Do you know how a technical product manager is different from a product manager? This article will help you find out and learn more about tech product management.
Introduction To Technology Product Management
To survive in today’s competitive business world, a company must build up an effective system, with the product manager at its core.
But over time, the product manager job has evolved from a general management system to a multi-dimensional approach that aims to cater to the specific needs of each business.
This development in the product management field has made the role of a technical product manager indispensable.
So, what exactly is tech product management and how is a technical product manager any different from a product manager?
In this article, we will focus on answering these, along with all your other burning questions regarding tech product management. Here, we will learn more about the role of a technical product manager, and the skills you need for effective tech product management.
What is tech product management?
Tech product management, while parallel to general product management, emphasizes the development, design, and launch of technological products or services. The key distinction lies in the realm of their focus: while tech product management delves into the technical aspects specific to technology firms, product management takes a broader, non-specific approach. As a result, technical product managers, equipped with backgrounds in software engineering, computer science, or data analysis, oversee this technical domain rather than general product managers.
So, who exactly qualifies as a technical product manager?
These individuals not only have expertise in technical specifications but also in areas like engineering or design. While a senior product manager might concentrate on understanding market trends and discerning consumer preferences to curate market-ready products, technical product managers spend more time working directly with technical teams. Their hands-on involvement stems from their deep knowledge of engineering, ensuring that the product not only meets market demand but is also technically sound and feasible.
This more specialized product management job is usually found in companies with expansive product management systems, capable of supporting diverse specializations. Global tech powerhouses like Google and Apple exemplify businesses that heavily rely on the expertise of technical product managers.
What is the role of a technical product manager?
The role of a technical product manager significantly diverges from a traditional product manager, especially in terms of their technical background and interactions. One key distinction in the technical product manager role is their closer collaboration with the engineering team and design units. It’s crucial for them to possess a strong technical background, including expertise in computer science, IT, software development, and broader engineering facets.
The specific responsibilities in technical product management can shift depending on the company’s nature and the product under development. For instance, a technical product manager in a SaaS enterprise primarily delves into the product’s engineering and design. In contrast, one in an audio equipment business would emphasize the integration of hardware and software components. There might also be instances where they partake in code refactoring to optimize the product’s software maintainability and overall performance.
While their tasks might differ across industries, there are consistent duties inherent to the technical product manager role. In this context, we present the foundational responsibilities associated with technical product management.
1. Management of product vision
A technical product manager is responsible for assessing the blueprint of a product once it has been conceptualized by the product owner. Technical product managers will go through the product vision and identify any flaws in the product design, or any obstacles that could hinder the development process.
Once the product vision has been finalized and all uncertainties have been addressed, the technical product manager can collaborate with the design and engineering teams to bring the product to life.
2. Creating a product roadmap
Similar to a traditional product manager, a technical product manager is in charge of creating a product roadmap. The product roadmap is part of the product strategy that is used to develop the product according to the owner’s vision.
Technical product managers are responsible for creating a product roadmap that focuses on all aspects of the production process. This roadmap provides the journey of the product from assembling a development team to conducting market research, setting up a resource and budget allocation system, and testing the final product.
Technical product managers are also supposed to share the final product roadmap with scrum masters once it has been completed.
3. Collecting market data
One of the jobs of a technical product manager is to conduct research and collect market data.
Traditional product managers will be more involved in seeking out information regarding customer preferences, while technical product managers will work closely with the engineering and design teams to collect data on existing products and services.
Since they have technical knowledge, technical product managers will be able to understand and relay feedback from the design and engineering teams to the rest of the development team more easily.
But technical product managers do not only cooperate with technical teams. Similar to traditional product managers, they are also involved with collecting customer feedback, albeit to a lesser degree than traditional product managers. This means that technical product managers often have to collect data that appeases both the development teams and the customers.
4. Running risk assessment
A technical product manager is responsible for predicting roadblocks in the development process and taking measures to prevent any sort of delay.
Technical product managers predict and prevent roadblocks by running routine risk assessments of the product development process. This helps them identify problems early on, and work proactively to come up with an effective and feasible solution.
5. Leading the product development team
Similar to a product manager, a technical product manager is expected to have great leadership skills. A technical product manager is in charge of assembling the product development team and ensuring that they collaborate effectively.
As a leader, a technical product manager is not only in charge of selecting members of the product development team but also of training and guiding new members throughout the development process.
What are the differences between a technical product manager and a product manager?
Although some of the responsibilities of a technical product manager are similar to those of a traditional product manager, there are key differences between the two roles.
