I was recently asked what a typical day was like for me as a product manager. As anyone in the role will likely attest, there is really no "typical" day for a product manager. Every day is different and filled with its own set of challenges and opportunities. So it's hard to say what a normal day looks like. However, if you expand out the time frame a bit, you can start to get a better picture of what product managers focus on regularly. So I thought I'd post about a recent week of mine as I think it has a good representation of many things product managers do. So here we go.
Themes: As a product manager, I am responsible for the high level strategy of our products as well as the day-to-day execution of what the team is working on. A product manager wears a lot of hats, as many are aware. So that typically means that certain times are filled with more strategic items, such as creating the vision and evangelizing it. While other times are filled with some of the details, such as working with the team to refine stories in the backlog. And of course, meeting with users and stakeholders all along the way. You'll see that most of these items are represented throughout the week.
Monday had a little bit of everything, including an array of meetings with various groups including users, stakeholders, the dev team, purchasing and the legal team.
Of course we had our daily team stand-up in the morning (these happen everyday, so I'll just mention them here) along with conversations with the team throughout the day. Since most of us sit in the same area, spontaneous conversations are pretty frequent. We often brainstorm ideas or chat about issues as they come up. I also try and start each day looking over key metrics and reviewing anything that may have happened the previous day.
Our UX designer and I met with some users to review some feedback that had been submitted in order to get a better understanding of what they were trying to do and why they were having some issues. All of the meetings I have like this include myself, our UX designer, and typically an engineer depending on the topic. I also met with a member of our legal team to discuss our application and then a small group of stakeholders to address some questions that had come up the previous week.
Finally, the day finished up with a meeting with the purchasing team. We're negotiating several contracts with vendors. As the product manager, I have the best idea of what our usage projections are going to be as well as what we'll be needing from various vendors going forward. Together with our business partners, we work with the purchasing group to make sure we have that all in order.
Tuesday was more of strategic day (not necessarily by design, but it was the day of the week with the fewest meetings, so it gave me the most time to work on some longer term, strategic items). I do try and block out time each week in order to work on strategy/vision, but it doesn't always work out that way.
Anyway, I had the chance to think through some of the problems I know we'll be addressing down the road, and how best get stakeholders throughout the organization aligned with our vision. I put together a few documents outlining the framework I'm proposing.
In addition, we had two focus groups reviewing some prototypes that we had put together the previous week. Our UX designer and I had been working on some options and wanted to get them in front of students, which we were able to do. And as always, getting user feedback yielded some unexpected surprises.
Wednesday was packed with meetings, most of them with the development team. We started the day with a two hour refinement session. We use this time every other week to review upcoming priorities and share knowledge. I'm primarily responsible for getting the stories in our backlog, but my main purpose is to make sure that we have a shared understanding of the context and desired outcomes. So most of the items in the backlog aren't surprises (since we try and have members of the team involved in discovery), but refinement gives us a chance to discuss as a team and begin to think through scope and implications.
Wednesday is also the day I meet with our UX designer to discuss our prototypes and designs. We talk much more frequently than once a week, but it gives us a chance to go through the kanban board I set up to keep track of all our ongoing items.
We had monthly IT department review of the month (including wins and misses), and then met again as a development team to brainstorm ways to keep our applications running smoothly. And I finished out the day again meeting with a group of users to get feedback on a few questions we have.
Thursday was another day filled with learning and discovery, as well as working with stakeholders. I started the day meeting with one of our key VPs and sponsors as we discussed upcoming strategy and key priorities. We typically meet one-on-one at least every other week to discuss these types of things.
We had a working session with a group of users to determine the next phase of role management within our application. We've been working with very minimal functionality so far, so we're identifying key problems in order to start to prototype some solutions for the next phase of development.
We had also been sending around emails for most of the morning regarding some language changes within our application. There was some confusion, so I called a quick huddle with everyone in order to resolve. Fortunately, we were all able to get on the same page and even came up with some better phrasing to explore.
Since we had just finished a large rollout of our application to about half of the university students, I met with one of our stakeholders to review how our communication went and determine things we could do better for the next time. A mini retrospective.
I try and keep Fridays relatively unencumbered by meetings (as much as possible). We usually do have a product manager meeting on Friday. A chance to chat with the other product folks in the organization. I also send out a weekly update on Fridays to senior executives, recapping anything that's happened during the week such as releases, discoveries, meetings, etc. And letting them know what's coming up for the next week. Since I'm the product manager for our current flagship effort, it is of particular interest to everyone and I want to make sure they are well-informed.
I also do a monthly roadmap meeting with key folks within the IT department as well as across the business. That was set for the following week, so I spent Friday afternoon making sure that everything is up-to-date and ready for those discussions.
I also spent some time reviewing an array of reports that I use regularly. They show a variety of usage stats as well as feedback and satisfaction. I had a couple things I wanted added, so I worked with our data team to do that. I also needed some additional information for our roadmap discussions, so I reached out to a few folks to gather that.
So that pretty much wraps up the week. And I'd say that's probably about as typical a week as I could expect. There are also seasonal factors that come into play, such as the beginning of the fiscal year and the planning involved in that. And anytime there is a large release or rollout, things are notably different.
But hopefully that is helpful in describing a week in the life of a product manager. You can probably get the sense that there is a wide variety of things that a product manager is responsible for. And it's true. I am involved across the board in many discussions and on many initiatives. It is incredibly exciting but can be incredibly stressful. Ultimately though, it's about creating a product and experience that users love, so there is no easy path to get there.
My personal musings on a variety of topics.