challenges for AI/ML Product Managers

  • Specialized Talent: Developing ML products requires skilled data scientists and engineers.

  • Infrastructure Demands: ML models need significant computational resources and data storage for large-scale deployment.

  • Development Cycles: ML products often have longer development timelines, requiring careful planning and patience.

  • Transparency Issues: The complex nature of ML models can make them difficult to explain and justify.

Ongoing Maintenance: Continuous monitoring and updating are essential to keep ML products effective and relevant.

AI Product Managers: Role and Responsibilities

What are the responsibilities of AI PMs? As I said above, the same as any other Product Manager! So-called AI Product Managers are doing what any product manager should do: leveraging the most impactful technology and strategies to develop and deliver outstanding products. 

Developing AI Products

At the heart of AI product management lies the challenge of transforming cutting-edge technologies into user-friendly, market-ready solutions. 

Developing AI products involves incorporating different types of AI technology:

  • Generative AI: Large Language Models (LLMs), like GPT-4 or Google’s Gemini, which are capable of understanding and generating human-like text. 

  • Machine learning

  • Computer vision  

  • Robotic Process Automation

  • Deep learning

AI PRD Template

Plan, strategize, and align stakeholders around the key requirements unique to AI products.

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AI PRD Illustration

AI PMs must understand these technologies' potentials and limitations to align them with business objectives effectively. Below are some examples of AI Products that leverage the UVPs of the companies that made them:

AI Product strategy

AI product strategy involves several layers:

  • Identifying suitable AI applications 

  • Defining product features 

  • Orchestrating the model training and deployment process 

  • Collaborating closely with data scientists and engineers

Leveraging UVPs in AI Products

The AI product you should build tomorrow depends on what your company does well today. Whether it's leveraging proprietary data or subject matter expertise, the Unique Value Propositions of AI products ideally build on the existing products, data, or market position.

blog image: AI products that leverage UVPs

AI in Product Management Workflows

AI is not just the end product; it’s also a powerful tool that AI PMs utilize in their workflows to enhance decision-making and streamline processes. Here’s how AI can revolutionize various aspects of product management:

AI Prompt Template

Engage effectively with natural language processing chatbots to ensure quality results.

Inside the Prompt Template

  1. Session Replays: AI PMs use AI-powered products to analyze session replays, providing deep insights into how users interact with their products. These tools can automatically identify patterns, pain points, and areas for improvement by interpreting vast amounts of user behavior data. 

  2. Turning User Feedback into Feature Ideas: AI goes beyond merely summarizing user feedback; it can prioritize feature development by analyzing trends and sentiments within the feedback. This ensures the product roadmap is based on the most valuable and desired features.

  3. Turning Data into Insights: With AI, product managers can interact with data in intuitive ways, without needing to run SQL queries or complex commands. This democratization of data analytics empowers PMs to make data-driven decisions swiftly and efficiently.

There are a lot of AI products for Product Managers and other AI tools that can be implemented today in the life of any PM to make them an AI PM. I go into detail in a talk I gave at ProductCon New York: 

Essential Skills for AI Product Managers

The AI product manager job description is as varied as any other focus area. Each day comes with its own challenges, many of which depend on the type of products and features that are in the pipeline. However, there are certain skills that are unique to AI/ML product managers, including:

0. Understanding the tech

To be effective in directing and guiding your team, you should grasp the basics of how algorithms work, the data requirements, and the challenges in training and deploying models. The clearer you are about the mechanics of ML, the better you can steer the product direction, set realistic expectations, and handle stakeholder interactions

Blog image 7: How to Transition into an AI/ML PM

1. How to define the problem and business opportunity

In the process of solving a business problem with Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML), the first step is to determine whether an ML or AI algorithm is the right approach to address the problem

Machine learning algorithms excel at uncovering complex relationships and hidden patterns in datasets that consist of many interdependent variables. However, it's vital to acknowledge that machine learning and AI is not a universal solution for every problem. 

