AI for product management?

Recently a combination of Terence and James forced me to confront my prejudices about mobile apps for public service needs in a way that I haven’t done since the days of Tom’s seminal blogpost. I’m in no hurry to endorse a Wild West of apps and most times demands will not be backed with a real use case but it is clearly a much more nuanced question these days rather than a straight no and a link to that blogpost.

It isn’t easy to give up such strongly held opinions ~ and while I definitely talk a good game about ‘strong opinions, loosely held’ I’m as guilty of being dogmatic as anybody.

So you can imagine how pleased I was when I read a blogpost that started to challenge my anti-AI instincts. 

Alan Wright – Head of Product at Climate Policy Radar and somebody who has emerged from a similar product pathway as me – wrote this post about ways he is using AI to support his practice as a product person…and a few ways he isn’t.

It is a really interesting post with examples of things I definitely could see I’d have used when I was a more hands-on product manager if it had been available (like transcribing meetings – though Otter.AI has definitely struggled with my Bristolian tones in the past and especially writing SQL/Python. The things I could have done if my coding skills had lived up to my imagination back in the day!), things I will probably experiment with (using Perplexity as a search engine replacement) and things I probably would never use AI for (anything to do with writing really – I enjoy that part of the work too much or idea generation which feels a little too much like wisdom of crowd-sourcing stuff of the Web 2.0 era which was anything but.)

It seems like a really balanced and sensible approach to using the technology to support the work without it becoming the focus and it really got me thinking about how I could/should be looking at some of these tools to support my own practice as it continues to diverge from product in a traditional sense. I’m definitely interested in finding a way to use AI to generate first drafts of Statements of Work!

This morning I was at ProductCampSW and a LOT of the pitches were related to AI – including a ‘What If..product managers were replaced by AI’ session. This was slightly tongue in cheek until it wasn’t. I was really interested in the Hollywood Writers strike last year and how much of that was concerned with protecting their profession from the encroachment of GenAI. Somehow I doubt striking product people will be as newsworthy or effective at holding back the tide (and the writers only negotiated concessions for three years and who knows what will happen then.)

Anyway my takeaway is that despite my (many, many) reservations AI (or AI-ish) is here and probably here to stay so if I am going to continue my efforts to avoid becoming Abe Simpson shouting at clouds I need to make time to investigate and experiment to see whether I can benefit from it. It isn’t like I couldn’t do with the help!

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