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What does a product manager do?

What does a product manager do?

No matter which hats you wear, productboard can help you get the right products to market faster!


Over the years, we’ve spoken with thousands of product managers who come to us looking for a better way to make product decisions. In our conversations, we’ve heard how PMs split their time between understanding their users, prioritizing what to build next, and rallying the team around the roadmap. Regardless of company size, product, or industry, we’ve found some common threads in the way PMs describe their roles.

The product manager is truly a jack of all trades that does whatever it takes to build products that delight customers. Read on for some thoughts shared by product managers on the many hats they wear and the roles they embody in their day-to-day work.

What a PM Does

What does a product manager do to empathize?

“I bring my team members from design and engineering. Big problems are incredibly motivating, and I want the whole team to empathize with our customers. After each visit, we debrief immediately. I’ll ask, ‘what surprised you?’ and ‘what pain did you see?’ This is a great time to synthesize and formulate insights. You’re ready to move from problem to solution only when your team can clearly articulate the pain through customer stories.”

Brian Crofts, CPO at Pendo

What does a product manager do to invent?

“As a PM, you’re in the middle of a perfect storm of all the problems you hear from your customers. By drawing inspiration from unlikely sources and employing the latest technologies in creative ways, you can create something new and beautiful… something that solves people’s problems in a new way… something that hasn’t been done before.”

–Hubert Palan, CEO of productboard

What does a product manager do to investigate?

“As a product manager, I have to dissect user feedback about the product or feature requests and understand the psychology behind users’ suggestions. Sometimes users may request a feature that might actually lead to a result that is the opposite what they want to achieve. For example, a user may request the capability to get more feedback from the team but their request might be more of an issue with their team’s dynamics and a symptom of a lack of trust within the team rather than the product. Understanding this complexity is a crucial part of building our application, since it’s all about understanding human psychology.”

–Tim Clauwert, CEO/Co-founder of

What does a product manager do to deal with a crisis?

“There are more plates to balance than you can imagine and trying to satisfy every stakeholder when prioritizing what to build can feel like a pipe dream. This already impossible task gets even more complex when fires begin to ignite all around you after a release inevitably goes wrong. Navigating these issues can be made easier when you’re able to confidently prioritize fires to be put out. Understanding the difference between critical and convenient will allow you to keep customers happy and your team sane.”

–Jacob Pitcher, Customer Experience Lead at HeyOrca

What does a product manager do to lead the team?

“As a PM, you’re often best positioned in the company to learn about product ideas from your coworkers. By knowing how to effectively communicate your product roadmap you can set expectations while at the same time encouraging idea generation throughout the company.”

–Nick Mauro, Product Manager at SevenFifty

What does a product manager do to negotiate?

“In any company, you will have to work with people who want different things. Everyone has ideas, after all. As a product manager, you need to manage the vision and take people on a journey. Given how many people are involved in an organization – with emotions, egos, unique styles, and different goals – the human element of any business makes building things hard. At times, that requires a lot of diplomacy and emotional agility. Half the time the job is just getting different departments to a ‘productive state of dysfunction’ so everyone is aligned and you can do right by the users.”

–Brad Dunn, Head of Product and Customer Experience at GeoOp

What does a product manager do to direct?

“As a product manager, I work collaboratively across the organization to incorporate diverse roles into the product development process. By leveraging the unique creativity of my colleagues, we come up with the best possible solutions. Of course, every team member has their own opinion and sometimes productive disagreements arise. We like to embrace discourse because it helps bring issues to the surface and allows us to build a better product for our customers in the end.”

–Peter Pilat, Product Manager at productboard

What does a product manager do to coach?

“Before I arrived at Supermood, features flowed directly from sales to the dev team. No marketing, no prioritization, no customer success in the loop. My role is to make sure everyone knows about every change at each step, and that we take enough time to properly market it, train customer success reps, etc. I also help everyone understand why something has more priority than something else, so that we all work to reach the same goals.”

–Claire Van de Voorde, Product Manager at Supermood

What does a product manager do to nurture?

“At Springshot, we’re delivering a set of experiences to a diverse group of users in the service sector. As they get more accustomed to our product, their expectations change as they get a better sense of where else we can provide value for them. That’s why I invest a considerable amount of time in making sure we properly nurture and iterate the product to meet their needs. We’re not only focused on major releases, but instead, we’re ensuring that we’re delivering seamless experiences that improve efficiency for our users daily.”

-Praveen Reddy, VP of Product Development at Springshot


This post updated on March 27, 2019!

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