2. How to leverage the right data

When solving business problems with AI and machine learning, we encounter various challenges. The first challenge revolves around data accessibility. Do you have access to the data you need? Is it labeled and ready? Relevant and up-to-date data is crucial for accurate predictions, but not all data at your disposal may be pertinent to the specific problem you're attempting to solve. 

3. Ethical considerations for data and AI:

Another critical consideration is whether you should use the available data at all. You might possess sensitive customer information, including details about their residences and bank accounts. The question is, should you leverage this data

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you'd want to be in the news for using this data. If the answer is no, it's advisable not to use that information. 

While your intentions may be to enhance the customer experience, customers may not share the same sentiment, and respecting user privacy is paramount. Ensuring that the entire data pipeline is secure is essential to prevent any data compromises.

4. How to address bias

Addressing bias in data is another one of the critical skills for AI Product Managers. Bias occurs when machine learning algorithms produce anomalous outputs due to assumptions made during algorithmic development or biases in the training data. 

Consider a scenario where you build a model to prioritize resumés for interview selection. While this problem seems suitable for machine learning, you may have a biased dataset, as it only includes data from candidates who applied and progressed through the process. This omission introduces bias because you lack data from potentially qualified individuals who never applied. Ensuring a balanced dataset is essential to mitigate bias and improve model accuracy.

5. Gathering feedback

In the context of machine learning, gathering customer feedback becomes even more crucial due to the probabilistic nature of machine learning systems. Probabilistic systems inherently require more data to enhance the quality of their outputs over time. The challenge lies in how to effectively collect this valuable data and create customer feedback loops.

One effective approach to gathering feedback is by embedding a feedback mechanism directly into the core customer workflow. To illustrate this, let's consider the example of Uber. Uber prompts its customers for feedback every time they log into the app. By doing so, Uber can accumulate a wealth of valuable customer signals. For instance, if a customer expresses dissatisfaction with the number of pickups, Uber can use this feedback to optimize its pickup algorithm. This approach exemplifies how incorporating feedback loops into the customer experience can lead to continuous improvement and enhancement of the user experience.

6. How to apply UX best practices to AI products

On the bus, everyone gets the same stops - the same predetermined experience. In a taxi, each user puts in their own destination, and the driver creates a personalized journey for them. Similarly, products will evolve from being deterministic as they are today, to non-deterministic, allowing for a range of different experiences for every user.

Sam Stevens, AI Product Leader & CEO at CatalistAI. Ex-Google, YouTube, Tinder

Many AI systems influence user experiences in unconscious ways.

A practical illustration of this concept can be seen in search engines. Consider two users searching for the same word, "shoes." While one user is shown men's shoes, another is shown women's shoes. This difference is due to the AI tailoring the results based on the user's gender information, creating an unconscious experience change. 

As a product manager, you're leveraging user information to enhance their experience without requiring explicit input. However, it's crucial to consider what information you use to improve the customer experience and be mindful of potential privacy concerns and ethical considerations.

To guide user actions effectively, you must design your interface to nudge users in the direction you want them to take. This involves simplifying the user interface and ensuring there are at most one or two clear actions for users to follow. By being opinionated and aligning the interface with your desired outcomes, you can enhance the user experience and achieve your product's objectives.

AI User Flow Template

Essential steps applied to real-world examples from AI product management break down a complicated process into clearly defined flows from the initial entry point to the generated output.

Inside the AI Feature User Flow Template

7. Effective collaboration with cross-functional teams

As a PM, you’re already accustomed to working with multiple stakeholders, but when dealing with AI products, this complexity increases significantly. In a traditional product management lifecycle, you collaborate with engineering, UX, customer success, marketing, and possibly sales teams to define requirements and iterate to build and ship the product.

