There are many types of product managers in the business world. One of them is the technical product manager.
Technical project managers play a critical role as the bridge between a product vision and market success. Not only do they manage product development from conception through to the final product, but they are also responsible for managing the business side of things by strategizing product positioning and leading product launches.
When hiring a technical product manager to join your team, you need to understand their role in the product development process. This article aims to help you achieve this by showcasing the essential skills that must go into your technical product manager job description when recruiting.
What is a technical product manager?
Technical product managers are a lot like regular product managers. Both are responsible for ensuring that a product’s development meets the needs of the customer and the business. To achieve this, they need to have skills in:
- Market research
This includes skills in collecting and analysing data, developing research plans and strategies, identifying target audiences, tracking the effectiveness of campaigns, and interpreting results to make product development recommendations.
- Product positioning
To ensure the successful launch of products and services in the marketplace, they must have the skills to develop pricing and promotional activities that leverage the competitive insights gained from market research.
- Managing the product lifecycle from ideation to launch
Managing the entire lifecycle of a product includes coordinating with various departments, such as marketing, design, and operations, to ensure they are aligned with product development and positioning goals.
The key differentiating factor between a technical product manager vs product manager is their technical expertise. They must have the relevant skills to develop products requiring an understanding of technical aspects, as well as the technical expertise to:
- Work closely with engineering teams
To lead and work effectively with the development team, a technical project manager must first know how to define technical requirements. They will also need the technical skills to ensure the products meet the end goals.
For example, a technical product manager working on software development might need to understand programming languages, database architecture, and cloud computing technologies. These technical skills allow them to develop a brief, review code, and troubleshoot issues throughout development.
- Make informed decisions about technical trade-offs
With technical expertise complementing their marketing and project management skills, a technical project manager needs to be able to prioritize technical requirements alongside other product requirements.
For example, a technical product manager working on a mobile app might need to decide whether to prioritize performance or battery life based on user feedback and market trends.
- Bridge the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders.
A technical project manager must be able t translate technical jargon into plain language for product owners, customers, and other stakeholders.
For example, a technical product manager working on a hardware product might need to explain technical specifications and trade-offs to product marketing management and sales teams to ensure they can accurately promote the product to customers.
In summary, a technical product manager is a glue that ensures the product meets both the technical and business requirements.
What does it take to build a product vision?
Behind every visionary entrepreneur is a technical product manager who works alongside them to build a clear product vision that sets them up for market success.
Take Apple, for example. Steve Jobs is famously known for changing the destiny of Apple with the release of a simple music player: the iPod.
Developing the wildly successful iPod was not a one-man job. A key player in the team behind Steve Jobs was Tony Fadell, who took over the technical project manager role to lead the development of the iPod.
To build a clear product vision for market success, Fadell:
- Prioritized Jobs’ vision to disrupt the market.
- Coordinated with the product marketing management team to stay aligned with the company’s unique culture.
- Studied the competition and led the research that identified the market wanted a better digital audio player with a large capacity and long battery life.
With an education in computer science and ample experience in handheld computing, Fadell created three prototype designs, one of which became the product vision for the iPod.
Without his technical knowledge of handheld components and skills on the business side to identify market needs, Fadell would not have been able to build a technical prototype and lead the core development team to create the market-disrupting iPod.
Leading the product development process
A technical product manager must also have strong communication skills to ensure the product meets technical requirements and customer needs. Let’s look at how Amazon achieved this when they created Echo.
- Amazon executive Dave Limp was the technical project manager who understood that even if Echo met these Jeff Bezos' technical vision for Echo, it would be useless if it couldn’t respond to queries in a natural conversation style.
- Thus, Limp knew they needed to focus on reducing the latency of voice-recognition technology in Echo’s product development. Latency is the time delay between when a user speaks and when the system recognizes and responds to the speech.
- By communicating the importance of emulating natural conversation, Limp led the technical team to reduce the latency from the industry average of 2.5-3 seconds to 1.5 seconds, making the Echo more efficient and user-friendly for customers.
Leading successful product launches
After product development, technical product managers lead product launches. This includes strategizing product messaging, pricing, positioning, and distribution.
April Underwood is an exemplary example of how technical product managers play a crucial role in launching a product successfully.
Underwood has been instrumental in product development at both Twitter and Slack as the Director of Product and Chief Product Officer for the companies, respectively. She deeply understands that a successful product launch needs product-market fit and a strategy that helps customers understand your vision.
“The product is not the code. And pushing code to production is not a launch,” explains Underwood. “A launch is the point at which your target audience actually understands what you have to offer — and why it matters to them.”
Measuring success for future business growth
Finally, technical project managers measure a product’s success after its launch. This includes knowing how to measure and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) such as:
- User engagement
- Customer satisfaction
- Revenue and profits
- Leads generated
- Website traffic or page views
- News coverage
- Email or advertising metrics
Measuring these KPIs help technical product managers use data-driven insights to improve product performance, make future product iterations, or lead the next product development and launch — all of which help the business reach its growth goals.
In conclusion, technical product managers are critical in successfully developing and launching a product.
Their ability to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical teams, combine technical expertise with strong product management skills, and execute effective product launch strategies makes them valuable in any organization.
As the demand for technical products continues to grow, the role of the technical product manager is becoming increasingly important in driving innovation and delivering successful product launches that meet customers' needs and drive business growth.