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Georg Vooglaid on AI-augmented product management, customer-centricity, and the startup scene in Estonia
Product State Q&A
EC: How do you think PMs will be augmented by AI in the near future?
GV: AI is rapidly becoming a part of the daily life of Product Managers, whether it be drafting PRD’s or analyzing vast amounts of unstructured data.
The first layer of PM augmentation will obviously be in workflow automation, and removing some of the repetitive work that would’ve otherwise taken a significant amount of the PM’s time.
That said, habits are tough to create and difficult to get rid of. What I mean by this is that the key question for any successful AI product will be how well it actually fits into the PM’s existing workflow and solves for their JTBD. The tech itself gives a natural ‘wow’ effect — but there are a bunch of cool tools out there with really poor retention numbers.
I think one particular area where AI will significantly change how we operate is internal collaboration. A good example of this is Sana Labs, a company building a modern Learning Management System. Their product really seems to focus on figuring out the best ways to capture, create and share knowledge using AI, rather than just implementing it as an add on to a structure we’ve come to expect from an LMS.
Coming back to the role of the PM specifically, I’m personally really interested in how we leverage AI to better understand our customers’ needs and priorities. Improvements of LLMs coupled with interoperability of software leads to three substantial changes:
a) Text becomes the primary interaction method in many products, producing a lot more information
b) The quality of text-based data increases with automation and transcription improvements
c) Data silos start to break down between departments, as capturing & sharing knowledge requires less and less manual effort
So far, we’ve been primarily measuring events as the key indicator for customer behavior. LLMs give us the ability to analyze text basically in the same way as clicks — detect patterns and explore the results across various parameters.
If we are able to combine quantitative data and qualitative knowledge seamlessly — and share it among the entire organization — we can answer questions in much more depth, and naturally create alignment on customer priorities.
EC: What are some signs and examples of customer-centricity?
GV: Here I want to give a shout-out to Wise for two things. First, their cost calculator - a feature on their website, where you can compare real-time prices for different currency routes between them and major banks. If any competitors are giving you a better rate than Wise, they will be transparent about it and show you that. While not necessarily beneficial in the short term, it generates loads of long-term trust for the brand, particularly in an industry that’s known for not being exactly transparent.
Second, I think a very clear signal of customer centricity is how often your product & engineering team members actually talk to customers.
For a while, I know Wise had this (perhaps unspoken) rule that everyone does customer support. No matter the role, people used to take a day or a couple of hours each month to do support calls and listen to customer concerns directly.
Such small habits can tell you a lot about a company and its focus.
EC: What does the tech and startup scene look like in Estonia / e-Stonia?
GV: The tech scene in Estonia is awesome. Parts of Tallinn can sometimes feel like a bit of a bubble with Starship robots roaming around, people spending time in coffee shops working or learning and everyone seemingly knowing each other.
We’re currently in our third cycle of tech companies — with the first success story being Skype, followed by the second wave, which brought us Wise, Pipedrive and Bolt.
People who were successful in the previous two waves are sharing their learnings and investing in new companies, making it a relatively supportive and healthy ecosystem.
Our government leaders have (in majority) also been supportive of the tech sector, although I understand initiatives like the E-residency haven’t always been easy to justify and it has required people from the private sector to take the helm or at least vocally advocate their importance as well.
One specific thing that we are doing well as a nation is the treatment of stock options, which compared to some other places is quite easy to understand and fair to employees.
The above, plus two major tech conferences, are starting to attract quite a lot of attention from both foreign investors and talent. It’s also good to see that — based on anecdotal experience from my personal network — there are quite a few people who've worked in leading companies abroad and returned to build a life here.
This makes me optimistic for the future.
Perhaps the only downsides are that it’s still a relatively small place, weather is so-so and the flight connections are not great.
But hey, we can’t have it all.
“The first layer of PM augmentation will obviously be in workflow automation, and removing some of the repetitive work that would’ve otherwise taken a significant amount of the PM’s time.” - Georg Vooglaid
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