What Does a Product Manager Do?

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. Many product managers state that the skill of empathy is one of the most important for a product manager as you need to be able to understand everyone’s motives and make sure that you are collaborating and persuading people to support your decisions.

To provide an example of what I do on a daily basis, below is an agenda of a typical day:

8:30AM: Wake up and check major tech blogs (I work as a PM in the gaming industry) and general news to make sure I’m up to date with the competition and market. 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 Project Manager who runs each session and asks 3 key 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-1:00PM: This work chunk is generally divided by e-mails, quick meetings, 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. Right now, I’m on a fairly new product and a lot of my meetings revolve around discussions for new core features that I help to scope out as well as prioritize in our ever growing product roadmap. We’re rushing to do a global launch on the Android platform so it’s imperative that we shift around all features that can wait until later builds.

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-6:00PM: Drink with the co-workers in the office and hang out for awhile before heading home for the day.

Although the list above is just one sample day in the life of a product manager, there are definitely set responsibilities that a product manager is always trying to find time to do:

Strategy Planning – As a PM, I always keep a tab 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.

Project Management – 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.

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.

User Testing – It’s imperative to find time to sit down or at least speak with your users so that you can understand their problems and get feedback on what you can improve or create.

What Sort of Career Centers on Research and Development?

The progress of a company or business relies upon the research and development that comes from employees constantly looking for better approaches concerning issues like management, growth, expansion, and cost-efficiency. If seeking ways to improve a business interests you, it is recommended to consider some of the occupations listed below:

Clinical Research Coordinator

A Clinical Research Coordinator is in charge of the organization of research data concerning clinical projects. Typical responsibilities include selecting and observing subjects, and then helping out with the analysis of acquired information. A high school diploma (or its equivalent) paired with two to four years of related experience is required for this job. An array of tasks is encountered, which allows an employee to exercise their creativity, judgment, and planning skills. It is not uncommon to report to a supervisor or manager. The average annual salary for this job title ranges between $37,063 and $68,018.

Market Research Analyst

The collecting and analysis of data in regards to existing and potential product/service markets is one of the main concerns of a Market Research Analyst. Knowing the competitors within the market and keeping an eye on change within the industry is another important part of pursuing this kind of career. A bachelor’s degree (with zero to two years of experience in the field) is necessary in order to build a working knowledge of commonly used concepts, practices, and procedures associated with market research. The average salary is seen between $35,182 and $56,999.

Research and Development Director

If you are interested in becoming a Research and Development Director, there is a lot of experience required in order to fill the shoes of this lucrative position. As director, a watchful eye is needed in order to keep tabs on the research and development policies of an organization. You will review and approve objectives and initiatives concerning the future of a company. The research and development programs you back should boost the profitability of a business and hopefully create more of a threat to competitors. A bachelor’s degree with at least ten years of experience in the field is required to apply for this position. Typical salaries are seen between $98,732 and $253,482.

Market Research Manager

As a Market Research Manager, you will manage the activities that take place within the market research department. It will become your duty to oversee the inner-workings of a team of analysts to make sure they follow proper procedures concerning analytic techniques that access the various demands for products and services on the market. You will become a wizard at predicting consumer trends and become responsible for looking over current research projects. A bachelor’s degree in an area of specialty with at least seven years of experience in the field is necessary for this position. It is also important that you are able to lead and work well with others. An average yearly salary for Market Research Manager is seen between $65,538 and $114,791.

Operations Research Analyst

The collection and analysis of data in regards to the evaluation of operational difficulties is one of the many duties of a Operations Research Analyst, who will later suggest the best course of action when it comes to solving issues concerning a company. A bachelor’s degree and zero to three years of experience is required for one to gain a sufficient amount of knowledge for the execution of typical concepts, practices, and procedures concerning your job. Yearly salaries for this position range from $30,126 to $61,010.

Best Companies in Research and Development

When looking for the best companies to work for in the field of research and development, using the Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list could become a rather helpful starting point. Making the list for 2008, FactSet Research Systems Inc. has proven itself worthy in the world of integrated financial information and analytical applications. As a small company, it ranks #20 on the list and captured the #52 overall position on the Top 100.

Another praiseworthy company is Genentech, which showers its employees with an onsite farmers’ market and day care for dogs. Their 401(k) match is rather impressive, where employees also enjoy access to an onsite fitness center, subsidized gym membership, job sharing program, compressed workweek, and telecommuting. The most common salaried job at Genentech is a Research Associate at $85,880. There is also a satisfying balance of minority and female employees in the company.

Market Research on the Cheap

Working people didn’t spend 20% of their annual income on Encyclopedia sets because some door to door salesman tricked them into thinking how nice it would be to own a bunch of books. People paid high prices for those gold bound Encyclopedias because they wanted to feel like good parents who were giving their offspring an advantage.

Emotions and the desires that spring from those emotions are the reason that people buy almost everything. A successful business understands the buying emotions and the desires of its customers, and finds a way to satisfy them.

Master salesman will tell you that it is impossible to create a need for a product or service that will not plainly satisfy what people want. Some business schools still teach that wants and needs can be created with slick marketing. How little those academics know about human nature.

The purpose of market research is to know your customer, to unravel the bundle of human emotions and find out what your potential customers really want.

Here are three ways that you can do market research on the cheap. Just because the research method is online does not mean that it cannot also be applied to an off-line business.

1. Keyword Analysis. Everyday people type queries into Google and the other search engines on an almost infinite variety of topics. There are free keyword research tools offered by Google and Microsoft, among others, that will return hundreds or results of the exact phrases that people used to find out more about any topic.

Your job as a market research analyst is to look behind the words and phrases that people use to search. Do some phrases have a greater sense of urgency than others? Are some searches more specific about the nature of a problem?

It will take a little practice, but after a while you can develop a sense of what people really want from the keyword phrases they use when they search on the Internet.

2. Active Forums. There are online forums or communities on thousands of different topics where strangers get together and talk about a common problem with more frankness and honestly then they probably would in person. Anonymity has its virtue.

You would spend thousands of dollars to do market research with a focus group. You can do nearly the same thing for free with online forums.

3. The Competitions’ Sales Letters. A professionally written sales letter will deliberately target buying emotions. Top copywriters get paid thousands of dollars to write those sales letters. You can take advantage of your competitor’s research and the copywriter’s expertise by studying the well written sales letter to identify and understand those dominant buying emotions.