What Does a Product Manager Do?

The role of a product manager tends to vary heavily depending on product lifecycle and stage of the company. Due to this variability, there is a wide range of day-to-day activities, but ultimately a product manager is still responsible for doing whatever it takes to collaborate with multiple teams and move different conversations towards closure. Many product managers state that the skill of empathy is one of the most important for a product manager as you need to be able to understand everyone’s motives and make sure that you are collaborating and persuading people to support your decisions.

To provide an example of what I do on a daily basis, below is an agenda of a typical day:

8:30AM: Wake up and check major tech blogs (I work as a PM in the gaming industry) and general news to make sure I’m up to date with the competition and market. Check my Google Doc PM Task List and add/edit any items I need to complete for the day. If I have extra time, I’ll try to complete at least 20-30 minutes of any online course I happen to be taking at the time. It’s important for me to be constantly learning a subject I’m not familiar with to make sure I’m personally growing. I try my best to avoid e-mail until I get into the office or else I end up just spending my valuable morning time responding or cleaning up my inbox.

9:30AM: Head into the office and grab some quick breakfast before getting ready for the daily morning standup with my dev team.

10:00AM: Every day, we run a daily 15 minute team standup, which is generally a standard part of the agile development process. In this meeting, we have a dedicated Project Manager who runs each session and asks 3 key questions 1) What did you work on yesterday? 2) What will you be working on today? 3) Are there any problems hindering you from completing your work?

10:15AM-1:00PM: This work chunk is generally divided by e-mails, quick meetings, and KPI updates. One of the first things I do is update all of my KPI dashboards to make sure metrics aren’t out of whack and everything is running smoothly. Right now, I’m on a fairly new product and a lot of my meetings revolve around discussions for new core features that I help to scope out as well as prioritize in our ever growing product roadmap. We’re rushing to do a global launch on the Android platform so it’s imperative that we shift around all features that can wait until later builds.

1:00PM-1:30PM: Grab a quick lunch with co-workers and generally just hang out. I’m fortunate that my co-workers are also really good friends and we all get along really well.

1:30PM-4:00PM: I spend some time sitting with our sales team (in gaming we call them a live-operations team that handles events and sales within our games) to discuss a new admin tool that our sales team wants our dev team to build. I sync up with the engineering manager to briefly discuss technical requirements and then spend some time wireframing (in PPT, we don’t use anything fancy like Balsamiq) the tool and passing it along to the engineering manager who gets the right dev member to start working on the tool. I also spend a lot of time pulling data to run ad-hoc analyses on recent features that went live as well as dig into why our acquisition rate has been slowly dropping recently.

4:00PM-5:30PM: Meet with Product Marketing to get a sense of what our recent yields have been looking like and to decide whether or not we want to start ramping up marketing spend. We’ve been worried about rising CPI (Cost per Install) lately and wanted to test various ad creatives to see if split testing various ads might lead to lower user acquisition costs. Ultimately, we decide we want to hold off ramping marketing spend for awhile until we can isolate the source of lower yields recently (could be product, market, or marketing related).

5:30PM-6:00PM: Drink with the co-workers in the office and hang out for awhile before heading home for the day.

Although the list above is just one sample day in the life of a product manager, there are definitely set responsibilities that a product manager is always trying to find time to do:

Strategy Planning – As a PM, I always keep a tab of short/mid/long term product feature ideas and it’s extremely important to always be thinking about whether or not these ideas make sense given recent market changes or data analyses that you’ve performed.

Project Management – A good PM is very organized with gathering information from various teams and properly summarizing/documenting the most important information to be shared with appropriate stakeholders. For example, I need to maintain a clean product roadmap with estimated completion times and release dates not just for myself, but also to share with product marketing so that they have a heads up to when they should start working on new campaigns or ad creatives.

Data Analysis – Data is crucial to making well-informed product decisions so PMs should be able to understand and hopefully pull the data they need to run analyses. Learning SQL and Excel are a must to run basic data analysis on the job.

User Testing – It’s imperative to find time to sit down or at least speak with your users so that you can understand their problems and get feedback on what you can improve or create.