Product managers are more involved in addressing business issues, coming up with marketing strategies, and ensuring that the final product is designed while keeping consumer preferences in mind.
On the other hand, technical product managers hold a great responsibility for overseeing the product development process, managing customer support problems, and ensuring that the technical aspect of the development process operates smoothly.
Along with these differences, we have highlighted some of the major factors that set apart product managers and technical product managers.
When it comes to salary, technical product managers generally earn more than traditional product managers because of their skills in IT, computer science, and software engineering.
On average, a technical product manager earns 100,074 USD per year, while a traditional product manager earns 96,552 USD per year.
Traditional product managers generally do not have specialist certifications or degrees in technological fields. Instead, they mostly have degrees in areas like finance, business, or marketing.
Meanwhile, it is mandatory for a technical product manager to have a degree in computer science, IT, or software engineering. While product managers may have some sort of exposure to the technological field, it is not a requirement for them to know how to code or have work experience on technological projects.
3. Core Skills
Although both technical product managers and product managers need to be up to date regarding market research techniques, UX practices, and effective communication mechanisms. These are some of the core skills necessary for technical product managers to possess.
Below, we have compiled some of the skills that are necessary for technical product managers, but are not required for traditional product managers.
- Technical product managers need to be proficient in IT, computer science, engineering, and coding. This is important because it helps them communicate effectively with engineering and design teams.
- Technical product managers are required to have prior experience in software development systems like Agile and scrum.
- Technical product managers need to be able to develop product roadmaps. While traditional product managers generally focus on using product roadmaps to develop a product customers will love, technical product managers, are more concerned with developing the roadmap itself.
- Technical product managers need to be well-versed in APIs (application programming interfaces) so that they can ensure that the developed product can integrate with different types of software.
Technical product managers work close to product development teams like engineering and design teams. In contrast to this, a traditional product manager is more involved with marketing, finance, and customer support teams.
What are the skills needed for effective tech product management?
Technical product managers are an integral part of tech product management. This is why it is important to address some of the skills that you need to master to become an excellent technical product manager and practice effective tech product management.
Below, we have compiled some of the skills required for effective tech product management.
1. Mastering your soft skills
Soft skills are the core set of skills that are integral to a leader in any field, not just tech product management. These include emotional intelligence, self-awareness, management and discipline, teamwork, critical thinking, and effective communication.
As a tech product manager, you need to hone your soft skills, so that you can communicate with your team members, actively listen to their inputs, and verbalize your own opinions effectively. These soft skills include being an active listener, being emotionally intelligent, having self-awareness and self-discipline, and working on your communication and public speaking skills.
2. Your business acumen as a tech product manager matter
As a tech product manager, along with boasting expert technical skills, you need to have a strong foundation in business, with the ability to make marketing and finance decisions that lead to the success of the product.
Business acumen involves coming up with an effective strategy, that accounts for the production costs and estimates how well the product will do in the market. Tech product management also requires you to pick out appropriate performance metrics that you can use to gauge customers’ responses to your product.
Keeping track of your product’s success through performance metrics and financial indicators is something you need to be familiar with if you want to maximize the profits earned from your products.
3. Technical skillset
Although we have already discussed this in detail, it is worth reiterating: as a technical product manager, your primary focus should be on developing your technical skillset.
Tech product managers are expected to be well-versed in the technical aspect of the development process. This involves overseeing product design, coming up with product road maps, and understanding the product’s lifecycle. It also requires you to work closely with engineering and design teams, so your coding skills cannot afford to be rusty.
4. As a tech product manager, you need to back your decisions with data
Working in tech product management, you have multiple teams whose work is influenced by your opinions and decisions. This means that if you want to inspire the cooperation of your team members, you need to present them with data that backs your opinions and validates your decisions.
5. Honing your analytical skills
To work effectively in tech product management, your analytical skills need to be at their sharpest, so that you can sift through large volumes of data, prioritize the importance of each element of the product development process, and allocate resources accordingly.
As a technical product manager, strong analytical insight is also required when you review product designs so that you can provide the engineering and design teams with meaningful feedback.
Tech product management is essential when it comes to designing and selling technological products, making the role of tech product managers indispensable for companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple.
Through this article, we have discussed what the term tech product management entails, the job description of a technical product manager, and how a technical product manager is different from a traditional product manager.
After reading this article, you are one step closer to learning about the intricacies of tech product management, and the skills you need to develop to become an effective technical product manager.