Every great team needs a tech person.
In product management, your tech person is the technical product manager.
This person works with engineering teams to create products that customers will like and will achieve the business's short- and long-term goals. If you're running a SaaS business, this role helps stakeholders understand how products are being produced and why they should include certain features in their design.
In this post, let's review what a technical product manager does, then dive into some of the key responsibilities they have on the development team.
What's a Technical Product Manager?
A technical product manager is someone who's responsible for the success of the product. They do this by working cross-functionally with the teams building, marketing, selling, and supporting it. Unlike a traditional product manager, technicals ones possess advanced engineering and design skills.
Product managers are usually more external-facing, as they interview customers and collaborate with other teams to conduct competitive analyses and make go-to-market plans. But, since technical product managers have a background in computer science or software engineering, they work more closely with engineering and design teams on product features and capabilities.
Technical product managers aren't just product managers who carry out technical tasks -- it's a specific person in a product management role with a technical background, versus a cross-functional business background.
Depending on the size and breadth of a product, some companies might hire a product manager and a technical product manager, so they have one person focused on coordinating the business around the product, and one person focused on coordinating the technical side of building the product. Others might prefer to have one product manager accountable for the what, why, and how of building and bringing a new product to market.
If you're considering hiring a technical product manager for your business, let's a take a look below at what a job description for this role would look like.
Technical Product Manager Job Description
A technical product manager's job description will be very similar to a product manager's. The main difference will be in the experience and background that the company is looking for in the candidate.
For example, if you're a SaaS business, you'll probably want a technical product manager with design and engineering skills. But, if you were manufacturing audio equipment, you'd want someone who has experience with building hardware and software.
Here's an example job description we pulled from Amazon Robotics.
“We're searching for an innovative and motivated Technical Product Manager who will manage the multi-team development and operational delivery of a large portfolio of technical projects by understanding business requirements, managing changes, removing roadblocks, and communicating broadly with multiple functional groups and stakeholders.
In this position, you will anticipate bottlenecks, provide escalation management, and build consensus by understanding stakeholder requirements and constraints. You will be expected to clearly communicate goals, roles, responsibilities, and desired outcomes to cross-functional teams. You will help identify, prioritize, and advocate for the largest opportunities, as well as create and manage new efficiency opportunities from ideation to launch.”
Before we wrap things up, let's review some of the core responsibilities for technical product managers.
Duties in Technical Product Management
Here are some of main duties that technical product managers perform on a day-to-day basis.
Manage the product vision.
Once the product owner has developed the product vision, it's up to the product manager to bring that vision to life. She or he needs to address any concerns they have about the blueprint and assess the product backlog for anything confusing. It's important to clarify any gray areas as changing features later down the road can often be costly and time-consuming. And, the more they communicate about the product vision, the more likely they are to get the design right.
Create the product roadmap.
One of the most important jobs that a product manager has is to create the product roadmap. A product roadmap is a gameplan for building the product, which is based on the product vision. It includes the tasks that each team and employee will execute, the timeline for when each one should be completed, and the overall impact that each will have on the business's objectives.
Once this resource is completed, the product manager should share it with the rest of the development team. If you're working in scrum development, then the technical product manager would pass the roadmap along to the scrum master. The scrum master would then make suggestions for overcoming potential roadmaps and where they could be more efficient.
Conduct market research.
A big part of the product manager's job is to conduct market research. However, technical product managers spend less time interviewing customers when doing so.
Instead, they connect with engineering and design teams to collect feedback on the company's existing products. Since they have a technical background, they relate to the suggestions that these teams have and can translate their value to other stakeholders who may not work as close to the product.
But, here's where the technical product manager role is unique. Since they work with both customers and product development teams, they often have to find a middle ground that appeases both sides. For example, if the engineering team suggests removing a feature that customers would miss, it's up to the product manager to determine whether or not it should be removed. These judgment calls play a major role in the success of the product.
Collaborate with the product owner and scrum master.
Technical product managers should regularly communicate with the product owner and scrum master throughout development. They should provide updates, ask questions about the product vision, and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding timelines and task prioritization. Having clear communication between each of these roles is the key to creating a smooth and efficient development process.
In product development, there are always risks that pose a threat to your product. When roadblocks pop up, timelines get delayed and the business has to spend more money to correct the issue. And, depending on your product management style, operations may come to a halt until the problem is resolved.
It's the product manager's job to assess risk and steer the team away from roadblocks if possible. If not, they should anticipate the problem and work proactively to come up with a sustainable solution. The sooner they do, the less time you'll lose during product development.
Act as team lead.
Whatever their focus, a product manager's success is contingent on their ability to network and coordinate across different teams and professionals to keep everyone working towards a single goal. Whether they're responsible for coordinating marketing launch plans, or shipping new code themselves, a product manager should be comfortable leading meetings, organizing spreadsheets, and rallying the troops.
To learn about more roles in product development, read about the difference between product owner and product manager.