Product Manager Role Details and Survey Results


Pragmatic Marketing runs an annual survey of product managers. We looked at 440 results from the 2006 Product Manager Survey to uncover the trends in how different product manager roles are defined. The survey involved questions breaking down the allocation of time to different activities. In this article we look at how those activities varied for product managers, product marketing managers, segment / market managers, and technical product managers.

Previous Analyses

For most people, the first thing they want to do is understand product manager compensation data. That article included an analysis of gender bias in product manager compensation. We quickly followed with another article that provided details on product manager compensation versus company size. In response to reader questions, we took a look at product manager staffing levels. In that article, we tried to determine how many product managers to have for X products.

Now that we know how many product managers to hire, what should we have them do?

Product Manager Role Details

The role of a product manager is strategic. There are six areas of activity that are critical to product management.

The six areas

  1. Market Research
  2. Product Definition and Design
  3. Project Management
  4. Evangelize the Product
  5. Product Marketing
  6. Product Life Cycle Management

Product Manager Role Definition

Within those six areas are a number of activities, and respondents to Pragmatic Marketing’s survey provided a lot of data about what they do on a weekly basis. The survey asked product managers how much time they spent on each of seventeen different activities.

Pragmatic’s Activity List

Each respondent was asked if they spent less than an hour, less than half a day, a full day, or more than a day on each of the following product management activities:

  1. Researching Market Needs
  2. Preparing Business Case
  3. Writing Product Requirements
  4. Writing Detailed Specifications
  5. Monitoring Development Projects
  6. Writing Copy for Promotional Material
  7. Approving Promotional Material
  8. Creating Sales Presentations and Demos
  9. Training Sales People
  10. Going on Sales Calls
  11. Visiting Sites (Without Sales People)
  12. Performing Win/Loss Analysis
  13. Planning and Managing Marketing Programs
  14. Measuring Marketing Programs
  15. Work with Press or Analysts
  16. Creating Original Content For Customers
  17. Creating Original Content For Employees

Survey Results By Activity

Here’s the breakdown of time spent by activity for all survey respondents.

Combined Product Manager Activity Data

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Each activity has a row in the table. To read the table, each column represents the amount of time spent on the activity. The headings represent the exact text presented in the survey. From left to right, the columns represent

  • The name of the activity as described in the survey
  • “Under an hour” spent per week
  • “Under a half a day” spent per week
  • “A full day” spent per week
  • “More than a day” spent per week

The numbers in each cell are the number of respondents that selected that level of effort for each activity. When a cell represents more than 25% of the respondents, the text is colored red and marked in italics.

For each activity, the level of effort that had the greatest number of respondents is also bold with a gold background.

The results show a fairly even distribution of activities in each product manager’s week. The areas that received concentrated attention were

  • Researching Market Needs
  • Writing Product Requirements
  • Monitoring Development Projects
  • Creating Sales Presentations and Demos

Very consistent with the elevator pitch (30 seconds or less) description of what a product manager does. And all but the last one (sales-support) are identified as strategic activities. More than half of the respondents spent a day or more monitoring development activities, though. That seems a little high. Perhaps a more detailed analysis of the data will shed some light.The survey data asked people to describe their titles too. Next we evaluated the levels of effort by title.

Product Management Titles

The survey results included data from people who identified their titles as being most like one of the following:

  1. Product Manager
  2. Product Marketing Manager
  3. Segment/Industry/Market Manager
  4. Technical Product Manager

Here are the same tables, but filtered to include only the responses by title.

Product Manager

Product Manager Activity Levels

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The data for respondents with the title Product Manager is very consistent with the overall group data.

Product Marketing Manager

Product Marketing Manager Activity Levels

Product marketing managers have a very clear focus on sales and marketing support. They spend as little time as possible monitoring development activities. They also don’t appear to be sacrificing a subset of the marketing activities – their effort appears to be relatively evenly distributed.
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Segment / Industry / Market Manager

Segment Manager Activity Levels

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There were very few product-line manager responses in the data, but the areas of distinction are that they spend more time on preparing business cases and approving promotional material. They also spent far more time planning and managing marketing programs. This is good – these are the activities best leveraged across products.

Technical Product Manager

Technical Product Manager Activity Levels

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Technical product managers spend much more time on inbound activities like monitoring the development team. They also are more heavily involved in writing detailed specifications. They still have healthy levels of market research and writing requirements. And they minimize the time they spend on outbound activities like sales and marketing support.


The levels of effort are generally reasonably well distributed across the many activities identified in the survey. Further, the roles that have distinct focus (inbound, outbound, multi-product) spend their time appropriately.

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