While you might begin reading this article unsure of how a technical product manager is any different from a product manager, the aim of this post is to clarify any confusion you previously had.
A technical product manager on your team will be a product manager with a much higher focus on the technical aspects of the product, such as deciding on which tech stack to build with, what integrations need to be mapped out and deciding on the architecture plans.
What’s a technical product manager?
To start, you can look at a technical product manager as the main liaison between the engineering and the product team, more so than with, for example, the marketing or sales team.
Although all product managers (PM) should have in their toolkit enough technical understanding to be effective, what makes the technical product manager (TPM) stand out is their technical background. Often times, they start as computer science graduates or in the development teams and are upskilled into product roles over time.
Technical product managers can bridge the gap between the product and the development team, being able to provide valuable expertise both in strategizing the product and also in its development. By being able to relate to an engineer’s perspective and understanding their technical language, your company will be able to build products faster and create breakthrough improvements that increase the value delivered to the customers.
The job description of a technical product manager
While a technical product manager’s job description doesn’t differ extensively from a product manager’s, the main difference is the focus on leveraging their technical knowledge to define, scope and facilitate the engineers’ work.
For example, you can expect your technical product manager to track what your competitors are releasing and assess whether those capabilities make sense to be included in your own product. Furthermore, because they have the technical expertise, they’re expected to follow the industry at large and estimate if a new product on the market might pose a threat to your company, as well as make suggestions on the best technologies that keep you ahead of the competition.
Having the toolset of the product manager and also the technical understanding, a person in a technical product manager role is expected to act as one of your first evangelists and facilitate the communication with the community that forms around your product. This can mean answering questions that relate strictly to the features, the potential that the product unlocks and the development and maintenance of your product’s documentation.
The differences between technical product managers and non-technical product managers
Technical product managers will not spend their time writing code or creating diagrams, although they might have technical knowledge to do it. They still aim to understand your customers’ needs and translate them into engineering requirements, address potential technological pitfalls and spend time analyzing data pipelines and the usual performance indicators.
If product managers focus on the business and strategy aspects of a product, the technical product managers spend their time translating business goals to technical requirements. They can act as the down-to-earth voice when it comes to assessing what’s technologically feasible and possible in product development.
Ultimately, in a company that is big enough to support both of these roles, they’re synergistic.
The role of a technical product manager can be essential for tech companies, especially when their focus is on product development. Their expert knowledge and their ability to successfully collaborate with the engineering teams makes them useful in bringing to market product that meet both the business and the technical requirements of the company
Although their responsibilities will vary from company to company, the tasks of the technical product managers converge to defining success criteria for testing and quality assurance, being a pillar in the communication with the technical community and assessing the risks and opportunities in bringing new technologies into the company.