I’ve loved reading about different job positions since high school. I even used to search for jobs for my friends – at least one of them should have listened to me and got a space mining license.
But anyway, today we’ll talk about a different job. We all know one – or at least come across on LinkedIn – yet we have little to no idea what they do day-to-day. No, no, I’m not talking about industrial engineers; I’m talking about product managers, especially the ones working at software companies.
I went to distant lands and gathered the information for you and for you only.
So now, all you have to do is to enjoy the article:
If you’re in a hurry and need of a quick answer, you can directly skip to the relevant heading 🏃♀️
Let’s get started then!
Who Is A Product Manager?
A Product Manager (PM) is the head of a product team who’s in charge of a product’s development and overall strategy behind the product. She’s responsible for designating product requirements and overseeing product features.
Emrah Aydın, Product Manager at UserGuiding, says ”A PM identifies problems worth addressing and decides on directions worth taking. Then, help/lead stakeholders solve the problems and explore the new directions.”
Mert Alican Bektaş, Product Manager at UserGuiding, says ”A product manager’s responsibility is creating and delivering value to their users, they listen to user problems and always dig for insights.”
For me; she is the strategist of the gameplay, the glue that holds all teams together, Yoda of the company.
Many see product management at the intersection of business, technology, and UX. You need to be in close touch with your stakeholders, heed your customers’ comments, and make sure your engineering team works on bugs and errors.
Although the responsibilities and workload of a PM differ from company to company, in proportion to the size of the product team she works with, some tasks are always left to PMs.
- Updating product roadmap 🛣️
A product roadmap is where the vision and the progress of a product are shown. Priorities and tendencies of customers shift in time. What you have to do is to update your product strategy in conformity with them.
- Defining product vision
Just like the roadmap, product vision is determined by PMs too. Where do you want your product to be in 5 years? Who will be using it? What do you want to achieve in the long term with your product? These are only a few of the questions you answer once you’re a product manager.
- Stipulation for new products
A product manager not only looks after existing products but also lays down some standards for new products for the dev team in terms of product features.
- Communication, communication, communication
There are tens of teams in a company: development team, marketing team, sales team, legal team, etc. If you leave the communication up to them, at least one of them will forget whom to inform when. Thus, every company needs a PM with great communication and organizational skills.
- Data gathering & chart analysis 📈
If you’re to improve your product/services, you need to understand what’s happening on the side of your customers. Track performance reports, gather user stories and customer feedback, collect data from the market, talk to your stakeholders and see what you can do to improve things.
Product Management Team Structure
Product development is hard yes but how about product management? There are tons of deadlines to meet, business goals to achieve, charts to follow, and meetings to set. One person cannot make all the product decisions. Luckily, PMs are not alone in this adventure, there’s a product family that awaits them 💖
Although larger companies have bigger product teams (6 to 9 team members), a considerable number of people work in product teams in small companies as well (approx. 3-4 team members).
While some roles are pre-set, such as product designer, product owner, and test engineers; others may change within the product team.
- Product Designer:
A product designer is the team member responsible for the product’s efficiency and functionality. She works with customer reviews and ensures the product is practical and pleasant.
- Product Owner:
A product owner is a person who ensures the dev team works efficiently and prioritizes the product backlog. Product owners arrange regular Scrum meetings to see who is working on what and which department plans to achieve what.
- Test Engineers: 👩🏻🔬
Test engineers are responsible for applying functionality tests to products. They design and implement product tests, find bugs, and troubleshoot errors. They work closely with product designers.
Role divisions among other members may change;
1. By Product:
In this system, if the product number of a company is high – but product features aren’t very complicated – each member is responsible for one product. They oversee the whole product backlog, a.k.a. product to-do list.
Or, PM can assign each member one certain product feature, such as customer research – existing customers and/or potential customers -, product marketing, and budgeting.
2. By User Personas:
User personas are semi-fictional characters created with user feedback and interviews representing real users. People of different ages, occupations, education levels, and socio-economic backgrounds interact differently with your product. So, working closely with these groups affects product success positively.
In this system, each team member focuses on one persona and tries to understand that type of customer’s needs and priorities. In the end, theoretically, the team analyzes each and every user type and comes up with solutions that enhance the user experience. However, coordination and coherence among team members and/or users might become complicated in case of conflicting interests.
3. By Cross-Functional Teams
This one is more suitable for large companies with huge teams. Instead of going through endless bureaucracy and countersign marathons; designers, data analysts, and all other teams (tech team, customer support team, sales team, marketing team, and product development team) work autonomously.
