Customer acquisition costs have skyrocketed, economic uncertainty has become the new normal, and tech businesses are most vulnerable to macroenvironmental changes. The best products win in uncertain times—and the best way to manage those products is through a customer-centric product experience. This approach makes your target customer’s life easier and pushes them to buy, upgrade, and recommend your product to others, which drives revenue
Product management is the core of this process. It involves understanding customers’ needs, defining and validating product features, and launching them at the speed to maximize success. Supplementing the process with AI can make product management easier.
What is product management?
Product management dictates every phase of a product’s life cycle, including product development, research, positioning, pricing, promotion, and marketing. Customer centricity is the north star that guides product management decisions and helps teams deliver value to customers. A customer-centric product management approach allows teams to create high-performing products that are designed to solve customer pain points and respond to their needs.
The history of product management
Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft paved the way for modern product management over the last 30 years. They spearheaded the shift away from traditional product-centric approaches to customer-centric ones. But product management has been around for decades. It emerged way back in the 1930s as a distinct discipline with Procter & Gamble (P&G) pioneering brand management. As the decades passed, companies like IBM and Xerox shifted focus to managing entire product lines.
Eventually, the emergence of dedicated product managers as Microsoft and Apple developed products specifically for personal computers. In the 2000s and 2010s, digital products and services became a focus, with agile methodologies and user-centered design principles. The arc of product management has grown more niche, with an increased focus on the individual customer. Today, product management continues to evolve, playing a critical role in driving growth for companies.
Product management roles
According to LinkedIn, interest in product management jobs doubled in the United States over the past 5 years. Companies want to hire talented product managers that can help them make the right product decisions to stay competitive.
Product management roles vary from organization to organization. While some companies have one dedicated product manager per product, larger companies may have one product manager overseeing multiple product teams.
Great product managers have a diverse skill set that determines their success. Communication, prioritization, organization, people management, technical, and design skills are all in-demand product management skills that deliver successful outcomes.
The ideal product manager is adept at business marketing and technical knowledge, but finding people with this combination of skills can be challenging. That's why most companies have product teams that involve stakeholders from departments such as engineering, design, and marketing.
Effective product management involves constant collaboration between teams and stakeholders to build products that meet customers' needs. This collaboration ensures product managers have the right skillsets to take products from concept to market. They also have product-specific roles such as:
- Chief Product Officer (CPO) who leads the product organization
- Product Owners (POs) responsible for feature and product delivery
- Product Managers (PMs) who own product vision and strategy
- UX/UI Designers who study customer behavior and design user journeys
- Product Marketing Managers who focus on the product’s go-to-market strategy and create messaging that resonates with customers
The 7 step product management process
Product management is a complex process. No two teams and no two products are the same. The process always varies depending on what teams prefer, the product lifecycle, and the market. However, here's a seven-step product management process that's a helpful starting point:
1. Define the problem
The core of every successful product begins with understanding a high-value pain point. What keeps your customers up at night? What are they struggling with? Answer these questions to define a solvable problem.
At this stage, product teams get on calls with customers, conduct surveys, and look at data to understand customer needs. Then, they turn these needs into viable problem statements they can solve.
2. Evaluate the opportunity
This is the stage where teams do market research to identify the quantifiable opportunity for a product. Teams use customer surveys, competitor analysis, and market analysis to understand if the problem is worth solving and what investment is required.
Market analysis helps teams define the target market, potential customers, pricing model, and revenue streams. All these pieces come together to help product managers make an informed decision about moving forward with a potential solution.
3. Brainstorm potential solutions
You have a problem, and you know it's worth solving. Ideation techniques such as brainstorming, affinity diagramming, and drawing inspiration from existing products help you develop potential solutions and evaluate different options.
Validate ideas with your target customer to make sure potential solutions have market fit. Collaborate with technical teams to understand how feasible ideas are.
4. Design a minimum viable product (MVP)
MVPs offer the most value with the least amount of effort. Teams use UX design thinking and lean product development processes to create an MVP. They create simple solutions that address immediate customer needs, reduce complexity, and can be tested quickly.
At the same time, you want to develop a product customers love. A minimum loveable product (MLP) prioritizes customer experience and design to build brand loyalty and drive adoption. Define the right balance of features and usability to ensure your product stands out in a crowded market.
5. Get feedback from users
The most important thing you can get at this stage is feedback that rips apart your assumptions. Feedback at the MVP stage can set the product in the right direction and help you identify key features. Analyze how customers think and feel about the actual product. What features do they like? What's annoying them? When you have this goldmine of information, act on it. Address customer concerns and let their feedback guide product development.
