The role of a product manager tends to vary heavily depending on product lifecycle and stage of the company. Due to this variability, there is a wide range of day-to-day activities, but ultimately a product manager is still responsible for doing whatever it takes to collaborate with multiple teams and move different conversations towards closure.
Below, we’ve provided two examples of day-to-day activities for 2 different PM roles:
Consumer Tech PM
8:00AM: Wake up and check the Outlook mail app on my phone to make sure there aren’t any high priority issues that popped up overnight. Immediately after, I usually check my company’s Slack to see if I got any new direct messages from anyone that need to be immediately addressed. I remind myself what a terrible morning habit it is to wake up and be reactive to email / Slack but it’s something I haven’t been able to avoid lately. I stretch for 20 minutes while listening to a podcast, and then hop onto my laptop to read some industry news and blogs to make sure I’m up to date.
9:00AM: I head into the office and eat some breakfast while checking my Asana (where I keep track of personal tasks) to see what P1 items I need to get completed for today. There are a few comments/feedback on a feature spec that I sent out the night before that I need to spend some time addressing or taking into consideration when editing the spec. After 30 minutes, I take some time to respond to a few Zendesk tickets containing feedback sent in by our users. A few tickets contain some ideas for features and I make sure to document those ideas in our backlog to be prioritized later.
10:00AM: First meeting of the day. There’s a recurring PM weekly sync where the PMs get together and talk about what they did last week, what they have going on this week, and any questions they might have for the rest of the group. It’s a good way to get all the PMs aligned at a high-level on what’s going on or what we need to look out for since a lot of our products have a ton of overlap when it comes to user workflows.
10:30AM: Every week, one product family presents a product review to company executives and the rest of the product team. During the product review, a PM presents an overview of recent launches and any available metrics, upcoming launches, top user needs, and a view of the broader product roadmap. This week is my product family’s turn to present so I spend some time updating some slides and pulling relevant metrics and insights from Mixpanel / querying our database.
12:00PM: I want to make sure that I’m not too swamped for the week so I grab lunch from the kitchen and spend the lunch hour working at my desk and occasionally taking breaks to respond to a few personal emails.
1:00PM: For most software teams, updates to products are made in “releases” and within each release, there are a set number of tasks in the form of JIRA tickets (JIRA is a tool used by many engineering teams to document, plan, and assign tasks/improvements/features/bug fixes) that should be completed. To make sure that all code changes are properly accounted for and tested before releasing live on production (in simple terms, code in “production” is anything that is live for users), our engineering team does a code freeze at the beginning of the week at which point it’s up to PMs or QA to start testing any JIRA tickets that were slotted for the release. I spend some time testing any tickets that are relevant to my product family to make sure that they are working as intended in our products and then close out the tickets or re-open any tickets that I notice still have bugs or need extra work.
2:00PM: I head into another cross-functional team meeting for my product family. This meeting brings together any relevant stakeholders for the product family including members of the Engineering, Design, and Operations teams. Every team provides quick updates on the status of the projects they are working on and we collectively discuss any roadblocks or ongoing issues.
2:30PM-3:30PM: We are in the process of re-designing our product family’s mobile web-app and the designer on the project has already completed a prototype on Invision to test with users. Our goal is to sit down with a few user volunteers and conduct a few usability tests to see what parts of the re-design could be improved. I’ve written a test script of questions / tasks that we’d like to ask users to complete on the prototype and I spend an hour reviewing the script with the designer to make sure I’ve covered all elements of his re-design.
3:30-5:00PM: Another work block to finish up some ongoing tasks for various projects. I answer a few questions from an engineer about some spec details for a feature he’s working on and check in with our Operations team to review a launch email that we have queued up for that feature launch later in the week.
5:00-6:30PM: I finish up my slides for the product review slide deck, review some changes suggested by my lead PM and head home for the day.
Mobile Gaming PM
8:00AM: Wake up and check major blogs / news aggregators in my industry to make sure I’m up to date with what’s going on with the industry and competition. Check my Google Doc PM Task List and add/edit any items I need to complete for the day. If I have extra time, I’ll try to complete at least 20-30 minutes of any online course I happen to be taking at the time. It’s important for me to be constantly learning a subject I’m not familiar with to make sure I’m personally growing. I try my best to avoid e-mail until I get into the office or else I end up just spending my valuable morning time responding or cleaning up my inbox.
9:30AM: Head into the office and grab some quick breakfast before getting ready for the daily morning standup with my dev team.
10:00AM: Every day, we run a daily 15 minute team standup, which is generally a standard part of the agile development process. In this meeting, we have a dedicated Scrum Master who runs each session and everyone answers 3 main questions: 1) What did you work on yesterday? 2) What will you be working on today? 3) Are there any problems hindering you from completing your work?
