How product managers can embrace AI as a partner

Published Jul 17, 2023
Because this transformative technology continues to evolve with each passing day, experimentation is the name of the game.

Try to go one day without hearing or reading about AI. I bet you can’t. A few months ago when ChatGPT launched, many jumped at the chance to give it a whirl, as we do with the very many new products that emerge and generate buzz each month. But this time, we realized, was different. This time, we’re not talking about something we’ll use here and there and otherwise forget about. ChatGPT’s launch was what some call a defining moment for tech, a signal that our world will be forever changed by artificial intelligence

The AI buzz vs. the reality

News stations and publications continue to feed into the ongoing stream of content on AI. Because of our inherent fear of the unknown as human beings, much AI coverage tends to focus more on the negative outcomes this tech could bring about. Why? Because we’re afraid of not knowing what’s next. We need to plan so we can exert a bit of control. It’s simple science. And at this moment, many people are experiencing fear because of the power of AI, and what (or whom) it can potentially replace. 

One thing I know to be true about product managers is that we are pretty damn comfortable not knowing what comes next all the time, and are great at making the best of what we have available to innovate and create. We’re good at this because we are used to placing bets on our next move based on what we have in hand right now. It’s no different this time. Yes, there’s chaos in headlines and on our feeds about AI, but it’s important to separate the signals from the noise. Product managers (PMs) across our customer base are embracing AI as their partner, and we’re doing the same here at Pendo. 

Freeing PMs up to create and innovate more

In my previous role as head of product operations at Pendo, one of the most important things I did was analysis of customer feedback across our NPS and Feedback products. Prior to machine learning (ML) and AI becoming a part of our platform, I manually categorized everything that came in and then spent even more time understanding trends and writing analysis and recommendations for our leaders. As we introduced ML into our product, the hours I spent doing most of the manual work moved over to other critical things, like coaching and more strategic projects that benefited the product team and company. 

In this way, ML followed the same general pattern that’s emerged across the last two decades of technological change. We’ve seen digital streaming take the reins over traditional at-home entertainment options, increasing choice for customers. We’ve seen cloud computing take over traditional methods of delivering products and services to customers, freeing up space and dollars, and empowering humans to focus on rapid improvements, shortening time to value. We’ve also seen renewable energy and sustainable technologies provide options for us to reduce our carbon footprint, helping us move collectively toward a better, cleaner world. 

A time to build

In times like these, product managers innately think about massive change waves as opportunities to create for their customers. This AI moment is not one in which a trend is causing recency bias or clouding our judgment as we make product decisions. We’re not after the next shiny carrot. Product managers are leaning in and trying to build on, or, reinvent the experience that exists for their customers. 

At Pendo, we’re watching our own customers do a double-take on that lot of feedback they received where changes may not have been as easily achieved pre-AI. We’re watching them experiment with new ways to make their products’ self-serve experiences better, reducing time to value and increasing sentiment. In today’s world—where efficiency is critical due to changes across the business landscape—this is gold. 

Two PM pillars AI will never replace

Because AI tech continues to evolve with each passing day, experimentation is the name of the game. An experimental approach to innovation will allow us to learn what’s working, and implement and upgrade quickly. But as quickly as we experiment, we must never forget two things: building responsibly and communicating effectively. They’re two items that can’t be assigned to an AI tool. 

  • Build responsibly: You need to do the work as a PM to understand whether you’re building responsibly for your customer base, causing any ethical concerns for your company, or increasing business risk. Just as GDPR laws drove us to review and stand up privacy and security guardrails across every industry, there will be checks in place for AI. Stay alert and partner with the appropriate cross-functional teams to stay ahead. 
  • Communicate effectively: Here I’m not talking about auto-generated status reports. I mean truly being present and communicative with customers, engineers, stakeholders, and cross-functional teams. This is what helps us understand if we’re solving the right problems, whether we’re providing enough details for others to do their jobs well, and helps us articulate value. Alignment and transparency are critical to the success of any team, and with product managers sitting in the middle of organizations, communication during this wave of change is the most important thing to focus on. Let’s not distill its value. 

There are already some incredible examples of AI enhancing many of our favorite products, like Miro, Canva, and Notion. These examples have inspired us to think outside the box, and explore what’s possible for our customers with Pendo. We hope you’ll be inspired to experiment, learn, build responsibly, and communicate effectively, as we all ride this massive wave of change together. 

Learn more about how Pendo is incorporating AI into its platform here