How to Work with Developers

The success of a product depends on how well you work with your development team. Especially since these are the guys that turn your ideas and designs into actual products and features. Even though they need to be more technically skilled than the PM, they still rely heavily on the Product manager to get their job done. This relationship is built on trust, communication, and clarity and it needs to thrive. Here are some points to help:

Working with developers


4 Keys ways to having a successful relationship with developers

  1. Build Credibility

  • Do your homework and know what you are talking about, know your data. Be prepared and be able to backup your decisions with quantitative data. Developers will spend days, weeks or even months working on your product or feature, so they need to trust your decision before devoting that much time and energy.
      • Qualitative data comes from conversations with customers
      • Quantitative data is about product/feature usage
  • *Quantitative data is the most effective information
  • Be dependable and reliable 110% of the time. Building credibility is the strongest foundation for a successful working relationship. Do what you say you will do. Build a reputation for bringing the right information to your team so they can more successfully do their job.


  1. Motivate – Build, don’t block

  • Maintain clear lines of communication with your team. Be the champion for your developers, communicate their accomplishments to the rest of the company and to clients/users.
  • Be the voice of the market. Keep them informed about the market. Show them what you’ve learned about how the product is being used by clients, what competitors are doing, how they are improving user experience and how they are improving the industry.
  • Share positive and negative feedback. They don’t always get to see what’s happening in the marketplace. Talk to developers about features that customers are looking for.
  • Get developers to take ownership. Keep them involved early in the design process and get their feedback early – they can provide valuable feedback as to how complicated a feature might be to implement.


  1. Know the Boundaries between your job and their job

  • The Product Manager’s job to explain the what and why. Provide the answers to what the feature is and why they are building it. Nothing more frustrating than overstepping boundaries and trying to get technically involved in development.
  • The developer’s job is technical implementation. Let them do their job. Have empathy and trust their timeline estimates.
  • On the other hand, recognize extensive sandbagging. Sandbagging is when developers over-estimate the time to complete a project – this is usually done to allow space for unforeseen circumstances. Make sure you can see if this technique is being used in excess.


  1. Provide clarity and focus to the project

This is the most important jobs for a PM during the design sprints.

  • Provide detailed mockups with annotations. Clearly explain how a feature should look and how it should work.
  • Remove roadblocks and uncertainty so developers can focus on doing their jobs. If stories are too broad, or ambiguous, developers will spend too much time trying to figure out what to do instead of coding and many times it will be developed wrong.
  • Prepare QA engineer with descriptive user cases. Set-them up for success. Clearly communicate to the QA what to test. Hold a meeting to walk them through the mockup common and edge use cases so they can test for those when developers are done coding.
  • Prioritize features and bugs. If you can prioritize well you can get products to the market faster.
  • Follow the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule). Consider simpler solutions that can accomplish the same goal. Consult developers to see if there is an easier and less complex solution.

The common goal is to build an awesome product. Effective communication is the most powerful tool a Product Manager can use that will make that happen.


Want more information on working with teams? Read: Expertise Without Experience: 3 Ways to Manage an Established Team as a New Product Manager


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