GUIDE 2024

What Does a Principal Product Manager Do?

Looking to know the responsibilities of the principal product manager? Keep on reading then.

In large companies with multiple product managers, you need certain senior professionals to oversee the whole product management ladder and team. But can the PM team receive individual, non-managerial contributions from the top? The answer is yes – and that’s where a principal product manager comes in.

In a nutshell, a principal PM is a full-time, senior product management role. But how does it differ from other top-level positions, such as the group product manager position?

In this article, we’ll break down the principal product manager job title, discuss what it entails, and answer some frequently asked questions. Whether you’re a recruiter or a product manager exploring career tracks, this article will give you great insight.

Let’s get started.

Who is a Principal Product Manager?

A principal product manager (PPM) is a senior product manager who doesn’t have any people-management responsibilities. Instead, principal product managers work as the most significant individual contributors (ICs) to move the needle for the product management team and the company as a whole.

Principal product managers have years of experience and track records of successfully executing, overseeing, and owning various product management processes, such as:

  • Creating product strategies
  • Defining product roadmaps
  • Aligning stakeholders
  • Setting product vision

The position is not as common in new startups as it is in relatively larger companies where there are multiple product management positions with defined roles.

What Does a Principal Product Manager Do?

As a senior individual contributor on the product team, the principal product manager has a lot of critical responsibilities.

While the exact duties may vary from company to company, here is a generic job description:

1. Developing and Communicating the Product Strategy

First and foremost, a principal product manager is responsible for devising, implementing, and overseeing critical aspects of the strategy.

This entails defining/finalizing:

  • Goals – specific things that the team wants to accomplish with the product. These goals should align with the business objectives of the company.
  • Product Vision – the big picture or the end goal for which the product team should be working.
  • Efforts – a detailed list of the specific internal efforts required to achieve the product vision.

In the end, a principal product manager compresses everything into a detailed, high-level product roadmap that is shared with the marketing, design, and engineering teams.

To create a working product strategy, the principal product managers take input from their peers.

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2. Aligning Stakeholders

Another major responsibility of a principal product manager is to ensure that all the key stakeholders of complex business cases in the company are aligned with the product strategy.

For this purpose, principal product managers work together with product leaders, senior product managers, marketing managers, and product development managers to create plans of action that align with the strategic objectives highlighted in the product strategy.

This entails close collaboration with relevant people in the product team, maintaining strong communication, and staying on top of everything.

However, to reiterate, it does not include directly managing people i.e. delegating tasks, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the team, etc.

3. Representing the Voice of Customers

The principal product manager job entails contributing to all product areas, including product marketing positioning, UX, and business.

For that reason, in addition to everything else, a primary product manager has to become the voice of their customers in an organization.

This involves:

  • Working with the marketing and research teams to understand the customers
  • Developing an understanding of their specific pain points
  • Finding out about their preferences
  • Brainstorming solutions that align with the pain points, preferences, and goals of their customers

The principal product manager then has to communicate all of these findings to the stakeholders to develop a positive user experience. After all, the product is for the customers, and by using customer feedback and becoming their voice, the principal product managers play a huge role in the overall success.

4. Extracting Insights from Performance Data

In addition, the principal product manager is also responsible for gauging the key performance indicators of the product management team. They take a data-driven approach to problem-solving.

This entails looking at the metrics (set while creating a product strategy) to see if all the teams are hitting their goals.

Not only do they analyze complex business cases, but their responsibilities include analyzing that data can also reveal some useful insights about different product functions.

By leveraging their experience, they come up with potential fixes/solutions for any underlying issues. They then communicate those solutions to upper management and the stakeholders for implementation.

5. Leading Internal Discussions

Last but not least, the principal product manager is responsible for leading internal discussions across cross-functional teams.

This is a crucial part of aligning stakeholders. However, internal discussions can have different goals and therefore deserve to be highlighted separately.

PPMs are expected to arrange and execute these discussions with different internal teams.

Furthermore, a principal product manager must ensure that every discussion results in some tangible outcome – a discovery, consensus, or initiative – which helps move things forward. For instance, if the discussion is regarding a bottleneck in the process, by the end of it, everyone involved should come up with a strategy on how they’re going to tackle it.

Depending on the organization, its policies, and culture, a principal product manager can lead these discussions either as stand-up meetings, zoom calls, or formal boardroom discussions.

What Level is the Principal Product Manager?

A principal product manager is a senior-level position (in almost every organization). The only thing that sets them apart from their peers is that they don’t go all-in on overseeing the day-to-day management that comes with seniority.

This may be a bit difficult to digest, given that the product manager role includes a lot of managerial functions. However, there are two paths that a product manager can pick later in their product management career track, including:

  • Individual Contributor Track – contribute towards achieving the organization’s goals directly without providing any management oversight.
  • Management Track – have management responsibilities and don’t contribute directly towards achieving business goals.

Principal PMs are on the IC track.

Keep in mind that just because a principal product manager isn’t responsible for directly managing people on the product team, doesn’t mean that the role isn’t as significant or senior as other top-level positions.

Final Remarks

If you’re a product manager who likes making a difference by contributing as an individual but doesn’t enjoy managing people, the principal product management is just for you.

In case you already haven’t, talk to your employer about your goals and see if you can pursue a career path in the IC track in your company.


Now that you know what a principal product manager is and what they do, let’s take a quick look at some frequently asked questions regarding this role (and other related areas):

What does principal product mean?

A principal product is any product that’s considered to be the primary offering of a business. In technical terms, it also refers to any product or service that accounts for more than 2% of the average gross sales of a product for a business.

Keep in mind that a principal product manager has nothing to do with a product. They’re called principal PMs because they work as individual contributors – the actual product(s) they work on is irrelevant.

What level is the principal product manager at Amazon?

At Amazon, every position has a level, denoted by “Ln” (where n is a number representing a position). The principal or senior product manager at Amazon is an L7 position – above PM1 (L4), PM2 (L5), and PM3/Senior product manager (L6). While an associate product manager has a lower role.

The highest level is L12, which is the CEO. Considering that, the principal product manager role is a relatively senior position at Amazon.

Is the principal product manager the same as the director?

A Principal Product Manager (PPM) oversees product development, strategy, and management within a specific domain. While a director oversees multiple teams or departments and contributes to higher-level strategic decisions.

Although both roles are senior, a director holds a higher hierarchical position than a PPM.

What does a group product manager do?

A group product manager (GPM) is a senior-level position that manages and oversees group product managers, who, in turn, manage different products. In addition to setting strategies, they’re also tasked with managing people.

What is higher than the principal product manager?

Higher roles than a PPM include:

  1. Vice President of Product Management
  2. Director of Product Management
  3. Chief Product Officer (CPO)

These positions are responsible for sensitive strategic oversight, management of larger teams, and a significant influence on the company’s decision-making and overall direction.

What is the principal product manager’s salary?

In the US, salary ranges from $150,000 to $200,000, with total compensation (bonuses and stock options) exceeding $250,000 in top tech companies.

What is the role of a product manager?

Product managers are responsible for setting the product vision, rallying the various product teams to work towards a common goal, and creating and leading initiatives that move the needle for the company. The role is challenging, yet rewarding, and requires a mix of analytical skills, communication skills, and interpersonal skills.

Their responsibilities include managing the product lifecycle, creating strategies, and marketing teams, defining user stories, and working on GTM strategies for new products, among others.


If you are new to product management and are looking to break into your very first product manager role, we recommend taking our Product Manager Certification Courses, where you will learn the fundamentals of product management, launch your product, and get on the fast track toward landing your first product job.