How Does a Technical Product Manager Differ From a Business-minded PM?
You have probably faced many variations of product manager job titles and roles. Large companies and startups may have strategic product managers or titles linked to specific industry verticals.
Product manager roles can depend on the internal company’s hierarchy. You may learn more about it in our article about product manager career path options.
What does it mean to be a technical product manager?
Technical Product Manager is a person but not a role. The term is about product managers with a technical background (and sometimes education) who work on a technology product.
How does it differ from non technical product manager?
It doesn’t mean that a tech PM should perform technical tasks. No codes here. Product managers do not develop the product; they perform product management and coordinate with software developers to the same extent as with marketers, sales and so on.
It’d be better for any company if technical product managers focus on product management, not development.
However technical knowledge is required for them. Some technical product managers need to understand the company’s technology and dive into all tech levels with developers to lead the product strategy better.
What is the difference between a product manager and a technical product manager?
At first, let’s revise what are the common aspects. They both are responsible for the following:
- Product strategy developing and setting a product vision. Both managers should care about how to avoid mistakes in determining product strategy at start.
- Ideas gathering. They both gather and promote the most relevant ideas.
- Managing a roadmap. Planning and prioritizing what and when the product team will deliver. Technical product managers work with technology roadmaps, which have some unique features.
- Defining the features. Both managers work with user stories and requirements.
- Release issues. Product managers and technical PMs work with cross-functional teams to deliver a complete customer experience and make product release management successful.
There were some common points. Now let’s define the key differences:
- Product managers are focused on customers and involved in setting the overall product strategy. Technical guys are more focused on capabilities and how their products work and tend to be.
- Product managers usually cooperate with many departments and non-technical team members. They work with marketers, sales, support, project managers, and collaborate with external partners. Technical product managers cooperate closely with internal tech teams, including developers, engineers, and testers.
- Making professional research, product managers study the competitive landscape from a strategic business and go-to-market perspectives, while tech-oriented product managers think more about emerging development and technology trends and evaluate competitors for capability-oriented.
- Most often, the educational background of the product manager may consist of a degree in business. Technical product managers more likely have a degree in engineering or computer science. They use their technical skills to improve prioritization and planning. If there is a clear understanding of how the product is built, then managers are able to assess the risks of certain features or understand the duration of stories or tasks.
Detailed communication with developers helps to understand the implications of certain product decisions and make trade-offs in terms of depth and complexity.
I would also like to list three common mistakes that relate to the role of the technical product managers. It’s not the truth that they:
- They design and make tech solutions about the product themselves.
- They take on non-product management deliverables.
- They know everything about Agile, or any methodology they’re using. Although many technical PMs come from development and staying involved in the day-to-day Agile flow feels comfortable to them, however, focusing too much on the methodology can be harmful when it’s taking time away from key PM responsibilities.
There are companies that require two product management roles: a technical PM and a business-minded product manager. Some organizations need only one person leading the product.
One more important point is that titles do not always reflect exactly what people do. Are you a technical product manager or non technical product manager? What do you think?
Anyway, regardless of titles and specifications, all product managers need to have all professional skills necessary for executing on product management best practices.