What’s an average day/week like in the life of a Product Manager?
So, someone on Quora asked me to answer the question “What’s an average day/week like in the life of a Product Manager?”
I get asked this question from time to time, so I am posting my response here because it might be useful to more people.
What is the “typical” day (or week) of a product manager / owner like? There isn’t one. In fact, if you own the product, it’s up to you to figure that out.
Usually, my #1 priority is making sure everyone (designers, engineers, content writers, etc) on my team is “enabled”. Meaning, they know what they need to be working on, when it’s expected to get done, and aren’t blocked on anything (requirements, access, approvals, etc).
Outside of that, I spend my time doing one or more of the following on any given day, depending on the stage in the life cycle of the product:
1. Thinking about and setting the Product Vision: What is our long-term vision with this product? How does it fit into the company’s broader goals?
2. Prioritizing / Managing the sprints and backlog: What does my team need to be working on now, and what do we expect to get done in the next 1-2 weeks? Are we on track? If not, why not, and how can we get back on track?
3. Data Analytics / Analysis / Talking to customers / Looking at customer data – how are our KPIs doing? Are they trending in the right direction? Oh wait, this is interesting – there was a spike yesterday, where did that come from, and what actionable insight can I gain from it to repeat what happened in the past 24 hrs?
4. Managing expectations, and communicating goals / progress (upward, downward, sideways): Under-promise and over-deliver. Enough said.
5. “Dreaming up” ideas, Wireframing for the Designers, and writing new requirements): With just one question on my mind: Will this get us closer to our goal?
6. Evaluating / critiquing designs: Do the visual designs inspire and delight? Do they encourage me to use the product? Do we foresee any potential problems with usability or implementation? All of these need to be addressed now.
7. Dogfooding / Testing my own product and finding problems: Does my product work the way I expect it to? Does it delight me? Does it solve the customer’s problems and pain-points? Would I use the product if I wasn’t working at this company? (Remember that you have to set a high bar for everyone)
8. Managing bugs and Prioritizing customer issues (self-reported or reported by the QA team / others): Of these 100 tickets in our queue, which one(s) have the highest potential ROI?
9. Team Building — cheering the team on, resolving conflicts before they become serious issues, motivating the team (to go harder and faster), and celebrating the victories.
10. Anything else that your team needs from you: This can vary significantly depending on the company and product. In my case, this involves doing a periodic SEO analysis, coming up with potential ideas and writing topics for the content team, improving technical / on-page SEO, working with social media managers, salespeople and other stakeholders to make their jobs easier.
Ideally, as a Product owner, you’ll be maintaining an up-to-date “To-Do” and “Done” list (I prefer simplicity so I use Asana and Dropbox with Notepad++, but there are several tools that can serve the same purpose).
The most important question to ask yourself at any given point in time:”What is the best use of my time RIGHT NOW?” Weigh all the options and pick the one that’s going to be the most impactful. Be careful not to confuse “urgent” with “important”….they’re very different from each other. You know how they say “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? Well, it’s your job to make sure the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease at all times – weigh all the priorities before deciding what needs to be done next.