What is the role of a product manager? (Plus, templates for PMs)

Product managers guide the success of a product and lead the cross-functional team that is responsible for continuously improving it. This is an important organizational role — especially in technology companies. Product managers provide the expertise needed to lead and make strategic product decisions.

In short, great product managers build great products. You are responsible for a range of strategic to tactical work — setting strategy, collecting and reviewing product ideas, and prioritizing what to build. You play a central role within product teams — aligning engineering, marketing, sales, and support around the work that will bring the most value to customers.

It has been said that product managers are "mini CEOs" of a product, but that is not quite accurate. Rather, you are a leader within your organization who excels at developing a shared understanding of customer problems and how to solve them.

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A diagram showing how product management intersects with customers, engineering, and sales/marketing teams

Learn more about what product managers do and tips for succeeding in the role. Jump ahead using the links below.

What does a product manager do?

A product manager defines the strategy, roadmap, and features for a product or product line based on customer needs. By analyzing the market and competition, a product manager crafts a product vision that delivers unique value to customers and the business. The role is highly collaborative and cross-functional — responsibilities can encompass product marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss (P&L).

Product development is invigorating. When you feel a real sense of responsibility and commitment to your product, it can inspire you to build with conviction and help you find deep satisfaction in your work as a product manager.


Types of product managers

There are many different types of product management roles. Every organization will define the positions a bit differently — based on offerings, customers, and product strategy. Generally speaking, the larger the company and its portfolio, the more product leaders it may require.

Product managers often grow from positions in other departments — such as marketing, sales, engineering, and project management. Often, what differentiates you as a product manager will stem from relevant experiences in previous roles. For example, an engineer who switches to a technical product manager role brings a deep understanding of the product development process. Your past experience would help you communicate effectively with the development team and write clear product requirements.

The table below summarizes some of the most common product manager roles:

Job title


Product manager

Manages the entire product lifecycle and product roadmap.

Works with:

  • Internal stakeholders — engineering, sales, marketing, customer success, legal, leadership, and board members.

  • External stakeholders — customers, end-users, and partners.

Product owner

Supports the development team by prioritizing the product backlog and creating user stories.

Works with:

  • Internal stakeholders — developers, designers, and technical managers.

Growth product manager

Delivers business outcomes across growth, customer retention, revenue, etc.

Works with:

  • Internal stakeholders — business leaders.

Technical product manager

Collaborates with the engineering team on core specifications and product functionality.

Works with:

  • Internal stakeholders — developers, designers, and technical managers.

Platform product manager

Creates and optimizes technical components shared across multiple products.

Works with:

  • Internal stakeholders — engineering.

While each product manager role is a bit different, they all come down to promoting a clear understanding of your organization's goals and responsibilities so product teams can stay aligned on creating value for customers and the business.


Responsibilities of a product manager

Let's zero in on a product manager's core responsibilities. Although the scope of work is broad, your day-to-day responsibilities can typically be broken down into the following six areas:

1. Setting strategy

At the highest level, you are responsible for setting your product's vision and strategic direction. You need to be able to clearly articulate the business case of a given initiative or feature and then connect back to your product vision and goals. Doing so helps your team understand the "why" behind what you are building.

Strategic planning involves laying out major areas of investment so you can prioritize what matters most and achieve your product goals. You also own the product roadmap — a timeline that visualizes what you will deliver and when.

2. Defining releases

Product managers translate product strategy into planned work — defining what you will build and when you will launch it. This holds true no matter which development methodology your engineering team uses.

You are responsible for release process. You are also responsible for managing cross-functional dependencies — all of the activities required to bring new products, features, and functionality to market. This involves bridging gaps between different functions within the company and aligning key teams including marketing, sales, and customer support.

3. Evaluating ideas

Ideas fuel successful products. Product managers are responsible for crowdsourcing, developing, and curating ideas that will deliver value to customers. You own the organization's idea management process, determining which ideas should be promoted to your backlog and propelling product strategy forward.