In this system, company workers learn a lot from each other and specialize more in their areas. Also, responding quickly to customer feedback helps to improve customer experience 😉
4. By Customer Classification
The customer classification system resembles creating user personas a lot. While we analyze the characteristics of users and group them to create user personas, we look into their stages of interaction with the product and company for customer classification. There are 5 stages (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, and Advocacy) in a customer’s journey.
In this system, each member of the product team focuses on different stages of interaction and tries to transfer their customers to the next stage. By doing that, as you know who needs what, you can both keep your major customers and gain your potential customers without frightening them.
5. By User Metrics
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that shows how efficiently and productively a company achieves its goals. KPIs may focus on both the overall success of a business and departmental success/process such as support, marketing, sales, and development.
In this system, each team works – individually – on its KPIs and tries to achieve its targets. In the end, company workers develop soft skills such as analytical skills and decision-making skills. However, it requires fixed and predetermined sets of KPIs, as changing them constantly means a waste of energy and labor.
👉If you want to read more on metrics and KPIs, let’s take you here.
P.S. Although you can divide your workload within the product group with the strategies number 1, 2, and 4; strategy number 3 and 5 need close work with other teams, as you would be giving them additional product roles.
What Does a Product Manager Do Day to Day?
You remember Emrah Aydın and Alican Bektaş, right? They introduced product management to us up in the beginning.
Mert Alican Bektaş, who has been in marketing & management since 2016, is the co-founder and product manager of UserGuiding.
Emrah Aydın, who has been working in product/project management since 2018, is also a product manager at UserGuiding for more than a year.
They answered my questions about their daily routines, work paces, and specific tasks of the day/week/month they handle as product managers of a SaaS company.
Here is a day in the life of a product manager 👇
Start of the Day 🌅
Both Alican and Emrah start their days early – for Alican, a day must start at 9 am, sharp!
While Emrah plans his day and checks Slack channels for updates on the business, Alican reviews the previous day’s customer tickets and reads the interview notes first thing in the morning.
Then, they continue with the ‘fixed’ tasks of the day.
Meetings, meetings, meetings…
If we were to list all the meetings that a product manager should attend/organize, the length of the list would rival the Great Wall of China.
But, Alican says as they employ different Scrum practices in UserGuiding, they only meet for planning, retrospectives, and bottleneck issues. Other than that, they try to take care of the rest asynchronously.
1. Meetings with Engineering Team:
We already know about daily meetings on little updates on the product. But there are two more: sprint planning and mid-sprint review meetings. (They both are held bi-weekly.)
But to plan and review, we first need to know what a ‘sprint’ means in the SaaS industry.
Sprint is a time frame set for completing specific tasks. By setting milestones and checkpoints, teams can proceed more steadily.
2. Meetings with Product Team:
Emrah and Alican work with 3 other people on the product team.
They gather weekly for discovery meetings to evaluate the requirements of a certain project/product and set project goals.
Like the engineering team, the product team meets bi-weekly for sprint planning with PMs.
Sprint meetings are held at the beginning of a sprint to set the goals, in the mid of the sprint to check the pace and progress, and at the end of the sprint to assess and evaluate its productivity and success.
Also, Emrah meets with the product head one-on-one every two weeks.
Fixed Tasks of The Week
A week doesn’t end with team meetings. Here is what a PM does on a weekly/bi-weekly basis:
- Keep stakeholders posted about ongoing tasks and stories
- Manage/update product backlog
- Review ongoing and already completed tasks/stories
- Onboarding material iterations
- User surveys & interviews about product(s)
- Demo & discovery calls for potential customers with the sales team
Fixed Tasks of The Month 📆
When there is a lot to do, you must prepare your to-do list thoroughly – even for the month. Here is an example monthly to-do list outline from our interviewees:
- Resource planning
- OKR review and company alignment
- Updating product roadmap
- Updating focus points for product development
- Communicating with product users about updates
As you can see, product managers have a lot of responsibilities. But with a good team and planning, anything can be done!
If you’re ready to take your first step on your journey to be a product manager, let’s get you here:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is product management a stressful job?
Not every job is suitable for everyone. Product management can be stressful from time to time. But if you love taking responsibility and you’re okay with a high pace of work, product management – especially in the tech/software industry- might be one of the best career paths for you.
What do product managers do in their free time?
Product managers must follow updates in the industry, from new trends in technology to popular marketing strategies. So, they read news/blogs related to their work area and talk to other PMs. Also, they talk to users/customers to sustain their relationships healthily and get feedback about their products.
Do product managers have long hours?
They work approx. 7-9 hours in a day. But it may vary depending on the size of their product teams and companies.