8 Qualities to Look For in A Technical Product Manager

technical product manager

Modern enterprises rely heavily on adept product managers to develop and market products to customers. For many businesses, the product manager serves as a point of contact between the development and marketing teams. Although the product manager plays a crucial role, many product managers lack a background in a technical discipline like design or engineering. This has led to the rise of the technical product manager role. 

What is a Technical Product Manager 

A technical product manager is an individual who has expertise in a technical discipline in addition to the managerial skills of a product manager. This hybrid role is crucial for enterprises to bridge the gap between the customer and development teams. 

Why is a Technical Product Manager Important?

The vast majority of businesses today understand the importance of product managers. In many organizations, it’s one of the most important roles because it has a direct impact on how products are developed and how efficient an organization is. With the national average salary of a product manager being over $117,000 annually, it’s clear that product managers provide a lot of value and revenue for their respective organizations.

A technical product manager is a special type of product manager and they take direct responsibility for technical aspects of product development. This includes creating the product roadmap, fixing bugs and working alongside the development team. A technical product manager is important because they can understand the technical aspects of a product and work with the development team to ensure that the product meets customer requirements.

They also have the managerial skills to work with the marketing team to create a product that customers want to buy.

Key roles that a Technical Product Manager plays: 

Work with technical teams: A technical product manager works with the technical teams to meet project demands. This includes the development team, engineering team, QA team and more. Since the technical product manager already has a solid technical background, they can relay the business objectives to the technical team and ensure everything is on track.

Assess technical risks: A technical product manager is also responsible for assessing technical risks and working with the technical team to mitigate them. This includes identifying potential roadblocks during development and working with the development team to make sure they are addressed. Additionally, the technical product manager helps create contingency plans for the risks associated with the project.

Develop product strategy: A technical product manager is responsible for developing the product strategy in conjunction with the business objectives. They work with stakeholders to understand the customer’s needs and develop a product that meets their requirements. With product strategy, the technical product manager bridges both the business and technical requirements needed for a successful product. With the aid of a technical product manager, your product strategy will have the technical and business foundation to delight your customers.

Coordinate product releases: A technical product manager’s job is not done with just developing the product, they are also responsible for coordinating product releases with the development team and stakeholders. This includes ensuring that all parties are aware of deadlines and working to meet them. They play an important role in development, sales, marketing and more.

Manage customer feedback: The technical product manager is also responsible for managing customer feedback and relaying it to the development team. Since the technical product manager communicates with customers, they hear first-hand what customers like and dislike. They can in turn use this to give their teams feedback and improve the product for customers. Being able to take customer feedback, relay it to teams and improve the product is all part of having a robust customer feedback process in a business.

Best Qualities to look for in a Technical Product Manager

The technical product manager cannot thrive off only a few skills, they need certain qualities to ensure they succeed in your organization. 

Having a robust understanding of how technical product management works is oftentimes a desirable trait in hiring because it will allow your organization to hire the best candidates. 

From technical expertise to effective communication, the different qualities in your technical product manager will have a significant impact on your project success. Some of the best qualities you should look for in a technical product manager include:

1. Technical Expertise (A must for a every Technical Product Manager)

What separates technical product managers from normal product managers is their advanced design, engineering or development skills. More specifically, the technical product manager should have expertise in the frameworks and technologies that the company uses. For example, if you have a team that uses scrum project management, the technical product manager should be familiar with its approaches and applications. 

Without an adequate technical understanding of the technologies and frameworks being used for a project, the technical product manager will not be able to give guidance on the product features and roadmaps. This creates more bottlenecks in product development and ultimately slows down the entire team. Before hiring a technical product manager, make sure to do due diligence and ensure they have a thorough understanding of the technical frameworks your organization uses.

2. Cross-functional Collaboration:

 In addition to having the technical chops, the technical product manager must be able to collaborate with other teams easily to meet common objectives within the company. Many businesses have several teams working on building a single product; this can often include development teams, design teams, management, customer support and more. The technical product manager doesn’t have the luxury of just focusing on their team, they have to be able to collaborate effectively with other teams in order to accomplish shared objectives.

If the SEO team is working on on-page SEO to promote the product, the technical product manager should be in the loop and be aware of how this correlates with the success of the product. 

A successful product launch will require designers, engineers and marketing teams to collaborate. The technical product manager is in charge of ensuring technical teams have all the resources necessary to create a minimum viable product. Once an early version of a product is created, the technical product manager must collaborate with other teams to get feedback and strategize on how to launch the product.

This continuous process of developing the product, marketing it, etc., requires constant communication between teams. A great technical product manager will act as the main point of contact between different teams and help accelerate product development for the entire organization. 

3. Product Vision: 

The technical product manager is one of the best leaders in outlining product vision for a team. Since the technical product manager understands both the technical and business aspects of building a successful product, they take an active role in product vision and strategy. The product vision generally includes the main objectives and overarching goals of the product.

The technical product manager helps define and set parameters for the vision of the product. Since product vision impacts virtually every aspect of product development, your team is highly reliant on the technical product manager to set a clear vision for the product you are creating. Prior to hiring a technical product manager, ask them about different products they’ve worked on along with the vision they set for their teams.

A competent technical product manager will be able to articulate the vision because they probably worked on most aspects of product strategy. It’s essential to ensure that your technical product manager has the ability to set a product vision because most team members will not be able to do so. This is a key differentiating factor that separates normal technical product managers from great ones. 

