You may know the general role of a product manager: they analyze market data and guide the product towards its intended purpose and optimal usefulness. But let's get specific — what does that actually mean in terms of daily tasks? Let's pull a Freaky Friday and step into a software product manager's shoes to see exactly what needs to be done every day. So, imagine you're in software product management. You're fast asleep, dreaming of happy users and unlimited budgets, when your alarm clock starts ringing....
7:00 am Coffee. Major coffee.
7:10 am Take a quick scan of your messages and emails to check for any emergencies. All clear!
7:15 am Breakfast. Shower. More coffee.
8:00 am Time to head into the office. Once you settle in, fire up the laptop and run through your inbox, responding to whichever emails you can, and messages that need further research/action to your project management tool (or rescheduling them).
9:00 am Log into your . You review yesterday’s work, identify areas for improvement, and make notes for this afternoon's meeting with execs. Then you organize the new tasks you just created via email (or add tasks manually), assign them, and define any next steps. Next, you convert any relevant email conversations into user stories, add them to the team's backlog, and prioritize them. At your weekly meeting with the development team lead later today, you'll review the backlog and discuss any new stories.
10:00 am Ooh, apple turnovers! You grab one plus a coffee on your way to the daily stand-up with your engineering/development team. You'll do a quick check in, review everyone's progress, discuss any roadblocks, and shift focus if necessary.
10:15 am Check your Product Requirements Document (PRD), where you define all product requirements clearly in writing. What should the product do? How fast should it be? What are the release criteria? Make any necessary updates based on the engineering/development team's questions, changing market conditions, etc.
10:30 am Meet with your product team and communicate any changes you've made to the PRD. Consult with product design, review UI mockups, and check in with QA. Make sure your vision for the product is consistent and clear across all these cross-functional teams.
11:45 am Check key performance indicator (KPI) updates to see how products are performing, and take notes for this afternoon's report to executives.
12:00 pm Grab lunch with your pal Anna from the support team to catch up and ask about any customer feedback or insights she's picked up.
1:00 pm Meet with the head developer to review the results of the latest bug check and confirm the new feature is good to go for deployment. Then run through the backlog and PRD together and discuss any updates.
2:00 pm Coffee break! Then meet with marketing managers to update them on developer progress and talk strategy/positioning.
3:00 pm Run through the latest task updates in your project management tool, make sure everything's still on track, and respond to anyone requesting feedback.
4:00 pm Meet with executives to report on progress, discuss potential new features, and talk business strategy, including how to balance company goals and resources with the product vision.
5:30 pm Read your favorite tech blogs, check Google alerts, and scroll through your Twitter feed for the latest on competitors, industry news, and market trends.
6:30 pm Scan emails & messages for anything that needs immediate attention before the end of the day. Download and play with any buzzworthy new apps to keep up with new technologies and trends.
6:45 pm Grab a Friday evening drink with some co-workers and head home for dinner.
Periodically, a technology product manager needs to set aside time for high-level tasks.
- Big-picture thinking. Hold an intensive brainstorm session to answer long-term planning questions like: “What’s the next phase of our mobile strategy?”, "Should we rethink our methodology, and consider the difference between Agile and DevOps?", “Should we expand into Asia, and if so, what's the most effective plan?” or, "Is this new trend something we should jump on, or just a passing fad?" Dig deep into market research to define high-level goals for the next several months. Your product plan must be rooted in research and hard data.
- Product & Feature Ideas. Take an afternoon or a whole day to tackle your product roadmap and create wireframe sketches or screen shot mockups of feature ideas. Look at them from every angle, consult your market research and user data using roadmapping software, and let your creativity run wild. Once you have something tangible, share it with your team and let them add their own ideas.
- Customer feedback & relationships. Spend a day interacting with potential or current customers: pitching, listening, troubleshooting, surveying, etc. This might mean a day of in-person user testing, meetings with a series of focus groups, or, if user testing isn't done in-house, consulting with an agency. Good product managers know customers personally and have a real understanding of their daily challenges.
- Demos & training sessions. Big releases will require you to take some time bringing sales and support teams up to speed on new products or features. Depending on the number and complexity of products/features, this could take anywhere from an hour or two to a whole afternoon or day.
As you can see, good product managers need to juggle a myriad of tasks, teams, and priorities. They need to be effective communicators and technically adept, so they can interact with the development team and also speak clearly with customers and stakeholders. They need to be big-picture thinkers, all while balancing customer expectations with business needs and budget.
And most importantly, they need to be persuasive! Although they’re seen as leading the product, they aren’t in charge of the different teams developing, financing, selling, or supporting the product and its customers. So they need to be able to convince others that their product plans are worthwhile — that there's not only a market need, but that their solution will produce the right product at the right time to capitalize on that need.
If you're a product manager, we'd love to hear about your typical day in the comments!
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