Product School

A Guide to the Role of Technical Product Manager

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Carlos González De Villaumbrosia

April 30, 2024 - 6 min read

Updated: May 6, 2024 - 6 min read

Technical Product Management is a type of product manager with some of the most sought-after skills in one single position. Technical product managers often build products for Product people, which requires acute knowledge of both customer and business needs. They know how to collect and deploy data, cracking the engineer’s process and becoming problem-solving machines.

Over the last decades, the role of technology in the lives of consumers and businesses has only increased. With it, the role of a technical product manager has become increasingly pivotal. 

If you’re wondering, “What is technical product management?”, or think this is a role you could excel in, keep reading. This article provides a comprehensive technical product manager job description, explores the technical product manager's responsibilities, and clarifies how this role differs from that of a traditional product manager. We’ll also hear from an experienced technical PM at Qventus.

What is a Technical Product Manager?

A technical product manager specializes in handling the technical facets of product management. This role requires a strong background in technology in addition to traditional product management skills. It is an area focused on managing products with significant technical complexity, requiring the TPM to interact not just with business stakeholders but also deeply with the engineering teams.

Technical Product Manager Responsibilities

The technical product manager responsibilities involve overseeing the product’s lifecycle from a technical perspective, which includes:

  • Requirement Gathering and Definition: Understanding technical requirements and ensuring they are clearly defined and aligned with business goals.

  • Roadmap Development: Creating and managing a roadmap that reflects the technical needs and milestones of the product.

  • Technical Oversight: Ensuring the product’s technical aspects are feasible and align with the latest technological standards and practices.

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Technical Product Management vs. Traditional Product Management

Venn Diagram Product Manager vs Technical Product Manager

Technical product management and traditional product management share the core principle of delivering products that meet market demands. However, technical product manager vs product manager responsibilities differ notably in several areas:

  • Technical Expertise: Unlike traditional product managers, a tech product manager must have a strong technical background, often requiring knowledge in software development, architecture, and engineering principles.

  • Stakeholder Engagement: The technology product manager deals more frequently with the engineering teams, requiring a deep understanding of technical language and constraints, which is less emphasized in general product management.

  • Product Oversight: Technical product managers focus on the 'how' of product development, ensuring that the technological aspects are feasible and scalable.

Where Technical Product Manager’s Shine: Complex Technical Tasks

Perhaps the most straightforward characteristic of Technical Product Management is that you’ll be working on products that are more technically complex. 

Data Science, for example, is a common differentiator in the product portfolios of more technical PMs. They understand the complexities of building and implementing ML in ways that can be useful to users, to the point where they can effectively communicate related product opportunities to all manner of relevant stakeholders.

Whether you’re working with Data Engineering, Machine Learning, Developer Platforms, or some other arena of inherently complex product, being able to at least understand, if not contribute to, the work that your engineering counterparts are working on is one way to differentiate yourself as a Technical Product Manager. Understanding the tech environment is important, because it allows you to see more problems as potentially solvable.

Things that seem unfeasible, or unsolvable, on their face start to morph into opportunities to utilize the cutting-edge tools that engineers love using. Knowing the tech is going to improve your ability to recognize potential solutions, and will give you a better footing with your engineering team.

The Technical Product Owner Role

The role of a technical product owner often overlaps with that of a TPM, especially in agile development environments. Like a traditional product owner, the role focuses on managing the product backlog and ensuring that the development team understands the priorities of the business, but with a technical emphasis. 

Hear from a Tech Product Manager: Meet Jack Moore

Jack Moore

Jack Moore is a Senior Product Manager at Qventus based out of Mountain View, CA. Specializing in platform and data products, he has a passion for creating products which empower users with simple and powerful data insights. We were lucky enough to get Jack to write in to tell us a little more about his perspective. Read on for this missive from the world of technical product management. 

'I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with a few really great Product Managers. As a start, great Product Managers need to be humble, empathetic and flexible. PMs need to have all of the soft skills and ambition to adjust to the mile-wide, foot-deep base of knowledge that it takes to fill the gaps that their team doesn’t realize they have.

Along with those soft skills, though, PMs need to have a certain degree of proficiency with the technology that forms the foundation of the product they’re building. They need to get technical. Technical Product Management (TPM) involves the management of products of relatively high technical complexity.

TPMs often have a different notion of who their users are. Often TPMs have a mission of empowering others to more effectively serve users, rather than serving them directly. In fact, some TPMs build products for use by other Product Managers. With all that said, the notion of technical and non-technical Product Managers being a binary distinction is a myth.

Every Product Manager requires some degree of technicality in order to be great at what they do and their challenge is to figure out where they need to be on this scale of technical aptitude."

The Future of Technical Product Management

At the end of the day, not every great PM needs to be technical, but many roles and products require technical skill. Understanding what is product management in tech and specifically the nuances of being a TPM can help clarify when to call a technical PM. 

As technology continues to evolve and become integral to virtually every product, the demand for skilled technical product managers who can navigate both technical challenges and strategic business objectives will continue to grow. Who knows, maybe you’re ready to break into the role of technical product manager

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Updated: May 6, 2024

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