To successfully build AI-powered solutions, like automated software products, you need people that have specific skill sets and experiences.
When it comes to AI products data scientists, analysts, and programmers might be some of the first names that pop into your head. But there’s another key role that can determine the success of a product – the AI product manager.
The “AI product manager” role has emerged only recently. As artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are being used to create new solutions, the role of an AI product manager is becoming more common. However, there’s still some confusion as to what they do.
In this article, we’ll dive down into what a typical AI product management job entails (and answer some frequently asked questions).
Let’s get started.
What is an AI Product Manager?
An AI product manager is a specialized product management professional whose job is to manage the planning, development, launch, and success of products/solutions powered by AI, machine learning, and deep learning technologies.
Depending on the company they work for, an AI product manager may have to work on any of the following types of projects:
- AI-powered solutions/components for a product that’s not primarily an AI product.
- Products that are completely powered by AI or provide solutions that mainly rely on artificial intelligence.
- Service or consultancy focused on developing and implementing custom AI solutions.
While an AI PM doesn’t need to have a total technical background, they certainly need some level of familiarity in areas like stats, machine learning models, and algorithms to succeed without having to rely heavily on their peers.
This is especially true at startups, where the AI PM typically has to make a lot of individual contributions.
What Does an AI Product Manager Do?
An AI product manager builds data sets, helps conduct market research, sets a vision, and aligns internal teams of an organization to create, launch, and maintain AI-powered products/solutions in the market. In short, they oversee and own the lifecycle of AI products.
From ideation to creation, AI PMs collaborate with the relevant team members to create a game plan for everything and make sure that everyone follows through on it.
Like every other position, there’s not a universal job description for these PMs. An AI PM working at Microsoft may have a completely different JD than someone who’s working at Amazon or LinkedIn.
However, we can generalize their responsibilities into the following without getting into the specifics:
Build Data Sets
One crucial thing that makes AI product managers different from traditional PMs is that they take a more data-driven approach.
Instead of creating a product strategy and a roadmap, they first start by building a unique database that they can later use to create effective AI solutions.
Of course, they don’t do this all by themselves. Product managers collaborate with internal data scientists and analysts to gather the training data. By making sure that the data is unique and of high quality, AI PMs and data professionals set the foundations for a successful product.
That way, product teams will have a far more laser-focused approach and build a solution that best solves the problems of the customers.
Conduct Market Research
Another key responsibility of a typical AI product manager is to conduct market research.
For this purpose, AI PMs collaborate with the product marketing department.
One part of the market research is focused on the users, through which the product teams accomplish the following goals:
- They develop a thorough understanding of who their customers are, where they come from, and what motivates them.
- They identify the critical pain points of their customers, which, in turn, enables them to focus on the right areas when developing their AI project.
Apart from users, AI PMs also aim to develop a deep understanding of the competitive landscape they’re in.
The quality of this research will determine the quality of the solutions they come up with.
Design Customer-Centric Solutions
It’s up to the AI product manager to come up with customer-centric solutions. Depending on the company they work for and where they currently stand, this could mean either of the following things:
- They’re going to design a complete product.
- They’re going to design a component/feature of a pre-existing product.
In any case, AI PMs collaborate with a company’s executives, product marketing, and product development teams to create something that would help take things forward.
The most important thing here is to make sure that those solutions align with the strategic and business objectives of the company. Anyone can come up with ideas, but it’s hard to come up with solutions that take things forward. That’s where a PM’s know-how of business, marketing, and UI/UX comes in handy.
Define and Own the Product Roadmap
A core responsibility of any AI product manager (or any type of PM, for that matter) is to build a robust product strategy.
The core part of that product strategy is the product vision, which is where the company wants to see its product. After defining that vision, the AI PM is responsible for specifying, in great depth, how product teams will get there. That step-by-step process is known as the roadmap.
An AI product manager has to consider the following variables when specifying this product roadmap:
- The available resources in the company.
- The amount of budget the company is willing to spare.
- The scope of the work (deploying some products takes longer than others).
- The strategic business goals of your company.
Naturally, this requires close collaboration with the team leads of the project to take their challenges into account. After finalizing the strategy and the roadmap, the AI PM shares it with the entire company.
Align Internal Teams with the Vision
Another key duty of any product manager is to align internal teams to the product vision that they’ve specified.
For this purpose, the PM has to:
- Share the product strategy, vision, and roadmap (as mentioned above) with everyone on the team.
- Meet with all the business leaders and stakeholders to explain how the strategy aligns with business goals.
- Meet with all the cross-functional teams to explain their role in achieving the product vision.
- Prevent organizational silos and act as the main point of contact for everyone in the organization.
- Keep everyone on the same page regarding the product progress.