To this end, product managers also ensure that requests are integrated into the product planning and development process. You communicate the status of ideas back to your customers, partners, and internal teammates who submitted them — closing the feedback loop.

4. Prioritizing features

Product managers are responsible for defining feature requirements and the desired user experience. You work closely with engineering on the technical specifications, and ensure that cross-functional teams have all of the information they need to deliver a complete product to market.

You prioritize features by ranking them against strategic goals and initiatives. Product managers have to make difficult trade-off decisions based on the value a new feature will deliver to your customers and the business.

At Aha! we call this value-based product development. This approach helps product teams prioritize features that create the most value for the least amount of effort. Estimating the value of new functionality is generally based on your strategic goals, the team effort required, and future customer benefit. The purpose is to look beyond daily tactical discussions and elevate your thinking to the overall worth of what you are building.

5. Building and sharing strategic roadmaps

Creating and updating your product roadmap is one of the most powerful communication tools you have as a product manager. A product roadmap visualizes how your product will achieve your business objectives and helps keep work on track.

There are many different types of roadmaps you can create depending on who you are presenting to and what you are trying to convey. Executives tend to want to know the high-level plans, while engineers and designers will need to understand the exact timing and sequencing of important work.

Build visual roadmaps

An example of a product roadmap built in Aha! Roadmaps that highlights strategic goals and initiatives — plus the work that will be done to accomplish them.

6. Analyzing and reporting on progress

Great product managers are laser-focused on results — for customers and for the business. You need a complete view of the team's progress towards goals to understand how your product is performing.

This is an example list of questions that help track team progress

Team efficiency

  • How are the most important initiatives progressing?

  • Which inefficiencies or blockers need to be addressed?

  • Are we satisfied with team velocity?

  • Are there any capacity issues that need to be resolved?

Product usage

  • What product features are the most and least used?

  • Where are users getting stuck and abandoning our offering?

  • What percentage of trials convert to paid accounts?

  • How many accounts are growing vs. how many are shrinking?

Answering these questions well requires deep curiosity — you need to dig into both qualitative and quantitative data. Begin by tracking team progress with sprint burndown charts and velocity reports. And you can evaluate product usage with adoption and retention reports. No matter what kind of report you select, make sure it tells an accurate story of how you are meeting your product goals.

Related: 7 report templates every product manager needs

Tips for new product managers

If you are just starting out as a product manager or have moved into a new role, the breadth of your responsibilities can be overwhelming. There is a lot to do — so take it in stride. Here are some tips on how to be a great product manager in your first 30 days:

Start with strategy

Each product decision, even early on, should be rooted in strategy. Do not jump into decision-making impulsively. Dig into the existing product goals and make sure you understand what you are trying to achieve.

Get to know your customers

Empathy is essential for successful product managers. Spend time understanding the problems your product solves for customers. Sit in on sales calls, make time to meet real customers, and analyze all of the information and data available to you. Deep understanding takes more than 30 days — but you can make a lot of progress by showing curiosity in the first month.

Build relationships with your team

You will not find success on your own. Product managers rely on the development team and product designers to build the right product. And you lean on marketing and sales to successfully bring it to market. Build genuine connections with your teammates — strong relationships foster trust and better communication.

Learn to say no

You will get plenty of requests from every corner of your organization — a plea for a new feature that will help close a deal, a request to fix a bug now, or an idea for an improvement. On top of that, you will hear from customers too. You cannot please everyone all at once. Develop a prioritization framework and get comfortable saying "no" or "not now."

Be patient with yourself

It takes time and patience to grow into a new role and find lasting success. Be ready to learn the same lessons on repeat and to ask a lot of questions. Allow yourself the time you need to become the go-to product expert at your organization.

Templates for getting started as a product manager

Whether you are searching for a new job or trying to deepen your understanding of customers, templates can give you direction and help you move quickly. Take a look at this job interview template geared towards product managers — with common questions that you will likely be asked during interviews, as well as questions you can ask your interviewer.

Job interview large

You have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to your company and to your customers in your role as a product manager. So dive in and start planning how you and your team can create real value.

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