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The Evolution from Product Management to AI & Data Product Management

June 25, 2024
William Alvarez
Strategy Lead at Mindfuel
William Alvarez
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In today's world, the way we manage products is changing fast. As technology advances and data becomes a bigger deal, understanding the shift from traditional product management to AI & data product management is more important than ever. Let's break it down in a simple, no-nonsense way.

Traditional Product Management is all about making and selling physical stuff. Think about TVs, tables, or even your favorite brand of shoes. Product managers in this field focus on designing these items, making sure they look good and work well, and then figuring out how to market them so people will buy them.

For example, if you were a product manager for a new smartphone, you'd work on its design, decide what features it should have, ensure it gets manufactured correctly, and create ads to make people want to buy it. It’s a mix of creativity and practicality. It’s tangible.

With the rise of digital technology, product management moved into the software world, becoming Digital Product Management. Now, instead of managing physical products, digital product managers handle apps, websites, and other software products.

Imagine you're a digital product manager for a new social media app. Your job would be to understand what users want, design the app to meet those needs, work with developers to build it, and then launch it in a way that attracts users. It's all about making sure the app is easy to use and solves a real problem for people.

Here's where things get a bit more interesting. AI & Data Product Management is the newest kid on the block. This role involves creating products that are all about AI & data. Unlike physical products or software, data products deal with collecting, managing, and using data to create value.  

For instance, think about a weather forecasting app. A data product manager for such an app needs to ensure the app collects accurate weather data, processes it correctly, and presents it in a user-friendly way. They also need to think about how to keep the data up-to-date and reliable, which can be trickier than it sounds.

The Shift to Data-Centric Approaches

Data product managers have a lot on their plates. They need to figure out how to integrate data into products in a way that’s useful for users. This means ensuring the data is easy to access, accurate, and presented clearly.

For example, a fitness tracker app collects a lot of data about your workouts and health. A data product manager has to make sure this data is displayed in a way that helps users track their progress and stay motivated. It’s not just about having the data; it’s about making it work for the user.

Key Differences

Here’s a quick recap of the main differences:

  • Traditional Product Management: Focuses on creating and selling physical items like electronics, furniture, or clothes.
  • Digital Product Management: Deals with designing and launching software products like apps and websites.
  • AI & Data Product Management: Involves managing products that revolve around data, ensuring the data is useful and accessible.

A diagram of a product managementDescription automatically generated

Navigating the Transition

Switching from traditional to AI & data product management isn’t always easy, but it’s doable. You need to get comfortable with handling data, understanding its value, and knowing how to use it effectively.

For example, if you’re used to managing the launch of a new sneaker, transitioning to managing a health app means learning about data collection and user privacy. It’s a new set of challenges, but with the right approach, you can make the switch smoothly.

As data becomes more important in our everyday lives, data product managers play a crucial role. They make sure products are not just functional and user-friendly but also data-driven and insightful. This new focus on data helps create more innovative and effective products.

Want to learn more about making this shift? Let’s chat! We can explore strategies to manage your data products successfully. Embrace the future of product management and use data to drive innovation and success!

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