To sum it up, the AI PM rallies everyone, addresses everyone’s concerns, and keeps them laser-focused towards the end goal. However, keep in mind that the PM doesn’t have any authority over any of the team members. Their role is to simply act as a bridge between the internal teams.
Lead Internal Discussions
This particular responsibility can be considered a sub-set of the previous one but deserves to be highlighted separately.
In large companies, with hundreds of employees and several team leads, communication/discussions can be a bit of a problem. Two teams may not always see eye-to-eye, which can be devastating for organizational productivity.
To overcome that problem, the AI PM leads internal discussions between the teams and acts as a mediator.
However, the product manager’s goal here should be to make sure that every discussion leads to a conclusion – an agreement, plan of action, decision, or anything else that helps move the needle for the organization.
Track Business Metrics and Take Action
Last but not least, the AI product manager is also responsible for analyzing various performance metrics and provide feedback to the internal teams.
- Specifying those metrics (these should be included in the product strategy).
- Creating a system to consistently collect that data.
- Creating a process for iterations in a way that doesn’t affect productivity.
From there, the product manager consistently looks for ways to improve their AI application/product, by either enhancing user experience or by introducing new features.
Of course, to do this effectively, the PM works with customer support, sales, marketing, and engineering teams to identify gaps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Since the AI PM is a new position, it’s natural to be confused and have queries about it. Below, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about this unique and highly specialized role:
How Do I Become an AI Product Manager?
To become an AI product manager, you need to get familiar with the essentials of artificial intelligence (data science, machine learning, deep learning, NLP, etc.), invest in technical skills (Python, SQL, data visualization, market research, etc.), and seek project management experience.
Here’s a step-by-step roadmap for how you can get there:
- Learn About AI – if you’re a complete beginner, start by learning about the basics of artificial intelligence. Read books, enroll in a course, and/or get a bachelor’s degree in any related field. It’s important to strengthen your foundations first.
- Learn the Critical Skills – as far as technical skills go, learn about Python, data sets, data visualization, SQL, and machine learning. Key business skills, such as strategy, resource management, and team management are also crucial.
- Go After Certifications – certification courses are great ways to learn foundational and advanced skills and validate them. Since you’ll be competing against thousands of peers, it’s important to stand out with a certification or two and get noticed by recruiters.
- Update Your Resume – modify your resume specifically for the AI product manager role. Highlight key skills and any experience in managing an AI-based project.
In the end, all that’s left is to apply for open positions. Head over to LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed to start your job hunt. Remember – even if you get rejected, make sure that you cultivate a positive and personal relationship with those recruiters.
Is AI a Product?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that uses certain technologies and techniques to teach computers how to “think” and/or behave like humans. The products that implement this technology and use it as a primary component for their basic functionality are known as AI products.
AI/Machine learning products have vast applications. From aerospace companies creating autonomous UAVs to streaming services that suggest content, almost every vertical can benefit from AI applications as business opportunities grow.
AI product managers help identify those opportunities and oversee the lifecycle of products that can fill in those gaps.
What are the Requirements for a Product Manager?
To become a product manager you need to invest in and develop a certain skill set and get certain qualifications. Work on skills like business strategy, market research, financial forecasting, and analytics. Furthermore, develop soft skills like communication, leadership, negotiating, and interpersonal skills.
The product management role is heavily focused on practical skills and experience. Educational qualifications are nice-to-haves, but not a requirement. Having a bachelor’s degree in product management, business, marketing, engineering, or any other related field can only take you so far.
At the end of the day, if you don’t have a good product sense, decision-making capabilities, someone who does and isn’t even a college graduate will have an edge over you.
For that reason, go all-in on developing these practical skills (certifications can help a lot) and gathering practical, hands-on experience.
What Do ML Product Managers Do?
ML product managers work closely with data scientists, analysts, engineers, and other related internal team members to establish, manage, and oversee the lifecycle of machine learning products. They are very similar to AI product managers but have an additional layer of specialization.
The other responsibilities of a machine learning product manager are the same as a traditional PM. They have to bridge gaps between internal teams, create and own product roadmaps, gather customer feedback, and create processes in place to address that feedback.
Is it Easy to Get a Product Manager Job?
If you have the necessary skillsets, a good product sense, and a certification or two to validate your skills, it’s easy to get a product manager job regardless of your experience. If you’re a beginner, try your luck with an internship or an entry-level program (like the Facebook rotational product manager).
Building up work experience and investing in acquiring more credentials will open doors for better/higher-paying opportunities.
Compared to other types of PMs, the role of an AI product manager is more inclined towards the technical side of the business.
Not only are they responsible for doing everything that a typical product manager does (such as creating roadmaps, leading discussions, and setting goals), but also engage with the data team to create data sets.