10:15AM-11:00PM: This work chunk is generally divided by answering e-mails, and KPI updates. One of the first things I do is update all of my KPI dashboards to make sure metrics aren’t out of whack and everything is running smoothly. If I notice anything strange going on with metrics, I may do some further deep-dives to help identify any issues.
11:00PM-1:00PM: I’m working on a fairly new project right now and we have frequent meetings around feature planning. Our team likes to do “jam sessions” where engineering/design/PMs get in a room and all contribute ideas towards a new feature we are trying to build. It’s important that I come into these meetings well prepared with my own thoughts, wireframes, and insight from our customers to help guide the conversation. While it’s important to get everyone’s input and ideas, I also want to make sure we prioritize and make sure we stay within our development scope so that ideas don’t just run away into much larger-than-planned features.
1:00PM-1:30PM: Grab a quick lunch with co-workers and generally just hang out. I’m fortunate that my co-workers are also really good friends and we all get along really well.
1:30PM-4:00PM: I spend some time sitting with our sales team (in gaming we call them a live-operations team that handles events and sales within our games) to discuss a new admin tool that our sales team wants our dev team to build. I sync up with the engineering manager to briefly discuss technical requirements and then spend some time wireframing (in PPT, we don’t use anything fancy like Balsamiq) the tool and passing it along to the engineering manager who gets the right dev member to start working on the tool. I also spend a lot of time pulling data to run ad-hoc analyses on recent features that went live as well as dig into why our acquisition rate has been slowly dropping recently.
4:00PM-5:30PM: Meet with Product Marketing to get a sense of what our recent yields have been looking like and to decide whether or not we want to start ramping up marketing spend. We’ve been worried about rising CPI (Cost per Install) lately and wanted to test various ad creatives to see if split testing various ads might lead to lower user acquisition costs. Ultimately, we decide we want to hold off ramping marketing spend for awhile until we can isolate the source of lower yields recently (could be product, market, or marketing related).
5:30PM-6:30PM: I’ve wanted to do a post-mortem analysis for our team to review how one of our recent features has been doing and I finally have some alone time to get some work done. I’ll spend some time running some SQL queries and doing some data analyses to help create a presentation that I’ll present to the team tomorrow.
6:30PM-7:00PM: Run through my personal work checklist in my notebook one more time and briefly plan out what I want to get done tomorrow. Depending on the day, I might grab a beer with the co-workers before heading home for the day.
As you can see from the schedules above from the perspectives of two different product managers, the day-to-day role of a PM can vary drastically. Alongside these sample day-to-day tasks, below are some general responsibilities that most PMs will always have to do on the job:
Stand-up meetings: If your startup runs an agile development process, you may hold “scrums” where the team gets together and talks about what they worked on yesterday, what they will be working on, and if there are any blockers preventing anyone from doing work. A good scrum-master will be able to guide conversations and make sure no one gets too far into details of any particular task; the goal isn’t necessarily to solve any roadblocks during stand-up meetings but rather help the right team members be notified so that they can work on issues outside of the meeting.
Talking to Customers – Whether in person or through other mediums (customer support tickets, phone, video conferencing), you should be spending time with your customers to understand that what your team is building is useful / valuable for your customers. Time with customers will also help you plan upcoming features.
Product Backlog Management: Managing the product feature backlog, making sure that your team doesn’t have any dead time in between feature development. Prioritizing which features your team needs to work on first in upcoming sprints.
Strategy Planning – As a PM, I always keep a backlog of short/mid/long term product feature ideas and it’s extremely important to always be thinking about whether or not these ideas make sense given recent market changes or data analyses that you’ve performed.
Spec Writing: Depending on how lean your org is, you may or may not be writing comprehensive specs outlining new features which includes contextual information behind the feature such as business goals. You may also be doing wireframes to be included in the spec. You will also go over specs with the rest of your engineering / design team in feature planning meetings (it may be a rather iterative process)
Meetings with Other Teams: You’re going to spend a lot of time in meetings. Depending on the size of the company, you’re going to spend time with various cross functional teams like sales, marketing, business development, etc… You’ll also be occasionally meeting with upper management to keep them up to date with what’s going on or convincing them to align with your product vision.
Data Analysis – Data is crucial to making well-informed product decisions so PMs should be able to understand and hopefully pull the data they need to run analyses. Learning SQL and Excel are a must to run basic data analysis on the job.
Documentation – A good PM is very organized with gathering information from various teams and properly summarizing/documenting the most important information to be shared with appropriate stakeholders. For example, I need to maintain a clean product roadmap with estimated completion times and release dates not just for myself, but also to share with product marketing so that they have a heads up to when they should start working on new campaigns or ad creatives.
Curious what the day-to-day looks like for other product managers? See what other product managers are working on in our Product Manager HQ Community.
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