product manager (2024 Guide)

What Does a Product Manager Do?

BrainStation’s Product Manager career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in product management. Read on for an overview of day-to-day Product Manager job responsibilities.

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Everything a Product Manager does is related to delivering a successful product, and that means they are responsible for defining and coordinating all activities needed to bring a product to market. This can include customer and user research, identifying market opportunities, revenue and pricing modeling, roadmapping, and more.

Because the role of Product Manager is both internal- and external-facing, it requires a mix of research, communication, documentation, team management, and collaboration with research, technical, and marketing teams; it also requires a thorough understanding of user experience.

And while it’s true that Product Managers manage the development of a product, they achieve this by managing people—motivating, guiding, negotiating, and making sure that different teams, such as development, marketing, and sales are aligned.

As management consulting firm McKinsey describes the role of Product Manager, “They wear many hats, using a broad knowledge base to make trade-off decisions, and bring together cross-functional teams, ensuring alignment between diverse functions.” This helps to explain why product management is emerging as the new training ground for future tech CEOs.

What Does a Product Manager Do Day-to-Day?

As the name suggests, a Product Manager (PM) is responsible for overseeing product development from conception to completion. They help figure out what products should get made, ensure that they do get made, and report back on how users are responding to those products.

PMs are passionate about understanding their users’ problems and needs, and they rely on a deep user experience understanding when working with their research, technical, and marketing teams. PMs also cultivate a comprehensive understanding of the product’s strengths and weaknesses, always maintaining a desire for improvement.

In terms of digital product management, PMs are the glue that holds together the user experience, the technical requirements, and the business requirements of a product. Mind the Product co-founder Martin Erikkson has described them as “the unsung heroes of the tech world.”

This role has both internal-facing and external-facing aspects, and requires a mix of:

  • Research
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Documentation
  • Management

While PMs are managing the development of a product, they are also managing people in order to accomplish the end goal. Intercom Senior Editor Geoffrey Keating jokes that a possible equivalent title is “Direction and Consensus Manager.” If you think about the steps it takes to create a digital product, from brainstorming to widespread user-adoption, you’ll appreciate just how much collaboration is needed.

A Product Manager’s daily tasks depend on what stage of product development their product is in, as this will often involve working with different teams. Generally speaking, though, a Product Manager’s tasks typically fall into four (somewhat open-ended) categories:

Product strategy

Before development begins, the Product Manager develops a document to clearly outline a vision for the product, including how the product will evolve over time, how it will get there, and why it will be successful. Underlying all of these considerations are the customers’ needs.

Product roadmap

The roadmap is a visual representation of how the product will evolve over time. This big-picture plan helps to ensure that even the smallest steps of the product’s development play their part in helping to reach its grander goal. This plan is then used to prioritize tasks, coordinate between teams, and continually measure overall progress.

Product backlog and user stories

Getting into the nitty-gritty of building out the product’s features, this list is essentially a running tally of things to be done during product development. This to-do list is framed from the perspective of the user, not the Developer, and so focuses on the product per se, and not the work that goes into making it.

Product analytics

After a product has launched, the work continues, as new features are rolled out and bugs are removed. Product Managers monitor all the data that feeds into this ongoing process (including how the product is used, performance analytics, and customer feedback) to identify areas for improvement.

Underlying each of these responsibilities is Product Managers’ passion for understanding their users’ problems and needs, which they translate into a comprehensive understanding of the product’s strengths and weaknesses, always maintaining a desire for improvement.