What does a product manager do each day?
As a product manager, you may actually end up playing one of multiple roles on any given day. You wear multiple hats and do things that no one else wants to do. Much of your job involves filling in the gaps to assess where the team may be lacking and where you can fill in.
Your primary job is to handle everything that must be done to get your product shipped. That is a challenging task — and the reason why product management can feel overwhelming. Understanding more about what a product manager does each day will help you tackle the role with conviction.
Let's review a few of the core pillars of product management:
Much of product management is knowing what to build and what not to build. As a product manager, everyone is constantly pitching ideas to you. Your role is to take these ideas and develop a framework to help you understand whether they will help you achieve short term and long term goals. And if they will help in reaching those goals, how do you narrow in and figure out which ones to pursue (based on your limited engineering and design resources)?
Balance is the key to the decisions you must make as part of the product strategy path. Take into account:
- Your vision
- Your goals
- Your initiatives
- Your design and engineering resources
- Customer feedback
Much of product management is weighing a need vs. a desire. Does your customer really need to filter search results by 185 different types of filtering and sorting options? Or is this something that 3 out of 10,000 customers want?
It's one of the many jobs of a product manager to fully understand what a customer needs, what your company is looking to achieve, and balancing that with your limited resources. Deciding which features to build and not to build is a crucial part of the job, and a mindful approach can help you to make rational, strategic decisions.
Once you start to figure out which features to build, you will start to create a longer term plan of what you want to build over the course of time. This is the beginning of your product roadmap, which will show you and your organization where your team should be focusing its attention.
If you are not shipping on a regular basis (delivering features, fixing bugs, etc.), then you are not doing your job. This is the tactical side of product management where you apply the decisions that you have made regarding what to build — and start taking action.
This core part of product management is central to your role. It is the question that comes your way from everyone in your company: "What are you building?"
To get products and features built, you will rely on a few best practice-based tools to help get you there:
- User stories
- Product requirements documents
When using these tools, you will need to make sure that you have your cross-functional team moving together in the same direction (based on the product strategy that has been set).
Good product managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad product managers define good products that can't be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem). Good product managers err on the side of clarity vs. explaining the obvious. Bad product managers never explain the obvious.Ben Horowitz, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
It's super important to make sure things are clear. You never want to leave any question marks for your engineers and designers, as this may lead to uncertainty. The more clear you can make your requirements, the more likely your product will turn out as you expect it to.
In the end, great product managers make things happen. Reliably, and without fail, you can always tell when you've added a great product manager to a team versus a mediocre one, because very quickly things start happening. Bug fixes and feature fixes start shipping. Crisp analysis of the data appears. Projects are re-prioritized. And within short order, the key numbers start moving up and to the right. Be a great product leader.Adam Nash, CEO of Wealthfront
Product management is one of the few roles in a company where you might not have any direct reports, yet you are constantly asking others to do things for you. It takes strong communication and negotiation skills to make this happen. And you must show strong leadership for your team to believe in — and build — your product vision.
Product management involves more than deciding what to build and making sure it happens. It also involves making sure that your product has all the support it needs to successfully get built and launched.
Fortunately, you are not alone in this huge task. But in order to make this happen, you will need to provide leadership to your teams and work closely with:
- Executives, to get the resources you need
- Engineers, to get it built the way that you need
- Designers, to have it look how you want it
- Marketers, to help get the word out
- Customers, to use the product in the way that you envisioned
Product management requires a leader at the forefront who is constantly communicating across all organizational functions. This leader makes sure that everyone is moving at the same pace, and working towards the same goal — to be the first team over their market finish line.