Technical Product Manager Handbook
Being an Engineering-focused company, Nimble requires all the Product Managers to be technical. It is not new that Product Managers are a bridge between stakeholders and the development teams. However, when the Product Managers do not speak the developers’ language, inefficiencies and communication issues will hinder the product development.
Technical Product Managers should speak the developers’ language, and they should also be able to understand technical challenges and propose solutions.
Planning & Scheduling
Planning & scheduling often takes most of the Product Manager’s time. Not only do Product Managers need to deep dive into the feature requests, but as Technical Product Managers, they need to go beyond just understanding what the feature does. They need to profoundly understand how each component works and how the team can build them.
Initial Technical Assessment
When discussing a potential new feature, a bug, or a change with a client, Product Managers must provide a quick, early assessment of the feasibility and complexity. Instead of telling the client that they need to check with the development team, Product Managers should say what’s doable and what is not. They should know if the request is likely to be completed within the expected timeframe given the current team size or if there will be a need to increase the development capacity.
Knowing the Alternatives
Commonly, clients come up with a feature request without fully realizing if their idea is the best way to fix a problem.
Technical and non-technical Product Managers alike should identify when a third-party solution would be a better way to solve a problem.
More often than not, paying a hundred dollars per month to get a ready-made solution will be cheaper than spending tens of man-days on building the same thing.
Alternatives aren’t always third-party, however. There are times when the team can achieve a goal in different ways, and if a Product Manager is not technical, they won’t be able to identify those technological avenues.
Doing the Legwork
When the team selects a new feature, a bug fix, or a change for development, Product Managers can’t just send a high-level requirement to the development team and let them figure out the rest. That is not how the team works because it is not efficient.
Instead, the Product Manager needs to do the legwork and figure out how to implement the feature.
They don’t need to produce the implementation details. Still, they need to prepare a detailed plan of action to outline the flows, backend vs. front-end work, the APIs to use, the integration requirements, the validation patterns, the edge cases, etc.
Writing User Stories
With all the preparation work done, the Product Manager must write all the user stories necessary to develop a new piece of software.
Delivery & Monitoring
Delivery and monitoring are other large shares of the Product Manager’s responsibilities.
Planning & scheduling are critical to getting something started (and moving), but Product Managers must also ensure that the product is progressing in the right direction. Product Managers are also responsible for ensuring that the client and the end-users get the expected deliverables.
Because Product Managers are not coding the product, monitoring the progress relates tightly to monitoring those who code: engineers. It is not the Product Manager’s responsibility to address engineering performance (this would be the Engineering Leads’). However, should the Product Manager identify a delivery issue or delay (especially if repeated), they must reach out to the Engineering Lead and collaborate to solve the problem.
Delivering is a primary responsibility for Product Managers. It does not come at any cost, though.
The quality of the deliverables is essential. Product Managers must never forget the team’s value of obsession with excellence. It is part of their unique value proposition as a company and as individual professionals.
Product Managers do not execute advanced testing cycles, but they do basic testing regularly.
Stakeholders management is what ties everything together. It is how Product Managers ensure that their clients are happy, that the team is building what the client actually needs, and that engineers can build the product quickly and efficiently.
While the team always strives to have one and only one point of contact on the client’s side, the reality is that Product Managers often have to interact with multiple stakeholders. Moreover, Product Managers should know their stakeholders and understand their respective powers and responsibility because it gives Product Managers the ability to deliver efficiently.
Much can be said about stakeholders management, but the core premise is this: find the right person for a given context, whoever it is, and keep all relevant parties informed of all essential aspects of the product development.