4. Industry Knowledge:

 A product manager role requires a lot of industry knowledge to succeed and a technical product manager is no different. To take a product from the ideation stage to real-life application, a product manager must be knowledgeable about the industry to help create a product that solves customer pain points. Prior to starting to work on a product, there has to be thorough market research done by the technical product manager. Without this, the company may create a product that has little to no demand.

To do anything related to market research, the technical product manager must have some basic knowledge of the industry and what customers are looking for. For example, if you’re in the IT services industry, your technical product manager should be aware of trends, customer wants and other specific factors related to IT. 

In addition to market research, industry knowledge allows a technical product manager to keep up with the trends in the industry. Oftentimes, product success can be attributed to the right timing. If your technical product manager has a good pulse on the industry, they can help the company pivot and gain a competitive advantage by bringing products to market faster. This is an essential quality to look for in your technical product manager. Along the same lines, familiarity with industry-related tools such as product prototyping software or customer feedback software is a must in a good product manager”

5. Customer-oriented: 

Being customer-oriented is a key trait needed in being a good technical product manager. All of the work being done is ultimately to satisfy the customer and help them meet their goals. Since the technical product manager has a thorough understanding of the technical and non-technical aspects of the product, they are often the best person to communicate with customers. With thorough knowledge of the product, the technical product manager can help convey hard technical concepts in an easy way that illustrates the benefits to customers. 

Qualities of a Technical Project Manager

Communicating with customers often is also essential to creating customer-focused products. Many companies create products based on their intuition or simply following what management says. A great technical product manager gets direct feedback from customers. This allows them to create products that are customer-oriented and this ultimately leads to more revenue generated for the business.

By looking at everything through the lens of the customer, the technical product manager can ensure every part of the product development process for a company is useful to the customer.

6. Adaptability: 

The technical product manager needs to be nimble and have an agile mindset when it comes to the projects they are leading. In normal projects, a project manager needs foresight and the ability to quickly adapt due to changing circumstances within the project. A technical product manager needs to be even more agile due to the added technical requirements for a project. In any given project, a technical product manager may encounter roadblocks, downtime in business systems, onboarding technical talent and more.

These continuously changing circumstances require the technical product manager to adapt quickly and ensure the team continues to work towards the project objectives. Without this mindset and approach to the project, the technical product manager will quickly become overwhelmed and the project will be delayed. As the technical product manager, it is essential to be able to roll with the punches and keep your project on track.

7. Organizational Skills:

Managing a technical product is no easy task. It requires great organizational skills to keep everything in check; this can often include managing a variety of personnel and organizational assets. Without thorough organizational skills, a project can quickly turn into an administrative nightmare for a business. The technical product manager is responsible for creating and managing the project plan, ensuring all deliverables are completed on time, overseeing team progress and reporting on project milestones.

They also need to maintain communication with stakeholders, manage expectations and more. This can be difficult when there are multiple demands and tight deadlines. Having good organizational skills will help the technical product manager stay on top of everything and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Some tips to help improve organization skills for technical product managers include:

Use Gantt charts:

Gantt charts are a great way to visualize the project schedule and track progress. With Gantt charts, each task is represented easily and you can track how long it will take for each member to finish their task. Additionally, Gantt charts ensure everyone is aligned on the project and it’s great to reduce risk and uncertainty in the project.

Hold frequent scrum meetings:

Scrum meetings are extremely essential to ensuring progress is being made on a project and to ensure every project member is on the same page. Most companies that do scrum meetings hold them either daily or every couple of days. In a typical scrum meeting, the stakeholders in a project quickly review their progress in a project. Typical aspects covered in a scrum meeting include:

  • What has been done in the project?
  • Next steps for the project
  • What does the team member need help with

By holding a scrum meeting routinely, there are no surprises if there’s any delay or issues in the project. This ensures everyone is collectively working towards the main project objectives and the technical product manager has enough insight into the current status of the project.

Task management software: 

Another great way to improve organization within a project is to leverage task management software. Task management software allows team members to input their tasks, track progress and indicate when they are completed. This provides transparency within the team and helps the technical product manager track progress on specific tasks. By doing this, a lot of manual processes within the project are removed. This provides a central dashboard to see exactly where everyone is on the project. This also saves the technical product manager with significant time on follow-ups and emails for project members.

8. Effective Communication:

 The technical product manager can be communicating with an executive, an engineer, a customer, another manager or anyone else in the company on any given day. Since they are the main point of contact for a lot of responsibilities, they need to have great communication skills. This includes having excellent written, oral and interpersonal skills. They need to be able to communicate effectively with all stakeholders in a project, understand their needs and explain the project status in a way that everyone can understand.

A communication area in which a technical product manager shines is relaying technical information to a non-technical audience. Since the technical product manager has a thorough understanding of the technical side of the project, they are often the best at talking to customers and other non-technical team members. With the help of the technical product manager, non-technical stakeholders can get a good understanding of the scope of the project and how it will benefit the customer. Having effective communication is essential to relaying technical information to customers.

Closing Thoughts

These are just a few of the qualities that you should look for when selecting a technical product manager for your business. Looking for these qualities when you are recruiting and hiring will help your organization make the best possible hire. By doing this, you will ensure that the technical product manager is a good fit for your team and they have the capabilities to take your product development to the next level. To learn more about how you can improve project management for your business, demo Nifty here