6. Create a product strategy
Now's the time to establish goals and objectives. Define key performance indicators and metrics to measure success. Set up the product roadmap and prioritize features. Ensure the strategy is based on reasonable, achievable goals and flexible enough to accommodate changes in the market or customer needs.
It's also the stage where you involve stakeholders. Ensure everyone is on board with the product strategy and execution plan. A shared understanding between the product, engineering, and marketing teams is key to building a successful product.
7. Launch your product
Once all the pieces are in place, deploy your product. Test before deployment to make sure everything works as expected. Perform a soft launch to gauge customer reaction. Communicate with customers throughout the process, so they know what to expect. Make sure you have the necessary customer support in place to handle inquiries and technical issues.
Post-launch, continue collecting feedback from users and iterate accordingly. Track performance metrics closely to measure success, identify areas of improvement, and create new features that enhance the product. Stay agile, be bold, and pivot quickly if necessary.
7 types of AI tools to facilitate product management
When you understand what pieces need to come together to successfully develop a product, you can leverage the right toolset to make it easier. Here are five types of AI tools to smooth product development:
1. Note-taking tools for customer interviews and internal meetings
Note-taking tools like Supernormal automatically transcribe and summarize meetings and conversations, ensuring you don't lose critical information. Searchable meeting minutes allow you to find and reference specific conversations quickly, and teams don’t have to waste time scribbling notes during meetings. Instead, they can focus on the conversation.
Use Supernormal during team meetings, customer interviews, and product strategy discussions to capture what's said. It's the perfect solution for product demos, bug reports, and walkthroughs and keeps your sales, marketing, and engineering teams aligned.
2. Project management tools
Monday.com, Asana, Trello, ClickUp… the collection of project management tools continues to grow. Board-based layouts allow for easy product development task organization. It’s simple to create a board for your product and then create cards for individual tasks teams need to complete. Use labels to categorize tasks by type, such as design, development, testing, and release.
These tools facilitate collaboration between team members and provide a central location for all project-related information. Prioritize different tasks to ensure the team works on the most critical tasks first, a critical aspect of meeting launch deadlines.
3. User analysis tools
Determine how customers use your product. What features do they like, and which ones don’t they use? User analysis tools Amplitude and Mixpanel track user behavior, including how users engage with an app, what features they interact with the most, and their demographic information. Then, they provide product teams with valuable insights to inform development and product design decisions.
Use these tools to A/B test different product features and decide which ones to include in the final product. Identify pain points and areas of frustration to inform your product development decisions and make the product more user-friendly.
4. Heatmap software
Heatmap software like Clicktale and Hotjar helps product teams understand how customers interact with their products. Heatmaps show user activity—where they click, scroll, or hover—on the page or app. This visual information gives product teams valuable insights into customer behavior and makes it easier to spot usability issues.
For example, if the heatmap shows that customers have a hard time finding certain features on your website, identify potential design changes to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. It also allows you to identify areas of the page that customers are not engaging with, which can help teams decide whether to remove or improve those elements.
5. Prototyping tools
Bring your product design ideas to life quickly with prototyping tools like Figma and Adobe XD. Create prototypes for web and mobile applications in minutes to test out different ideas and get feedback from stakeholders.
These tools allow you to create interactive designs, share prototypes with team members for comments and feedback, and even demo the product to customers easily. Add animations, transitions, gestures, and more to make the prototype look as close to the real thing as possible.
6. Roadmapping tools
Roadmapping tools like Aha! and ProductPlan allow product teams to plan out the product lifecycle. Create a roadmap that outlines upcoming features, releases, deadlines, and more. You can also share this roadmap with stakeholders to get their input on which features you should prioritize and when you should release them.
Involve stakeholders in the product development process by getting their feedback on proposed features and ideas. Use these tools to keep everyone informed and up-to-date on progress and changes to ensure your team works towards the same goal.
7. Recording and video conferencing tools
Source: Google Meet
Tools like Zoom and Google Meet allow product teams to communicate with stakeholders remotely. Share your screen during live meetings or demo sessions to show customers how the product works in real time. Record the meeting for future reference so you don’t lose important information.
Remote teams can also use these tools to collaborate. Video conferencing tools let you brainstorm, review designs, and evaluate prototypes during virtual meetings.
Guide product development with AI tools
Product development is a complex process that requires organization and collaboration. From ideation to execution, AI tools clear backlogs, speed up decision-making, and help teams create better products. Integrate tools into your process and ensure their adoption by making sure stakeholders are involved and looped in. Streamline product development with Supernormal to reduce opportunities for errors and ship better products.