When you're working on AI products, numerous new teams come into play. These teams may include data scientists, data engineers, machine learning scientists, machine learning engineers, applied scientists, and business intelligence professionals. This influx of stakeholders adds complexity to the product development process, as coordination and communication demands increase. The coordination time with these teams rises significantly, impacting the time required for product iterations.

In AI product development, if you receive feedback that necessitates changes to the AI models, the process can reset. This involves revisiting data requirements, addressing missing data, model building by the science team, and collaborating again with engineering for deployment. Therefore, more stakeholders, increased complexity, and longer iteration cycles are characteristic of AI product development.

A Career in AI Products

How to Become an AI PM

Eager to venture into ML/AI product management? The route isn't set in stone. Whether you're tech-savvy, data-oriented, or business-driven, there's room for you. To begin, dive into data, grasp AI/ML basics, partner with data scientists, and prioritize user needs. 

1. Immerse yourself in an AI-driven company

To truly grasp artificial intelligence, immerse yourself in an innovative company. Leading AI companies offer rich learning experiences and mentorship. Begin as a PM, show interest in AI, and soon you'll be collaborating with data scientists and shaping AI advancements. 

2. Advocate for AI within your current role

Why seek externally when you can pioneer internally? If your current role doesn't involve AI, introduce it. Find areas where AI can enhance value, research thoroughly, and pitch with conviction. This not only highlights your leadership but also positions you as the company's AI expert. Your initiative might spur new projects or even spawn dedicated AI teams.

3. Forge your own path with an AI startup

If you're entrepreneurial and see an AI solution to a unique problem, consider starting a venture. Assemble a team and create from the ground up. This challenging route provides deep insights into AI, business strategy, and fundraising. Leading your own startup gives you the chance to directly influence its trajectory and leave a lasting impact in the AI realm.

Whichever path you choose, remember that the world of AI is vast and ever-evolving. Continuous learning, curiosity, and adaptability are your best allies. Dive in, embrace the challenges, and watch as you transform from a product manager into an AI Product Management maestro. Your journey begins now!

4. Learn how to master AI products from an experienced instructor 

Breaking into AI Product Management requires a unique set of skills, focusing on generative AI, data-driven decision-making, and user experience innovation. It goes without saying that artificial intelligence is a complex topic to understand, let alone apply to AI products. Honing your skills through a course or certification is a great way to set yourself up in the world of AI product management. 

Get acquainted with the foundational concepts through a free micro-certification or specialize under the tutelage of an experienced AI product expert with Product School’s Artificial Intelligence Product Certification (AIPC)™.  

Hear from the first ever AIPC™ cohort

AIPC™ is here to transform you into an AI Product Manager. Master AI integration, AI product design, and more to elevate your PM career with AI expertise.

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AIPC™ is meticulously designed to empower you with these skills and help you level up as an AI Product Manager. Discover AI fundamentals, build cutting-edge AI products, craft superior user experiences, optimize product performance using AI, and much more. Our certification is your gateway to becoming an AI Product Manager. 

During AIPC™, students have a chance to build a low-code LLM-powered app, and everyone leaves the course with a fully-fledged AI PRD for their portfolio

blog image: AIPC modules

AI Product Manager job description 

Every AI product manager position is different, but after combing through the recent offerings on LinkedIn, this one stood out for its averageness: 

What You’ll Do

  • You will drive the product vision, strategy, and roadmap.

  • Partner closely with the engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success teams to deliver AI products and ensure their market success.

  • Your simple and elegant designs will delight our customers as they work with their unstructured data.

  • Work with customers to deeply understand their needs and bring them into the ideation process.

  • Perform research and competitive analysis to identify opportunities within the realm of multimodal AI.

What We Look For

  • 4+ years of experience as a product manager.

  • Advanced degree in Computer Science, AI, Machine Learning, or related fields is a nice to have.

  • Strong understanding of data and AI technologies, including, but not limited to multimodal learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and reinforcement learning.

