Technology is essential to business. Even the most advanced technology can’t replace the essential humanity of a professional product manager (PM), but product management is not exempt from the implications of digital transformation. What does the increasing prevalence of technology mean for professional product management?
The human factor
The practice of product management changes with every wave of technology evolution. Each advance comes with adjustments to professional priorities and workflows, including efforts to guarantee responsible stewardship and innovation.
When developing products, product and design teams will invariably run up against issues of privacy, sustainability, and inclusivity. Is easy operation worth a lack of privacy? Does the product fit an arbitrary standard of sustainability? Is your product designed for maximum inclusivity? When developing a technology product, or using technology to develop any product, a professional PM is key to revising and recommending standards for privacy, sustainability, and inclusivity.
Privacy is a constant balancing act between protecting information and using it to address customer wants and needs. Customers prefer a personalized experience but don’t want to compromise their sensitive information, which raises unique concerns for developments in facial recognition technology for personal electronics.
Striking the right balance requires market knowledge and a thorough understanding of customer preferences in alignment with information privacy and data security. Examples of the trade-off can be seen in websites offering visitors the chance to accept or decline cookies or in consumers exchanging privacy for connectivity with Internet of Things technology.
Environmental sustainability is an increasingly critical concern for market success, and it doesn’t simply refer to production and manufacturing processes. A truly sustainable product meets or exceeds sustainability standards throughout the entirety of its life cycle. So, who sets the standards?
Beyond legal and regulatory requirements, each company sets its own standards for environmental responsibility, and the smart move is to align with consumer and market expectations. Consumers have proven willing to pay more for sustainably manufactured products, and with their knowledge of market trends and consumer preferences, a professional PM is uniquely positioned to advise on sustainability standards.
Technology and inclusivity have a historically messy relationship. Artificial intelligence, for example, is taking on more routine tasks every day, but absent careful management, it can reinforce existing societal biases. Inclusivity offers opportunities to expand market share and create more accessible products for a broader customer base. Still, only 17% of surveyed product managers named inclusivity as a top design priority.
Digital transformation is a fact of life, in business and in consumer markets, but the human element cannot be forgotten — nor its importance overstated. In the struggle to balance technology advancements with privacy, sustainability, and inclusivity concerns, a professional PM’s human perspective and specialized expertise are essential to responsible product design, development, manufacturing, and marketing.