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How to make your product AI ready

Fabian

Fabian |

25. Juni 2019 |

- min Lesezeit

How to make your product AI ready

AI is a hype everybody wants to jump on. In order to apply AI for your product you have to do your homework. You have to treat your data as your most valuable asset. You have to collect, store, treat and use it as your greatest treasure. You have to establish a data driven culture and establish all necessary processes to naturally utilize data. You have to know and understand your data. This article provides a step-by-step guide to make your product and team ready for AI.

Imagine the following situation:

  • You come to the office on a Monday morning
  • Get to the elevator and your boss steps in
  • Door closes. Then the boss says: “what happened to our product?”
  • You (recognizing that this is not going in a good direction): “what do you mean?”
  • Boss: “Haven‘t you seen it?”
  • You (slightly stressed, now definitively knowing that is not the start of the day you expected): “What?”
  • Door opens, the boss steps out grunting: “The conversion is down. Fix that.”

Can you relate to that situation? Have you ever experienced this kind of situation? At least you are not alone. According to Gartner 87% have low business intelligence and analytics maturity.

Two Product Management Modes and the Analytics Maturity Model

Basically, there are two different modes in product management.

  1. You operate a successful product. You monitor the state and react on changes. From time to time you optimize the existing functionality of the product, for example with conversion optimization. Let‘s call it the operate mode. You will definitely use data for reporting and in order to diagnose unexpected changes in your product mechanics.
  2. You want to extend the existing product with new features, maybe find new products or even work on new business models. Let‘s call this mode discover and innovate. Here you will start by digging into your data in order to find and validate new hypothesis. If we blend these two modes with the analytics maturity model from Gartner we can see that answering the questions of “what happened” and “why did it happen” relates to the operate mode whereas the questions “what will happen” and “how can we make it happen” belong to the innovate mode.

This article focuses on the operate mode.

Operate your product based on data

In order to streamline the operation mode of your product with data you can follow these steps.

1. Collect all necessary data

Data that is created when your users interact with you product are relevant. Most of the time it stems from web analytics systems, but other data sources are relevant as well. For example in ecommerce the return rate is pretty important but is usually not contained in your web analytics data. Make sure your data collection layer is reliable and flexible as changing requirements are guaranteed once you work intensively with your data. For example a tag management system nowadays is a must. (LINK?) But how to determine which data is relevant? Start by defining your KPIs and metrics. They should make up a coherent system from raw data over metrics to KPIs. See this article (in German) for more information about KPIs.

2. Design and automate dashboards to your needs

Everybody has dashboards and the usual tools even provide pre-defined ones. However, rarely have I seen a reasonable, useful and well designed dashboard that helps product managers in their daily work. Dashboards are made to inform you if everything is fine or not – they raise the question but do not provide the answer. When designing dashboard (the overview) and reports (detailed information to look at if something unexpected happened) always work iteratively and make heavy use of prototyping. An important aspect is the integration of and comparison with target figures. Easy with BI tools and custom data platforms, complicated with web analytics tools.

3. If something unexpected happens, dig into your data and try to find the root cause

Once you set up your dashboards (ranging from basic ones as a dashboard to show you the conversion funnel per marketing channel to more advanced as a dashboard to show the adoption and retention rate of a new feature/product) and you see a KPI drop significantly, you should dig into your data in order to find the root cause. You start with your predefined reports but if they aren’t sufficient use raw data and custom reports in order to identify the root cause of the changes in your numbers. Doing this regularly gives you a deep understanding of your product and the underlying mechanics.

4. Create alerts to inform you first if things are out of normal

Nowadays all relevant web analytic tools provide the ability to create alerts. Some even provide automatic recognition of unusual events (anomaly detection). But no one should know your data better than you. You should have a clear understanding of your target numbers and set up means to inform you whenever reality significantly misses your expectations. This releases you from manually checking your data every now and then and let you focus on more important tasks.

5. Show your data in order to establish a data driven culture

This is important. All your efforts to intensively work with data will fail if the company you are working in doesn’t appreciate that. From the beginning on use and show your data. Whenever you present you work and future plans show the data you used for decision making. Instead of gut feelings argue with reports and data charts. Whenever you do stakeholder management have the data based insights ready. Show them how effortless you work with data and what quality improvement this means to your decisions and of course what successes you have by using data. This will help to establish a data driven culture in your company.

6. Build your hypothesis on data

Whenever you plan to improve your product look into your data. Check your highest exit rates, common fraud patterns or worst selling products. Come up with hypothesis for the underlying causes and how you can change that. Maybe you even find examples in your data that clearly validate your hypothesis. List all your hypothesis with references in the underlying data exploration in a hypothesis backlog.

7. Test them

Once you have a hypothesis it is time to test it. Depending on the hypothesis you would choose the appropriate method to validate it. (This alone would make a blog post of its own). If you can apply A/B or multivariate testing you get a new set of data and arguments for data-driven decision making that is difficult to argue about.

Conclusion

This is only a small overview about how to utilize data for your daily work with an established product. The bottom line is that you have to start somewhere and then continually improve. The basic idea is to follow the same pattern regardless of how advanced your data usage is: start by manually exploring your data, get insights, know and understand your data. Once you reached the next level of understanding try to automize your manual work in order to free your resources mentally and time-wise for the next topics. In the next article I will write about the right part of the Gartner data maturity model and how to use data for the product management mode innovation.


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