What Does a Principal Product Manager Do?

The role of a principal product manager in the product development process is essential to the success of any company. Their role might include defining and executing on product vision, managing the go-to-market strategy, leading cross-functional teams as well as coming up with new ideas for new products.  

In this post, we will discuss what responsibilities they have and how you can become one.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Principal Product Manager?

A principal product manager is a senior-level analyst and expert in product development. They are typically the voice of the customer, leading cross-functional teams to produce products that meet or exceed expectations.

Principal product managers can be found at many companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla Motors, and more. 

Principal Product Manager Roles and Responsibilities

In order for a principal product manager to be successful, they must have many different skills. 

Great product managers are often the face of the company and lead cross-functional teams on projects that require both technical product and business expertise in order to succeed. 

When it comes to day-to-day responsibilities for a principal product manager, there is quite a lot involved. The following are some of the most common tasks they have to complete with regularity:

1. Formalize portfolio management practices 

This is an important part of the principal product manager’s job to ensure that all products are up-to-date and on track. 

This includes reporting product status, identifying new opportunities, facilitating prioritization across teams, tracking KPIs for every product in the portfolio, analyzing trends as well as forecasting future needs. 

2. Train stakeholders on how to manage and prioritize their backlog

Since the principal product manager manages all aspects of a product, it’s important to understand how different stakeholders react and prioritize their backlog. 

With that in mind, they are responsible for coaching those who use product management tools on prioritization best practices, help them develop strategies for releasing features, and then train teams on these new processes so they can be successful. 

3. Analyze complex business cases to determine product viability

It’s the principal product manager who takes a product from idea to launch. That includes analyzing complex business cases, breaking them down into smaller components, and determining whether or not it is viable for development.

If in doubt about any particular component of a plan, the principal product manager will provide constructive feedback or decide that there needs to be more research done before proceeding with development.

The process also involves making sure that the product lifecycle aligns with company goals as well as bringing stakeholders on board when necessary.

4. Work on Prioritization and project ROI

Every product is given a quality rating, which the principal product manager and the product team use to make decisions about what needs more development or funding. 

This also includes determining if there are any product opportunities that could help grow revenue for the company as well as helping in prioritization by analyzing features based on their potential ROI.

It’s important for this type of manager to stay up-to-date with current industry trends so they can relay information back to stakeholders when necessary.

The success of an organization rests largely on how good its products are and it’s essential that each individual knows his or her role in making these products successful. 

5. Develop product marketing positioning with business team

Principal product managers are also responsible for developing marketing positioning and messaging with your business team. 

This will include the target audiences as well as who it’s marketed to. 

You’ll need to know what type of messages resonate best with this audience in order to get them interested enough to buy or use the product.

An effective way is using narratives that reflect real-life situations so they can better relate and understand how things work based on their personal experience. 

6. Use SQL to support data-driven analysis

Data-driven analysis is an integral part of principal product management. 

There may be times where PPMs need to use SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language and it’s used to pull data from databases or other sources into a spreadsheet in order to support their findings.

This can include anything from customer information like email address and social media handle to sales statistics over time periods that will show product adoption rates by country or state. 

7. Conduct analysis to create future product roadmaps

Product managers are responsible for understanding what customer needs and wants are so they can create future product roadmaps for a user experience that will satisfy these desires. 

This process will consist of conducting analysis on a number of fronts which could include market research, qualitative data such as user feedback or quantitative information like sales numbers broken down into demographics. 

8. Define strategic direction and KPIs

Every principal product manager has their own way of managing and defining direction as well as KPIs. 

Some may be highly quantitative, which would mean they would have a set number of PM metrics to focus on that are measurable in the short-term such as revenue or customer engagement rates while others might be more qualitative focusing on things like user feedback. 

9. Perform gap analysis

This is a process where you will break down what the root of an issue or pain point might be and then recommend solutions to alleviate that problem. 

Some examples would be things like identifying when customers are not completing their desired action, such as buying a product and recommending ways to reduce friction in order for them to complete it more easily.

10. Try to exceed profitability targets every year through increased sales

 This is pretty straightforward. The product manager will need to hit the profitability targets for a given year and also try to exceed them by increasing sales of their products through smart marketing campaigns or competitive pricing.

Principal Product Manager Skills

In order to be a good principal product manager, it is important to have the mindset of a product strategist. PMs can gain this skill by joining a PM bootcamp or taking a product management certification program

Principal product managers need to take in all the information about their products and then use those stats to make decisions on how they can improve them or create new ones that will meet customer needs better. 

The following are some of the most important skills a principal project manager should have:

1. QA Skills

It is important to have a good knowledge of quality assurance and how it can be applied throughout the entire product development process. A project manager with QA skills will know what type of tests need to be conducted, when they should happen in relation to other phases of the product design, and where any risks lie within those stages.

2. Product Management Abilities

The principal product manager will be able to define a clear and concise set of product management goals for the project. This includes specifying what kind of products are needed, specifications about these new products, deadlines as well as any risks that might happen during production. Also, the principal product manager has to have strong communication skills and problem-solving abilities to manage the product area successfully. 

3. Product Development Knowledge

As a good product leader, principal product managers should be able to effectively communicate with customers and understand what they really want from the new products.

Furthermore, knowledge about design is required for any project where a physical product is being created in order to avoid unnecessary expenses like manufacturing errors or low-quality materials that might lead to customer dissatisfaction.

4. User Interface Development

The principal product manager is responsible for developing the user interface of a new product and helping make it not only functional but also visually appealing. This includes choosing colors, fonts as well as graphics that will be used to create an overall good experience for the end-user. 

5. Market Research Skills

It’s not enough for a product manager to be able to communicate well with their customers and understand what they want from the new products. They are also required to conduct market research in order to make sure that the product will sell well on the market, which includes gathering data about prices, competitors’ offerings as well as customer needs and expectations.

6. Business Process Knowledge

The product manager is required to have extensive knowledge of the business process, including how customers interact with an organization. It’s not enough for them just to understand what a customer needs and wants from a new product; they also need to know where those pieces fit into the company’s overall workflow in order to make sure that there are no bottlenecks or other issues which could impact productivity and cost-effectiveness. 

How to become a Principal Product Manager

In order to become a principal product manager, you will need to meet some PM education requirements.

– You may be able to start your career as a project manager or analyst before transitioning into product management. You might want to try at a startup before considering an established company. 

– Once you have gained the necessary experience, this can take anywhere from five years up to ten years depending on other factors such as corporate culture and market conditions. 

The steps for becoming a Principal Product Manager are: 

-Gain experience through an entry-level position within the company or outside of it 

-Ask your boss if they know someone who might be willing to mentor you for promotion purposes 

-Get involved with community events related to your industry which will help establish connections; many employers use these types of events as opportunities to scout new talent 

– It’s recommended to have a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Marketing or Engineering 

– In addition, most employers look for candidates who are proficient with Excel and PowerPoint.

Principal Product Manager Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a principal product manager is $166,149 in the U.S.

Is the Principal Product Manager Career Path Worth It?

Being a principal product manager requires someone with strong leadership skills, excellent communication abilities, and effective program management skills. You should also have experience working on business projects involving technical knowledge that can be transferred over into developing new software products or similar technological ventures.

Although this position requires long hours of work and many years of experience to get, being a principal product manager is worth the hard work for most people.


I'm a seasoned writer specializing in business reviews.  I've had my articles published on leading blogs including TheNextWeb, Yahoo News, Jeff Bullas, Business2Community, and more.