  • Excellent communication skills: ability to present and explain decisions cross-functionally.

Demonstrated ability to work with complex problems yet design powerful and simple solutions.

AI Product Manager salaries

The salary for the position described above (based in San Jose, CA) is listed between $142,000-$179,000/ year. According to Wellfound, the average PM salary at an AI startup is $144,000/year and PayScale lists the average base salary for Senior PMs with AI skills at $155,765.  

Preparing for an AI/ML PM interview

Ok, so you've applied to AI/ML jobs, the recruiters loved your AI product manager resume, and they offered you the chance to interview. As you set your sights on a role in AI/ML product management, you may wonder how best to prepare for AI product management interview questions. Let’s break down the key areas you should focus on to ace your AI/ML PM interview.

1. Product sense

This involves a deep understanding of the product's core purpose, its target audience, and its position in the market. But it goes beyond just understanding - it's about anticipating. Can you foresee user needs and preferences? How well can you tailor your product's features and functionalities to meet these expectations? 

This ability is a cornerstone in demonstrating your proficiency as a product manager, especially in the AI/ML space where user needs can be complex and ever-evolving.

2. Proficiency in statistics

When stepping into AI/ML product management, your acumen in statistics needs to be top-notch. This isn't just a cursory knowledge of basic stats but a deep dive into p-values, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, and sampling techniques. 

Your interview might delve into these areas, assessing your ability to interpret data and make data-driven decisions. The key here is to blend intuition with statistical knowledge, allowing you to navigate through vast data sets and extract meaningful insights.

3. Setting success metrics

In an AI/ML PM career, success metrics take on a new level of importance. You're expected to not only understand but also articulate the impact of a model's output in a real-world production environment.

This is where prioritization frameworks come into play. They help you structure your thinking process, enabling you to solve problems and make decisions effectively. 

Mapping user actions to metrics and contextualizing why these metrics are significant is an essential skill. It's about connecting the dots – how user behavior impacts product performance and, in turn, the overall business objectives.

How To Write a Killer AI Product Manager Resume

Craft a standout AI Product Manager resume as we provide you with expert tips to help you succeed in the competitive job market and secure your dream role.

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All PMs Will Be AI PMs One Day (Soon)

Many experts believe we are living on the cusp of the next industrial revolution. Just like in the past, new technologies changed how humans lived down to our very anatomy (that’s a callout to fire, the OG technology), AI is going to infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Artificial Intelligence, for product managers, isn’t just about another career choice. It’s about future-proofing your career. It’s about making sure that you’re a part of the next chapter of human history. 

Get Certified as an AI Product Manager

To truly set yourself apart, and stay ahead, learn how to build AI products and integrate AI across the entire product lifecycle. The ​​Artificial Intelligence for Product Certification (AIPC)™ provides hands-on instruction to help you learn the skills and knowledge required to build the next generation of products.

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Updated: June 21, 2024

Aspiring AI Product Manager FAQs

An AI Product Manager oversees the development and deployment of AI-driven products, ensuring they align with business goals and customer needs. They collaborate with data scientists, engineers, and stakeholders to define product features and manage the product lifecycle.

To break into AI product management, start by building a strong foundation in both product management and AI technologies. Gain experience through courses, certifications, or projects that involve AI and data analytics, like Product School's AIPC. Networking with industry professionals and seeking roles in tech companies where you can work closely with AI teams can also pave the way.

There is no difference, per se. An AI Product Manager focuses on products that leverage AI and machine learning. All Product Managers can and should use AI in their day-to-day, and more and more PMs will have the opportunity to work on AI products as they continue to proliferate.

An AI Product Manager should be proficient in the fundamentals of AI and machine learning, understand data science workflows, and be familiar with the tools and frameworks used in AI development. They should also have strong strategic and analytical skills to translate complex technical capabilities into business value. Moreover, knowledge of ethical AI practices and the ability to manage cross-functional teams are crucial.

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