- The perfect blend of engineering and business acumen
The perfect blend of engineering and business acumen
A technical product manager or TPM, is a product manager who has a comprehensive background in the technical aspects of a project. Unlike a traditional product manager, a TPM works closely with the engineering team rather than the business, sales, and marketing arms of a business.
All product managers must have a sound understanding of the technical backgrounds of their products - however, a TPM has an added understanding of the deep intricacies and how the tech works to facilitate delivery.
Commonly filed by former engineers or computer science graduates, TPM’s do a deep dive into the technical workings of a product and the strategy needed for launch - they’ll collaborate with the development, engineering, infrastructure and networking teams to lay out the technical aspects of a product in layman’s terms to other non-technical product managers in a business.
Not every business needs a TPM, very few do. Usually TPM’s are only found in medium to large organizations who have the resources and budgets to allocate a specialized product manager to a project.
When small businesses have a complex tech product that may need the oversight of an experienced individual, they’ll often outsource or bring on board a freelance TPM to complete a few tasks and streamline the go to market strategy or update of existing product. TPM can make big money consulting for varying businesses rather than being employed at a single company.
What can a Technical Product Manager help with?
A technical product manager can assess whether engineering estimates are correct, review and correct technical specifications, create architecture and networking plans as well as participate in security and data protection discussions.
At the end of the day, TPM’s are still product managers and aren’t out there ‘in the field’ writing code or hands on in the development of the product from a manufacturing perspective. An effective TPM should be able to combine their knowledge of technology and engineering evenly with their business acumen.
Technical Product Managers: Pros and Cons
Not every business needs a TPM so its important we go through a list of pros and cons to bringing one on board - your business should apply this list to your projects and discuss whether the pros outweigh the cons.
- TPM’s can improve communication with the development and engineering arms of your business.
- Analyze current tech trends and apply industry changs to the roadmap.
- Come up with proactive solutions to technical challenges, avoiding bottlenecks, and streamlining launch processes.
- Can be underutilized in small businesses.
- Can be expensive if their technical knowledge is not project critical.
- There is a risk they are too specialized to work on your project.
What’s the difference between a product manager and technical product manager?
So, how does a TPM differ from a traditional product manager?
The answer to this question is extremely company specific and can be used interchangeably. Some product managers may have extensive engineering and technology based knowledge and some technical product managers may have no business acumen at all.
As mentioned the term TPM is business specific and some may choose to classify their product managers with technical knowledge under that term. At the end of the day, it does not affect their role and the jobs they complete in the product roadmap.
When discussing the differences, we are talking in general terms, keep in mind, each business will have slightly different definitions.
Traditional Product Managers will focus exclusively on business issues and strategy - analyzing in depth how the product will work and the issues it will solve. They’ll liaise with other teams to sort out considerations such as pricing, packaging, messaging and sales techniques.
Technical Product Managers will spend a majority of their time on implementing the technical processes to ensure the product works in the way it’s been designed. They’ll likely be more involved in the customer support aspect of a product - writing knowledge bases as well as other technical documents explaining all the features and use cases in a high-level overview.
There are cases when the roles of a TPM and Product Manager align perfectly - each role has the same end goal, the tasks completed to achieve that goal will inherently differ.
If your business is considering hiring a technical product manager and wondering where they’ll sit within your business in the future - you should know that many C level executives were once TPM’s. There are clear paths for promotion for TPM’s in all industries.
We all have the idea that Technical Product Managers are nerds who live in their mothers basement and program on their laptop all day. This couldn’t be further from the truth - they are multi disciplined individuals who possess a wide ranging skill set.
They can be a tremendous asset to any product management team. Bringing in a more pragmatic approach than traditional marketing focused product managers, many medium to large businesses see the ultimate utility in having a TPM.
Technical Product Managers are the perfect hire to bridge the gap between the technical complexities of engineering and the wordsmiths in the marketing team. They can help translate complex processes into simple to understand terms.
Are you thinking of hiring a technical product manager in the immediate future?
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